Jeffrey's Review of Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)
With a varied filmography and less than 10 years separating the much maligned Superman Returns, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel carried a lot of uncertainty with it. What we end up with is a film that represents a very unique take on the Superman story, with Snyder's keen visual touch, told in a mostly compelling way.
The cast in Man of Steel is very well composed. Every actor seems to embody what that character needs to be, but does so in a far more authentic and organic way than the previous versions, as well as certainly many other blockbusters. This was the most clear with Superman's parents, played by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner in an absolutely fantastic supporting role. They embody ordinary people, yet with a certain folksy wisdom and humility that makes his early years all the more compelling. What was especially unique was their reluctance for Superman to demonstrate his powers, advocating for restraint that brings about a number of moral questions. Amy Adams was also fantastic Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill was a surprisingly strong Superman. The only one that slightly disappointed was Michael Shannon, who seemed, at times, too dialed down for the role, and other times too dialed up.
The biggest weakness of Man of Steel is its script. It's not resoundingly bad by any means, but it also isn't especially strong. The dialogue occasionally borders on stilted, and the exposition and last act never quite work as well as the middle of the film. The actual mechanisms of the world building is especially bad, with Kryptonite having a very muddled back story, and Shannon's character never having a plan that is fully fleshed out. This is a common problem of films of this type, to be sure, relying on some knowledge prior. However, it's certainly a fair criticism to say the film never fully envelopes the audience in what is going on, as a lot of terminology is tossed around, followed by a big action set piece, but missing a fully realized through-line and story.
I found Snyder's direction and imagery to be mostly impressive, with beautiful, albeit ominous, cinematography, and unique world building. His pace for 2/3 of the film was pitch perfect, with a sloppy first act. What really set his interpretation a part, however, was the somber tone and reflective nature. The characters are never completely sure of themselves, with inner-struggles that actually felt real. I also greatly enjoyed Snyder's use of flashbacks, which were seamless within the narrative. His action pieces, though a bit repetitive toward the end, were nonetheless excitingly staged, and did a good job of conveying actual impact.
Overall Man of Steel represents one of the more entertaining blockbusters of the summer so far, and a re-imagining of the Superman universe that is well deserved.