I’m a huge superhero fan, so when I saw the trailer for Man of Steel, I breathed a sigh of relief (because it looked flipping excellent) and then hoped that all the good bits hadn’t been dumped into the trailer.
I was not left disappointed.
When Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman in 2005, everyone was relieved – at last, the days of cheesy, over the top superhero films was over, in their place, new, darker, grittier retellings.
Man of Steel is to the Superman franchise what Batman Begins was to the Batman franchise.
Before Man of Steel, the last outing for Superman on the big screen was 2006’s Superman Returns, which was just a really horrible film. Before I saw it I didn’t realise it was possible to be bored during a superhero film, but I managed to be bored during Superman Returns, which was a cringeworthy production.
Thankfully Man of Steeltakes no lessons from Superman Returns – this is not just a superhero story, it’s an origin story. And it’s not just the origin story of Superman, it’s the origin story for Clark Kent, and for Kal-El, because it’s those two characters who come together to make Superman.
Krypton is dying, and military commander General Zod (a terrifying Michael Shannon) attempts to stage a coup. Scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe), whose wife has just had a boy, the first natural birth on Krypton for a century, is determined that part of his planet lives.
He sends Kal-El in a pod to earth, where he lands on a Kansas farm belonging to the Kentfamily, who take him in and raise him, keeping his powers secret.
So far, so familiar, and part of the beauty of Man of Steel is that it retains all the elements of the Superman tale we know and love, but just uses them in different ways.
We have plucky Lois Lane (Amy Adams), caring Martha Kent (Diane Lane), heroic Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), and of course, strong, honourable Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill).
As the man of steel, Cavill hits the right mix of confused young man searching for information about his past, honourable superhero determined to do the right thing, and cute love interest for Lois.
Granted, he doesn’t get to flex his acting muscles much – although other muscles are flexed. We see him topless within the first five minutes *fans self*. Cavill’s Superman is definitely the strong, silent type in Man of Steel, although he does get a few sarcastic quips in, and there’s something about him that makes you believe he’s Superman.
It’s Crowe and Costner, as Kal-El’s biological and adopted fathers, who get to show off how good they are as actors, and who have the most work to do, next to Shannon. Crowe is almost regal as Jor-El, while Costner’s Jonathan Kent is clearly the man Clark has modelled himself on.
Man of Steel doesn’t solve the problem of how no one recognises Clark Kent is Superman (he still just puts on some glasses at the end and fools everyone), and it’s just a little bit too heavy on the massive set piece action sequences for me, but it’s definitely a welcome addition to the franchise, and one that will make you forget the last attempt to translate Superman on to the big screen.