Man of Steel

June 23, 2013

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"Director Zack Snyder gets it right with this grand, exciting but explosion-heavy retelling of the oft-adapted Superman story."

Man of Steel

Erin Free
Year: 2013
Rating: M
Director: Zack Snyder

Amy Adams, Russell Crowe , Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon

Distributor: Roadshow
Released: June 27, 2013
Running Time: 143 minutes
Worth: $17.50

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Director Zack Snyder gets it right with this grand, exciting but explosion-heavy retelling of the oft-adapted Superman story.

Superman is that true rarity: a comic book character that has become much bigger and culturally relevant than any of his from-the-page, cape-and-cowl, crime-fighting colleagues. Practically everybody has some relation to Superman, be it through his long-running presence in DC Comics, or his varied on-screen incarnations, such as TV’s The Adventures Of Superman, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman and Smallville, and the much loved Christopher Reeve-starring seventies blockbuster, Superman: The Movie. All of this, of course, makes Man Of Steel more than just a comic book movie, and while director, Zack Snyder, occasionally gets caught up in trip-wires of his own making while desperately reaching for the necessary scope and appropriate levels of sound and fury, he largely succeeds in creating an epic piece of blockbuster filmmaking that still understands the value of smaller, intimate moments.

No stranger to comic book movies (he inventively filmed the notoriously unfilmable Watchmen, and made absurdist macho poetry out of Frank Miller’s nutty 300), Snyder’s greatest success in Man Of Steel comes with his casting. Henry Cavill is a charming, dignified, engaging and slyly humorous Superman – the last son of Krypton, who hides his super powers from the people of Earth in fear of being spurned and despised – while Amy Adams (as hard-nosed reporter, Lois Lane), Russell Crowe (as Superman’s warm but imperious natural father), Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (as Jonathan and Martha Kent, Superman’s salt-of-the-earth adoptive parents), and Michael Shannon (as the villainous General Zod, whose ample motivations make him a constantly fascinating bad guy) are all note-perfect in support.

Snyder’s second greatest success comes with how he twists this oft-trod material into something fresh and original. The script by regular comic book adaptor, David S. Goyer (with input from producer and Batman re-inventor, Christopher Nolan), takes in all of the familiar origin elements, but its non-linear, flashback-heavy structure gives Man Of Steel a highly contemporary feel. Its abandonment of certain story essentials (there’s no Kryptonite; the red undies are gone in favour of a more sensible and narratively appropriate costume; Superman alter-ego, Clark Kent, does not initially work as a journalist at The Daily Planet; that paper’s editor – the usually Caucasian Perry White – is here nicely played by African-American, Laurence Fishburne; principal Superman villain, Lex Luthor, is only referred to cryptically), meanwhile, helps to eradicate some of the story’s more dog-eared beats without shredding the entire Superman mythology.

Man Of Steel has been regularly referred to as a “dark” vision of Superman, but this is no intense, brooding piece of comic book cinema in the vein of The Dark Knight. It’s certainly aserious take on the character, but Zack Snyder still stokes up the joy and sense of wonder that are vital to any depiction of Superman. While he spends a little too much time at the climax of the film orgiastically blowing up the city of Metropolis and indulging in borderline pornographic CGI-created mayhem, Snyder has succeeded in making Superman relevant, entertaining, relatable and exciting. Against the odds of almost impossible expectation, Man Of Steel soars.

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