Forget the Superman of the past. This isn’t the Superman you and I have come to know and love from the comic books. It certainly isn’t the Superman we’ve seen portrayed countless times on screen either. Gone is the red underwear. Gone are the flashy red boots. Gone is the clumsy and nerdy Clark Kent. This is Man of Steel!
Jonathan Kent: You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world.
“My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?” Superman asks Lois, a question that director Zack Snyder clearly aims at audiences of Man of Steel as he shepherds in a new dawn for the comic book icon.
With the help of producer Christopher Nolan, Superman finds his way into a much darker, grittier, Dark Knight-inspired retelling of the character’s origins, shedding most of the Reeve-esque innocence in favour of a grimmer mud-coloured superhero grounded in a real world. It’s been 35 years since Superman’s beginnings have been played out on the big screen and Snyder takes huge liberties early on to chuck out everything you know about the story. Everything.
The title “Man of Steel”, however, tells you exactly what to expect; an immense summer blockbuster, that shows Superman in a completely different light. Purists might hate it, but it’s hard to deny that there simply isn’t a more epic comic book movie out there that could even compare. You will be blown away!
Jor-El: What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?
Over the years, we’ve seen a number of attempts to bring the world’s most popular superhero to the big screen in a way that fully portrays the character from the comic books. Unfortunately, Superman has always been played out as a light-hearted second-rate superhero who finds the time to rescue a cat from a tree, a dog from a burning building and help old ladies with car problems. Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman: The Movie certainly depicted the character that way, and 2006 pseudo-sequel Superman Returns followed suit.
Man of Steel doesn’t make the same mistake. Snyder and Nolan sidestep the familiarities by placing our hero in a world where he is forced to make bigger decisions while facing a more threatening villain. The result is that all traces of the previous movies have been completely removed from the reboot and Superman is sent on a rampage that unfolds in the most epic fight sequences ever shown on screen. Accompanied by an amazing score, courtesy of Hans Zimmer, audiences are treated to action of epic proportions. Finally, Superman learns to kick ass.
Man of Steel is bound to be a film that divides audiences. While it is beautifully shot, with a few comparing it to a Michael Bay meets Terrence Malick mash-up, it’s easier to draw heavy comparisons to The Matrix rather than any previous Superman film. The lengthy CGI fight sequence over New York, reminiscent of a hundred 9/11 attacks, has also been a concern for a few critics, who have been titling the movie “too epic.” Don’t be fooled by the 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is the Superman movie we’ve been waiting to see.
Jor-El: You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
The familiar story starts off in a very different looking Krypton, where Jor-El (Russel Crowe) is forced to send his infant son Kal-El to earth in hopes of protecting him from imminent danger. The boy grows up as an outcast, eventually drifting between jobs and struggling to fit into society. Clark Kent has become a guardian angel to those around him, saving various people and disappearing to conceal his identity. He wrestles with the advice from his earthly father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), who believes that he should hide his gifts from the world versus Jor-El’s encouragement for him to embrace his differences in order to shape the world.
Soon his father’s archenemy General Zod (Michael Shannon), a villain from his home planet, comes searching for Kal-El, putting the lives of humanity at risk. The obligatory background, which is done through a series of flashbacks, is re-invented to suit a very modern and different reflection of The Man of Tomorrow, with Clark on a quest to find his true identity.
General Zod: You are not alone… My name is General Zod. I have journeyed across an ocean of stars to reach here. Your world has sheltered one of my citizens. He will look like you, but he is not one of you. To those of you who know of his location: the fate of your planet rests in your hands. To Kal-El, I say this: surrender within 24 hours or watch this world suffer the consequences…
Make no mistake about it, Henry Cavill is Superman. He embodies the superhero perfectly and looks exactly like the comic book counterpart. His performance is only matched by an enthralling Michael Shannon and Russel Crowe. I’m pretty certain that Amy Adams performance as Lois will come into criticism – But given that this is a new Superman universe, it’s to forgive the “different” approach.
The biggest problems with Man of Steel possibly lay within the editing room. There are often abrupt cuts to sequences that feel out of place and characters who’ve had their screen time reduced. Personally, it could have been done with a longer cut. It’s easy to see that there are at least another 30 minutes lying around somewhere, begging to be re-inserted for a Director’s Cut. Weighing in just over two hours, though, I imagine that this was all done in the name of creating a fast-paced story. The love story between Lois and Superman also lacked a bit and could have been done with an extra ten minutes or so.
Perry White: Imagine how our world would react if they came face to face with this…
It’s good to have Superman back. It’s even better to see him soaring through the sky punching bad guys at breaking neck speed and relying purely on his strength to overcome them. If you’re expecting another Superman Returns, you’ll be bitterly disappointed. The final battle sequence makes The Avengers fight look like a minor tremor in comparison.
Man of Steel is a great movie not because of its story, but because it makes Superman cool again. And that’s worth seeing again and again!