Zach Snyder hates skyscrapers. I mean really hates them. In 20 minutes of spectacular action he destroys more of them than The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the whole Chitari race put together.
But skyscrapercide apart what he has done here is taken, what is seen by many, as the poisoned chalice of Superman and formed a thoroughly entertaining film full of intense performances.
As my co-veiwer rightly pointed out, Superman has been done to death. We’ve had George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling (Smallville), Brandon Routh, (seriously, what has happened to him?) and now Henry Cavill. That’s a lot of water under the spandex.
Because of all this history with the big blue Boy Scout a different approach was needed. We’ve only ever seen the same kind of Supes. Of course Christopher Reeve was the definitive version and every subsequent Superman or Boy has basically played Christopher Reeve playing Superman. However, here we don’t. We get our own, very Dark Knight inspired Superman. (The Clark Knight anyone?)
This Clark is brooding and intense. You feel that the burden of him growing up and having to hide who he truly is weighing down on him. As such he doesn’t fit in and so lives a nomadic existence, helping those who need him and then moving on again before he’s discovered. He’s a fisherman one day and a waiter in a backwater town the next.
The first hour of the film is great but not perfect, Snyder forgets that he’s giving us a backstory that 98% of the world already know and he includes everything, including a prolonged visit to Krypton. Although spectacular the scenes on Krypton at the beginning could have been trimmed down a little, we meet Clark’s real Mum and Dad, (a quite buff looking Russell Crowe) and the big bad General Zod, (an intense as always Michael Shannon). Gone is Terrance Stamp’s camp Zod, you would not spill this fella’s pint. We see Krypton as it is collapsing around in inhabitants and a battle ensues in which our Super Bairn escapes.
The rest of Clark’s growing up is dealt with via non-linear flashbacks. We meet his adoptive Mum and Dad, (Dianne Lane and Kevin Costner, both very good) as they struggle to impress on Clark his importance to the world and how he may be rejected out of fear of the unknown.
In giving us everything, the running time of the film is well north of 2 hours. It’s at least an hour or so before the cape and boots finally get an airing but it’s worth it when they do. The action set pieces are absolutely breath-taking. When Zod and Co finally arrive and start beating the living krypton out of Clark, it is stunning. Snyder’s eye is well and truly in when it comes to the fighting. We see what it would be like if these God like beings actually punched one another. Buildings are hewn in two by the impact of one of them being ka-powed right through a foundation. Trains are thrown like Aerobies, (anyone else remember them?) and beatings are handed out all over the place. But. There’s always a but. Snyder seems to enjoy the rough stuff and the explosions so much that he doesn’t know when to stop. Some of the action goes on sooooooo long that you start to become a little overwhelmed and desensitised to it. Because of this the feeling of peril for much of the cast is lost, save for one scene where Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White is helping a colleague trapped under a building.
Lois Lane is no longer the wise cracking sass machine. Amy Adams version is a tough as nails war journalist. Her and Clarks relationship is different to the ones we’ve seen before. This time she knows who Clark is and is the only person on Earth who manages to track him down. She also isn’t just a screaming girly who seems to be falling off buildings the whole time. She is integral to the overall victory of Big Blue.
Cavill does a grand job as Superman, he looks incredible, (man crush engaged) and is believably nails but it’s Shannon’s show. Michael Shannon is a fantastic actor and here he turns what could have been clunky dialogue into an intense, brooding performance that even has you appreciating his point of view regardless of how genocidal it is.
One criticism we’ve read several times is that Man of Steel takes itself too seriously but honestly, I think it has to. The DC universe IS a darker and more serious place than its Marvel counterpart. Superman has never been a wise cracker and shouldn’t change just because The Avengers are quick with a pithy remark.
All in all this is a really solid effort and Super-enjoyable. There was a lot that could have been tightened up and trimmed down and there may have been one to many Christ allegories but generally good stuff. Welcome back Kal-El it’s good to see you again.