Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action and Adventure
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe
Release Date: June 13th 2013
“The last thing I want is for us to be enemies,” the venomous General Zod (Michael Shannon) states early on in the new Superman film, Man of Steel. And after all the excitement this reboot of the classic comic book superhero generated, the last thing I wanted was to be disappointed in this film. This movie was supposed to offer a fresh look at the iconic figure in the same way that Batman Begins re-launched the Batman series in 2005. Instead, this action-packed film is simply a mediocre and downright disappointing blockbuster that fails to capture the essence of our Kryptonian hero.
After the somewhat disappointing box office returns for Superman Returns (2006) (and I personally enjoyed that film) and the lack of excitement it generated among hardcore fans, many argued that Superman needed a re-launch with new talent behind the scenes and new stars to help sell it to a worldwide audience. So a lot of great talent was hired for this project, including Christopher Nolan who directed the Batman reboot and its two sequels. Nolan produced and even worked on the story for Man of Steel, working alongside director Zach Snyder. But what could have been a more exciting and powerful beginning for Superman turns into an dour drama.
The awkward stylistic choices begin right after the film opens as we watch General Zod attempt an unsuccessful insurrection on Krypton, a distant dying planet with only a few years of existence left. It’s here where we see the story take off in a bizarre science fiction fashion with Superman’s father (Russell Crowe) escaping from his arch enemy by flying a dragon. From that point on, the story is oftentimes fashioned more as a science fiction fantasy, rather than a relatable Superman one.
Of course, it isn’t long before we’re introduced to Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), a son of Krypton who was transported to Earth as a baby and now is a scruffy-looking young chap in his 20s who is spending his days shifting from job to job. It is then that we see flashbacks from his earlier life when he began living with his Earthly parents, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). Although Costner and Lane have the acting chops to pull off the scenes of Clark growing up, the script does them few favors and even becomes slightly unhinged when we watch the fate of Jonathan unfold in an oddly ill-conceived fashion.
Approximately one hour into the proceedings, the bland Zod re-enters the story planning to cause trouble for Clark and his romantic counterpart, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). At this point, there’s been nearly of hour of exposition showing how Superman has gotten his start but in that time, we’ve hardly gotten to know the main character. The romance between Clark and Lois, for one, is surprisingly under-played to devastating effect. The scenes of Superman sweeping her off her feet are oddly absent as the two meet and quickly develop feelings for each other.
Through it all, director Snyder has made a series of odd choices that weigh down this otherwise engaging origin story. One is his insistence on making this a science fiction film, rather than a film with science fiction elements in it. What could have been a powerful, beautifully-crafted story sometimes feels like an odd mishmash of Prometheus and The Avengers. Add to that the story’s focus on spaceships and technology over character and depth and the result is a movie that never feels like a true Superman movie.
For Superman aficionados, this story will likely keep you satisfied and it’s easy to see what the director was attempting to pull off here. He seemingly wanted to create an epic film reintroducing Superman to the film world again. But there’s only glimpses of those ideas here and although the movie could please some, it never comes close to capturing the heart and idealism that Superman should stand for.
Review by: John Hanlon