It’s generally known that a sweet-and-salty combo more than likely delivers successful results. While Superman’s latest origin story Man of Steel has problems, the sweet-and-salty pairing of director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan (with Nolan’s Batman screenwriter David S. Goyer penning this script as well) entices movie goers and the results pull mesmerized, giddy audiences to the edge of our seats.
Snyder is no stranger to graphic novels and superheroes. Unfortunately, we’re no stranger to his haphazardly pretentious films based on those graphic novels. 300 may have gotten a pass because of its awe-inspiring visuals and it’s goofy obtuse masculinity, but Watchmen split audiences dramatically and played out like a fanboy’s wet dream filled with slo-mo sex and murder.
With the addition of Nolan and Goyer, Snyder is able to bring his wild and imaginative visions to the big screen without abandoning logic and common sense – for the most part. There are still those moments of an enthusiastic geek behind the camera getting carried away with the source material – which we’ll talk about more in a bit – but, the team who brought us our modern day Dark Knight are able to keep the project in a realistic state, while also adding human emotion to those key characters.
Audiences are taken through the origin of Kal-El once again, but this time, the scenario of Kal’s parents sending their son away from their troublesome planet of Krypton feels strangely humanistic. That’s saying a lot since oodles of gorgeous special effects and striking futuristic costumes riddle the screen. Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer play these saddened parents very well, issuing a single look that speaks volumes about the distress they’re caught up in.
This time around, the versatile Michael Shannon plays General Zod. Shannon plays Zod without subtlety and is either blowing stuff up or yelling. That said, even Zod feels more human this time around. Sure, the snarls are highly amped, but Shannon’s evil-doing motivation is convincing enough for audiences to buy into his side of the story. We don’t agree with his destruction, but we can definitely understand why he feels as passionate as he does.
When Kal-El arrives on Earth and is given a more digestible name, Clark, his adoptive parents (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane who execute the same amount of warmth and heartbreak Crowe and Zurer committed to earlier) introduce him to the world. They’re fully aware of his intergalactic roots and Clark goes through the motions the same way a young boy would gradually learn about puberty. These disconnected flashbacks, although the film has many and maybe even too many, are effective and help walk movie goers through this new origin approach without sounding condescending or too stuffy.
Henry Cavill plays the iconic alien we’ve come to know as Superman. Cavill looks and sounds the part, but his portrayal as Clark Kent feels dry at times; as if the doppelgänger is forgetting how charismatic Clark Kent usually is and how his dashing mannerisms can help this protagonist become even more intriguing. However, this hits Cavill about halfway through the movie, causing the role to pick up steam and become slightly more interesting.
I do have beef with Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane. Flattering beef, but beef nonetheless. I didn’t buy Adams as the bookwormy journalist, because the production has done nothing to hide her appearance or make her physically adapt that role. She rather looks like an on-screen news anchor and, yes, looks very much like an actress trying to play a more nerdy persona. Adams is taking her role seriously, but we can still see right through this poor casting choice.
This could’ve been a chance to make Lane take on a convincing, perhaps homely physicality. Instead, Man of Steel shovels out the same Lane we’ve all seen before. A bit of a letdown for a film that wants to reboot this franchise in a new light.
The action is non-stop and overbearing, which makes for a extremely entertaining and heart-pounding ride. In fact, when I saw the IMAX 3D presentation of this film, the frenetic action along with the booming sound design made me feel as if I had three hearts beating rapidly inside of me. It’s exhilarating and the visual effects are gorgeous, but occasionally the intensity can cross over into being slightly suffocating with how constant each explosion and punch occur.
Zack Snyder can keep his urges under control, until that final act. It’s almost as if everyone left him alone with the climax and he snuck in those hyper action pieces he loves so much. Again, their striking in every way possible, but only become a problem when they start contradicting Superman and his peacekeeping, protective ways.
Man of Steel never feels too heavy or serious and it doesn’t abandon those enthralling enjoyable elements we love about big budget summer blockbusters as well as most of those draws that made Superman such an interesting hero.
It flies off the handle towards the end as it becomes a live-action retelling of a Powerpuff Girls episode but, like this year’s other fanboy exploration Evil Dead, it does a good job entertaining and occupying moviegoers, leaving all the nitpicks they may have for the commute home.