Seven years after Bryan Singer attempted to bring Superman back in the aptly titled Superman Returns, Zack Synder brings his dark vision in the new reboot Man of Steel to reinvigorate interest in the character. Unfortunately, not every step to bring him back is for the better.
The film follows Clark Kent aka Kal-El, played by Henry Cavill, wandering on Earth after being sent by his father Jor-El, played by Russel Crowe, to help bridge the gap between that world and the dying world of Krypton. Clark finds his true purpose and becomes the Man of Steel, saving Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, and having to deal with the nefarious General Zod, played by the always terrifying Michael Shannon, coming to Earth to find a mysterious codex that may lead to the future of Krypton.
The film’s first act is nothing short of fantastic by re-imagining the origin of the titular character and focusing on the past that leads Clark to be the man he is in the future. His Earth parents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, help guide Clark on his way via flashbacks that may seem sporadic, but make sense in the context to the situation he is facing. This leads to some great moments between Cavill’s take on the role and Synder show Synder can try to tell straight forward origin story. When Lois gets close to Clark, she soon discovers what makes him great as well as they build a strong bond.
The prologue of the film on Krypton is spectacular. The drama surrounding the destruction of the planet is phenomenal giving a presence to General Zod’s betrayal of Jor-El with his right hand henchwoman Faora, played icy cold and brilliant by Antje Traue. It is a stunning sequence with some great action and gives more insight into the roots Kal-El comes from more than previous Superman features.
Sadly, the second half of the film suffers from Synder’s weakness for weak action storytelling and relying too much on big set pieces and CGI to carry on a story that twist is unbelievably stupid and basically makes the smart man Clark grew to be a big dumb oaf. The action falls flat going over long with CGi that is blatant. Synder still has yet to realizes that a blockbuster films must not only rely on the spectacle, but a great story to let the audience connect to what is going on.
The twist brings the story down to ridiculous levels and abandons any potential this film had to be ranked above the mediocre Returns from 2006. The intelligence of Superman has been striped away from the first act in order to deliver a manic action sequence that destroys half of Metropolis, causes millions of deaths on his hands and has Superman do something Superman would not do without feeling any sort of remorse that he does in the comic canon doing the certain act. Another fault of Superman is hammering the point to the audience that Superman is a allegory for Jesus Christ that is so blatant, unintentional laughter may be heard in the distance.
The acting of the film is quite good with some minor exceptions. Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel is good, not great, but can work with the bland material given to him with a cool wit and smile. Cavill does show human elements to the character, but loses it in the climax of the film. Michael Shannon and Russel Crowe do a terrific job being foils of one another with Shannon shining bright and deliciously evil as General Zod. Costner and Lane’s potrayal as Clark’s parents are great providing the backbone to the son of Jor-El.
Antje Traue as Faora is badass, plain and simple, by being as menacing as Zod and seems ready to kill Lois at any moment. Amy Adams as Lois Lane seems lost in the shuffle by not showing off her version of the character and becomes bland. The other characters at the Daily Planet and the US Army suffer the problem Amy Adams suffers by being put on the back burner and never given development beyond the shadow of themselves.
Man of Steel is half good, half a mess with a overall great start, but suffers to even finish as strong as it began. Maybe instead of focusing on getting a Justice League movie right, Synder and Warners Bros. should focus on what made Superman great and not fall under the dark shadow of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.