Following the lukewarm response to Superman Returns, Man of Steel represents another attempt by Warner Brothers’ to resuscitate the Superman franchise. Zack Snyder, who has helmed action capers 300 and Watchmen directs, with Christopher Nolan, creator of the Dark Knight trilogy, acting as producer.
Man of Steel tries to establish its own identity and is a significant departure from the Richard Donner original. Most importantly, the movie features a new look for Superman (sans the infamous red briefs), based primarily on his appearance in ‘The New 52’ line of DC Comics.
First and foremost, Henry Cavill is the ideal Superman. He exhibits a fascinating embodiment of both Clark Kent and Superman as well. In the guise of Clark, he exemplifies the ultimate outsider, bereft of any belonging. He is lost and delirious. Donning the iconic cape gives him the opportunity to discern his true destiny. This realisation is depicted quite well and is ultimately the saving grace of the movie. Henry Cavill deserves all the plaudits and praise for his portrayal of Kal-El. Having narrowly missed out on leading roles in Casino Royale and Twilight, Cavill makes full use of his chance and is the standout performer in Man of Steel.
Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) and Antje Traue (Faora-Ul) shine in their roles. Costner is afforded fleeting moments but he leaves an indelible impression as Clark’s doting and protective father. Antje Traue, a relative newcomer amongst seasoned veterans, plays the psychopathic aide of General Zod and exudes menace throughout. Also, the background music is supplied by Hans Zimmer. A frequent collaborator of Christopher Nolan, Zimmer’s stellar score is almost like a character in the movie.
Unfortunately, that’s about as good it gets for Man of Steel. The flaws are aplenty, disseminated throughout. While it may be foolhardy to question the caliber of Amy Adams’ acting talents, given that she is a four time Oscar nominee, she is miscast as love-interest Lois Lane. One qualm of her delineation is that she looks considerably older than Henry Cavill. Consequently, it results in the conspicuous absence of any tangible chemistry between the pair.
The blame for several deficiencies in Man of Steel can be apportioned to screenwriter David Goyer and Zack Snyder. While Goyer initiates the smart maneuver of emphasising Superman’s relationships with his biological and adoptive fathers, each with his own beliefs, there is little else Goyer’s writing flourishes in. Goyer is culpable for a rushed first act, which suffers from disequilibrium. On the flipside, the climax of the movie, which comprises of breathtaking fisticuffs between Superman and General Zod, is ultimately a stretch. However, the Special Effects team deserves credit for the CGI, which are top notch.
Given that Christopher Nolan is attached as producer, one can be forgiven for believing that another epic saga is in store, similar to The Dark Knight. Sadly, in trying to create a dark and gritty Superman movie, Man of Steel takes itself too seriously and the outcome is an in vain attempt to emulate the blue print of The Dark Knight trilogy. Goyer also fails to evoke any palpable emotion at crucial junctures of the movie. The dissonance between writer and director is felt at such instances, exposing weakness in Man of Steel. For instance, The Dark Knight and The Avengers, regarded as the best comic book adaptations, benefitted from having the same writer and director, enabling them to execute an effective movie. Snyder is in his element with regards to the action sequences but is unable to influence proceedings otherwise. A combination of poor writing and his shortcomings result in the emotive elements of the Superman mythos getting short shrift.
Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, Man of Steel is watchable for a bad ass rendition of Superman, who is not afraid of engaging in aggressive combat, something rarely seen in the five previous Superman movies. All in all, Man of Steel represents a missed opportunity to carve a truly classic movie. The makers are guilty of compromising character development for wholesale obliteration.
The ‘S’ on Superman’s crest now stands for ‘Hope’ and as a childhood fan of Superman, I can only hope that the sequel improves on this origin story.