It has finally arrived, the progeny of Christopher Nolan, the god-like father of all superhero movies and Zach Snyder, the mother of them all. Audiences have outgrown the candyfloss casual tomfoolery of ’80s and 90’s blockbuster cinema, and are weary of the overload of the modern, dark and gritty origin story and the humanisation of the superhero.
The only solution to this problem was by pairing Nolan and Snyder, and it works on some insane level, because Nolan is the maestro who excels at constructing superheroes by stripping away their morality, and Snyder is the master of deconstructing the superhero genre. The new Superman story needed to lose its red underwear and its accompanying monkeyshines, without becoming an all too serious and depressing guilt ridden drama. It’s a very tricky tightrope, and Man of Steel becomes the best possible Superman movie you’ll get in this day and age.
There are three things that make Man of Steel more interesting than you expect it to be.
First, it gives you the reason why Superman came to Earth and why he chose to stay on the planet and save humans. The latter existential issue was never brought up in any previous ‘Superman’ film and Snyder (and Nolan) do a great job of lending the character an air of innate heroism over his surface level integrity.
Secondly, the film offers a villain who has a genuinely tragic, logical and most surprisingly, a relatable motive to hunt Superman, rather than a ludicrous plan to ‘take over the universe’.
Third, the film lays its characters’ motivation cards on the table right from the opening scene, this keeps Snyder from convoluting the story with a false sense of mystery.
Calling the action scenes ‘set pieces’ would be doing injustice to the film, for the scenes are some of the biggest, most expansive, most destructive, most eye-popping CGI mayhem ever splashed on screens. This is an expensive movie and Snyder makes sure you leave the theatre feeling happy about investing your money in his work. The frustrations arrive in the form of 3D, which absolutely hacks the cinematography and the special effects with a scythe and murders the fun out of the film.
Henry Cavill is circumspect and handsome in equal portions who is given the much more challenging task of being simultaneously heroic, troubled, otherworldly and human, a far cry from what Reeves did back then. Michael Shannon is fun as Zod, the villain who is deemed a maniac only because the hero says he is. A major criticism would be the way the film rushes from one dramatic plot point to the next, without really focusing to create any lasting impact. Settling down and fleshing out the relationships between the characters would have added to the already long two and a half hour runtime, but it would definitely have made it a classic, rather than a mere enjoyable blockbuster.