Just as Christopher Nolan did with his Batman films, Man of Steel has raised my expectations to nearly unachievable levels. But, just as the Dark Knight films did, Man of Steel has not only met them, but exceeded them.
The same formula used to tell the re-imagined origins of Batman in Batman Begins have been used to tell the new beginning for the “Man of Steel.” Instead of starting in the beginning and fluidly moving down the narrative timeline, Man of Steel gives us a solid intro that establishes the main storyline, then jumps around from brief glimpses into Clark Kent’s youth to his present adulthood as a nomad wandering the world seeking his origins. The flashbacks don’t stop throughout the film, but never feel like interruptions. Instead, they enhance each specific moment in which they’re placed, creating an amazingly effective and deep mood.
The twenty-something-minute long intro shows us the reason behind Krypton’s destruction and introduces us to the soon-to-be arch nemesis Zod. Prior to Krypton’s implosion, Zod vows to kill the kid that would later become Superman. The modern day timeline introduces us to thirty-something Clark Kent just prior to Zod’s arrival on Earth.
It’s not as if Man of Steel is filled with secrets and twists and turns, but I fear explaining too much because it’s more fun to watch unfold on your own.
Prior to seeing any trailers or footage, I was worried about Man of Steel. Director Zack Snyder has made a few cool movies, but also a few horrible ones. His over-use of slow motion was my biggest fear, but it’s never an issue in Man of Steel. In fact, I’d say that Man of Steel is Snyder’s best work to date.
I was also worried about relatively no-name Henry Cavill playing Superman – especially after seeing Immortals, a truly terrible movie – but he’s a great Superman and an even better Clark Kent. He doesn’t even need to speak to win you over. He has the perfect physicality for an unstoppable and immortal alien superhero, as well as enough restraint to play the introspective and mild-mannered Clark Kent. He’s able to speak through his eyes and add great emotional depth to those fantastic moody moments that I alluded to.
The rest of the cast – including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El – is also great, but Michael Shannon truly shines as Zod. Shannon is a great character actor, always playing a supporting role and rarely playing the lead (see Take Shelter, the movie for which he should have earned a Best Actor nomination). His intensity is unmatched. As great as Terence Stamp was as General Zod in Superman 2, Shannon gives a new, much stronger life to the villain in Man of Steel.
I cannot speak highly enough for Man of Steel. Aside from an excessive use of rubbery CG action, it has everything that you want in a huge summer blockbuster – and more. It’s easily the best comic book movie since the Dark Knight Rises (yes, I still believe that Iron Man 3 sucked) and is worthy to fill the void in our hearts after seeing the Dark Knight trilogy come to an end last summer. If Marvel continues to misfire with it rapid release of comic book sequels and if Warner Bros. continues to take their time with quality DC comic book adaptations, then I can easily see DC giving Marvel a run for its money. After Iron Man 3, I hope that people are learning that quality is definitely better than quantity. Several years after Superman Returns, the near-perfect Man of Steel surely proves it.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.