Review: Man of Steel

Written by: Dee Pilgrim

You’ll believe he can fly!

Yes, this year’s biggest superhero blockbuster has landed and is it worth the hype? Hell yes; this is good old fashioned entertainment dressed up in state-of-the-art CGI and 3D and don’t it look good!

In the hands of director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan, Superman has gone back to his roots, shed the arch camp jokiness (and outside underpants) and explored the big questions; who am I and what the hell am I doing on Earth?

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

We get a lot of the back story here; in Krypton’s dying days Kal-El’s (Superman) parents send their baby son to Earth to escape their planet’s demise and the wrath of General Zod (Michael Shannon). The young boy, now named Clark, is adopted by the kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and grows up on a farm in Kansas, troubled by special powers he knows no-one else has.

The grown-up Clark (Henry Cavill) knows he must keep these powers to himself but cannot stop from helping humans when he sees them in trouble. So, when a strange object buried in the ice and a snooping reporter in the shape of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) happen to stray into his existence at the same time it is odds-on that Clark’s real identity and the extent of his super powers are going to emerge.

This all neatly fills the first half of the film, leaving the stage clear for the action as Zod and his fiercely loyal officers arrive on Earth intent on turning it into a second Krypton, thus wiping out the human race. So, Superman must choose; stick with his own kind, or trust the humans.

On hand to help with the sticky moral questions is a hologram of his dead father Jor-El (Russell Crowe with yet another English accent) to guide him through the moral maze – but he certainly can’t help with the fighting. Superman has to do that all by himself, and so the stage is set for some almighty battles, and truly impressive they are too, as armour-suited Kryptonians gang up on our hero and proceed to bash him through cars, trains, grain silos and diners all as a way of softening him up for the big clash with Zod.

Michael Shannon as General Zod

Michael Shannon as General Zod

It’s not just the special effects that are impressive either, the art direction and look of the film are far more science fiction-led than previous versions of this story (think Alien crossed with Prometheus), lending even more weight to Superman’s dichotomy; am I a homespun farmboy or an exotic being from a land far away?

There are niggles with this new version, of course. Superman certainly poses one too many Christ-like poses for it to be healthy and Lois Lane is underwritten, but does show a spark of something different about her relationship with Superman than previous incarnations. There’s a way she cradles his head in her arms that speaks of the protective maternal instinct – to nurture, but also like a she-tiger to defend him fiercely against all and sundry if he is threatened (which he is throughout). Also, the script doesn’t allow for Superman to smile enough – and we should see more of Henry Cavill’s smile because even though his biceps are oh-so-awesome, his smile shows Superman does have a more human side to him.

The finale neatly sets up the opening for the next chapter in Clark and Lois’s lives, signalling Man of Steel 2 will have more moments of levity in it than part one, but all round this is two hours and 20 minutes of really involving, entertaining film-making.

Let some po-faced film critics sniff all they like, here you get exactly what it says on the tin. Superman: Man of Steel; highly polished, precision-made and on show in a cinema near you.


Author: Dee Pilgrim

Dee always knew she wanted to make her living from writing and so trained as a journalist before working for a variety of music and women’s titles including Sounds, Company, Cosmopolitan, Ms London, New Woman, and Girl About Town. After going freelance she concentrated on celebrity interviews and film, theatre, music and restaurant reviews. Her love of film goes back to her very first cinema experience at the age of five when her mother took her to see Bambi. She cried. At one time she was the Film Editor for NOW magazine and also the secretary for the film section of the Critics’ Circle and the celebrity coordinator for its annual film awards’ event. She has written a number of books for teenagers through Trotman Publishing, including five Real Life Guides to vocational careers (including Carpentry, Plumbing and Catering), and also three books on Real Life Issues (Money, Bereavement and Self Harm). Her favourite film is still Bladerunner.

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