Movie Review – Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel, 2013.

Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Christopher Meloni, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, and Ayelet Zurer.

Man of Steel

SYNOPSIS:

An epic journey from one world to another sees a young boy grow in to the hero we need him to be: Superman.

Man of Steel

The brain child of David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel has a lot to live up to. There’s a certain level of expectation when a film is written by Nolan, especially after the immensely successful Dark Knight Trilogy. With Zack Snyder, people are expecting balls to the wall action, and after the severely lacking Superman Returns, it’s what people have demanded. Did it deliver then? Like a punch from Superman himself, yes it did. Emphatically.

The investment in Clark as a character is all there; his reason for being and where his morals come from are excellently covered. The film doesn’t shy away from making tough choices either, giving Clark complex moral choices to make that will likely haunt him forever because of the good person that he is. Split second decisions needs to be made to save lives, and sometimes the right choice isn’t the right choice, but it has to be. Several moments in the film Henry Cavill must convey deep emotion, and he delivers completely. Cavill is fantastic in the role, making it his own and shaping his own Superman. He embodies the empathy, the charm and the confidence of the character so well, but there’s also vulnerability, as Clark ponders the question: will Earth accept me?

He’d of course been told that they wouldn’t by his Earth father, Jonathan Kent, played beautifully by Kevin Costner. Costner sells every line he utters, from the words of wisdom and caution to his young son, and the moment he finally has “the talk” with Clark will leave a lump in your throat. Clark’s earth mother, Martha Kent played by Diane Lane, is perhaps the standout performance. Every scene that she is in will break your heart with the love and warmth that she conveys for her child. She is exceptional.

Getting an enormous and welcome amount of screen time is Russell Crowe as Clark’s birth father, Jor-El. This is not merely a ten minute role, a quick days work. No, this is a role that requires investment from Crowe, to deliver his best and sell the fathers devotion on just the same levels as Costner. Do not expect a placid and reserved Jor-El, a wise elder; he’s a scientist yes, but he can and has to get his hands dirty. There’s a lot of interaction with Michael Shannon’s Zod, which makes for fantastic viewing, as the two Kryptonians relationship and battle of wills is deeply explored.

Lois Lane is given a lot to do, and whilst there are many coincidences in the film that lead to her rescue, she isn’t merely a damsel in distress – she’s heavily involved in the story and the character is given real justice. Amy Adams is a wonderful Lois; smart, arrogant when needed, confident, and willing to do what it takes to get the story, But she also has tough choices to make, choices again which go against her journalistic nature to report the truth, and she also to ask her self some of the same questions that Clark does. Her boss Perry White knows this himself, and Laurence Fishburne is another fantastic addition to a cast that is completely on form.

The plot of the movie isn’t really too hard to work out from the trailers, and appears a bit convoluted at one stage. However it is the emotion that is the core of the movie, and Michael Shannon’s Zod gets a glorious arc in the film. Shannon is terrifying as the fierce and determined General, a man simply wanting to protect his people. Zod is given some fantastic lines, and Shannon delivers each one with the gravitas and epicness that they deserve. His commander, Faora (Antje Traue), is psychotic, a loyal and proud Kryptonian who will stop at nothing in her support of her General and home world.

There are problems with the film, for sure. The first act is a relentless blitz of character development that is never given time to breathe. It would have been nice if Snyder had slowed some of the scenes down – how’s that for irony – and let the emotion build. Instead each character moment happens so quickly in order to get to the next, and whilst it does work as is, it could have been better, stronger. There’s a moment that comes which we’ve all seen in the trailers, when a powerful and confident Superman strolls out of the ship in suit for the first time. This moment is never really built up to, it should have been a monumental moment, instead it just feels like one scene of many. It’s not given the mythical, ethereal feel that it should have.

The action, whilst incredible and mightily impressive, can get a little too much at times. But this is what the people demanded after Superman Returns, MORE ACTION, and so that is what they got. That’s not to say it fails to excite, it absolutely does, and whilst being very CGI heavy (it’s a film about people that can fly, of course it’s CGI heavy), it’s never really noticeable as a detriment to the film. It looks fantastic, and Superman in flight is simply breathtaking. It’s a sci-fi film pure and simple, and it has some really astounding sci-fi elements which were not expected, but which amaze.

The movie itself is really about sacrifice, and several moments in the film are gut wrenching. Man of Steel is heart warming but also heart breaking, it’s about compassion, it’s about doing the right thing. There is a moment in the film which will likely divide Superman fans, and is indeed controversial given the nature of who the character is, but it works as presented in the film. There is a lot to love about the film, and circling back to Superman, the character really is given the platform he deserves. The showcase of his abilities, of his morals, of who he is and why, are handled with care and respect. For a long time people have been under the misconception that Superman is boring, that he isn’t relevant in today’s world. Well, Man of Steel has just delivered a thunderous shot to the mid-section. An uppercut to the naysayers of both the character and Zack Snyder, Man of Steel gives Superman wings once again, but most importantly, it gives him importance, and a reason to look up to him.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★  / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Martin Deer