Krypton is dying and General Zod (Michael Shannon) has a plan, one that involves mass murder for the greater good he believes. Jor-El (Russell Crowe), having warned his fellow citizens along with his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) of the impending environmental effects, won’t allow Zod’s plan to unfold. In the meantime they feel their son, the first natural birth in centuries, should be sent away in a futuristic Moses basket to live a better life. Zod’s failed coup attempt is punished by the planet elders and he is banished to the abyss with his accomplices. Ironically, this ensures his survival and on Kal-El’s 33rd birthday returns to exact his revenge and recreate his home planet….on Earth.
Man of Steel is a familiar story but with a very different execution. Clark Kent (hello Henry Cavill!) is sombre not cutesy clumsy like Christopher Reeve’s portrayal. He is battling with the secret of his superhuman abilities, an illegal alien loved and adopted by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). Lois Lane (Amy Adams) lacks the firecracker personality of the iconic character and has even less chemistry with the caped Kryptonian but makes a valiant effort (Erica Durance, anyone?). Michael Shannon plays Zod with a ruthless streak but underlying noble intentions to save his kind, by any means necessary. Costner and Crowe portray his 2 fathers with the right amount of solemnity and cheesy speeches. Henry Cavill is the handsome, tormented hero and he does well with what he is given and joins the line of British actors taking on American characters.
My expectations were high upon seeing that this would be a collaboration between Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy) and Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). You can see their mark on this in that it has room for Snyder’s love of over-the-top action and Nolan’s darker approach to the superheroes of old. Unlike The Avengers, this is distinctly lacking in wit and humour. This feels appropriate as Man of Steel is not merely a remake but an adaptation of Kal-El for the current world we live in. A world where weapons of mass destruction, mass surveillance and immigration are buzz words. Earth is a lot less trusting than it used to be, represented by the US Army and Colonel Nathan Hardy (Christopher Meloni) and Superman must prove himself a friend and not foe.
Though I enjoyed yet another adaptation of Krypton’s most famous son, I was a little disappointed. The fight scenes epic though they are, and kudos to Alex McDowell on production design and co, became a bit tedious as the film wore on. Don’t get me wrong the actions scenes in 3D are impressive and Krypton is more layered and grandly designed than ever before, but skirmishes feel a little overly long. This film seems unsure about what it wants to be, almost like 2 films in one – initially an introspective look at the bulletproof man, his motivations, his upbringing and then suddenly one day he is ready to fight and willing, in order to save Earth. It beautifully achieves the first but the action part feels a little forced before Superman has even had a chance to foil his first robbery. The allegory to Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for mankind is very present in this film right down to the Christ-like poses and call-to-action at 33. With the film’s length at nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes, I found myself watching the clock and wondering just how many innocent civilians died in the gargantuan combat between Zod and Kal-El. The script wasn’t particularly great either – if I’m guessing lines before they’re said then that’s not a good start.
Man of Steel is huge, the collateral damage sky-high, the battle scenes breathtaking and devastating in equal measure and the humour missing. It IS a pretty good adaptation though of Superman’s longing to fit in and be understood, albeit in a long-winded, loud way. It sets itself apart from previous offerings and maybe Man of Steel 2 will achieve the greatness I was hoping for the first.
What did you think? The start of something special or better left on Krypton? Your turn on the soapbox in 3, 2, 1.