Film review | Man of Steel – Henry Cavill’s Superman soars (but the slugfests bring him down to earth)

MAN OF STEEL - HENRY CAVILL as Superman

Squeezing into Superman’s tights following his spell in doublet and hose on The Tudors, Henry Cavill cuts a brooding figure for much of comic-book movie reboot Man of Steel.

And with Watchman director Zack Snyder at the helm and Christopher ‘Dark Knight’ Nolan co-producing and co-devising the story, it’s no surprise that the mood should be dark and serious. If you’re hankering after the playful innocence of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films, you’ll definitely be disappointed.

A brother under the cape to Christian Bale’s Batman, Cavill’s Superman is another of those superheroes who are wracked by existential angst. And given Snyder and Nolan’s sober take on the tale, it’s no wonder he has issues.

MAN OF STEEL - RUSSELL CROWE as Jor-El and AYELET ZURER as Lara Lor-Van

Exiled to Earth as a baby from his dying home planet Krypton, the future Superman grows up amid the cornfields of Kansas. Yet it’s far from an idyllic boyhood, notwithstanding the love of adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner, Diane Lane). The young Clark Kent, né Kal-El, finds his super-senses a torment and must keep his super-powers under wraps for fear of persecution.

No wonder, then, that when we first encounter Cavill’s Clark, he’s a bearded outcast living on the fringes of society, ready for instant flight should his compulsion to intervene in moments of jeopardy draw attention. At least, that’s the case until Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane gets on his trail – and with Amy Adams playing Lois as a savvy Pulitzer Prize-winner there’s going to be no opportunity for any of the flirtatious dual-identity byplay that was such an enjoyable feature of the earlier films.

Besides, the planet is in peril. Genoicidal Kryptonian renegade General Zod (Michael Shannon) has turned up in a spaceship, threatening Earth with destruction unless its leaders hand over the secret extraterrestrial refugee living in their midst – the cue, sadly, for a series of those prolonged slugfests between near-indestructible foes that are a regrettable feature of the superhero genre.

MAN OF STEEL - ANTJE TRAUE as Faora-Ul and MICHAEL SHANNON as General Zod

As comic-book adventures go, Man of Steel is far too solemn and self-important to deliver a true sense of wonder, but it’s by no means a total flop.

Surprisingly, the acting is one of its stronger suits. Russell Crowe displays suitable nobility and gravitas (and a posh English accent) as Superman’s father, Jor-El. Costner and Lane are even better as Clark’s all-American adoptive parents.

Indeed, when Lane’s Martha comforts the young Clark after his newly discovered X-ray vision causes him to freak out, the moment is heart-meltingly tender; later on, Costner supplies an even more touching moment in the midst of whirling tornado.

As for Cavill, even if he rarely gets the chance to lighten up, he looks entirely at ease in the role, whether as ripped, rugged outcast or as supremely noble saviour, which makes his lack of rapport with Adams’ Lois even more of a shame. Fortunately, when Superman takes to the skies, the movie soars. It lands with a thud, though, when Zod and his cohorts touch down.

In cinemas from Friday 14th June.

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12 Responses to Film review | Man of Steel – Henry Cavill’s Superman soars (but the slugfests bring him down to earth)

  1. Heidi Rice says:

    Fantastic review….Totally agree with your appraisal, did enjoy the slugfests but felt it got a bit much by the end.

    • **** *** says:

      this is just a synopsis of the movie, not a review. the old superman movies, george to christopher, are terrible. so terrible, have you morons even seen superman 2? its an abortion. so take your plastic wrap S and stick it up your ***. this movie was awesome and will be superman trilogy that brings kids and adults back to comics.

      • Jim says:

        Cannot agree more. MOS was exactly the reboot Superman needed after the lighthearted versions of the past. If there is anything I can glean from these whiny reviews, is that people either A) people only seem to want happy-go-lucky comic films or B) they really don’t know what they want at all.

  2. john says:

    Since the review is more on the positive side why did it get a rotten symbol instead of a ripe one on Rotten Tomatoes ?

    • Hannah says:

      I totally agree – WHAT THE – ??? Rotten Tomatoes, please review all of the reviews again and change all rotten ones that really are supposed to be fresh – !

  3. rosichan says:

    “If you’re hankering after the playful innocence of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films…”
    Why would you do that? It was pretty clear since the beginning that it was a very different take from the other movies

    Why is this review marked as rotten on rotten tomatoes? you said “but it’s by no means a total flop”. A rotten tomato is a flop!

  4. TheBigCheese says:

    Looks like the people that have made the film the Highest June weekend opening with $125 million debut didnt pay attention to any of these lame reviews why not do what the rest of them are doing and do a U turn

  5. So in agreement about the excessive slugfest! All those scenes could have been shortened to allow for more fun, quick references, like the naming of Clark’s classmate Lana (Smallville) and the truck getting destroyed branded with the LexCorp logo. What I did like was the time spent on Krypton before it’s destruction. And the look of the movie – There’s a grayish, blue tint throughout, it’s not overt, just a very good color palette for the film; and that Krypton is depicted as both ancient and stony, yet advanced, with hovering, intuitive communication devices, and the ability to create material things from that silver filigree like substance.

    Still, I concur, nothing will ever take the place of the 1978 Superman.

    • Omgstfu says:

      Why are you guys looking for a ‘fun & ‘humorous’ Man of Steel movie? You knew in the first place that Zack Snyder & Chris Nolan were behind the film.

      • axascg agcaxca says:

        why do people everywhere seem to think that Superman’78 was ‘fun & humorous’? Lois Lane died in that movie – how about that for fun and humorous

        • John says:

          Oh right. Before he FLEW BACK IN TIME TO SAVE HER

          LMAO

          Seriously, all of these reviews citing the joylessness of the movie make me laugh. There are other flaws, to be sure. But that one shows that you didn’t walk into this theater without your own baggage. Your preconception of Superman is based on a previous movie, not who the character really is. The origin story is not a happy one at all.

  6. haogar says:

    “If you’re hankering after the playful innocence of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films, you’ll definitely be disappointed.”

    Guess what? I didn’t saw Christopher Reeve’s name nowhere in the movie, and i wasn’t looking for it either, fuck, what a lame comparision.

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