Back in 1978, moviegoers bustled into theatres, popcorn in hand, not knowing what to expect from Richard Donner’s Superman. A generation whose only real exposure to the live action superheroes was the campy Batman TV series, the general audience would have been probably expecting more of the same from the Big Blue Boy Scout. But as the lights dimmed, and the now familiar bars of horns played signalling the iconic Superman theme, the audience knew they were in for something special. Indeed, the original Superman kicked of the superhero genre that is now at its peak, with no signs of slowing down.
Fast forward 35 years, and in the wake of some less than stellar sequels, once again the audience is getting ready to view another Superman flick, not knowing whether they are in for another dud, or another moment in cinema history. Well, in the humble opinion of this movie fan, Nolan and Snyder have knocked it out of the park. Boy and how.
What Batman Begins was for Batman, Man of Steel does for Superman. Reinvigorating the franchise, and distancing itself from its predecessors, carving a new way forward with a Superman story for the modern masses.
While this is a superhero movie, this is also a tale of relationships, character arcs, and the moral journey taken by one man in his quest to find his reason for being. In the first 30 minutes alone, I could feel my emotions being taken on a roller-coaster ride, carried to heights of inspiration and brought down to the depths of loss. And this, for a large part, was due to Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent and Russel Crowe’s Jor-El. Both actors played their roles to perfection, the mentors to Clark as he struggled to find himself. Indeed the purity and selflessness of Kal-El owes a great deal to both patriarchal figures.
But don’t get me wrong. While there is great character development for the Last Son of Krypton, Snyder is not holding back when it comes to action and mayhem. Finally we are getting a Superman who can demonstrate the full extent of his abilities against foes strong enough to give him a challenge. Foes, in the form of Michael Shannon’s Zod, who genuinely believes what he does is for the greater good of his fellow Kryptonians. His relationship with Jor-El has been fleshed out for this incarnation, and gives us more of a sense of what is driving this warrior to make the decisions that he does. But even more merciless is Faora, her unwavering devotion to Zod, and lack of any morals made her an even more frightening adversary. The effects utilised in her fights truly captured the menace posed by a superbeing amongst humans.
Now one of the most memorable parts of the original Superman was the triumphant John William’s theme, with its pomp and fanfare that easily buried itself into your brain. So how does Zimmer’s new score match up? Well the score has taken a dramatic change, being very atmospheric and closely tied into the scenes it’s in. While it definitely does that job in carrying and invoking the emotions and intensity of the events unfolding on screen, I doubt you’ll find yourself humming it after the movie is over, but that seems to be the trend in movie scores these days, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
All said and done, the visual effects, the story, the acting and the music all come together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Man of Steel wholly lived up to my expectations, and if this is a sign of things to come, I can’t wait to see what’s next in line for the DC Universe.
After watching this movie, you will once again believe a man can fly 🙂
I give Man of Steel a 9 out of 10.