What can I say about the recent Man of Steel film, which rebooted the Superman franchise and has since sprouted rumours of a clash with Batman in the sequel and an upcoming Justice League spectacle? Well, most of you will have seen it by now, and most of you will have two words coming to mind when you think of how you felt sitting there in the cinema screen: over-blown. Okay, so maybe not those precise two words, but two with a similar meaning. And I wouldn’t blame you; for the second half of this movie, that’s a perfectly accurate description of the new modern day Superman (played by the talented Henry Cavill, whom I am assured by females is also rather handsome), who will fight tooth and nail to save humanity but could care less about destroying a whole city in the process, including buildings that no doubt collapse on top of innocent civilians working a nine to five humdrum routine.
Hollywood doesn’t so much care for realism in its films, but I would say on this occasion that’s fine. Because the whole idea of Superman, i.e. Kal-El, a being from a far-away planet where they (for some reason) seem to look and speak exactly like we do, isn’t exactly realistic in the first place. That’s why I’d say the over-blown nature of this new-look Superman, while not as sophisticated as the original Christopher Reeve films (when I say ‘films’ I mean his first two, and maybe the fourth when you want a different kind of entertainment), is totally in line with who I think Superman has become, and what I think a battle involving him and another super being like him would look like.
Speaking of the other super being, we are also greeted in this film with an updated version of General Zod, played by Michael Shannon. Some of you strange people out there that I like to call ‘film fans’ may consider Superman 2 your favourite superhero film of all time, a fan movement that I have vague sympathies with. It is inevitable that on this occasion you will feel the inclination to compare the two. I urge you not to. Superman 2 was as good as it was partly due to the time in which it was made; the technology at its disposal, and the simple fact that superhero battles on that scale hadn’t really been attempted before. They certainly have been attempted now, many times, most recently in the entertaining Avengers Assemble last year. I am therefore less inclined to judge Man of Steel on the innovation of its action scenes (something we would rightly do with Superman 2) than I am on something it does do a little differently than what we’ve seen before, that thing being its storytelling.
The film serves as an origin story, prequel and fresh reboot all rolled into one (pretty much accomplishing in two hours what Smallville couldn’t in ten seasons), with the movie opening on Krypton in the final stages of its life as a planet. Zod stages a rebellion, explosions happen and little baby Kal-El barely gets out in one piece, being watched as he travels into the sky by his dying father. The whole thing is way more dramatic than you’d remember from past Superman experience, and the Kryptonians have a distinctly more human feel to them this time, rather than their almost God-like portrayals in the first two Reeve movies. Then again, I’m not sure that’s a good thing; as I’ve said I don’t quite understand how it works, the whole ‘feeling distinctly human despite being a different species altogether and living on a faraway planet as part of a more advanced civilisation’ part, but there’s probably an explanation for it somewhere.
Fast forward to life on Earth, and Clark Kent is now, for all intents and purposes, a human man (as opposed to a Kryptonian man) searching for meaning to his life and keeping his true identity secret from those around him. He does this because a series of flashbacks show instances of him using his sun-powered abilities to miraculously save his peers from death, something that his earthly dad correctly thinks will draw negative attention from the government – what doesn’t, right? All is going well – at least as well as it can go when you’re homeless and have no close friends – until a journalist (none other than an Amy Adams version of Lois Lane) decides to come snooping and a familiar face from Krypton shows up to inflate the film’s budget.
Aside from that, there’s frankly not much else to say. The film’s entertaining enough to be worth your money but is another part of one of those annoying trends that seems to be gripping the modern day film industry: a reboot. Although in this case I’d daresay Superman was well worth one; the man in blue hasn’t exactly been treated well since the last time we saw Zod and Kal-El destroy a city together, and I think he could hardly have asked for a more respectable portrayal than he has gotten here. Whether or not your eyes are fast enough to follow the action will be the true difference between loving or hating it. In the end I think both of those feelings would be a tad strong for a movie whose worst fault is taking a character you all love and threatening not to do exactly what you’d expect with him. Which, when I come to think of it, isn’t actually a bad thing at all.
8 / 10.