Let me start off by saying that I am a big Superman fan. Now i’m not claiming to have read all the comic books or anything but Superman is the one superhero that I feel like I grew up on. I travelled a lot growing up and might I add that I have a very large extended family. Many of my cousins were about 10+ years older than me so whenever we would visit a relative there was little around to entertain me. Since many of my cousins were males comic books seemed to be a consistency that I would find from house to house. It just so happened that the first couple of comics that I read were Superman ones, and so started my lifelong sentiment with the franchise. This worked out well for my parents, as I mentioned earlier we travelled a lot when I was a kid and you could find a comic book (especially the popular DC and Marvels) in any country, add the fact that my entertainment of choice was reading and they were practically giddy.
I remember one summer in India I was bored out of mind. I was too young to go anywhere exciting on my own and my parents would rather chat with relatives, add the fact that there was maybe 1 english channel on tv and you have got a very unenthused child. One day I came across Lois and Clark, it was in english so I was automatically a viewer but again it was Superman so there was another layer of intrigue. With consistent marathons and frequent air time I’m pretty sure I watched the majority of the series that summer. Flash forward a few years later and I’ve hooked on Smallville and have a box set of the Christopher Reeve Superman Quartet. I’ve read a couple more comics in both the Superman and Justice League series, and have watched the animated series of each. Clearly I grew up watching Superman.
Anyways enough with that lengthy intro lets get on with the review! I decided to add that tidbit in to demonstrate that I may be a bit harsher of a critic compared to someone who is less invested in the franchise. Having already been largely disappointed with the 2006 Superman Returns I had high hopes…especially after learning that Christopher Nolan (one of my favourite directors) was a producer. Unfortunately I once again was largely disappointed.
Directed by Zach Snyder and written by David S. Goyer, the film stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon as Kal-El/Clark Kent, Lois Lane and General Zod. Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane round out the cast portraying Jor-El, Jonathan Kent and Martha Kent respectively. Personally I thought the casting in this film was fantastic. Every actor was perfect for their part, while I may have been a bit underwhelmed by Michael Shannon, the rest of the cast was so expertly picked it more than makes up for it. The cinematography was beautiful. There was a quintessential ‘darkness’ to the film that I’ve come to associate with the newer DC releases. By that I mean that the settings showed a lot of murkiness in the sky with muted colours. I see this as almost metaphorical, by not using the punchy vibrant primary colours the film is given more of a realness that separates itself from the idealism surrounding these iconic superheros. Lighting aside there was a lot of great direction in this film. I distinctly remember this one moment within the first 15 minutes of the movie where Henry Cavill is emerging from the water looking for some clothes to borrow and there is a beautifully captured moment of leaves trembling and whisking away in the wind. Its a very minute detail but something that was so small but brilliant that I almost couldn’t contain my excitement for the rest of the movie to take place. Combine that with the subtle references to the comic (such as when Clark wants to beat up the vile drunk at the diner but instead takes out his anger…elsewhere) or Christopher Reeve movies and I was a fan grinning from ear to ear.
For me the real let down of this film was the script. It just seemed messy and in great need of editing. I understand and completely respect taking artistic license and changing aspects of the story but there were numerous moments where I felt that the change made less sense and the scene would have been stronger with the original pacing. Contrastingly the dialogue came across as rushed and poorly written. Entire conversations and one liners came across as cheesy and stale. I think its a testament to the ability of the actors in that they were still able to give convincing performances in spite of the poor writing. Another annoyance was the both the amount and the length of the fight scenes. While of course necessary to a superhero movie, It felt as though 1/3 of the film was made up of fight scenes! While I loved that Man of Steel spent a of time on Superman’s past and on his struggles while growing up, It didn’t feel like there was enough character development to feel invested enough to warrant their extravagance. Not surprisingly I’ve already heard talks of a sequel, I’m too invested in the franchise to not watch it however I wouldn’t give Man of Steel a recommedation. Wait for it to come out on dvd or netflix, unfortunately this superhero movie is getting a pass.