THE STORY – With the imminent destruction of Krypton, their home planet, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife seek to preserve their race by sending their infant son to Earth. The child’s spacecraft lands at the farm of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their own son. Though his extraordinary abilities have led to the adult Clark (Henry Cavill) living on the fringe of society, he finds he must become a hero to save those he loves from a dire threat.
THE CAST – Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Zurer, Christopher Meloni & Russell Crowe
THE TEAM – Zack Snyder (Director) & David S. Goyer (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 143 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
“Man Of Steel” wants to be so much for so many people. It’s clear that with the rise in rival studio Marvel’s popular expanded universe saga, that the team at Warner Bros. has a lot riding on this franchise. If you’re going to adapt a popular comic for the big screen, you might as well hire the director of “300” and “Watchmen” right? Unfortunately, director Zack Snyder proves once again why he is the next generation of Michael Bay, where “more” is too much and there’s no such thing as “less.”
As a young man who grew up in Kansas with strange abilities, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is struggling to find his place in the world. His parents Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) have done everything they can to have Clark be a part of society while keeping his true identity a secret. That’s because his true identity is that of Kal-El (Aka. Superman), a Kryptonian extraterrestrial who has the appearance of a human but is born with supernatural abilities such as strength, speed, flying, and heat vision. His planet, Krypton, has since been obliterated and to Kal-El’s knowledge, he is the last of his kind. That is until a General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives at Earth and demands that the planet releases Kal-El in hopes of establishing a new Krypton on Earth. Clark Kent must decide with all of the wisdom of his two fathers (His birth father, Jor-El, is played by Russell Crowe) and with the help of his new love interest, Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) what kind of a man he wants to be in the face of such a global crisis.
Director Zack Snyder is clearly trying to take the Superman character in entirely different directions compared to the Richard Donner version from 1978. This is not so much a superhero origin story as it is a science fiction film starring the most popular and righteous alien of all time. This version of Superman is complex, dark and morally unsure of himself. Kal-El is, after all, a god amongst men. He knows that he could single handily kill every human on the planet and even destroy the planet if he wanted to. But due to his upbringing by the noble good folk of Kansas, he develops an appreciation for human life, which when he is called upon to save, he does so in spectacular fashion. It has all of the makings of a good story, but Zack Snyder juggles too many plot elements and side characters and thus loses track of the heart of the movie. There are also a ton of controversial decisions in the film which will surely irk die-hard comic book fans of the character.
You would think that a superhero film that has godlike alien beings facing off over a heavily populated city would be every teenage boy’s wet dream. And in many cases it is. However, there are those who will sit back and watch the action in “Man of Steel” and be completely bewildered by the sheer destruction that lies in the wake of these epic clashes. Superman may be protecting our planet, but at what cost? Buildings are destroyed, entire cities are ravaged and General Zod (Completely overrated by the usually great Michael Shannon) might as well claim victory for destroying hundreds of innocent lives whether he was trying to or not. The blockbuster action scenes eventually become numbing to the viewer and lacks any real heart behind it, much like the “Transformers” franchise in its city-wide, brainless, larger than life carnage. They would be better served if there was any emotion to lend to the proceedings, however, the film fails to give Clark a love interest in Lois Lane. Adams and Cavill’s chemistry is nonexistent and the big emotional beats of the film come from Superman’s relationships with his two fathers more than with the beautiful investigative reporter from the Daily Planet.
So what does “Man Of Steel” get right? Well for one, Henry Cavill looks the part of Superman (The updated costume also fits well with the direction Snyder and his crew are looking to go) and doesn’t do a terrible job here. Both Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe deliver warm and charismatic performances as the two anchors in Superman’s life. The original score by Hans Zimmer is grand and varied in its emotional beats and exhilarating themes. The world of Krypton is also fully realized from its production design, to the costumes, and visual effects. Which is all the more reason why its destruction later on in the first act is quite a sight to behold.
Zack Snyder’s visuals are as always, breathtaking. He captures the iconic imagery of Superman donning the big red cape in all of its glory. The visual look of this film varies differently than his other comic book adaptations which involved more faithful recreations of shots from the comics. But Snyder still struggles with subtly. This is an often humorless film which borrows too many thematic ideas from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” and in the end becomes a big jumbled mess of ideas and execution. Hopefully, these wrongs will be corrected in future installments, as Warner Bros. is showing no signs of slowing down with their own attempts at establishing a DC extended universe. “Man Of Steel” may stumble and fall, but in time, it may accomplish wonders as the foundation for this new territory for DC comic book fans.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Breathtaking visuals by Zack Snyder that honor the iconic superhero
THE BAD – The film lacks subtly, especially in its final act where the action threatens to beat its audience into submission.
THE OSCARS – None