After the critical and commercial flop of Bryan Singer’s ‘Superman Returns’ in 2006 (it acted as a sequel to ‘Superman 2’, ignoring 3 and 4), Warner Bros have finally dusted of their Americana DC Comic property, with Zack Snyder’s ‘MAN OF STEEL’, produced by Christopher Nolan’s Syncopy and scripted by David S. Goyer.
While you think that with Nolan’s company producing and the film being named after Superman’s nickname, and with the way the film’s marketed similar to that off ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ last July, you may be forgiven to think this is a Nolan directed film. It may be like the approach of the darker more emotionally dramatic Superhero film, like Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’, but the only similarity ends there. This is very much a Zack Snyder film. The second half of the film is evident of this as it turns into more a traditional superhuman smackdown causing huge city/collateral damage which Michael Bay would wish he could do as well. It also shows more of Snyder’s identity on this film with the visual look to these sequences.
These citywide fights employed by Snyder does become a huge part of the second half of the film. While I personally didn’t mind them (I like how he has the ability to keep ‘out doing’ each fight), some of the sound mixing is that loud my ear’s kept ringing hard long after it finished. While critics of Snyder will not like them, I saw them more in a positive light as it shows the Human casualty of it all (very 9/11), bring context to it even if you think that maybe Superman battering villains with building’s might kill more than save the people of Metropolis. Again Snyder critics will hate this, but they can’t complain about Snyder’s use of ‘slow-mo’ as there isn’t any.
Generally though Snyder’s direction show’s growth and promise here. In the more Terry Mallick-esck looking Smallville scene’s with a young Clark and his Earth parents (Diane Lane and more so ‘Captain Americana’ Kevin Costner are great here), Snyder does seem more interested and in control in giving you some dramatic weight here, and feels more confident in allowing it on screen. This is something I thought Snyder had difficult grasping in the past, particularly in ‘Watchmen’, so far play to him.
Now the film isn’t perfect. Goyer’s script perhaps has too much in it, a lot of themes and idea’s get a little cramped in. Perhaps maybe more will be explored in the Director Cut Blu-Ray release since the initially cut was around three hours long. This crampness is evident in the Lois Lane, Superman relationship, which does feel a little forced in its resolution it come too. But Goyer does bring a very Biblical undertone to this film. It’s like a modern version of the New Testament almost, with added Adam & Eve ideologies in there. And there’s a good attempt to bring weakness and jeopardy to a fundamentally invincible character/God.
Generally though this is a successful retool. Henry Cavill is great as Superman, bring charm too the role with a modern twist, and who knows what humour he might bring with the character’s duality for the sequel. Amy Adam’s is fine also as Lois Lane. Her character is a strong female archetype, again with a well realised drive, even if she seems to float from one place to another. And Michael Shannon as General Zod is great. It’s a shame that the character’s mission does get lost a little in with the thousands of other stuff going on in the story by its end, as there’s an interesting drive with his character’s motives, which might not be as bad as you may think. That and he has a crazy warrior lady sidekick Faora (German actress Antje Traue) who knows superpowered Kung-Fu!
While it may be clunky in places and (again) critics of Snyder might not be fully convinced, this is successful stuff, which stands well on its feet in the genre. It just about gave me everything I wanted, including how to make Superman vurable. As for the sequel, I can see the owner of LexCorp coming out of the wood work, as a lot of his buildings and tanker’s get destroyed with that branding on the side. There is also a feeling there’s a push and drive which makes you think that Warner Bros. are seeing this as the main tentpole franchise at their studio now. Oh and super brownie point’s to you if you find a certain Gotham billionaire’s company sign in there too.