Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is now in theaters to usher in the return of Superman to the silver screen. The Henry Cavill starring superhero flick is unlike any of its predecessors, and features some of the gnarliest action ever shown in a comic book based movie. Nolan and Goyer crafted a familiar but unique take on the Superman origin story that provides plenty of thrilling moments amongst a few more serious ones.
(Minor plot synopsis, skip to review summary if you’re trying to avoid story details)
Cavill was meant to play Clark Kent/Kal-El, and his performance is one of the best in the movie. Man of Steel literally begins with the birth of Kal, and follows his journey as he escapes the destruction of Krypton thanks to his Father Jor-El, who is played expertly by Russell Crowe. The opening Krypton scenes are some of the best in Man of Steel thanks to Crowe’s performance, and the organic looking world that Snyder created with his team of artists. The death of the planet, thanks to mismanagement of natural resources and internal political strife, is gloriously and violently depicted.
A bulk of the first act is told through flashbacks showing a young Kal-El trying to fit in on his new home as he tries to deal with the effects that Earth’s sun has had on his senses and abilities. The child actors portraying young Clark do a fine job highlighting his inner struggle of trying to internalize why he’s so different from his peers, and how he should use his powers to influence his new home world. This theme is present throughout the opening half of the movie as Clark uses cues from his adopted father and mother played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane respectively, to find his purpose in life and why he was sent to Earth.
His search leads him to cross paths with Lois Lane who is played beautifully and smartly by Amy Adams. Through some investigation both her and Clark wind up in a remote part of north Canada where he’s forced to expose his powers to her while in the process of discovering his Kryptonian roots. Unfortunately, by activating a long lost ship from Krypton to learn about his past and abilities, Kal unintentionally reveals his location to General Zod’s forces, who survived the destruction of Krypton, and are searching for its people’s codex which Jor-El embedded into Kal at birth.
Zod, played stoically to a fault by Michael Shannon, threatens the people of Earth and demands that Kal-El be turned over to him. At this point in time the human race doesn’t quite trust the newly suited up superhero, so Kal turns himself over to Zod without a fight to prove his honorable intentions. This is when Man of Steel really amps up the action to epic proportions, and Snyder’s vision for a new type of Superman movie becomes clear.
The battles that ensue from this moment until the shocking end are some of the best fight sequences, and big budget explosions around. At times the action gets a little too Bayhem-like, but overall the scale of the damage done to Metropolis and Smallville is spot on when you consider that Gods are doing battle in the streets and in the air around these locations. The hand-to-hand combat is exactly what a fight between Superman and other Kryptonians should look like, and the bouts definitely redefine what a Superman movie can be.
In the end Man of Steel is hands down one of the better comic book movies around, and it may go down as one of the, if not the best live action Superman movie. It’s embarrassing that it took two screenings to come to this realization, but sometimes movies of this size and scale need another viewing to fully realize its brilliance. It’s not a perfect movie, and does suffer from super-sized CGI explosion syndrome, but overall Snyder’s Man of Steel tells one of the better accounts of Superman’s origin story.
Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the titular character deserves a second go, so hopefully movie goers and comic book fans will reward the creators with a healthy opening box office take. Man of Steel is a solid start to a hopeful great string of a Nolan-Batman-like Superman movies over the next few years.