Critics review: Man of Steel doesn't soar very high

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Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner
Director: Zack Snyder
Plot summary: A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

He may be the great and original saviour of Earth, but Zack Snyder's Superman fails to fly very high and swoop the critics. The caped superhero (who has let go of the red underwear this time, incidentally) has the steely looks, combined with a dark past and the misunderstood intentions; all the ingredients required for the classic superhero in today's times. However, it seems like the long wait of seven years since the last Superman flick (Bryan Singer's Superman Returns), might just not be worth it after all.

The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw of is of the opinion that this story "doesn't quite have the wit of Joss Whedon's assembly of Avengers, nor the gothic seriousness of Nolan's Dark Knight, and the all-important romantic spark with Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, sadly isn't there. There's naturally a lot of swooping and flying: compulsory for 3D films."

Scott Foundas of Variety, too finds the film perhaps a little too dark for his liking. "So far, so gloomy, with little of the genuine wonderment the very name “Superman” calls to mind. Blessed with the most classically chiseled jawline of any actor who’s yet donned the red cape, Cavill is also the most dour and brooding, lacking even the sardonic self-amusement of Christian Bale in Bruce Wayne mode — and he appears to have been directed to be exactly this way. Like its lead, Snyder’s entire movie seems afraid to crack a smile."

It was clear right from the very start that Man of Steel would have too many benchmarks to cross. Not only would it have to fill AND surpass the Christopher Reeve-starrer original Supermans, it would also have to clear the checkposts set by Zack Snyder (300 creator) and Christopher Nolan (of Batman and Inception fame). Not to mention that Man of Steel is possibly among the very last entrants into a reigning decade of comic superheroes.

And the fact that two of Nolan's huge allies with his Batman series, comic script-adapter David S. Goyer and soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer are in on this project only have only raised the bar.

Unfortunately, the burden seems to have weighed in and the film seems to be struggling to hold its own, although it's early to say whether the weight will send it crashing down.


Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter corroborates this, "Zack Snyder’s huge, backstory-heavy extravaganza is a rehab job that perhaps didn’t cry out to be done but proves so overwhelmingly insistent in its size and strength that it’s hard not to give in. Warner Bros.’ new tentpole should remain firmly planted around the world for much of the summer."

"With Christopher Nolan’s mammoth Batman trilogy having wrapped up last year, the quick return of the other great DC comic hero was inevitable, even if the last attempt, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006), only lasted one lap. Nolan’s involvement here as a producer and co-story writer with David S. Goyer, his collaborator on all three Batman films, will encourage fans to look closely for his fingerprints, and a first impression might suggest his hand in deepening the hero’s roots to such a serious extent and insisting upon using Hans Zimmer to compose the score. Working in a somewhat lower key than was his norm for Nolan, Zimmer still provides the musical grandeur and sense of portent that lends the film an extra dimension," he adds.

SupermanRichard Corliss of Time writes, "Man of Steel is a half-great movie — meaning the first half. Then it collapses into a familiar fight-and-destruction scenario, as Kryptonian bad guy Zod journeys to Earth and confronts Kal-El/Clark for the same sort of small-town showdown that Thor and Loki engaged in two summers ago in a Marvel epic."

However, Rolling Stones critic Peter Travers is all praise for Henry Cavill. "This is all to the good, especially for Henry Cavill, the British actor who wisely takes on the role as if it's never been played before...It's the banked fires he brings to Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent, that make his performance such a potent surprise. Cavill, square-jawed with a hip sense of alienation, doesn't let the suit act for him. Hell, he doesn't put it on till halfway into the movie. This Clark is a loner, an alien from the planet Krypton, raised on the Kansas farm of the Kents – Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane, finding depth where there isn't any)."

Man of Steel is dark, perhaps a little too dark for many a critic. But it seems like it's the many expectations that the film has to live up to rather than its own inability to please its audience that leaves this Superman film staggering. And it certainly has its moments that make this crusade caper worth a watch, especially if you're a comic hero junkie. As the 'S' on his chest symbolises, there's still hope.


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