Expectations are very high for the release of “Man of Steel,” and there are several questions on everyone’s minds. Will DC Comics’ most iconic hero soar to box office records? Is Henry Cavill Hollywood’s next leading man, or will he fade into obscurity like Brandon Routh? Finally, does “Man of Steel” give any hope of a “Justice League” movie?
While most of these answers are for the audience to decide this weekend, the one mystery that can be lifted is whether “Man of Steel” is a good film. Regardless of any flaws, the movie is solid as steel. Directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, the movie is packed with action and unique science-fiction elements that still maintain Superman’s patriotic, Americana feel.
The movie begins on Krypton as the planet explodes and Kal-El (Superman’s Kryptonian name) is sent to Earth. The movie shows Kal drifting through America roughly 30 years later, with occasional flashbacks of Kal growing up in Smallville, Kan., and learning of his powers.
Soon enough, it is up to Kal to protect Earth from the villainous General Zod, who is desperate to use Kal to recreate Krypton. If special effects are something of interest to you, the opening scenes on Planet Krypton are mesmerizing.
Snyder has improved from his “Sucker Punch” days to create a realistic looking world the audience has never seen before. Planet Krypton, seen at the beginning of the movie, is the exact definition of “space opera,” with hundreds of spaceships battling in the sky.
On Earth, Snyder works hard to ground the character of Kal-El before he is reintroduced to the world as Superman. Cavill embodies Superman both physically — he is a behemoth on screen — and emotionally.
He truly proves himself as a leading man by convincing the audience that Kal-El possesses godlike powers in addition to being wholesome and helpful boy from Kansas who puts his family, his country and eventually his planet first.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane impresses again as a strong, intelligent, adventurous woman who is never conveyed as being completely helpless. Michael Shannon as General Zod gives his trademark death stare but is truly impressive at humanizing Zod and persuading the audience that his character should not be reduced to a mere psychopath.
Producer Christopher Nolan brings a tonal cohesiveness to the recent DC Comic film adaptations. However this means that “Steel” inherits a lot of the same critiques as Nolan’s Batman movies. Like “The Dark Knight Rises,” the movie becomes very bleak, and many lives are lost.
Snyder’s direction seems to balance Nolan’s dark tendencies.Some scenes bring the audience to tears while others are more fun. As for the rumors that “Man of Steel” is the big stepping-stone in the tumultuous road to a Justice League movie, the film mostly disappoints as it is very much a standalone film. There is no mention of any other aspects of the DC world, like Batman or Gotham City, and there is not much grounding for a sequel.
Still, a long future for Cavill as Superman seems very likely. “Man of Steel” is a strong enough film to leave audiences buzzing until the next installment.
Marcus Jones is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected].