Superman MAN OF STEEL Review written by Sean Gerber June 10, 2013 The success of the superhero film genre, while inarguable, has felt incomplete. The original superhero and thus the character responsible for the entire concept on which the genre is based, Superman, has not been a part of that success in decades. Along comes “Man of Steel,” a relentless film full of awe-inspiring heroics that finally allows its title character to claim his rightful place at the forefront of the genre, and the audience’s collective imagination. Scripted by David S. Goyer from a story he co-wrote with producer Christopher Nolan, “Man of Steel” is very much a film belonging to its director, Zack Snyder, and is the better for it. Snyder’s vision provides a brand new, far more emotional look at the very familiar story of baby Kal-El being shipped off from the doomed planet of Krypton by his biological parents, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara El (Ayelet Zurer). Through Goyer’s script and Snyder’s direction, the movie never feels repetitive, providing a sense of seeing Krypton, Smallville, and Metropolis for the very first time. The lean, blistering pace of “Man of Steel” is incredibly engaging and very effective in telling an origin story. Aided by an inspiring score from Hans Zimmer, all the major emotional beats are given just enough time to make their impact. Some may yearn for a little breathing room in these moments, but Snyder still manages to get across the isolation felt by Clark Kent from early childhood to bearded adulthood. Rather than trying to make an all-powerful alien relatable, the film shows how Clark cannot relate to anyone. Clark is sympathetic because he is so alone. His adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha, are played with loving warmth by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively. They are also very protective, though, knowing what the mere presence of their alien son means to the world and fearing how the public would react. Jonathan Kent teaches his son to fiercely keep the latter’s astounding, often life-saving abilities a secret, no matter the cost. Costner excels in this difficult balancing act of Jonathan having pure intentions that do not make his son’s life any easier. Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry team up to pull at the heartstrings of anyone with a pulse as the respective nine and thirteen-year-old versions of Clark. They provide a pivotal emotional foundation for the character. This is especially true of Sparyberry, who establishes very early on that being a hero is a natural, unavoidable habit that Clark Kent simply cannot quit. As the adult Clark Kent/Kal-El and eventual Superman, Henry Cavill is pitch perfect; he is the quintessential good guy. Cavill transitions beautifully from the isolated sadness of being a wandering, undercover hero to the newfound confidence Clark feels upon meeting, in a sense, his biological father and learning his true heritage and purpose. The difference in Clark’s state of mind from being hidden to becoming a beacon for the people of Earth pours through Cavill’s eyes and is punctuated with a warm, soft grin. The world’s chief point of contact to Superman is Lois Lane, played with an appropriate mix of strength, intelligence, and defiance by Amy Adams. Her own hunt for the anonymous, drifting hero leads Lane to conflicting responsibilities between uncovering the truth and protecting those directly and indirectly involved in the story. Adams portrays Lois Lane as brave enough to endure these situations and ethical enough to make the right choices at her own professional and physical peril. The well-being of the entire planet is put in jeopardy by the brutal, vicious General Zod, who comes to Earth to claim his fellow Kryptonian, even if it means tearing the world apart to find Kal-El. As Zod, Michael Shannon is the most threatening villain the genre has ever seen. All of his actions have dire consequences, yet Zod sees himself as a hero fighting for the good of the already-doomed Krypton. Zod has not come to Earth alone, bringing a small army of once discarded Kryptonians along for the hostilities. His right hand woman, Faora (Antje Traue), is the most lethal. While Zod believes they are on a holy crusade, Faora is content to cause as much death as she can. Traue is particularly good at being bad when delivering Faora’s taunts to her victims. The danger brought on by General Zod and his crew feels remarkably real despite being unapologetically over-the-top. Snyder employs his strengths in creating big, dynamic visuals that are beautiful to behold and easy to follow even when characters are fighting at super speed on land, or in the air. It is on the ground, though, where the action achieves a rare level of authenticity. Superhero films starring characters with actual super powers often ignore the collateral damage suffered by the regular people witnessing battles between gods. “Man of Steel” does not make this error, showing the full impact of the destruction taking place. There are deadly consequences for all those caught in the crossfire. The tragedy is amplified by the emotional investment earned by the film’s main bystanders. Christopher Meloni stands out with the unwavering courage of his Colonel Hardy. Laurence Fishburne proves not all heroes wear capes or fatigues as Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White. The same goes for the naturally skeptical Dr. Emil Hamilton, played by Richard Schiff. All of the featured mortals in the film get their moment. As the action and emotion intensify, “Man of Steel” becomes a genuine epic when complex moral questions are raised and bold choices are made. Being a superhero, even the most powerful one ever created, does not afford Superman the ability to save everyone. Ethical dilemmas force Superman to weigh multiple negative outcomes against each other in hopes of making an impossible decision. Victory, as it turns out, is relative. By grounding its story in a pseudo-real world while presenting the grandest superhero feats imaginable, “Man of Steel” arguably finds the best overall balance for a superhero film. Its genuine emotional core and moral complexity combine to form an invaluable foundation for its incalculable action on an appropriately god-like scale. Genre comparisons aside, “Man of Steel” achieves a level of greatness that soars high above any meager attempts at qualification. Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill have come together to emphatically state the king has returned. Superman was the first superhero; Superman is once again the greatest superhero. “Man of Steel” proves that. MAN OF STEEL Review was last modified: February 22nd, 2016 by Sean Gerber Related Man of Steel 15 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Sean Gerber Sean Gerber is the founder and editor-in-chief of Modern Myth Media. When he's not writing here, you can catch him as the host of Popular Opinion Podcast, Batman News, and Marvel News! previous post 10 Pieces of Advice for Making a Wonder Woman Movie next post ‘Man of Steel’ Sequel Rockets Toward 2015 You may also like MAN OF STEEL’s Michael Shannon Compares Snyder... February 9, 2012 General Zod Speaks in ‘Man of Steel’... April 15, 2013 ‘Man of Steel’ Leaps Box Office Records... June 16, 2013 BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE May 21, 2014 Warner Bros. Says MAN OF STEEL is... December 8, 2011 Rountable Review: Hardee’s Super Bacon Cheese Thickburger June 1, 2013 World’s Finest Film Announcement Coming VERY Soon? July 20, 2013 Scoot McNairy Joins BATMAN V SUPERMAN June 27, 2014 Warner Bros. Is Back In Business With... August 8, 2016 Lois Lane and Superman Accept The ALS... August 27, 2014 Alan You’re killing me…But I’m so relieved to hear it. Adrian Edmondson Great review Sean . Looking forward to the rest of the guys reviews . Luis Wooohooo! I am so friggin’ excited! insideguy I know this might be spoiler territory Sean and if you don’t wish to answer it thats cool. But are there any easter eggs about possibly and expanded DC universe coming out of this movie? You don’t have to tell us what it is. But just a yes, no or I cannot answer would be nice:) Sean Gerber There’s at least one, but I didn’t even spot it when I saw the film! Adam Snow Fantastic review. It’s got depth and honesty and I like it. Also, kudos for keeping the review on Man of Steel and not comparing it to any other specifics of the genre 🙂 Stock Its a lucky man who gets to see a movie like this before the rest of us. Thanks for keeping the review a basic plot overview sans details, Sean. I just watched Superman 78 last night. For today’s world, it may look a little cheap, especially on HD TV, which makes just about everything look like a sound stage. Try Alien sometime. Loses a lot in HD. Looks like old Doctor Who shows. I just hope they are able to keep Clark/Kal-El’s humanity. He is a human being not of this earth. Rocketed from Krypton, he was still raised in Kansas. Now, even Kansas isn’t that Kansas anymore, but Reeve and Donner made Clark and Supes essentially someone who understands that having power doesn’t give you carte blanche to use it. That’s humanity. In order for Superman to be the “Light” his father Jor-El wants him to be, he has to be deeply a good person. Reeve did that masterfully, along with the dual identities, allowing the audience to buy into the fact that these look-alikes could be 2 different people. Cavill probably won’t get as much of a chance to show that side, but that’s to be expected. We don’t have time these days for Lawrence of Arabia or Ben Hur like transformations. Its done with a line or two. Thanks again. Even though I’m more Bats oriented, I always believed them to be brothers from different mothers. I need to see my brother. Adam Clark Great review Sean! Is there a post credits scene to stick around for? Sean Gerber No, but have some respect for the below the line people. 😉 Paul Soares Kind of shocking, but Superman Returns has a higher Tomato meter rating than Man of Steel as of this post. Adrian Edmondson Really starting to dislike RT and their critic reviews . These not fresh reviews are just gripes about small things a person hated , either too much action , too little drama , no love story etc . There was certainly a lack of all these things in SR , yet that is held high as a good to great CBM ? I know it shouldn’t matter , but it makes me appreciate the insight the guys have on these films , even if they don’t like it as much as everyone else ( I.e John w/ DKR ) , at least we get an honest opinion or a valid reason . Keep up the good work guys Pingback: ‘Man of Steel’ Sequel Rockets Toward 2015 | Modern Myth Media() rOn I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about the film from the peoples and critics that have opinions that I listen to or care about. The critics who hate on comic book/superhero movies I couldn’t care any less what they think of these films. William I don’t know. I just don’t know. I left the movie thinking it was one of the best things I’d ever seen. The audience I was with applauded and cheered. At the same time, it doesn’t quite feel like the Superman I know. I don’t want to get into details, out of fear of spoiling anything. In any case, despite my misgivings, I think the stage is set for an even better sequel! Juke Early I am so glad I found this site as well as its exemplary podcast. Sure, mostly because a majority of your reactions to the superhero genre, eerily echo my own. You’re like the sons I never had. Thanks.