It would be an understatement to say I’ve been waiting a long time to see Man of Steel. As far as I was concerned, before yesterday, a great Superman film had yet to be made in my lifetime. There were Superman I and Superman II, which were fantastic considering that they were made in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The third and fourth installments, which I found entertaining as a child, failed to live up to their predecessors. And then there was the Superman Returns debacle. Don’t even get me started on that.
But Man of Steel is different. Very, very, very different. In age where computer-generated graphics have come to the forefront for action films, the possibilities are virtually endless for what can be displayed on film. And while I typically loathe the heavy use of CG, Man of Steel does a terrific job of making them look less, well…CG.
I’ll say that the story isn’t exactly what I had expected, which isn’t a bad thing. The order and timing of the sequences were just a tad different than I had envisioned. But overall, it’s an absolutely terrific story. Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, specifically Goyer, have given us a fascinating narrative to enjoy. The latter days of Krypton are something we haven’t been heavily exposed to on film before, and especially not to this scale. But then again, the scale of this entire film is much larger than any other Superman film before it.
The acting is top-notch. I would be hard-pressed to assemble a better cast than this. Henry Cavill is Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman. There’s a brief moment as Clark that you see him smile and when I saw that, I said to myself: “That’s Superman.” He is very much into the character and a perfect fit for it. Russell Crowe is the toughest, baddest version of Jor-El that I’ve ever seen. Sorry, Marlon Brando fans, but Russell Crowe puts him to shame in this role.
The casting for this film was just phenomenal. Amy Adams plays a strong, but sophisticated Lois Lane. As much peril as she finds herself in, she’s not a typical damsel-in-distress. Michael Shannon is a terrifying, well-rounded General Zod. I’m a fan of the Terence Stamp General Zod from Superman II, but if I’m being honest, I have to say that Michael Shannon gives us the most thorough version of the character that I’ve ever seen. Kevin Costner delivers a great, heart-warming performance as Jonathan Kent. Diane Lane is great as Clark/Kal-El/Superman’s mother. Lawrence Fishburne is a perfect Perry White. Antje Traue is perfectly vicious and wicked as Faora.
Being the comic book movie fan that I am, I’d put this on par with Batman Begins and The Avengers, but it’s probably more comparable to Batman Begins in terms of story. I’d be hesitant to put it on par with The Dark Knight in terms of overall quality, but I will say that it’s the ideal reboot for the character, a fresh, totally brand new and inspired take on the Superman mythos. There’s nothing corny, cheesy or campy about it. In previous versions, we’ve seen Superman be almost a little too gentle. But in Man of Steel, we see a fearless, powerful hero who isn’t afraid of a fight.
While this isn’t exactly your typical boy scout “Truth, Justice and the American Way” Superman, there’s still a sense of patriotism in the film. The messianic themes are fairly obvious; there’s no real attempt to conceal that. But as you’d expect, there is an underlying tone of optimism and hope that is embodied by the Man of Steel himself.
If I was forced to give it a rating, I’d say 4 out of 5 stars. It’s an amazing film and I believe that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer gave us the Superman we’ve been hoping for. It’s not a perfect film, but it opens up so much about the character that fans have been wanting to see, along with a host of new possibilities for the future of the franchise. If you like action, sci-fi, comic book films or all of the above, you’ll really enjoy this film.