FOLLOWING the lukewarm reception of Bryan Singer’s competent but somewhat lacklustre Superman Returns in 2006, comes Zach Snyder’s reboot to the franchise: Man of Steel.
Having to once again depict the origin story to the iconic red and blue superhero, Man of Steel isn’t afraid to try things a little differently this time; the opening sequence on Krypton that depicts the birth of Superman whilst also introducing the villains, feels more like a sci-fi epic rather than a superhero movie. Witnessing Russell Crowe riding a dragon whilst being chased by laser shooting spaceships a few minutes into the movie is one such example of the scope and tone they were aiming for.
A more grounded approach is maintained however once we jump forward to Superman as an adult. This is Supes before he becomes the hero we all know and love: hiding out in remote locations, untrusting of humans and unsure of where he fits in.
This makes up the heart of the movie, the internal struggle of the character searching for his identity as much as the physical struggle against similarly super-powered adversaries. This is mirrored in the gorgeous cinematography, both in terms of the sweeping vistas and frantic action scenes, but also in the unexpected quieter moments using tasteful close-ups that help punctuate these emotional beats.
Hans Zimmer’s score similarly encompasses this duality to great effect and cannot be faulted – the lack of John Williams’ iconic theme making it clear that this film very much wants to stand out on its own.
Some may find fault with the fact that it’s all a bit serious and angsty at times, but it is this modernised and more grounded approach to the character (likely influenced by the success of the recent Nolan take on the Batman franchise) that makes this effort so different from previous Superman movies. Gone is the dorky red underwear over the top of his tights (the suit is a functional Kryptonian body suit rather than simply a colourful vigilante costume), we don’t get to see the bumbling reporter version of Clark Kent and he is only referred to directly as Superman twice throughout the movie. It all feels different – but in a good way.
Henry Cavill has no problem in bringing the necessarily physicality to the role yet also handles his emotional scenes well; and Michael Shannon is effective in his menacing determination as the villain General Zod despite the occasional bit of scenery-chewing. The sheer spectacle of the action scenes also do not disappoint, the amount of destruction surpassing even that of the finale of The Avengers.
This is undoubtedly a summer blockbuster and although fans of the original Superman movie or his Golden Age portrayal may find this a bit too much of a departure, it is refreshing to see a slightly new take on an iconic character.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars.