Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Russell Crowe
First things first: this isn’t a Superman movie. Not even remotely close.
This is the Man of Steel, a furious Kryptonian warrior who is no longer the last of his species, is full of psychological and mental issues, and does not hesitate to kill.
If you’re looking for a Superman movie, you will not find it here. However, if you’re OK with an entirely different superhero who’s also called Clark Kent, then this is the movie for you.
Christopher Nolan co-wrote the story and produced, and you can feel his influence everywhere, from the ultra-realistic setting to the dark grittiness of the whole movie. Seriously, almost no one ever smiles in this movie. The normally chipper Superman is now the Hulk without the size increase: frequently pissed off and completely willing to take on anyone in his way.
It’s actually kind of frightening how bloodthirsty this new Superman is. He still saves someone every so often, but there’s a dark twist to it. Saving some random military guy? Check. Saving half the population of Metropolis? This isn’t a spoiler since the trailers showed it pretty clearly: the city takes it up the butthole. By the time the film’s finished, the Big Blue Boy Scout is indirectly responsible for millions of deaths through apathy and inaction.
The film also has religious symbolism so obvious that Bryan Singer is laughing all the way to the bank. You could almost compare it to a biblical epic: Jor-El as God, Superman as Jesus, Zod as Satan. With a little religious knowledge, the plot plays out almost exactly the way it did in the New Testament. Betrayals and tortures and attempted mental seduction by the forces of evil galore. The film also implies that Superman is Catholic, which is weird because I’ve never actually seen him express any kind of religious affiliation.
The true final gripe I have with this movie is the combination of nonsensical plot and various MacGuffins that often appear out of nowhere. Every few minutes some mysterious alien device is revealed that does something or other. If the movie wasn’t so damn bleak this could work, but with the mass genocide it kind of takes the fun out of the whole story. Also, a major character dies in such an incredibly cheesy way that it’s funny when it’s clearly not.
Also, there’s a moment where the infamous “no capes!” line from The Incredibles becomes relevant.
Despite this, it’s not terrible. It’s actually pretty damn good.
Henry Cavill, for a guy who’s had a pretty awful track record before this, does a pretty good job. He’s certainly believable in the part, although Chris Reeve has nothing to worry about. He’s not the best Clark Kent, but he has Superman in the bag, and he’s actually comparable to Chris Hemsworth of all people. For sure bring him back next time around.
Amy Adams’s Lois Lane is the most bipolar version I’ve seen yet. Clearly there was a disconnect in attempting to make her into a modern ace reporter and the classic damsel in distress. One scene she’s taking on an entire Kryptonian army by herself (well, kinda), and the next she’s screaming as she falls from a building. Future movies need to get this a little more balanced, since Adams does a fantastic job.
So does Michael Shannon. His Zod is the star of the show here. He must’ve screamed himself hoarse during filming, because he puts his all into it. He’s a politician at heart, and this ruthlessness makes him much scarier than your typical evil guy. The ending scenes with him get a little too far into a campy direction, but he’s good enough that it works.
Diane Lane also makes an effective Ma Kent, comforting a young Clark during a panic attack. It’s a very sweet and very personal scene, the only one in the entire movie.
The rest of the acting ranges from decent (Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne) to piss poor (almost everyone else). But that’s typical. The action scenes are pretty awesome, too. Doesn’t have the same kick to it as Avengers and Iron Man 3 did, but it’s the best a Superman movie ever had. Although the flying sequences are strangely a bit off. Superman Returns actually had better flying.
So all in all, really flawed, but really good despite the flaws. It’s the second best Superman film by default, after the original. So go and see it, so we can get that Justice League movie.
Would’ve been cool if Batman was in this, at least for a cameo. Lex Luthor’s corporation was.