When the Superman trailer arrived it was greeted with nothing more than a casual shoulder shrug. I probably used the word “meh”. Superman is a superhero that has never held any appeal. I haven’t seen the Christopher Reeve adaptations, I remember enough about the tv show to know that I was not a fan and the previous reboot bored me rigid.
There was no exciting build up to Man of Steel but I always accepted that I would see it in the cinema. I had to have low expectations to give the film a sporting chance.
PLOT: As the planet Krypton is dying Jor:El (Russell Crowe) ships his infant son Kal-El to earth to save him. The child is adopted by Jonathan (Kevin Coster) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) who raise the child as their own son, Clarke Kent. A side effect of living on earth gives Clarke super strength which he struggles to control as he grows up and into the rather dashing Henry Cavill. Clarke’s secret is short lived when a surviving native of Krypton General Zod (Michael Shannon) threatens to destroy earth unless Clarke surrenders to the General. END PLOT
Man of Steel is very much an origins story but unfortunately this is at the expense of an actual plot. The origin aspect of the film flows well with a significant portion of the film focusing on Clarke’s upbringing on Krypton and with the Kents however once Clarke reaches adulthood he becomes almost an afterthought.
Clarke Kent puts on the suit and before you can say training montage he transforms into Superman. The transformation rendered Superman speechless as Henry Cavill didn't have anything to say for most of the final act. Despite the title character having absolutely nothing to do other than look good in fitted tees Henry Cavill is very good in the little screen time he gets.
Amy Adams is fine as Lois Lane and does the best she can with the “pushy, nosey, independent female journalist” cliché. It felt like Lois Lane got the vast majority of the screen time which surprised me.
Russell Crowe and Kevin Coster add some class to the film but, as one could have predicted, Michael Shannon steals the show. General Zod deserved some sympathy after we discover that ensuring the survival of the Kryptonians is the only reason he was born. The idea of Zod being a product of Krypton’s failings was handled well and Shannon’s angry eyebrowed performance added some drama to an almost drama free 2hours 23mins (IMDB).
The sets and costumes were as expected but nothing stood out as being particularly remarkable. The best design feature in the entire production was removing Superman’s bright red briefs.
The action was again as expected however there was a noticeable lack of jaw dropping moments. The set piece in the third act was too long and became a CGI mess in which Superman, Zod and several other nameless Kryptonians spent a good half hour throwing each other through buildings. It was impressive the first time. It was repetitive by the second. I was bored by the ninth. There is however an opportunity for a drinking game in which you take a swig each time Superman gets thrown through a building. You will contract liver poisoning in the space of thirty minutes.
As Superman and General Zod became lost in the melee it meant that the random subplot known as “Jenny’s bad day downtown” stuck out like a sore thumb. I appreciate that Laurence Fishburne can be considered a big name actor but to shoehorn scenes with Perry and his staff during the climactic battle between Superman and Zod was completely unnecessary. I will concede that Laurence Fishburne outrunning a falling skyscraper was the (unintentional) comedy highlight in a humour free film.
I saw Man of Steel in 2D and my eyes found it hard to keep up with the blurry CGI action. I thank the gods that I did not even consider 3D. The action needed to adopt a less is more attitude.
Man of Steel had many flaws but as an origins story it did a commendable job of laying the groundwork for a new run of Superman films. It gets 6.5/10. The balance of screen time and the action sequences need to be addressed as Man of Steel didn’t leave me wanting a sequel. It left me wanting a film which actually features Superman...........as someone who has never held any interest in Superman before this is a success.