Following director Christopher Nolan’s complete overhaul of Batman, it’s understandable for a studio to ask him to undertake another of the DC universes most famous sons – Superman. The film brings Superman back to his origins, chronicling his life toward the red cape and facing a show down with Kryptonian General Zod.
The striking resemblance in marketing (bringing Superman into a new, more serious era) and the metaphorical worlds in which both live seem to end the similarities. Starting on Krypton with Russell Crowe’s Jor-El, who puts more effort and authority into the role than the reported $3.7 Million star Marlon Brando did, was a dangerous move and it was very close to being pulled off. The CGI is so overused, overwrought and overplayed it removes any sense of danger from the characters. The essence of the Nolan Batman universe was that this could happen, and herein lays the main issue with Man of Steel.
There’s a duality that lies within the film, one to present it as Clark Kent growing up in a planet on his own, away from his birth parents but getting a great upbringing from the loving Kent’s, Jonathan and Martha – played beautifully by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane respectively – and being lost within Earth and truly being an outside. The other is to get everything smashed up including buildings cars and satellites – and doing so by computer generated images as opposed to models or traditional effects.
Director Zack Snyder – whose previous work includes the highly stylised Dawn of the Dead remake, the highly stylised 300 and the highly stylised Watchmen – is known for his hyperbolic take on violence and computer generated imagery. This is an idea that in theory producer Nolan brought the substance, director Snyder brought the style, the result: a mish-mash of both which is tonally confused and more boring than it has any right to be.
Henry Cavill and Amy Adams as Clark Kent and Lois Lane respectively breathe new life into their characters. Cavill invokes the great Christopher Reeve whilst maintaining his own stamp on the character. Adams brings freshness to the character of Lane who simply refuses to let anything lie or get told what to do – until the final act.
Despite great individual performances, the film is somewhat cold – this could be down to the inherent issue of Superman: everything is without repercussion. Superman can bounce, get crushed, flattened or nuked and not die – all of this is possible with the level of CGI in this film. The prime theme that was lacking was that although he couldn’t get hurt, he was hurting inside and was lonely in the universe – rather than bang, bang, smash, smash.
The film was a towering disappointment and it’d be lazy to say ‘the good stuff was Nolan and the bad stuff was Snyder’ however there are good and bad points in the film – but the bad outweigh the good. Confused, cold and computer generated; Man of Steel simply disappoints.