Film Review: Man of Steel

Monday 21 July 2014 by

Man of Steel, Zack Snyder, Film

Yeah, yeah, I know this film has been out a while. And in actual fact I have seen it several times. But it’s taken me a while to write the review, because I wanted to enjoy it for a while. Man of Steel, the latest of the Superman films, directed by Zack Snyder and starring British darling Henry Cavill, came out in 2013, and quickly became a box office hit.

But was the film actually worth its popularity?

We all know I love a good superhero film – plus, with the raging success of the Marvel films (including a TV spin-off), and the powerhouse that is the latest Batman adaptations, it looks like superheroes are getting their fifteen minutes of fame on the silver screen. But could anyone fill the big red boots of the greatest Superman of all – Christopher Reeve? Varying adaptations, TV shows and spin-offs have all made valiant attempts but nothing has really felt like a success.

Until Zack Snyder came along. Snyder has had varying success with filmmaking – the wobbly remake of Dawn of the Dead to the much more successful Watchmen – and so it’s not without trepidation that you watch this film. Especially since the star of the show, Henry Cavill, is British, when Superman is known to be a bit of an all-American hero.

But within minutes you realise this is not a reboot, a prequel or sequel or anything else that’s part of the old franchise. Much like the newer Batman films, this is something fresh…

With the home planet quite literally dying before their eyes, Superman’s dad, Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) both have differing opinions about how to save it. With the final moments of the planet, Jor-El sends his son, Kal-El, off the planet with the vital codex to save the race, and foils General Zod’s grand master plan.

Meanwhile, Kal-El grows up on Earth as Clark Kent… that bit we all know. How he discovers his superpowers and learns to control them, and so on. Then it changes a bit. No reporter at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent is running around the world and hiding from himself (though his persistence at saving people tends to blow his cover a bit). We get insights to his backstory, but mainly it’s all set up to show how decent this person is, and how Lois Lane (Amy Adams) first comes across Clark Kent.

When an old spaceship turns up in the ice, it kicks things off a bit, with General Zod (who is on the hunt for what Clark Kent has) following the signal to Earth and holding the planet to ransom until they give Kent up.

Cue ridiculous amounts of action footage (including a train being thrown through the air and some bombs in downtown Smallville) and sultry gazes between Cavill and Adams. You’re not going to have to worry too much about plumbing the depths of this plot. It’s a fairly standard Superman story: saving the world, fighting evil, self-sacrifice, falling in love with Lois Lane. It’s all there. And if I’m honest, I lapped it up. The combined performances of Cavill, Adams, Crowe and Shannon are enough to keep you hooked. The dialogue is pithy, action sequences are impressive (the special effects are almost seamless), and even the cameos of Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Perry were a delight.

This is a rip-roaring action adventure with lashings of budding romance and topless Cavill. It’s never going down in the history books as one of the greatest films of all time (no surprise there) but it certainly has the Reeve franchise quaking in its boots. With the next film combining both Batman and Superman, I expect Snyder hopes to build on the success of the former to strengthen the latter into a franchise of its own. Although I’m sceptical when it comes to seeing these two on the same screen, I think there are legs in Snyder’s Superman, and Henry Cavill looks like the right kind of guy for the job. I can only express disappointment that Crowe and Shannon will not be returning for the next film…

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