Man of Steel‘s director, Zack Synder, has had some critical setbacks with his earlier movies. Despite the commercial breakthroughs of 2007’s 300 and 2009’s Watchmen, the 47-year old filmmaker had trouble finding a way to evoke his interest in sci-fi thrillers and make it into a compelling and visceral cinematic experience. As a result, he made 2010’s underwhelming Owls of Gahoole and 2011’s vapid Sucker Punch. However, after talks of a Superman reboot in 2008, Synder found his way back in the movie industry with a sense of optimism, ethos, and stability, after he collaborated with The Dark Knight trilogy director Christopher Nolan. Together, they’ve formulated what would become one of this summer’s most highly anticipated blockbusters, Man of Steel.
I wish that Synder had only put more thought into Man of Steel because, to be honest, it has the potential to be much more captivating and thought-provoking than it was made to be. Looking back on the 2 and 1/2 hour movie, Man of Steel is weakened by its wooden script, underdeveloped plot points, and overlong action sequences. In addition, Man of Steel doesn’t really feel any different from any other generic superhero film. But nevertheless, it’s filled with rich visual effects and an impressive ensemble cast. In the starring role of the titular character, actor Henry Cavill looks the part of Clark Kent/Superman, but sometimes it feels as though there’s some emptiness within his character. Furthermore, Amy Adams does an adequate job of portraying love interest Lois Lane, as does Kevin Costner playing Clark’s adoptive father and Russell Crowe playing Clark’s biological father, Jor-El. The subplot between both fathers and their superhuman son is surprisingly one of the high points of Man of Steel, as it exhibits a emotionally gratifying depiction of Superman’s origin story. Though, this is slightly ironic, considering that this subplot is much more palpable than the action sequences and that Synder usually focuses more on the on-screen fighting in his films. Regardless of the occasional over-the-top action, Man of Steel maintains the emotional aspect of a great superhero film.
Still, there are a few drawbacks from Man of Steel, including the stilted portrayal of main villain General Zod by actor Michael Shannon. Although Zod is a classic character from the original Christopher Reeve Superman films, Shannon’s performance isn’t as gripping nor as authentic as one would expect. The awkward screenwriting makes Zod’s character even more unrealistic. In addition to Shannon’s underwhelming Zod, the lengthy battle between him and Superman drags on way too long during the climax of Man of Steel. Another disadvantage from the million-dollar budgeted film was the mediocre chemistry between Cavill’s Superman and Adams’ Lois Lane. Both actors are genuinely attractive people, but when paired together, they don’t really capture the essence of the titillating relationship between Kent and Lane in previous Superman films. However, that’s not to say that they could continue a very interesting relationship in Man of Steel‘s sequel.
Man of Steel isn’t a Dark Knight, but thankfully nor is it a Green Lantern; it’s somewhere in between. Despite its five year process, Man of Steel‘s plot, writing, and acting could still use some work. However, needless to say, the visual grandeur and thematic material is undoubtedly outstanding and well-thought out. Luckily, Man of Steel has already achieved commercial triumph nationwide, but hopefully its sequel will have better critical success.