Review: Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, et al.
Based on: characters by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster
Genre: Superhero / Action
Released: June 14 2013
by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 143 mins (2 hr, 23 mins)
Cert: 12 (BBFC) PG-13 (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer

A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.

Poor old Superman hasn’t been in a film that’s done him justice since Superman II in 1980. That was 33 years ago. Superman III and Superman Returns were meh material (I will admit, I did enjoy Returns the first time I saw it) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was so strange I can’t even begin to understand what was going on when Christopher Reeve co-wrote it. Fair enough, TV did a pretty okay job of it but when Man of Steel was first confirmed, myself and a lot of other comic book fans were a little worried and seriously hoped that Snyder, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer had gotten it right. I think they definitely did him some justice, with some very original re-imagining.

Man of Steel has a very different take on the original Superman mythos. Rather than having Clark Kent already knowing what it is that he is going to do in terms of being a hero and working at the Daily Planet, he’s portrayed as being lost and somewhat confused in terms of who exactly he is. He doesn’t feel like he’s a part of humanity, which I assume has been inspired by Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s mini-series Kingdom Come which deals with a Superman who feels he is losing touch with his humanity. We get more of an insight into Clark’s childhood, which previous films hadn’t really done, and we also see him doing various menial jobs, such as working in a bar, on a fishing boat and at something in the North Pole that I don’t know the name of. The part of the film’s story that I was really glad was there were the scenes on Krypton. I am so glad that we got to see Jor-El and Lara do a lot more than simply deliver the child, put him in the spaceship and say goodbye while the planet implodes, like they did in Superman: The Motion Picture. I really enjoyed this darker take on the origin story, it felt very fresh to me. One thing that my dad and I were a little bit divided on was the end of the battle with Zod. My dad disagreed with it, while I supported it. I think it gave a bit of an insight to why Superman has the morals that he does, rather than ‘that’s how he was raised’, and also the effect that it had on him personally. Speaking of battles, there is a lot of action in this film, but it’s not completely meaningless or random because it does go along with the story and actually helps to advance it, which isn’t something that is usually expected of action scenes. I didn’t mind so much action because we do get several quieter, tender moments at intervals and even a nicely executed false jump scene.

The cast of Man of Steel is just a huge piece of casting genius. That is probably the only way I’ll describe it, now let’s all go home. I’m just kidding, I’ll elaborate. The film already had a great plot to begin with, and the cast just makes it even better than making it larger than life. And there’s also a lot of eye candy in the leading man. I watched this film for the acting, I swear I did…

I’d never seen Henry Cavill act before watching the film, so I didn’t really know of what to expect from him. Other than his unbelievable handsomeness. Alright, I’ll stop with that. I was really hoping that he wouldn’t do an impression of Christopher Reeve, like Brandon Routh sort of did in Superman Returns, and form his own interpretation of the character. I am more than thankful for the fact that he had done his reading and made the character both true to the canon material and to the film’s plot. I can’t think of anyone else playing the part now, his performance was just so perfect that it didn’t feel like I was watching Henry Cavill on the screen, it felt like I was actually seeing Superman.

Amy Adams’ performance as Lois Lane is now very likely my favourite incarnation of the character to date. I’m a fan of Teri Hatcher’s interpretation on Lois & Clark, but I definitely think that Adams’ performance is better for modern day and also the tone of the film. I really liked how they took out Lois’s difficulty with spelling because I never thought that it was necessary and in past material it felt more like a running gag than a part of her character. One thing I really liked about this incarnation of Lois is that even though she is determined to find Superman and find out who he is (like Lois always was up until the 90’s), she isn’t obsessed with having him as a romantic partner as many Loises were in the past.

I loved Michael Shannon’s General Zod surprisingly a lot more than I liked Terence Stamp’s in Superman II. He was incredibly vicious and animalistic, compared to Stamp who was more charismatic and even somewhat collected. It makes more sense that Zod would be vicious because as he says himself in the film he was born to be a warrior, and the vast majority of warriors are incredibly relentless to the point that they have next to no control of themselves, just like how Zod initially is when he first walks on the Earth’s surface. Shannon’s incarnation of the character is probably the best villain that I have seen all year, it was just pure awesome. And speaking of awesome, I just have to give some praise to how Faora (played by Antje Traue) was shown to be such a bad-ass. Serious kudos there, she’s awesome.

I am about to do something that I would never have heard myself say until now: Russell Crowe’s Jor-El is miles better than Marlon Brando’s. I really hate myself for saying so because Brando is my favourite actor ever, but it’s true. Part of that can be owed to the fact that Crowe probably didn’t take the part for the money (Brando did) and learnt his lines that weren’t taped to a baby’s nappy (which is what Brando did because he refused to learn his lines at that point in his career). As I said above, I really loved being able to see Jor-El and Lara do more at the beginning of the film, rather than send the baby to Earth and then die. I’ve never really known much about the House of El and being able to see them do more really helped me to understand them a lot more and why they did what they did. Another thing I really liked was how Jor-El appeared many times throughout the film through the use of Kryptonian technology, rather than just at the beginning as an automated image that says the same thing, like in Superman and Superman Returns.

A Superman film wouldn’t be a Superman film if it didn’t have spectacular special effects. A large part of Man of Steel‘s overall look is SFX, and it is just awesome to look at, especially when showcasing Superman’s powers. My personal favourite was the heat-vision which looks like it would actually be quite painful for him for use, and also the flying scenes which are just stunning. There are also a lot of things blowing up and buildings being destroyed, which is staggering to look at. The amount of carnage that has been created through technology is amazing to look at. However, I have just one little quib and it’s with camera movement. My least favourite camera technique ever is handheld. It makes me feel like I’m going to puke and hurts my eyes. There were a few times that I did have to look at my knees to orientate my vision due to the camera shaking so much. A little less of that would have been nice for me and that’s the only reason why Man of Steel just missed out a perfect rating.

Moving onto the film’s music; as soon as Hans Zimmer was announced as the composer, I know that the score would be nothing but pure awesome. His scores for all three Batman films were outstanding; as is his work on other films (even his score for one of the Call of Duty games was pretty good). I liked how it had a slight similarity to the music from the Batman films, but it was unique at the same time and more suited to the Superman character. There were a few instances where I thought that it wasn’t exactly necessary to have music in the scene, but I did enjoy hearing it when it was more appropriate.

After gushing so much, there is only one way that I can now put into words how much I loved Man of Steel, and that is my oft-used tag on my Tumblr: I need a moment (you should totally click that link; it’s eye candy).


  1. 20/06/2013 / 4:07 PM

    It is always entertaining and fun to watch, it just isn’t as epic or dramatic as I thought it was going to be. Good review Louise.

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