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USA 2013
Directed by
Zack Snyder
143 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

Man Of Steel

Synopsis: Superman begins, again.

Superman has been around a while so really you already know if you’re going to go see this film or not. If you like Superman, you’re off to the races. If you don’t, Man Of Steel isn’t going to change your mind on the matter. Though if you are looking to be convinced, I highly recommend seeking out Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman comics, now collected as a graphic novel for your erudition. The animated film of it is also worth a look but cuts out  so much that it becomes nonsensical towards the end. Read the comic first.

But, Man Of Steel? Is it any good? Yes, it’s really good. The plot is just Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) coming to terms with who he is: an alien raised by a kindly couple who struggle to help him find his place in the world, but it works. Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s attempt to reinvigorate the franchise, tried to tackle this as well, but suffered from a slavish love for Richard Donner’s original film, parroting far too much of it. It failed, but I did appreciate the attempt to deal with the isolation felt by the last son of Krypton, the desire to find his identity. Finally, however, Zack Snyder that loneliness is nailed effectively. Surprisingly though, it’s not really in the character of Clark that it’s expressed but rather his adoptive father. Kevin Costner does an amazing job as Jonathan Kent, fearful for his son’s safety and determined that he protect his secret. The lengths to which he will go to avoid his son being exposed to scrutiny and danger drive home the message that Clark is special, and alone. Russell Crowe as Jor El also delivers the goods, as well as some exposition that makes Kryptonian society and the choices facing Clark far more interesting than what we’ve experienced previously in a Superman yarn.

What’s also wonderful about the film is that unlike most comic book villains who seem primarily interested in defeating the hero as an end in itself Michael Shannon’s General Zod actually has something he wants to do. Superman is just an obstacle that needs to be overcome. It’s an inversion of the traditional hero’s journey, leading two major figures into conflict. It culminates in something that will be iintensely controversial to anyone who loves the big blue boy scout, but dramatically it means their battle has both subtext and purpose. And the battles are spectacular. Weirdly, they feel sparse and contained despite ranging across cities and towns, demolishing buildings and magically avoiding massive casualties. Their epic nature felt reduced but it made sense. Gods fighting gods (so to speak) would not sense the scale of their actions because that’s the level at which they operate. I don’t know if it was just me, or an intentional thing, but I appreciated it.

Man Of Steel is without doubt the best Superman film put to celluloid, and one of the best superhero films made to date - it really is spectacular to watch, never bores, and I’d happily watch it again.




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