Though we don’t really need the obligatory overview for a Superman movie, it appears to be necessary in a review so I shall do it as briefly as possible. Man of Steel centres on the creation of Superman (Henry Cavill) and his struggle to remain hidden from a world which he fears may not accept him, whilst coming to terms with his powers and Kryptonian heritage. The main force of the film however centres on Superman’s battle with the rouge Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his aim of recreating the Kryptonian race after their home planet Krypton has been destroyed.
Ok, sorted? Whatever you see this film it is not worth it. While this film is, not terrible, but distinctly below par for the superhero films that has come out in recent years. But let me elaborate. Man of Steel has been hyped as a turning point for Superman in film, even rejecting John William’s iconic Superman score (we all know the tune), but it has nothing new to put on the table apart from a slightly angst-y Superman. You could say this is down to Christopher Nolan’s influence as that approach certainly worked in his Batman trilogy but was incredibly out of place in Man of Steel as Superman is meant to be the blue-eyed boy of justice and purity, but turns out to be a “gritty” retelling that doesn’t take a full measure of what it is trying to achieve and looks back longingly to its pure and more comical predecessors.
The film actually starts out positively, with the opening scenes focusing on Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) who save their son, Kal-El,( i.e.: Clark Kent, AKA: Superman) from the impending doom Krypton is facing after the Kyptonians’ mining their own planet’s core for resources leading to its demise. The use of CGI is brilliant and really gives the viewer a feel of the absolute demise of an entire planet. However this is pretty much where the Man of Steel loses all strength (apologies for possibly the worst joke ever).
One part of the film which really sticks a knife in the stomach and twists to cause maximum pain is Lois Lane. While Amy Adams acting is nothing terrible, the character of Lois Lane in this film is utterly pointless, serving as nothing more than a rather forced love interest for Superman. There is no attempt to build up the relationship between Lois Lane and Superman, it is as if they have been shoved into a room together as complete and utter strangers and told they are to love each other forever and ever. It is so painful to watch that when they finally kiss it leaves you feeling awkward just for witnessing it, as if you caught them doing something indecent. You can obviously tell that the “love-story” and the fact that Lois Lane was even put in the movie was just to satiated fans who would have otherwise screamed at the director Zach Snyder for not including her. She is one of the many puss-filled tumours which riddle this poor excuse for a Superman reboot.
Another sticking point is the films’ over-reliance on CGI effects. While the use of CGI was fantastic in the illustration of the demise of Kypton, the constant reliance on CGI effects throughout the film in battle sequences leaves you numb to the dangers Superman is facing. It is really difficult to create boredom in a fight scene, but Man of Steel achieves it. It is so repetitive that one wonders if they had not given 20 minutes of fight scenes over to illustrating Superman’s troubled childhood, the film might have turned out to be a whole lot better. But even then, the fight scenes amount to Superman being kicked around by General Zod’s subordinates until the final battle with Zod himself. He obtains no growth which one gets with Batman and it appears the audience is just meant to accept that Superman will win, whereas Batman at least built up his ability with victories and defeats along the way to ultimate victory by the end of his movies. As it is though, the over emphasis on the fighting leaves the film as a hollow shell of what could have been.
The film also flits between Superman’s childhood and adult life throughout the film, destroying any continuity the film could have benefitted from had it taken a more linear fashion to Superman’s life, allowing the audience to get to grips his hardships living on earth before introducing him as the Man of Steel he would eventually become. Also, the arch-villain General Zod does not impose any demonic aura that villain such as the Joker or even Loki manage to exude in their respective films. It is quite something when Zod’s lieutenant Faora (Antje Traue) provides a better nemesis in terms of fight scenes and actual villainy than Zod himself.
You know when a film has failed to perform when Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe, who portray Superman’s human father Jonathon Kent and his Kryptonian father Jor-El respectively, gives a much greater performance than any of the film’s more integral characters. Seriously, Kevin Costner is in the film for four or five scenes and his performance was much better than Henry Cavill’s or Amy Adams’. Man of Steel appears to lack any true sense of direction and appears to have been made merely so it can jump on the superhero bandwagon that has been going on for the past decade, but for the man who can leap tall buildings with a single bound; this film misses by a substantial margin.
Poorly paced and thought-out, Man of Steel feels like it has been made purely to let Henry Cavill be recognised as the new Superman so they can (as they have already announced) create a sequel so they can hopefully flog Superman’s much defiled corpse in the hopes of creating another box office hit which, unfortunately, will not happen. Sorry Superman, for all the hype, you have once again failed to capture the audiences’ imagination with a bland and, while not necessarily awful, but a definitely below average film. Superman will once again be relegated to being one of the superheroes who just cannot seem to break into the big screen effectively. Yes we are talking about you Daredevil, Green Lantern and Judge Dredd (Stallone version).