Man-Of-Steel-LB.jpg
2013 Running time: 143 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4
KA Man Of Steel

Synopsis

Superman gets serious as the director of 300 and Watchmen and the team behind The Dark Knight assemble for a comic book reboot of biblical proportions. Sent to Earth as a baby from the doomed planet Krypton, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) grows up in Kansas struggling to hide and control his amazing powers. But just as he learns his true identity, his adoptive world comes under threat from another Kryptonian exile, the criminal General Zod (Michael Shannon). The scene is set for an earth-shattering showdown that sees Amy Adams leading the cheers for Team Supes as reporter Lois Lane, alongside Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as his two dads.

Director

  • Zack Snyder

Cast

  • Henry Cavill

  • Amy Adams

  • Michael Shannon

  • Diane Lane

  • Kevin Costner

Review

Faster than a speeding bullet, costlier than the New York Yankees payroll, sterner than a call from the Pentagon; Superman's latest big-screen resurrection is a serious business.

The casting alone shows its straight-faced intent. Let's face it, nobody employs Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Coster and Laurence Fishburne for their slapstick skills.

But then there's little room for comedy when it comes to comic book reboots. Ever heard of a franchise being made 'lighter'? The Dark Knight certainly wouldn't be where he is today had franchise director Christopher Nolan and writer David S Goyer kept his pants on the outside.

Here the pair come up with the script, while Nolan produces and - to the chagrin of many - leaves directing duties to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker whose eye is undoubtedly better than his ear.

Thankfully, the division of labour pays off with a rip-roaring adventure that essentially welds together the plots of Richard Donner's Superman and Superman II... with a big nod to The Day The Earth Stood Still. There are, however, several bold changes.

After a brisk prologue that covers the despatch of the infant Kal-El to Earth by his noble dad (Crowe), the treachery and banishment of General Zod (Shannon), and the demise of Krypton (they brought it on themselves), the next we see of the boy, he's a grown man.

Raised in Kansas by Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Costner), Clark (Cavill) is now a drifter whose otherworldly powers are hard to hide because people keep provoking him and getting stuck in deadly situations. As flashbacks reveal, it was ever thus.

This makes his trail easily traceable for ace reporter Lois Lane (Adams) who catches up with him in the frozen northern wastes, just as he discovers who he is and where he came from.

But just as she's about to go global with his story, along comes Zod with a despicable plan to remodel Earth as the new Krypton. Sadly, that means the death of all mankind.

So, far from being punished by their long-dead government, Zod and his mutinous army have actually found that their cryoprison has not only kept them alive and well but also comes with equipped with everything they needs for a hostile takeover of another planet. Survival of the jammiest.

But while evolution is discussed, Man of Steel couldn't be a more obvious religious allegory if its 33-year-old superhero started turning water into wine.

The script could certainly use a touch of humour to counter all the moralising and prophesying (where's Lex Luthor when you need him). But Nolan and Goyer aren't afraid to offer new perspectives on Superman lore, such as how he came by his costume and what the 'S' on it means (it isn't an 'S').

Their bravest tweak is to the backstory of Lois and Clark, whose relationship now develops far beyond The Daily Planet. The only downside to it is that we'll have to wait to see if Cavill can create different personalities for his alter-egos. After his turn in Immortals, it's just a relief to see that he's no Man of Wood.

It's also refreshing to report that there's more to Zod than one-dimensional megalomania. Shannon wisely doesn't try to emulate Terence Stamp's iconic incarnation, instead portraying the general as a frustrated warrior hellbent on rebuilding his race - albeit at the expense of another.

And although the production design loiters on the edges of other universes (namely Alien, Transformers and The Matrix), Snyder strives to give the film its own visual identity with introspective licks that wouldn't look out of place in the arthouse.

Mostly though, he's determined to use state-of-the-art effects to leave your senses in a state.

Action-wise, Snyder literally throws everything but the kitchen sink at it, using all manner of planes, trains, and automobiles as projectiles - plus the odd satellite and even people - in a series of ever-escalating skirmishes that rage from Smallville to Metropolis.

Nothing will go down in history (no John Williams theme, no "kneel before Zod", no phone booths), but Man of Steel still makes an impact. Whether you emerge energised or simply dazed, you'll know your blocks have been well and truly busted.

Elliott Noble

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