One of the highly anticipated movies of the year finally hit the big screens. And no other movie could have seen such varying reviews and opinions from the critics and audience. There are those who have loved every minute of it, and there are plenty who were expecting much more. Rotten Tomatoes has a modest 57% voting on the movie whereas Imdb has recorded a strong rating of 8.3 so far. Like it or not, Man of Steel seems to be the most talked of movie this year. And not surprisingly so. One of the most beloved comic characters was making his return on the big screen after seven years. Everyone would have had an opinion on how the movie should pan out. It was never going to be an easy job to satisfy them all, was it?
Man of Steel wipes the slate clean for the Superman franchise and begins with the story of the origins of this Kryptonian. This movie is more about Kal-El, the birth name of Superman, than of Superman of Earth. The movie starts on Krypton, a far away planet, about to see the end of its civilization. The military commander General Zod (Michael Shannon) orders a coup to overthrow the ruling council. It is in this mayhem that the chief scientist of Krypton, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife decide to send their newly born son to a far-away planet , Earth, using an escape pod. The child Kal-El lands in Kansas and is raised on a farm by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane). As Kal-El grows up and realises his extraordinary abilities, he seeks to understand his origins. The older Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is being investigated by a tough journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who wants to uncover his story. Things are however to take a serious turn when the threat of General Zod returns. And it is then that Kal-El aka Clark Kent aka Superman will have to find out what kind of a person he is within.
Man of Steel scores top points for its visual appeal. The red and blue cape of Superman shines in the warmth of the sun, it sways with the breeze and it fits well on Henry Cavill. One of the things you have to complement the director Zack Snyder on, is that he knows how a shot should look. The scene when we first see Superman in his suit, as he steps out into the cold, is a treat and could not have been executed so craftily by anyone other than Snyder. Apart from the well used bright colour palette in this movie, Man of Steel is packed with action. Right from the beginning where Jor-El has to take out a few guards to ensure his son’s safety to the dramatic finale of the movie which is like a big non-stop action flick in itself. The action scenes drive much of the movie, and stand out in their uniqueness with Superman and his adversaries moving at incredible speeds, dolling out punches that would flatten an elephant. There is great camerawork on display here, lovely CGI effects and this is when you can really understand how Superman is different from so many other superheroes. He’s simply too fast and strong! Great job again by Znyder.
The movie however falls a little flat in connecting the soul of the movie with the audience. The challenges that Kal-El has to face on Earth, the way he has to learn to adapt, those were recurring themes during the movie, but somehow never make you pity the kid. The screenplay was written by David Goyer with inputs by Christopher Nolan, and so I was expecting a bit more heart to the story. It wasn’t completely missing, and that responsibility largely lay with the two fathers, Jor-El of Krypton and Jonahtan Kent of Earth. Some of the best lines of the movie come from these two characters, portrayed by accomplished actors in Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, and it is their belief in the ability of the young Kal-El and their love for him, which becomes one of the highlights of the movie.
As for the lead roles, Henry Cavill as Superman fits the bill perfectly. He has worked rigorously to look like the powerful Kryptonian and his youthful charm only further adds to the credibility of the superhero as we knew him from the comics. If this was to be the beginning of a franchise, a whole new generation could remember Superman as Henry Cavill, the way an older generation can think of no one else than Christopher Reeve in that suit. Amy Adams was one of the surprise performers in this movie, with a gutsy role of a journalist that she delivers perfectly well. It is good when the script of a movie of such genre does not make the lead actress end up only screaming and crying pitifully (though Amy Adams does have her moments), and this was one performance that I enjoyed as much as that of Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwall) in Captain America.
Michael Shannon shines as General Zod, delivering his lines with the right amount of emotions (which is usually minimal), looking like the military commander that he was supposed to be. He is ruthless and uncaring of anyone that comes in the path he has chosen for the Kryptonians, a message he informs Superman in no unambiguous words. To be the antagonist to such a powerful entity as Superman is a tough ask, and not only has the character of General Zod well scripted, it has been perfected on the screen by Michael Shannon. The movie boasts of a great acting cast, even in smaller roles, which can only be a good thing, right? So just like The Dark Knight franchise pulled in talented actors to create a great acting crew, Man of Steel completes things with Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s mother and Laurence Fishburne as the editor of the newspaper Lois Lane is working for.
The biggest complaint about Man of Steel would probably be its 143 minutes long run-time. Due to the intensity of the action towards the end, the length of the movie is not really bothersome then, but it does become a drag somewhere in the middle. Reducing the run time could have resulted in crisper editing and brought in a more slickness to the movie. It is on those counts that Man of Steel will not be talked of in the same breath as Batman Begins, which was the beginning of another rebooted series. It has however started off well at the box-office with collections till Sunday estimated to be $120 million to $140 million. Strong earnings could set the ball rolling for this franchise and even maybe for a Justice League feature film soon. But that is a story for another day. So for today, whatever one may feel were the shortcomings of Man of Steel, it still turned out to be a wonderful ride. Superman is indeed back!