Superman has returned with his trademarked red boots, red cape, blue suit, and iconic logo.
The remaining cast is composed of Amy Adams, portraying Superman’s love interest and reporter for the The Daily Planet newspaper Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Lane’s Editor-in-chief Perry White, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Superman’s adoptive parents Martha and Jonathan Kent, Russell Crowe as Superman’s father Jor-El, and Michael Shannon as the villainous Kryptonian military leader General Zod.
Based on the trailers and director Zack Snyder’s signature style in 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, I expected Man of Steel would offer a dark and gritty perspective of Superman. But Man of Steel is a relentless action film with occasional hints of gloom, and it breaks no new ground in the story of Superman.
This film is yet another origin story, beginning with the birth of Superman, or according to his Kryptonian name, Kal-El. As the film progresses, viewers witness the metamorphosis of Superman from a young boy struggling to blend into human society to a grown man embracing his purpose.
While the intentions are good, the execution is poor. The film cannot make up its mind on whether it wants to be a dark character piece or exuberant summer blockbuster.
Clearly, Man of Steel would have benefited from some better editing. It hiccups from flashbacks of Superman’s sentimental childhood experiences of Clark Kent to scenes of massive chaos and action.
The film’s conversion to 3D does not help this issue. Rather than being immersed in the story, it gives viewers a sense of whiplash, seesawing from a light and tender emotional scene to exploding buildings and destruction.
Some scenes draw the audience in, such as the ones with Superman and his adoptive parents, which convey warmth and sentiment. However, the scenes involving Superman and Lois Lane lack the emotional and physical chemistry.
Cavill and Adams attempt to make the best of David S. Goyer’s overly clichéd and disenchanting script, but their exchanges appear forced and unnatural.
However, while General Zod is a stereotypical thinks-he’s-doing-what’s-right villain, Michael Shannon lends great intensity and anger to his performance, helping to bolster the film along.
The visual effects in Man of Steel are top-notch. The exploding infrastructure, fight and flight scenes, and design of the film exemplify the great deal of attention Zack Snyder gives to graphical detail.
However, while stunning, the effects in Man of Steel are largely unoriginal. For example, the design and execution of scenes involving Krypton seems to have mixed the tone of Prometheus with the elements of Avatar.
Yet another major upset was the fact that the film featured the infamous mysterious-beam-shot-into-Earth’s-core phenomenon that has come to characterize a vast array of blockbusters in previous years.
Snyder should have embraced the notion of “quality, not quantity,” especially in the last 45 minutes of the film, which turn into an endless and tiring series of combat sequences.
However, one highlight is the use of “Jesus allegory” in which Superman is portrayed to be a heavenly being. Through this notion, the scenes in which Superman ascends into the skies to thrive off of the sun’s energy and descends in a crucifix shape are divine, and the IMAX 3D visuals turn it into something godlike.
Unfortunately, the loud and overproduced score by Hans Zimmer makes the film an unpleasant viewing experience, even in IMAX 3D. The clunky score does not mesh well with the pace of the movie and thus offsets Man of Steel’s progression.
Finally, the film simply neglects character development and suffers from a problematic script. Physically, Cavill is the ideal fit for the role of Superman but seems emotionally unprepared to lead such a massive film.
But Amy Adams delivers another fine performance as the headstrong and strong willed Lois Lane, and Diane Lane and Kevin Costner fit the bill of Clark Kent’s good-hearted parents.
Overall, Man of Steel is an underwhelming science fiction film that features stunning, but unoriginal, visuals.
It does not reach the emotional bar set by the Dark Knight trilogy, the charisma of the Iron Man series, or the character development and humor of The Amazing Spiderman reboot.