Urban Cinefile
"I wanted to be in this so it could get made - "  -Sharon Stone on her support role in the Mighty
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

Review by Louise Keller:
Seductive at every turn and in line with the magnitude of our expectations of its indestructible superhero, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel catapults onscreen with energy, scale and spectacle. Visually, the film is a feast of innovation and invention, marrying explosions of gob-smacking effects with the intimacy of tight close ups that reinforce character in the context of its intergalactic storyline. David Goyer's screenplay (from his story collaboration with Christopher Nolan) is both ambitious and intelligent, cleverly weaving all the background and plot elements in a non-linear, mammoth and thrilling exposition. Hang onto your armrest; it will blow you away.

The arresting long opening sequence on the planet of Krypton does more than substantiate the circumstances of why baby Kal-El is jettisoned to Earth with the hopes and dreams of his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe). It acts as solid grounding for the next two and a half hours, allowing us to partake in the stakes, having closely observed the traitorous duplicity of the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon). The power of the film is that it plays out on two levels and in two realities - that of Jor-El and General Zod and that of the Earth-based reality in which Superman / Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lives. Crowe is terrific in one of his best roles of late - commanding, compassionate and charismatic. Shannon is viciously evil with a chilling edge that resonates.

There are just enough snatches of flashbacks to offer glimpses of the stepping stones over which the youngster Clark treads to make him aware of his super powers: how he arrived as a baby to the farm in Kansas and his relationship with his empathetic adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner, Diane Lane). Many of these are piqued with humour: flabbergasted faces witnessing the superhuman strength that young Clark displays before he decides to lay low. There is a fine sense of goodness instilled into him: to be a symbol of hope and a force for the good of all.

There are some charming moments between Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the fact that they first meet when Lois is on assignment in the field (in the Arctic) sets the tone of their relationship. Superman might catch and save Lois once or twice, but this is the 21st Century and Lois is a gutsy, liberated woman. Adams is both feminine and determined, while Cavill stands tall as the Man of Steel with chiselled features, dimpled chin and rippling physique. Decency oozes out of him.

The action is of comic book proportions with skyscrapers crashing, cars flipping like dinky toys, helicopters exploding and impressive H.R. Giger-esque spaceships zooming through the universe and the atmosphere. The visuals are like a dazzling light show. At times, I must admit I was not exactly sure what was happening but I was always engaged and connected. Hans Zimmer's orchestral and choral score emphasizes the scale of the film.

As the first of a new franchise, Man of Steel is essentially a coming of age story with emphasis on relationships and values. The film is an adrenalin rush - a welcome jab in the arm and a large-scale escapist fantasy that propels us up, up and away.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Man of Steel proves that a Saturday afternoon B movie is a Saturday afternoon B movie no matter how big the budget and no matter how much CGI work is done. It's in the film's DNA - the screenplay. Eagerly awaited by Superman fans - and indeed, action movie fans and anyone who loves superhero cinema - Man of Steel comes with all the bells and FX whistles that today's digital tools can deliver. It's an extended orgasm of special effects, but it is a misconceived story and it inflates the famous hero from the world of escapist juvenile fantasy to adult moral and survival concerns.

The trouble with taking comic book superheroes too seriously (and this applies to all of them to varying degrees) is that they tend to start looking ridiculous and the story elements look a bit silly. The tone is wrong. The dialogue is full of clichés, the baddies are cartoonish in boo hiss mode (even on Krypton), the goodies are deadly earnest, the military are hard-assed ... but at least Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane.

Of course there are opportunities for metaphors, and some are applied here, notably the outsider as redeemer (and bringer of justice). In fact, the Christ-likeness is neatly pictured with Superman floating in a saintly stillness at one or two points.

Bloated by the backstory on Krypton, where Russell Crowe makes the best of his gravitas as baby Kal-El's father, the film imagines a planet that is dying, yet still the Krypton folk are bitterly divided: there you go, another metaphor, this one for humanity. The fact that these aliens look and act and love and hate just like humans simply emphasies it. But it also robs the film of points of differentiation, other than fancy gadgets and self-loading body armour and the like.

Oddly, given that the story is (like Batman Begins) a groundwork for the rebooting of the Superman franchise, and given that so much detail is scattered throughout the screenplay about his early years, the one key factor that is not addressed is how the baby's Earth parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) found the spacecraft the baby was in, how they reacted and how they knew about his special powers.

Chopping back and forth in time, the film shows us Clark as a handsome young man in a variety of menial jobs, saving people from death in amazing circumstances or putting up with bullies (in well worn circumstances). But because of the structure, there is no natural dramatic flow and we never feel we get to know him; in the second half (of this very long movie) we get a glimpse of a typical American hero, clean shaven cleft chin and all. But he's rather bland and earnest - like the tone of the film. Oh, no don't get me wrong, the film isn't bland in the sense there is no action: if anything, it is overburdened with excessively long sequences of destruction that passes for action. I was bored a lot.

By the final third, it becomes mind numbingly noisy as everything is destroyed, from cities to armies to the mountains and fields ... During major battles in the city, the warring goodies and baddies smash through buildings with superhuman strength, blasting away steel and concrete with no regard to the people who live and work there. Even our hero is careless, smashing up everything in his path.

Michael Shannon is allowed to overact as the evil General Zod who starts the civil war on his own planet and then comes looking for Kel-Al the son of his nemesis, Jor-El (Crowe) - the latter literally haunting his son on Earth. It may be comic book stuff, but when given the A movie treatment, it sinks under the weight of its own overheated, overstated cinematic fat suit.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0


(US, 2013)

CAST: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Maloney, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer

PRODUCER: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Emma Thomas

DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder

SCRIPT: David S. Goyer (Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster)

EDITOR: David Brenner

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer


RUNNING TIME: 143 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020