Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a less camp and more brooding Clark Kent; this time it’s Henry Cavill who dons the red cape in Superman’s new, darker image. That’s right, the eagerly anticipated Man of Steel is finally upon us, expectations have been high and the question on everyone’s lips is, has it lived up to them? The answer is, unfortunately, a disappointing no.
The film is effectively split into three parts; the destruction of Krypton, Clark’s human upbringing, and then finally, his evolution into Superman. The first part is visually stunning and easily the best thirty minutes or so of the film; Snyder’s Krypton certainly looks incredible, but after this, Man of Steel gradually goes downhill. The plot centres on Kent trying to find his path through life on planet earth, showing his extra terrestrial strength when required to, notably at an oil rig meltdown and when saving a school bus full of his peers from a watery grave. With the help of his human parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and the romance of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) he eventually becomes the hero he was born to be, and saves the world from annihilation at the hands of another Krypton refugee General Zod (Michael Shannon).
In a purely visual sense, Man of Steel ticks all the boxes, the fight scenes look fantastic, and there is more urban destruction going on than in any Michael Bay film; destruction that almost certainly killed thousands of people in the process, in turn, representing a hollow victory at best for our hero. The influence of director Zack Snyder is there for all to see in the fight scenes especially, the abrupt zooms and slow motion that was used so frequently in 300 and Sucker Punch can be seen clearly in Superman’s battles, although they add to the impressive visual, they are used far too often and Snyder doesn’t really know when to stop. These scenes in particular also drag on for too long, its less fist punching and more about two ripped super-humans flying into each other again and again; these battles weren’t far off looking like a young boy playing with a Superman figure and a General Zod figure in his bedroom and just bashing them into each other.
Despite the more or less pleasing visual aesthetics, there is a severe lack of chemistry between the lead roles, Amy Adams doesn’t quite suit the role of Lois Lane, and she never looks comfortable as the empty romance between her and Cavill marks possibly the biggest disappointment of the film. This is not to say Cavill puts in a bad performance, the British actor hardly put a foot wrong, not great, but not bad either. Crowe and Costner elevate the film slightly however, as the two fathers of Kent, although their father-son talks become a bit repetitive, they, like Cavill, make few mistakes.
The influence of producer Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer is also clearly visible; Man of Steel has similarities with Nolan’s Batman Begins, i.e. its exploration into the origins of one of our beloved superheroes. However, where this Superman reboot attempts to emulate the dark, brooding nature of Nolan’s Batman saga, it fails, and we’re left with an immensely disappointing, almost lifeless superhero film. The incredible visuals save Man of Steel from being a total disaster and it will no doubt be a hit at the box office; paving the way for many sequels in the future. Whether this will be a good reboot or not remains to be seen, but surely it can’t get much worse?