Director: Zack Snyder Writer: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne Running time: 143 minutes Year: 2013
This review appears courtesy of Derby QUAD Blog
Man Of Steel is why we see movies on the big screen. It’s that rare beast of summer blockbusters with a brain driving forward the story. You’ll have no doubt heard about Zack Snyder’s rebooted take on Superman. In the months building up to its release, every form of media has been saturated with previews, yet none of them truly prepare you for what is an absolutely breathtaking contribution to cinema.
It’s a staggering testament to why film lovers agonise over their favourite titles and why audiences continue to visit their local multiplexes. It succeeds in filling that aching gap that’s so often left when you leave a film, disappointed.
Snyder has dreamt big this time around, hopefully shunning doubters and acquiring a clutch of new admirers. The world he creates is crafted to make you fall in love with the universe: giant landscapes littered with the tyranny of infrastructure; great blistering suns rising across the vastness of a plain; titanic black-veined moons straddling the sky; the barren solitude of ice caves; they’re in attendance as a reminder that this time around Superman has his big boy pants on.
“Man Of Steel is an absolutely breathtaking contribution to cinema, filling that aching gap that’s so often left when you leave a film.”
The tale of Superman (aka Kal-El, aka Clark Kent) is one that most are familiar with, and this knowledge is twisted to great effect. What could easily have been a tired fumble at rehashing the backstory is handled with the utmost love from Snyder. From Kal-El’s chaotic entrance into the world, to his introspective youth and onto his quest as an adult, these threads of his life are tangled to form a thick, complex story which glides along like honey. It’s a tactic that could have failed, but like Kent, it aims high and soars.
There’s no question that Man Of Steel belongs in the sci-fi canon, as one of its strongest contenders undoubtedly, and yet it doesn’t belong exclusively to the genre. Taking a path which rarely arrives at anywhere worthwhile, Man Of Steel emerges as a gritty sci-fi drama which takes equally from both. Ripe with the pain and joy of real life, the genre elements (spaceships and futuristic weaponry) don’t pull you away from the realism, they co-exist with it.
It’s defining component is its huge heart, which beats strong and without fear of being predated. Familial love, loyalty toward one’s home, affection for likeminded souls and a desire to live life charging down a righteous path ring true with each scene. Before you start, retire those images you’ve just retrieved from your mind’s eye from previous films with saccharin dialogue like “Do what you feel in your heart,” and other such shonk. Man Of Steel conveys a potent message without resorting to sanctimonious speeches. It has a brain, remember?
A large portion of that soul is a result of a cast who stretch to achieve something MORE than just the usual cluster of characters who dominate most superhero movies. Henry Cavill’s Superman is a perfect amalgam of kind brute and confused boy. His character is fleshed out before he’s uttered a full sentence, through some good old show but don’t tell. Russell Crowe, who commandeers the first twenty minutes, steps away from the limelight as Superman’s birth father, Jor-El. His Kryptonian spectre appears throughout, offering advice and belief in his son that never once strays into parody.
For a film stooped in fantasy, it’d be easy to slip into tired stereotypes. There’s little of that on show here, even from the villain, General Zod. We’ve come to expect from our superhero baddies a handful of behaviours: an evil laugh, a poorly-executed plan, and zero justification for their terror. Michael Shannon’s Zod is a real-life antihero whose goal and ambition strikes out from a heart not too dissimilar to Kent’s. They battle over Earth for the same reason: the safety and future existence of their people. He’s the bad guy you don’t want to see meet his end because he’s a buffoon, but simply because he’s after our hero.
“[General Zod] is the bad guy you don’t want to see meet his end because he’s a buffoon, but simply because he’s after our hero.”
As his adoptive father, Kevin Costner never strays far from his field of dreams and yet guides his son with the restraint of a parent struggling to deal with a child far from normal. Amy Adams is an actress who you’d never believe was cast as the female lead in a comic book movie. She’s a stand-out indie queen, whose every performance differs. Along with Diane Lane in the role of Clark’s mother, they each draw you in with their utmost belief in every single moment that’s happening on screen. What a delightful change it is to see two actresses who aren’t relegated to predictable pigeon holing. Adams as Lois Lane is the flick’s Woman Of Steel. With no fear and no self-doubt, she’s a slap in the face to every other film this year that’s made a mockery of its women (ahem, Fast & Furious 6.)
Hans Zimmer’s assaultive score is the cherry atop Man Of Steel. Zimmer’s musical output always guarantees a corking accompaniment. Working around the sound design, which joins forces in pronouncing each bang, each scream, each explosion, they segue together seamlessly.
Where other big budget fare fails, Man Of Steel wins. Its barrage of non-stop sequences seek only to show you Superman and his world. Going into the theatre to watch it, I didn’t think that by the end it’d have snagged the title of my favourite film of the year (previously held by Stoker.) If you’ve made time to read this review, you’ve time to check your local listings to see when the next showing is.
You won’t regret it.[vsw id=”dwYatpwrs8s” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]