It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Superman without the red underpants! Probably one of the most recognizable superheroes in the world, Superman hasn’t had a good movie to his name in a long, long time. Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” chief among them.And it’s shameful to think that the most iconic superhero in the world can’t have a chance to redeem himself, so it’s nice to admit that the new and improved Superman . After a long and highly publicized wait, Zack Snyder has brought us the new and improved version of the “Man of Steel,” but not without its faults.
A lot of people think that because Christopher Nolan’s name is attached to the film it means that it’s somehow going to parallel “The Dark Knight” trilogy. And Christopher Nolan may have had story credits, but “Man of Steel” has Snyder’s signature written all over it.
The main summary will be glossed over, because let’s face it, anyone who doesn’t know anything about Superman has apparently been living under a rock. We all know that the superhero is not of our world, but hails from Krypton, a dying planet and one not without its own worldly issues. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) pack their son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) in a ship bound for Earth because well, Earth is pretty awesome like that apparently. Zod (Michael Shannon), on a power trip and attempting to save the planet in his own way, is sentenced to the Phantom Zone, where he is released after Krypton implodes. The story really takes off from
there.
Snyder has an artistic gift. The man knows how to take a scene or action sequence and turn it into an
amazing visual masterpiece for the eyes. The action alone is of epic proportions and the fight scenes between Superman and Zod’s army makes sure to leave an impact on us and on the towns and cities they destroy. The film, however, leaves much to be desired in terms of story depth and character relationships. There isn’t enough of his parents (Kevin Costner specifically is underutilized) and there could have been more buildup of the relationship with Lois (played by Amy Adams).
General Zod is a villain fit to take on Superman, simply because he generally has the same abilities and power to make it a fair fight. And that’s no easy feat. Lex Luthor may be well known for being a great enemy of Superman but in combat (and minus any kryptonite) Luthor would be minimized to a hole in the ground.
Zod is powerful and angry, but for some reason or other he’s not menacing enough. Faora (Antje Traue), Zod’s second in command, armed with ferocious glares and looks that can kill, is much more entertaining to watch. But regardless of his lack of extreme menace, Zod at least meets Superman’s abilities in a fight. Anything less would have been laughable.
Snyder decides to tell Clark’s story of his younger years in flashbacks rather than in chronological order, which works for the film as a whole. There’s no sound that takes us back, but a word or an action triggers the memories and we’re suddenly taken back to the time period Clark remembers. It’s simple, extremely well done, and not at all distracting. Although the trailers focus on Clark Kent, there’s actually more of Superman in the film than there is of the farm boy persona. And while they’re technically the same person, by the end of the film we do see a transformation and separation between Clark and Superman.
The flashbacks are some of the best parts of the film and it’s a shame there isn’t more insight into Clark’s childhood and even his mindset as an adult is glossed over. Yes, you can see the journey he takes from point A to point B, but there isn’t enough emotion behind it to completely root for him in the end.
Visually stunning and appealing, with action scenes dominating the second half of the film, “Man of Steel” has a lot going for it. The only downside comes from the lack of depth to its story that leaves much to be desired. Zack Snyder has given Superman back his cape (minus the underpants, which is a great look!) and power in order to make “Man of Steel” work for the general population, but by doing that has left the film needing more story and maybe a little less action for it to be more balanced.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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