Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon
We begin on Krypton with the birth of Kal-El to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer). From there we are with Jor-El as he presents the impending doom of Krypton to the ruling council, the revolt by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the launch of Kal-El into space towards Earth, the trial of General Zod and his imprisonment into the Phantom Zone, and then the destruction of Krypton. Later we see Kal-El’s ship appear in our solar system and then head to Earth, specifically Kansas. And just before the ship crashes in the field we cut-to present day, a trawler fishing ship.
The principal weaknesses of Man of Steel are the story and the storytelling by the director, Zack Snyder. The story has to cover a lot of ground: the destruction of Krypton, General Zod’s background, Clark Kent discovering his powers, Kal-El discovering himself, the world discovering Superman, and Superman saving the world. Also, in intending to remove kryptonite as a cheat to defeat Superman the filmmakers use General Zod as the primary antagonist. In doing so the audience looses all relatabilitybetween both the good and bad guys. When they battle it is truly gods going to war and we mortals suffer for their conflict.
And though the film has to tell an expansive story it feels flabby. It lingers too long on Krypton at the beginning of the film, and stays too long on the climatic battle scene between Superman and Zod. Put simply, one building collapsing is impressive but by the twentieth it is tedious and numbing.
Where Man of Steel does succeed is in the Clark Kent scenes–the smaller human scenes. How did Clark feel when his powers manifested? How did he learn to control them? How did he find himself as he trekked through life? It is during these smaller intimate scenes we truly connect and identify with the man who would become Superman, and understand the choices he will make.
Henry Cavill makes both a great Clark Kent and Superman. Besides looking the part, he carries the weight of the “otherness” of the Superman character well. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe are well cast as the adoptive and birth father, respectively of Kal-El. You connect more with Diane Lane as Kal’s earth mother than Ayelet Zurer as his Kryptonian mother; owing more to screen time than anything else. Amy Adams delivers as the investigative reporter Louis Lane but lacked chemistry with Cavill to present a believable attraction. As for Michael Shannon, his General Zod was definitely physically threatening but unfortunately lacking menace.
The look of the film was incredible. Krypton was excellently conveyed as a stagnant civilization. Though they were technologically advanced, everything in their society was in dull shades of grade and looking of being made of stone and not metal. The Smallville of Clark’s youth was filmed in warm & soft lighting. Clark’s present had the blue/gray tones of someone looking for something but not finding it. The final confrontation with Zod and his forces before the final fight with Superman was well choreographed and looked impressive
Overall, though Man of Steel tries to go for too much it is on par with The Avengers. It is a successful retelling of a story we are all familiar with set in a world we can believe exists.
Grade = B
P.S. How does the Man of Steel shave? According to the “Man of Steel” comic mini-series from the mid-80’s he reflects his heat-ray vision off a piece of his rocket ship to burn the stubble from his face.