This weekend saw the release of one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. It’s another superhero origins film and while it’s no Batman Begins, Man of Steel is a fairly satisfying reboot. I left the theater more excited about the potential of a follow-up than I did about what I just saw, but nonetheless, it is a very solid superhero flick. The filmmakers were faced with a unique challenge in creating a new Superman movie and for the most part, they don’t disappoint. The film seems to be influenced more by Nolan than Snyder: The tone is darker than the Superman we are used to and it takes itself very seriously. There is also a noticeable lack of the comic book campiness that is present in Snyder’s previous works. It isn’t quite on the same level as any of the installments in the Dark Knight trilogy, which every new superhero film seems to be measured against. Still, we’re being bombarded by superheroes in the box office right now and Snyder’s film has a unique flavor to it that I’d like to see more of.
One of the biggest disappointments of the movie is the lack of a palpable sense of evil. Nolan’s The Dark Knight captured such menace perfectly, but there is a saddening lack of such threatening villainy here. Michael Shannon plays the main antagonist, General Zod, with passion (and lots of shouting), but he doesn’t achieve the power of his best performances. Villains aside, the cast does well. Amy Adams is convincing as a more involved Lois Lane, Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner both turn in decent work as the hero’s fathers, and Diane Lane is well-cast as Clark’s mother. Of course, the most important role of the film is that of Superman and fortunately, Cavill is convincing.
Though it might not be a great film, there are plenty of moments that are thoroughly enjoyable. My favorite aspect of Man of Steel is that it breaks away from the genre formula that Marvel has been recycling in recent years. Non-linear storytelling, less jokes, and a darker color palette may put off some, but each contributes to an attempt at originality which deserves to be appreciated on the big screen. While it won’t become a classic like Richard Donner’s version has, Man of Steel may turn out to be an admirable start to a potentially fantastic series of Superman films.