Man of Steel

man of steelReleased: 2013
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe

Spectacular with fabulous acting but no heart


Two months ago I wrote a list of ten 2013 trailers that had caught my eye. I’m not holding out much hope that I’ll see Much Ado About Nothing in the cinema, I can’t imagine that either of the local multiplexes getting a print. Apart from that though I have high hopes of seeing every film on the list before the end of the year. This weekend sees the release of the latest reboot of the Superman story with the Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel.

Henry Cavill dons the red cape as Kal-El of Krypton. Prior to the destruction of their home planet scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara send their son to Earth to save his life. He is discovered and adopted by Kansas farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent. From that description it almost sounds like a straight remake of the 1978 Richard Donner film, but it’s not…. It’s really not.

There is an extended introduction to Russell Crowe’s Jor-El, the history of Krypton and the crimes of General Zod (Michael Shannon).  Cavill’s Clark is also more troubled than Christopher Reeve’s ever was. This is a man struggling with his place in the universe. Kal-El starts to discover more about his heritage and abilities when the genocidal Zod threatens Earth and the human race.

This is as far from the Donner version as it’s possible to get. Where Superman was colourful, Man of Steel is muted with a steely grey-blue hue. Where Superman was Earth-based, Man of Steel is a film about aliens and alien lands.  Where Superman had its tongue firmly in cheek, Man of Steel is deadly serious. It has noise, it has special effects by the bucket load but it has no sense of humour at all. It’s all very serious and po-faced with a lack of real emotion. There’s little spark between Clark/Kal-El and Lois Lane which is a shame given how adorable and talented both Cavill and Amy Adams are. Clark/Kal-El has no emotional connection with the majority of the characters and this translates to a lack of audience connection. When Perry White and Daily Planet staff face peril I really didn’t care.

The script was fairly preposterous at times. There was too much exposition – at one point Lois tells Perry White that she’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. I’ve never worked on a newspaper but I’m fairly sure that an editor would know that about a member of his staff. There’s also too much ridiculous “sci-fi” talk with scientists and aliens blathering on about cores and gravity and uplinking. Blah blah blah.

Despite my misgivings about the script, the lack of emotion and the many derivative moments (Avengers Assemble, Independence Day and Thor are all in there) I still very much enjoyed Man of Steel. The acting was excellent, particularly from Shannon as Zod and Crowe as Jor-El. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed Crowe quite as much since Gladiator. Cavill makes a great Kal-El and the very last moments hint at a decent Clark Kent too.

Some of the action was outstanding, particularly the large fight scenes which see small towns ripped – although a couple of these lasted longer than necessary. The most enjoyable moment for me was the very last minute of the film which gives us hope of a sequel with more spark between Clark and Lois and maybe even a sense of humour.

Man of Steel is absolutely spectacular to watch but for it to be truly great it needed to have much more heart.

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  1. Very nice review. I am glad you brought up the hope seen in the final scenes. This one was a good relaunch of the characters. We’ll have to wait and see what WB decides to do from here.

    • The final scene was what tipped it over from a 3.5 to a 4 for me. It did feel a lot like an origin story before the actual action begins. I suppose with Christopher Nolan’s involvement it does feel a bit like Batman Begins. Hopefully there will be a series which goes the same way as the Dark Knight trilogy.

  2. I’m a fan but the last remake has left a bad taste in my mouth. Superman without a flirtatious glint in his eye? I dunno.

    • I think that was a real problem, all a little too serious. The very final minute though hinted that the glint may be back next time. Hopefully.

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