The Man of Steel is back on the big screen again. So far, his theatrical releases have included more misses than hits. Which one is this?

Cast and Crew Information

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent / Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Russell Crowe as Jor-El
Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
Harry Lennix as General Swanwick
Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Dylan Sprayberry as Clark Kent (13 Years Old)
Cooper Timberline as Clark Kent (9 Years Old)
Richard Cetrone as Tor-An
Mackenzie Gray as Jax-Ur
Julian Richings as Lor-Em
Michael Kelly as Steve Lombard
Christina Wren as Major Carrie Farris
Alessandro Juliani as Officer Sekowsky
Tahmoh Penikett as Jed Eubanks
Jadin Gould as Lana Lang
Robert Gerdisch as Whitney Fordman
Jack Foley as Teenage Pete Ross
Joseph Cranford as Adult Pete Ross

Written by David S. Goyer (story and screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (story)
Directed by Zack Snyder

Premise

Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van save their only son from the destruction of their homeworld of Krypton by sending him to Earth. There, he is raised by a couple from Kansas, and he develops abilities possessed by no one else on Earth. As an adult, he is forced to decide what to do with those abilities.

High Point

It’s been 35 years since we’ve had a truly great Superman film, but they’ve finally done it again.

Low Point

There is one moment at some point in the film that really sticks in my craw. I cannot go into further details without delving into spoiler territory, but those who are familiar with Superman in any other incarnation will know it when they see it.

Notes for Parents

This movie is about as gritty as Superman can get. It’s still significantly lighter than any of the Nolan Batman films, but it has moments of darkness, mass carnage, and some vocabulary that is mild by many standards but still unexpected from a Superman film. This is most definitely a PG-13 film in my opinion. The MPAA agrees, but Canadian ratings boards and others merely rated it PG rather than 14A or the like.

Notes on the 3D

In about 10% of cases these days, I find that the 3D effects truly add to the experience. (I keep going to 3D theatres for assigned seating rather than the 3D.) That said, I consider this film to be part of the 90% majority of films in which the 2D version would probably be just fine.

The Review

This is a fairly original take on the character. Unlike Bryan Singer’s love letter to Richard Donner, this film is telling a story about its own Superman in its own way. There are also changes to the canon which, for the most part, are akin to Spider-Man’s organic webshooters, maintaining the spirit of the source material while altering details. However, unlike previous superhero adaptations, there is no doubt in my mind that the creators involved familiarized themselves with the source material. They simply came up with their own version of Krypton, their own connection between Krypton and Earth, and so forth. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were plentiful but primarily seamless. Although there are elements which are plainly CGI, it is not always easy to find the borders between CGI and live action. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is not one that has been told in this manner. Typically, we get the origin of Superman in the first act, and then move on from there. In this incarnation, the entire film truly serves as the origin, and takes some paths along the way that haven’t been done before in live action. The goal seems to be realism; this is the most plausible reaction that the planet Earth would have to the presence of Superman to date. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting was generally very good. Cavill does a great job without aping Christopher Reeve, Amy Adams is the most believable Lois Lane yet, and Shannon makes a very effective Zod. Diane Lane is a very humanizing Martha Kent, and Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer are strong and believable Kryptonian parents and/or computer algorithms. I found about half of Kevin Costner’s performance just didn’t grab me, though he has the disadvantage of being compared to Glenn Ford in the role. Laurence Fishburne simply didn’t have a lot to work with, though what he did was enjoyable. As it is the triumvirate of Cavill, Adams and Shannon that comprise much of the emotional core of the film, with support from Lane, the movie as a whole works well. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is well done. This is a crew that was going out of its way to make its own version of Superman. I’ve heard complaints about the speed of the editing making it difficult to follow the action, but I had no such problems myself. Hans Zimmer composed a powerful score quite unlike that of John Williams’, which further helps to distance this from that incarnation. If anything, this is more influenced by the Fleischer animated style than any of the live action predecessors. In what is perhaps the most telling part of the production, the 143 minute runtime felt more like 100 minutes, while only feeling rushed at points during the most familiar portions of the origin story. That may actually be better for the film, as many fans are tired of the same origin being retold. (The origin they use has unique elements, so that fatigue doesn’t really set it.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. Most of the film is exactly what I was hoping for. My favorite aspect of Superman is the inspirational effect he has on those around him, and this is largely about the way humans react to his existence. The low point (you’ll know it when you see it) drove me right out of the film at a critical moment, which is the major detriment here. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s the strongest Superman movie we’ve had in over 30 years. See it and enjoy it. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Man of Steel receives 33 out of 42.