Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner
“That’s what this symbol means…. hope.”
Ahoy, earthlings! Aidan here.
I’m still speechless. What Zack Snyder has given us is a superhero movie for the ages.
Blurbs like “compelling” and “thrilling” don’t even begin to do it justice, but I’ll try. Man of Steel is the greatest incarnation of Superman to ever hit celluloid.
Unlike previous attempts to do Superman full justice on the silver screen, Man of Steel dissects the conflicted soul of its protagonist and lays it all out on the table, much like Batman Begins did before it. And, just like the Caped Crusader’s origin film, Man of Steel creates something viscerally thrilling and morally rich, doing away with any preconceived limitations of what a Superman film “could” and “should” be.
Most notably, Snyder and co. have breathed life into Superman in a way that no previous director – especially Singer – did; this is the Superman in all of his VFX-soaked, power-boosted glory, but it’s coupled with and complemented by the contradictory emotional base that incessantly haunts Kal-El. Here we have a glimpse of a frustrated, maladjusted Man of Tomorrow, an alien who’s not quite alien but not exactly settled into earth either. Kal-El is stuck in the poignantly universal middle ground of not belonging, and boom – now we can relate to his struggle as we marvel at the equally powerful VFX spectacle before us.
Man of Steel is a massive film, and while Christopher Nolan’s real-world influence is definitely felt, it never annoyingly weighs down Kal-El’s cape. The movie runs wild, restraining itself only at perfect moments to stay in sync with its audience’s humanity. This isn’t a gritty, small, crime-ridden Gotham tale – hell, it isn’t even an Avengers-sized saga – it’s bigger, as Superman should be. But regardless of that scale, Man of Steel effortlessly retains its grasp on a genuine sense of intimacy. Like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or even Harry Potter before it, Man of Steel is an epic story told from the most intimate perspective possible, and in doing so, it’s a rousingly emotional success.
You’ve heard it before, and you’re about to hear it again – with good reason – but the truth is that Henry Cavill is Kal-El. Previous incarnations of Superman are a non-issue here; unlike Superman Returns, we’re not spending every minute of screen time slave to subconscious comparisons between our current Superman and Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal. From the start, Cavill effortlessly slips into the character’s shoes and makes them his own, exuding the warmth and duty expected from the Man of Tomorrow while struggling to fulfill a purpose that, quite frankly, the world doesn’t seem to care about. Dylan Sprayberry and Cooper Timberline’s portrayals of young Clark Kent are on-point as well, seamlessly matching the gravitas Cavill brings to the character’s adult self.
The supporting cast is equally terrific, bringing relevance and humanity to previously “throwaway” characters. I enjoyed Lawrence Fishburne’s Perry White quite a bit, and his presence on screen was never campy, unwelcome, or boring. Costner’s rugged warmth is equally fantastic in the role of Kal-El’s adoptive father, and his moments with young Clark represent about seventy percent of the film’s tearjerking scenes. Diane Lane and Amy Adams are strong, capable, and passionate, neither coming across as damsels in their moments of distress. These aren’t just my favorite cinematic representations of the women in Superman’s life to date, they’re the flat-out best written and acted.
Michael Shannon’s General Zod ranks as one of the best comic book villains to ever hit the screen; like the film as a whole, Shannon’s performance pulses between poignantly understated and boisterously passionate. Like many of cinema’s all-time great villains, Zod’s mission can be understood and appreciated for its own respective merit. Though this merit may ring false to our protagonist, Zod is simply following through with oaths he intends to see out through death.
Hans Zimmer’s score is thunderously magnificent, making use of percussion nuances that magnify the intimate, soft scenes and thrust the grander ones into the stratosphere. There is no disparity between emotion and spectacle here – the score bolsters every scene it accompanies, making the action sequences as emotionally rewarding to behold as the smaller, character-driven scenes. It’s undoubtedly the best score of the year so far, and to be awash in a sea of orchestral power as Superman takes flight, well…. it’s something to behold. I was truly awestruck.
Awe is the word that continually comes to mind as I recount Man of Steel. Awe is the reason I teared up when Superman first took flight. Awe is the reason the audience gasped with me as Superman leveled cities during battle. Awe is the reason that same audience applauded for a good minute after the film ended, and awe is the reason I am having one hell of a time putting this movie into words.
And isn’t that what Superman is all about?
Man of Steel is the Superman movie we’ve been waiting for. It is a masterwork of comic book cinema, a super-powered punch of rugged mythology that reminds us why we need Superman.
Snyder and co. have crafted a winner here, firmly cementing their film’s place alongside The Dark Knight as one of the greatest superhero films ever made – not to mention, the finest film of the summer.