Superman is one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created, but he has not exactly aged well in recent years. People claim that he is “too overpowered” and “boring” whereas other heroes have traits that draw the media closer to them. Iron Man has interesting technology, Spider-Man is relatable, and Batman is, well, Batman! Superman may have had a good start with the first two Christopher Reeve movies, but after two awful sequels and an unsuccessful reboot/sequel, he was due for a makeover. With visionary talent Zack Snyder as the director and the epic Christopher Nolan as the producer; does Man of Steel power Superman’s popularity like the sun, or bring it down like kryptonite?
Due to an overuse of its natural resources, the alien planet Krypton will explode. While Jor-El tries to warn the council of the planet’s fate, Kryptonian General Zod instead directly attacks the council and tries to take over. Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van decide to save their newborn son, Kal-El, by sending him to Earth where he will grow up as Clark Kent, but not as a normal human. Like Batman Begins, there are various flashbacks to Clark growing up. He is bullied by the other boys in school, and his Earth father, Jonathan tries to make him hide his powers until the time comes. As an adult, he now travels the world to try to discover who he truly is, and is followed by persistent reporter Lois Lane. However, Zod has returned with plans to make Earth into a new Krypton, and Clark must become the Superman he was destined to be.
The movie feels like a fresh new start for the character. Superman is not accepted into society, but rather feared by it. It’s the perfect way to make Superman darker, and a decent chunk of the movie did that. Superman’s interactions with his two fathers, Earth and Krypton, were well done (though his Earth father, Jonathan Kent, should have been a little more clear on what Clark’s motives should have been). They also did a good job with his conversations with his Earth mother as well. Lois is thankfully not the typical damsel in distress, and Zod is a decent villain with understandable motives.
But the plot did have some major flaws as well. While it did a great job focusing on the aspects I mentioned above, it did not focus too well in some other areas, one of those being Clark and Lois’ relationship. Yes, they do have moments where they care for one another, but I never truly got the idea that they’ve seen each other enough to have decent chemistry.
During the last third of the movie, action takes over opportunities for character development, and you kind of forget for a little bit that Zod is the villain until near the end. Between the identities of Superman and Clark Kent, Superman gets a large focus, and this may disappoint some fans who believe Clark to be one of the best aspects of his character. I get the idea that they are establishing the Superman mythos here, but they still could have altered some stuff to get a nice balance. The first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve had the perfect blend of establishing characters, great chemistry between Superman and Lois, and fitting everything that should be in the Superman mythos in without being too distracting. Heck, the first three episodes of the 90s animated series had all those elements, and it was shorter than both the movies!
Then it hit me. What was lacking was heavy sci fi action involving a man with an extraordinary amount of abilities. People think that Superman Returns was boring, and the first two Reeve movies were too cheesy. Snyder mainly wanted to make a Superman movie that the general audience wanted, but he should have been combining what the people wanted, and what they have ignored in what makes Superman a good character. The plot can really be thrown up in the air and can be very good or bad depending on how you think of it.
Henry Cavill does a good job as the “Man of Steel.” He knows how to portray a troubled soul who is very conflicted with his role in the world. The only problem is that Superman’s positivity helps establish his character, and you really never see it until the end. Amy Adams does an okay job as Lois Lane, but like Superman, lacked the positivity and upbeatness her character once had. Michael Shannon is threatening as Zod and always on edge, but nothing too memorable. Russel Crowe does a decent job as Jor-El and thankfully won’t be singing any tunes this time around.
Zack Snyder is very memorable for his visual directing, and when you’ve got a character who can fly at hypersonic speeds, you know you’re in for a ride. With the rogue Kryptonians bearing the same powers as the man of tomorrow, Superman is allowed to cut loose and engulf the audience in an epic battle. Intense speeds, capes flowing, explosives, this—is always the Superman movie you’ve always wanted visually (minus the red underwear), but one problem is that some action scenes drag a little too long. Superman and Zod, however, do have a very climactic final battle which I think more movies should emulate.
While it does miss the ball on some parts due to lack of focus with the supporting cast and in choosing great visuals over character development, it does succeed in the fact that it is a fresh, new start for the character. His relationship with his family was interesting to watch and the visuals were pure eye candy. Since Clark Kent’s character got pushed aside for his alter ego, I cannot say this is the definitive Superman film, but it’s decent for what it’s worth (Even though it does have moments that can really tick off some hardcore Superman fans).