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Movie Review: Man of Steel

June 14, 2013

Man of Steel PosterMan of Steel – A Warner Bros. Release

Release Date: June 14th, 2013

Rated PG for violence, not recommended for young children

Running time: 143 minutes

Zack Snyder (dir.)

David S. Goyer (screenplay and story)

Christopher Nolan (story)

Hans Zimmer (music)

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El

Amy Adams as Lois Lane

Michael Shannon as General Zod

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent

Diane Lane as Martha Kent

Russell Crowe as Jor-El

Antje Traue as Faora-Ul

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White

Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy

Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van

Man of Steel

©Warner Bros.  All Rights Reserved.

Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) in Man of Steel.

Our reviews below:


Man of Steel Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Zack Snyder reboots the iconic character of Superman with Man of Steel, and he delivers a film that is sure to divide both fans and critics alike.  As both a critic and a fan, I was entertained by this massive blockbuster and there certainly are things to like, but the film also could have used more character development and a little less generic action in order to deliver something truly special.

The film opens as our hero is being born on Krypton, with his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) fighting to save him on the dying planet, before sending him out into space.  Raised on Earth by the kind farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane), Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) grows up trying to keep his powers a secret, but morally unable to control his supernatural abilities when other people are in danger.  The determined reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is tracking the story, and she actually gets a lead on the true identity of this mysterious hero, even suggesting his new name.  But the ruthless General Zod (Michael Shannon) is threatening to destroy Earth unless Clark Kent is given back to his people, leading to the destruction of downtown Metropolis.

The shaky camerawork in the opening scenes on Krypton is dizzying and the character development often feels rushed, with the backstory of Clark Kent on Earth sadly relegated to short flashbacks.  These sequences are quite nicely done and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are well cast, but I wish there had been more scenes with them.  The editing and fractured narrative of the first half sometimes makes the film feel disjointed, with a couple of the best scenes coming and going far too quickly.  These sacrifices to the story mean that the final battle takes up about an hour of the 143 minute running time, as the amount of explosions and blind action ends up feeling redundant.  There are far too many things happening all at once and the entire sequence just feels kind of generic.

But there are still some really good scenes in Man of Steel.  The religious overtones add some interesting layers to the film, and there are scenes when we glimpse a genuine human element.  I also like what Henry Cavill brings to the leading role.  Although the script doesn’t always give him much to say, the actor brings the iconic character to life in an appealing way, nicely handling both the action and quieter scenes.  Amy Adams is a good choice for Lois Lane, and the always likeable actress clearly loves finally getting to play the character that she grew up watching.  Michael Shannon is always fascinating to watch, and he brings some interesting shades of grey to the villain first made famous by Terrence Stamp in the 1981 classic Superman II, with the great Christopher Reeve in the leading role.

Although Zack Snyder unfortunately sometimes lessens the time spent with characters in order to amp up the only intermittently exhilarating action, Man of Steel does have a few excellent moments and there are things to like about the film.  The actors are all uniformly good in their roles, giving us hope for the future of the franchise, and there is enough entertaining stuff here to warrant a recommendation.


Man of Steel Review by Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Along with the myriad of superhero and action blockbusters we’ve gotten over the past several years, we now have a new version of Superman in Man of Steel.  This time around Clark Kent/Superman is played by Henry Cavill.

When the film opens, we are on Krypton where due to overuse of mining the core of the planet, the world is collapsing in on itself.  When Kal-El is born (as the first natural birth on the planet after centuries of eugenics-type selection), his parents Lara (Ayelet Zurer) and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) put him on an escape pod bound for Earth, much to the dismay of General Zod (Michael Shannon) who believes that it is his duty to stop Kal-El’s survival.

We then immediately meet Kal-El as Clark Kent as an adult.  After he rescues a bunch of people off of an oil rig we flash back to his childhood, and keep flashing back and forward between him at 9, 13, and as an adult.  The way they edited this origin part of Superman’s story doesn’t exactly work – not in terms of content, but rather that it may have been far better to play it a bit more in order.  Still, what is there plays well and provides a little bit of character development in an otherwise underdeveloped movie.

Which brings us to the last act.  As Zod comes to Earth and people find out that Superman is among them, we end up in a finale that plays as over an hour of bombastic repetitive action.  It’s just a lot of buildings being destroyed through city streets, people running around screaming, and Zod and Superman crashing each other through various buildings.  There is a lot here, but one has to wonder what a little more plot and direction could have done for the piece, particularly during action sequences.

Overall, I think Man of Steel will please some audiences, whereas others will be left wanting more.  It is a little long at 2 hours, 20 minutes, but still a decent enough effort.  Cavill is fine as Superman, and the other larger members of the cast give good performances as is expected from them.


Man of Steel Review by Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

The story of Superman has become a classic.  The Christian overtones of the story are part of what make it so timeless.  (Superman’s original surname, El, is in fact an ancient biblical name for God).  In this reboot, the Christian elements are there in his origin story, and in the “Suffering Servant” analogies, as Superman often assumes a cruciform position when gliding through the air.  In one scene, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) talks to a priest about trusting God.  When he says that it is difficult to trust God, the priest tells him to have faith.  This gives Clark the strength to become the hero the world needs.

Kal-El/Clark Kent’s backstory is the strongest part of Man of Steel.  One of my favourite scenes is when young Clark gets sensory overloaded in school and hides in a broom closet.  When his adopted mother (Diane Lane) gets called in, she encourages him to “swim to her voice.”  The scenes with Clark interacting with his adoptive parents are some of the best.

Unfortunately, this can’t be said for the rest of the film.  I would have liked to have seen more backstory, and more character development with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and Kryptonian villain General Zod (Michael Shannon).  A whole hour of the movie is one drawn out battle between Superman and Zod, wrecking an entire city in the process.  This overly long battle gets really boring after 20 minutes, which is the maximum length it should have been.  The fractured narrative doesn’t work either, only making the film more convoluted.

However, Man of Steel has good performances, which make it worth checking out.  Despite its lack of focus, the film is still quite entertaining.


Man of Steel Review by Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Superman has always been one of my favourite superheroes.  So it’s always a little worrisome when someone new dons the cape.  Will they get it right?  Fortunately director Zack Snyder made a good call in casting Henry Cavill as the not from this planet superhero in Man of Steel.  The actor manages to strike a good balance between vulnerable reflection and physical and moral strength.

It’s too bad the entire movie doesn’t feel more balanced.  Man of Steel opens with the origin of Kal-El/Superman on the planet Krypton.  We’re shown the conflict between his birth father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) and how Kal-El ends up on Earth to be raised as Clark Kent by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).  We also get glimpses of Clark’s life on Earth both as a boy and a young man.

All these fractured narrative segments are nicely done and the movie could have used more of these character development moments.  Instead the bulk of the running time is devoted to the endless battle scenes between Superman and General Zod mainly on Earth.  There is explosion after explosion and non-stop destruction in the film.  It all felt like too much of a good thing.  The special effects and action scenes in Man of Steel are well done and if that’s what you’re looking for then you won’t be disappointed.

However my preference is for the quieter moments in the story.  Fortunately all the performances are strong.  Henry Cavill is excellent as Superman and Michael Shannon is quite memorable as General Zod.  Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Amy Adams as Lois Lane all are really good for the brief time they’re on screen.

Overall, Man of Steel is an entertaining, action packed blockbuster that will appeal to those who like their movies to be more action driven rather than character driven.  This movie is certainly worth seeing if you are a fan of the Superman world.  But how much you like it will depend on your tolerance for extended action sequences and shaky camera work.


Man of Steel Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Man of Steel is the latest reboot of the Superman franchise, directed by Zack Snyder. It begins on the planet Krypton with the birth of the hero Kal-El to parents Jor-El and Lara (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer). Just as the planet is about to implode, an insurrection led by General Zod (Michael Shannon) is put down and Ka-El is sent off in an escape pod to Earth. Through flashbacks we see the boy now named Clark Kent brought up by the couple that found him, Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane).

Despite intentions to keep a low profile, some dramatic rescues call attention to Clark’s super powers, and his discovery in the arctic of a ship holding his father’s memory and heritage is shared by the intrepid journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) of the Daily Planet, though at first her editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) refuses to publish her story. Unfortunately, the ship also sends out a signal that brings an invading force led by Zod back to Earth.

Running at over two hours before credits, Man of Steel seems long at times, particularly since like other Zack Snyder films it favours extended and somewhat repetitive battle scenes over plot or character development, doing no favours to the fine cast with a rather melodramatic script. Though much of the film, particularly on Krypton, is quite dark in tone (even in 2D, as I saw it), special effects are good, but I found some of the Krypton technology defined by production designer Alex McDowell as “geo-tech” somewhat weird, with winged vehicles reminiscent of John Carter (though Jor-El’s preferred ride is a flying critter that could have come from Pandora) and costumes that may have used leftover bits from the wardrobe of 300. The good score by Hans Zimmer is loud enough for the action scenes, though anyone expecting the stirring John Williams themes from previous Superman films will be disappointed.


Consensus: Although Man of Steel could have used more character development and less generic action in the prolonged finale, Zack Snyder’s film is carried by good performances and provides an entertaining blockbuster experience.  **1/2 (Out of 4)

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