Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 6/10
The purpose of a reboot is to reintroduce a character to the audience in ways not previously shown or attempted. Often times it comes after a franchise has sat dormant for many years and sometimes it’s to correct the misstep of the previous installment. Christopher Nolan was successful with Batman Begins. Martin Campbell did it with Casino Royale. Marc Webb had some success with The Amazing Spider-Man. Now comes Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
For this viewer it took some time to warm up to the idea of Snyder directing a new Superman film. After all he did bring us Watchmen which would allay the greatest of concerns but he also made one of the worst films of the last five years, Sucker Punch. If you had told me Christopher Nolan was producing a new Superman film I would have been so excited. However, Dark Knight Rises happened. It literally wasn’t until I saw the last theatrical trailer that I could rest easy. Unfortunately the awe and excitement I felt as I took in that trailer did not carry over into the film itself.
The film is good but it is just too serious. It really needed to lighten up. What made the previous films so indelible was their sense of fun. While it is Superman it just didn’t have that larger than life, iconic feel that it needed. Bryan Singer’s unjustly maligned Superman Returns maintained that charm which Man of Steel lacks. What worked with the Dark Knight appears to have not worked all too well here.
There is plenty of action especially during the last forty-five minutes or so. However, it’s more spectacle than substance. Not since Superman IV have we seen Superman engage in hand-to-hand combat. There is plenty of that here but there just isn’t any sense of danger for our hero. Oddly it seems that sense of danger comes for the countless bystanders who get in the way. Worst of all it gets to be incredibly repetitive. How many times do we need to see them go through building after building? There are scenes during the fights that I’m sure were meant to be really, really cool that didn’t register much of a reaction. Just think of the finale of Iron Man 3 and take all the fun out of it and that’s what it would be like.
One of the real standouts or lack there of is Hans Zimmer’s understated score. John Williams’ iconic signature is Superman. Just hearing the opening notes gets you excited. There doesn’t even appear to be a Superman theme per se. When Kal-El emerges in the costume the score is underplayed and the reveal is very underwhelming. Think back to how Richard Donner revealed Superman emerging in the Fortress of Solitude and how the John Williams score made that scene so memorable. Instead of “It’s Superman!” it’s more like “hay, it’s Superman.” Zimmer and James Newton Howard were successful in giving Batman a new voice with the score they composed. However, more of the same was really needed here even if it were only the original Superman theme.
Henry Cavill is good as Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent. He makes the character his own but is still out of his league when compared to who came before. Amy Adams does a nice job as Lois Lane. She gives her a nice spunk and fire to her take on the character. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod. In this film Shannon’s Zod is more about brute force than imposing charm as Terrence Stamp’s was. Russell Crowe is fine as Jor-El. Not as epic as Brando but certainly holds his own since he is much more involved in the plot. As for the rest of the cast, they were okay. Nothing to write home about. Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White is pretty unsubstantial. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are serviceable as the Kents.
Zack Snyder does a good job of directing the film. At 143 minutes it moves along but it is never dull. However the lack of awe and wonder is a significant detriment. It’s not as good as Watchmen but thankfully that is the director who turned up to make this film. The take on the character and new storyline are good it’s just that despite the increase in the action it lacked some serious punch and much needed levity. It’s a decent reboot but like Batman Begins it may not find its legs until the next installment. At the very least it was better than Dark Knight Rises. Certainly better than III and IV but the original trilogy of The Movie, II and Returns is far better and feels like Superman. Hopefully the Man of Steel will lighten up in the next one.