In a Man of Steel pre-screening interview, director Zack Snyder said this film was going to be epic – that fans could appreciate every moment, sequence, or scene – and that this would be a Superman film unlike any other. He was right. For months fans have been eagerly awaiting the Man of Steel‘s arrival, and have placed high expectations on Snyder’s shoulders. DC Comic fans and movie lovers can rest assured, Snyder delivers a cinematically gorgeous adaptation, and, as promised, a Superman film unlike any other.
Snyder’s masterful hand shows through in every frame – in every second. Like his previous outings (Watchmen, 300), the director makes use of hypersaturated colors, to create a surrealist world where the title character thrives as a visual focal point. With director of photography, Amir Mokri, Snyder made sure that Superman’s colors were prominent – and particularly striking in scenes that have a general tendency to be visually featureless or unappealing. For example, both the desert and arctic have bland and featureless landscapes, and like the hallway (with fluorescent lights), have harsh lighting that could have detracted from the visual aesthetic – but they don’t because your eyes are commanded to the vibrantly shaded colors of Superman, played by Henry Cavill.
As the lead, Cavill does an exceptional job giving life to one of the most iconic American movie characters. Dare it be said, he’s the best actor for the role, and likely the best ever to don the cape – there’s a certain disposition that just fits – he is Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent. Physically, Cavill is perfect – from his facial structure and strong jawline to his overall physique – he epitomizes an American hero (who knew, he’s British!). Artistically, his masculine vocals suit his physicality, yet can be tailored to express his vulnerability, leaving the audience with what is by far Cavill’s best, most dynamic performance to date.
Opposite Cavill’s Superman is General Zod (Michael Shannon). Shannon works well as the nemesis in this adaptation, delivering a conflicted performance that almost generates sympathy near the end – a rare feat for villains. Zod’s accomplice, Faora (Antje Traue), delivers on par. She’s robotic, relentless and ruthless, serving only one purpose, to aid Zod in re-birthing Krypton. Interestingly, Faora poses the greatest personal threats to the Man of Steel – in the process, almost overtaking Zod as the most dangerous villain (except, she lacks the emotional depth/conflict of Zod).
Man of Steel‘s wealth of talent extends to Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner). They’re each exceptional in their respective roles, particularly Adams and Lane, neither of whom are portrayed as victims. They’re both strong-willed women capable of and responsible for influencing Clark Kent. Notably, contrary to her character in TV’s animated versions, Lois Lane isn’t the cliché damsel in distress – she’s a strong character – sort of like Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts in the Iron Man franchise, just a tad more vivacious.
Embedded beneath these performances, and all of this imagery, movie aficionados will identify and appreciate the spectacular sounds of composer Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, The Lion King) – especially the recurring sounds of violins from the track titled “Krypton’s Last.” Zimmer’s score melds nicely with the other sounds, adding sound-mixing to Man of Steel‘s list of noteworthiness.
The only real trouble Man of Steel has is that it’s huge – it’s an origin story that has to explore a dying planet and how Clark Kent came to be Superman. While it is compelling from start to finish, David S. Goyer’s screenplay should have been tweaked slightly in either direction – shortened or expanded – to give it optimized emotional impact. Then again, it’s intended to be a summer blockbuster – not a drama, but a little more drama wouldn’t have hurt.
Man of Steel runs 143 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action, destruction, and mild language. The film also stars Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, Ayelet Zurer, and Christopher Meloni.
Note: The intense action sequences probably lend themselves to 2D screening better than 3D and there is no mid- or end credit scene.