INTRODUCTION. Orphan child of the planet Krypton painted in shades of American patriotism and shielding a heart of pure, solid gold. There are not many amongst us who do not already know the premise of DC’s boy wonder and when Man of Steel was announced in 2008, so soon after Brian Singer’s Superman Returns, even fans were seen heaving a weary sigh. Even a new name has little polish. As time has a way of making us forget our inauspicious suspicions, I found myself feeling excited about going to see what Zack Snyder had to show for all his
publicity endeavor. I was a huge fan – still am actually – of Richard Donner’s 1978 production so naturally this excitement was tinged by apprehension. To little avail. Man of Steel isn’t perfect but neither does it disappoint. It’s simply a very different breed of superhero movie following the recent line of increasingly gritty graphic novel incarnations.
CHARACTERS. Man of Steel‘s characterisation is its strongest point. Our title figure is portrayed with incredible emotional depth- albeit not the lighthearted Clark Kent we might prefer but nonetheless a character who is fleshed out, weighed down by pressing concerns that any one person would feel under his particular circumstance. And yet still extraordinary thanks in no mean part to the moral fibers of a fantastic ‘supporting’ cast. The Kents submit to certain pitfalls of parental stereotype by being self-sacrificing and blindly affectionate to their alien son although they go on to be portrayed as substantial human beings with conflicted interests, highlighting an immense struggle behind their benevolent exteriors. I deeply appreciate the Kents. I also appreciate Russel Crowe’s surprisingly amiable performance as Jor-El.
Outside of the family circle…Lois Lane and her journalist compatriots left a bland, neutral taste in my mouth. Where are the Margot Kidders of our generation? At any rate they neither make nor break the film. Michael Shannon’s General Zod is a far more impressive character and it is diverting to watch his innately militaristic nature juxtaposed against that of the US military. His fervor, bitterness and (oddly enough, more likeable) minions make him a repulsive villain- as opposed to one that we would ‘love to hate’. Still holding out for a charismatic Lex Luthor, Warner Brothers!
STORY. Spoiler-free rule, I’ll avoid the specific structures of Man of Steel. As you would expect, the film is split between Kal-El’s background story and concurrent proceedings involving Zod. The former is a well made and exceptionally touching narrative. Beautiful to observe, heart-rending to contemplate. Unfortunately the latter part of the story does not consistently follow through with such excellence. It feels as if though the two halves were penned by completely different writers who communicated with each other by way of post-it notes and rushed tweets. A handful of comical one-liners and jokes are thrown in for levity, which compensates in part for the clumsy script and distasteful Americanism. It should also be noted that the plot drags on towards the end of the movie; I certainly felt all 143 of its minutes. Time your silver screen bathroom break during a lengthy battle scene (there are many) or go thirsty for a little while. A shorter production might have merited a rewatch.
CONCLUSION. The question: is Man of Steel worth the price? If you enjoy superhero films and/or action-packed fantasies, then yes. Go on. You know you want to. Hell, spring for an IMAX show if you don’t especially suffer from motion sickness or camera disorientation. It’s a great film for going out with the mates. It isn’t much of a family film however; so if you’re expecting the merry laughs and whimsical sighs of Richard Donner’s caliber, seek it elsewhere. This isn’t your sanguine boyscout Superman and he is definitely leagues away from our bumbling lummox Clark Kent. All he really has left is an arresting smile- and that’s enough for me.
CHARACTERS: 8/10 STORY: 6/10 REWATCH FACTOR: 5/10 OVERALL: 6.5/10