Superman is a character everyone loves. He’s courageous, strong, fearless, patriotic, and true. He symbolizes the best that man can be, and with such lofty associations, adapting him to the big-screen is something many have tried, but few have really succeeded at. While Man of Steel is not a perfect movie, and bound to cause division amongst fans, it is one of the best portrayals of Superman I’ve ever seen.
Directed by Zack Snyder, Man of Steel is an explosive, action-packed, and often times spectacular film that gives fans a live-action Superman that they can easily get behind. While this version of the character comes packed with numerous changes, more on that later, this is still Superman, and we should still love him.
Played by Henry Cavill, the Superman of Man of Steel is an honest yet frustrated man, forced to live in hiding or risk the safety of the world he calls home. It’s a conflict that fans of the character know well, and it’s given justice in this movie. Clark Kent, thanks to Cavill’s top-notch performance, is both relatable and sympathetic, almost perfectly balancing the dichotomy of the human Clark and the alien known as Kal-El.
Cavill really needs to be applauded for his work here, as he not only possesses the intensity of the character, but also the much needed humanity that Superman stands for. While not as witty or humorous as past incarnations of the character, Cavill’s take on the man of steel fits well in today’s world. Although I can say I would like to see more of Clark in the inevitable sequel.
As much as I enjoyed this take on the character, Man of Steel makes some bold, bound to be controversial choices regarding Superman that are likely the cause of such mixed opinions towards the movie. In Snyder’s universe, there is no Kryptonite, although there is something similar, and there are some drastic shifts in both Superman’s origin story and his rise to being a hero.
For the most part, these changes work (although I would’ve preferred if Kryptonite existed), but there is one addition to the character that is sure to split fans down the middle. It’s a bold, extreme shift for the character, and while I understood and even support its inclusion, I can plainly see why others would differ in their opinion; but for the sake of spoilers I’ll refrain from elaborating.
Overall, Man of Steel has a great cast. In addition to Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon stands out as the villainous General Zod. He’s ruthless, cruel, and shows no restraint in his attack on Earth. While occasionally straying into some melodramatic moments, for the most part Shannon shines as Zod, and is a worthy opponent for Superman.
However, I found his second-in-command Faora-Ul to be just as menacing, if not more so. Her brutal intensity and mesmerizing presence are immediately captivating, and she especially stands out when able to stand on her own, without Zod to order her around. I almost wish she was given even more screen-time, as I feel like she wasn’t used to quite her full potential.
With that said, not all the cast shine quite as bright as the villains. While I love Amy Adams in almost everything she does, she just didn’t feel like Lois Lane here. She felt like Amy Adams playing a gutsy reporter, not Amy Adams playing Lois Lane. Sadly, her only discernible purpose here is to act as a romantic interest and damsel in distress for Superman. And that’s just too bad.
Although I greatly enjoyed Man of Steel, its plot has some obvious flaws that need to be addressed. For one, the first third of the film is disjointed as the film constantly jumps from the present into the past. While these flashbacks are interesting, and do a great job of both highlighting Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent as well as filling in Clark’s backstory, they come across as sudden and even obtrusive.
And because there’s just so many flashbacks, I found myself getting slightly annoyed at the distraction. Which, of course, means that what was happening in the present was fascinating enough that I didn’t want it to leave. And that’s where Man of Steel really pulls through.
The conflict in Man of Steel is stupendous, and distracting flashbacks aside, seeing Clark’s evolution into the superhero we all know and love is really something special. As he engages with the consciousness of his dead father Jor-El, played masterfully by the ever great Russel Crowe, we see him gain the confidence to embrace his part in the world, and to stand up for the place he considers home.
When Superman and Zod and his army finally square off however, all bets are off and the film delivers equal amounts spectacle and raw, emotional intensity. Truly, Man of Steel is one of the most explosive films I’ve seen recently, and it’s climax tops that of even The Avengers in terms of sheer size and destruction.
Seeing Superman finally punch a man through a building is immensely gratifying, and thanks to some great special-effects and directing, every action sequence is filled with adrenaline and excitement, especially the climax. The final showdown between Superman and Zod has, in my mind, won the award for best duel of 2o13, and I highly doubt it will be topped anytime soon.
However, with the amount of explosions and destruction, it’s hard to get caught up in the fun of the fight scenes when you know millions of people are getting killed. Yes, I understand this is a superhero movie (although it feels more like sci-fi to be honest), and critical thinking is something you’re supposed to stay away from, but this still bothered me a bit; just not enough to ruin the climax entirely.
In its entirety, Man of Steel is a success. It has its flaws, some more glaring than others, but still delivers where it counts. It is easily the best Superman movie out there, and my favorite film of the year thus far (although not the best), and its pros far outweigh its cons.
Your opinion on this movie will most likely depend on your expectations of Superman. If you believe that there is just one version of Superman, you will likely walk away disappointed. But if you’re open to letting the character grow and adapt, as I am, then I’m sure you will enjoy Man of Steel just as much as I did.