It's been seven long years since we've seen Superman on the big screen. Superman is arguably the most beloved superhero from the DC Comics Universe. The only other superhero that gets as much attention as him is Batman. Green Lantern tried to be as good a blockbuster as they did, but it failed to live to expectations and severely underperformed at the box office. Since Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has ended last year, it's logical that they would go back to Superman.
Let's do a recap. The first Superman was released back in the 70s and was received with critical acclaim and often regarded as a classic that brought interest to putting comic book heroes to the screen. It was followed by Superman II, which was also really good. But then Superman III put a damper on Superman. This was worsened by The Quest for Peace with its poor execution of a decent premise. The last two were so reviled that it took Tim Burton's Batman to get audiences back into the superhero gig.
It wasn't till nineteen years later that Superman came back with Superman Returns in 2006. While a huge improvement over its two immediate predecessors (it also didn't acknowledge them as canon), it was only OK. While it received good reviews from critics, it got rather lukewarm reactions from audiences and suffered a lot of competition with the hyped release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Because of this, it was only a modest success and didn't live up to what Warner Bros was expecting it to make.
After trying to make a sequel for release in 2009, WB decided to go the reboot route. Superman is the fifth comic book hero to walk down this path. The ones before him were the Punisher, Batman, Hulk, and Spider-Man. Zack Snyder, the man behind 300 and Watchmen, was chosen as the director with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan as the producer. While this did make me hopeful considering their work in the past, I never completely bought into the hype for Man of Steel.
Now before any of you fanboys out there start getting on me for what I said, let me explain why I didn't have very high expectations. Despite all the potential, the choice of Henry Cavill as Superman really put me in a stump. After his performances in Immortals and The Cold Light of Day, I just could not see him playing such an iconic character. I've you've seen those two movies, you'd understand why I wasn't too thrilled about this choice. Sure, I was skeptic about Andrew Garfield playing Spider-Man, but at least he had The Social Network to show that he was a capable actor. Cavill, on the other hand, had NOTHING to convince me otherwise.
The first twenty minutes takes place on the planet Krypton. It opens much like the original film, but is expanded upon. Due unstable core, the planet was doomed to oblivion. The inhabitants are being threatened by General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his minions. To protect their son, Kal-El, and a genetic codex, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) send him on a course to Earth. Zod and his group were caught and banished, but not long after, Krypton falls into ruin.
We then cut to Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), is seen traveling the world. He is trying to keep his powers in control since people would freak out if they knew about what he is. But he eventually finds a spaceship. There he runs into Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a journalist trying to find a story for the Daily Planet. But threats are made when Zod and his crew threaten Earth with destruction unless they hand over Clark. So, Clark learns about his real identity and how to use his powers for good.
Of course, this is an origin story. But it is also the rolling of the first two Superman movies into one. There's the origins of Superman and the fight against Zod. But this Superman is different than the ones before. The Superman in the older series was portrayed as more of a Christ-figure who was incorruptible. This one is a little more tortured due to him being initially treated as an outcast and being able to hear the thoughts of others.
But what makes Man of Steel really deliver is the spectacle of it all. The visual effects are excellent and the best to ever be seen in a Superman movie. Zack Snyder made visually stunning worlds in his previous works, and this is no different. The action sequences are also exhilarating, particularly the ones during the last half hour when Superman goes all out against Zod and his minions and the mayhem that follows.
The movie feels more like Zack Snyder's movie. A lot of people would probably publicize Christopher Nolan's involvement due to his success with Batman. But there isn't much felt about his presence in this movie. It feels more like Watchmen than it does The Dark Knight. Hans Zimmer also does the score for this movie. While not anything really impressive, the score is effective.
Now onto the cast. As I mentioned before, I didn't think that Henry Cavill could play Superman. But while he may not be as good as Christopher Reeve's was in the role, he was surprisingly good in this. He makes you be able to feel the pain that his character sometimes go through and learning to come to terms with who he is and his choice to protect Earth. I suppose his previous two big roles had more to do with the writing and directing rather than his acting talent.
With the exception of Diane Lane, whom I didn't think much of, the cast was mostly good. Amy Adams was a decent Lois Lane. She doesn't quite match Margot Kidder, but she was a big step up from Kate Bosworth. Michael Shannon makes a good over-the-top villain, but his yelling has a bit of a case of overacting. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe get really good supporting roles. Costner was really impressive as Jonathan Kent, and Russell Crowe is also effective as Jor-El. Laurence Fishburne also gives a really good performance as Perry White.
I really don't understand the reviews the movie had been getting. Sure it's not perfect and not as good as the first two with Christopher Reeve. But stop comparing the them! I really enjoyed Reeve in the role, but I didn't obsess over him to the point that I didn't like this movie. Man of Steel delivers on a spectacle level and is a really entertaining movie. The cast did good jobs and Zack Snyder has succeeded in bringing Superman into good format.
Will this movie lead into the Justice League. I'm not sure. Only time and the success of DC's next movies will tell. Batman will certainly be getting a second reboot treatment. But I'm not sure about the others since they don't have as big a fanbase as Superman and Batman. As long as they don't rush the project, I welcome a Justice League movie. On it's own, though, Man of Steel is a good Superman movie. It may not have the "nice" Superman, but on most levels, Man of Steel delivers.