Taking the route seen in many recent superhero movies, Man Of Steel is very much the origin story of Superman. Beginning with his birth on Krypton up to his employment with the Daily Planet, the film covers the essentials of Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) beginnings. The threat comes in the form of fellow former Krypton resident General Zod (Michael Shannon), who traces his whereabouts to Earth. Zod plans to rebuild his destroyed planet, using Earth as its foundation and its up to Clark to stop him.
Cavill certainly has the stone-jawed look depicted in the comics of Superman, but he lacks any real charisma or unique trait to set him apart. It’s unfair to compare him with the ‘ultimate’ incarnation of Kal-El (Superman’s real name), Christopher Reeves, but he is by all means the bar setting example, and Cavill doesn’t even come close. Amy Adams portrays love interest Lois Lane, and again it’s done to a sub-par standard. While many know that Lane is an integral part of the Superman universe, she’s merely glossed over here and is an afterthought to the constant destruction of Smallville and Metropolis. There’s no chemistry between the two, and any scenes they share together come across as contrived and unbelievable. Michael Shannon is commendable as the antagonist however, throwing his all into the role; either that, or the oversized armour he wears forced him to exaggerate his emotions to get the point across. Russell Crowe gets into ‘Maximus-mode’ as Kal El’s biological father, gruffly barking his lines in a solemn tone. Back to Earth, Kevin Costner is fantastic as Kent’s father, delivering the two most touching scenes in the film – one seen in the trailer, one not.
Narratively, the film mixes things up by revealing parts of Kent’s past through flashbacks. They don’t particularly lead anywhere significant, but there’s a feeling that each one has shaped the Clark Kent into the man that he is. It’s a far more visually interesting way of delivering the story, and is one of the films strongest points. When it comes to action and explosions though, Man Of Steel makes Transformers look like a cheap box of fireworks: the destruction is widespread and, in places, laughably exaggerated. It’s also rather exhausting – when it starts, there’s no letting up, and after seeing a couple of high powered punches, you’ve seen them all. The best comparison I have for it is the ‘Chicken vs. Peter Griffin’ fights from Family Guy: if you’ve never seen these, YouTube them, take out the intentional comedy and replace the characters then you have the last 40 minutes of Man of Steel.
To newcomers of Superman, it may be a daunting affair, with a lot of information about the character thrown at you in quick succession. Beginning as an origin story, it ends being a completely different picture: a CGI spectacle that leaves you feeling like you were on the receiving end of one of Kent’s punches.