Movie review: Man of Steel

Minor spoilers, none give away plot but refer to elements within the movie.

Man of Steel follows the story of baby Kal-El from the planet Krypton who is jettisoned into space by his parents Jor-El and Lara when General Zod attempts to take over the planet, which is rapidly dying. Kal-El crashes into Earth and is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who take him in and raise him as their own son – Clark Kent. Thirty three years later … General Zod arrives to find Kal-El … and something else…

The character of Superman is meant to be perfect – how do screenwriters show perfection on screen? Thankfully, in this version, they scratch away that veneer and break it down. Make him real. Make us believe that he can exist. They manage to show that even Superman can struggle.

One of the small things that the writers do to aid this perception is strip away the use of the word “Superman” as much as possible. You hear it only three or four times at best. This is a coming of age movie. We don’t start off with Clark Kent as a reporter on the Daily Planet. We start with him struggling to accept who he is, wondering if the world will.

In this movie, the first thing that struck me was that the origins of Kal-El was explained very well. Why does Superman have a cape? We now know. Why does Superman wear a lycra-esque outfit? We now know. Why does he get affected by Kryptonite? WE NOW KNOW. Was Superman that egotistical to wear a massive “S” for Superman emblazoned on his mighty chest? Actually he wasn’t. A minor spoiler if you will: the “S” isn’t actually an S but it means “hope” on Krypton. Fair enough.

Krypton itself is detailed exquisitely. We learn a bit more about its society, about its people, and its fauna. We learn that the planet has indulged in breeding babies – with Kal-El being the first naturally born baby on Krypton in centuries. Fleshing his back story out has allowed the movie to take the story in a slightly different path yet stay true to the character.

Special mention to Kevin Costner for a fantastic performance as Jonathan Kent; there was a scene in the movie where Costner’s single hand gesture to Clark left me in tears. Absolutely loved him. Russell Crowe was excellent (as Jor-El) as well, delivering a measured performance as he is prone to do. Two absolutely moving appearances by these formidable thespians.

Michael Shannon as General Zod was a pretty good villain and thankfully doesn’t follow the cheesy villain pattern we’ve seen so far in this series. Although in terms of character development, I didn’t understand why he was doing what he did on Krypton or on Earth for that matter. What were his motivations? Did he really need to attack Earth? I suppose it’s sort of explained when he says he was bred to do all he could for his planet but it didn’t feel like a satisfactory enough explanation for me.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane? I wasn’t convinced. She doesn’t make the character very interesting and her pouty rendition of the line, “I’m a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” served me to be put off by her more than anything else. And I’m sorry, but in the movie, HOW did she manage to follow Clark into that gaping hole in the mountain with no special equipment or skills? I’m sorry, what? How come she was the only one to figure out who he was?

Henry Cavill … aaah. I “discovered” him in the British TV series The Tudors, so when I found out he would be the next Clark Kent, I must admit I squealed a little. He tackled the role well, stayed restrained most of the time, letting his stolid demeanour rip where needed. A bit of it admittedly felt stiff, but by the end, I would imagine most audiences would accept him as the new Superman.

One of the gripes I had with the movie was its ending – oddly enough there was far too much action. At the end, it felt long and drawn out. I unfortunately reached a stage where I just wanted the movie to end. And that’s not a good thing. I’m no movie editor, and I’m sure the filmmakers had their reasons, but I do wish they had found a way to make the last few action scenes more concise.

Random mini-spoiler: the line at the end of the movie where someone asks Superman whether they can trust him not go against the “interests of America” made me laugh a little. What about making sure he doesn’t go against the world? Politicisation much?

Definitely a better Superman movie than the last reboot, Man of Steel packs a mighty punch. Expect no cheesy one-liners or red underpants outside the tight outfit. Expect a fast-paced tale to start off a potentially absorbing super-hero series.

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