The first adventure in a new series for DC’s iconic character…
As noted in my review of Greg Cox’s novelisation of this movie, I didn’t get a chance to see Man of Steel in cinemas, so don’t have the normal comments for this sort of reviews comparing the film on a huge cinema screen with how it looks on a 42” HD TV – but it’s quite clear that the smaller size does remove some of the grandeur from what must have been very impressive in its original format.
The movie is – yet another – take on the origins of Superman, and as such, has to compete with not just the Christopher Reeve movies (the first two still benchmarks for DC characters on the big screen), but also with Smallville’s reworking of the legend. Zack Snyder goes for an attempt at handheld realism: there were many moments in the second half of the film where it was very reminiscent of the revamped Battlestar Galactica in its use of effects and point of view.
Henry Cavill makes a decent Superman – and his “Clark Kent” at the end had the charm required of the façade that the Kryptonian adopts once at the Daily Planet – and there’s no question that the superheroic battles have a down and dirty feel that is probably far more “realistic” than the equivalent onslaughts in the Marvel Universe. In that respect it echoes the Dark Knight trilogy, but where it differs is in its central character: the Dark Knight trilogy is about Bruce Wayne, a damaged man; Man of Steel is about a Kryptonian who has to decide to which of his worlds he gives his allegiance. Michael Shannon’s Zod is not the megalomaniac of Terence Stamp’s portrayal, but someone who cares desperately about the fate of his planet – his methods may be extreme, but you cannot doubt that he starts, at least, from the best of motives. He just doesn’t particularly care about the cost…
And what a cost. Smallville wrecked. Metropolis wrecked. Countless lives lost (unless everyone was miraculously out of the buildings, which, let’s be frank, there’s not a hope in hell they were). Superman forced into a position where he has to kill to save lives – and yes, that’s a great dilemma to put such a strongly moral character in, but did it have to be solved that way? Couldn’t he have blown the people out of the way, for instance? He’s certainly not the goodie-two-shoes in this version who would make such an effective counterpoint to Batman in the sequel.
The extras aren’t plentiful, but are interesting… with the possible exception of a piece about New Zealand, a country neither featured in the film nor visited by the crew. The short piece is a tie-in to The Hobbit, and its inclusion is just wrong.
Verdict: A spectacular movie whose Superman might well be the right one for the Dark Knight universe, but doesn’t feel like the hero we’ve known for the last 75 years… 6/10
Join in a live “tweetalong” at 8pm GMT on Monday December 2nd to mark the release of Man of Steel hosted by ThinkJam at @ManofSteel_UK, #MANOFSTEEL, with competitions throughout the event.