“Man of Steel” is a very good movie, but there’s a bigger question. Is it a good Superman movie?
One of America’s iconic comic book heroes has a strong outing here, and the movie does many things right.
First off, the casting is impeccable. Henry Cavill spends more time being Kal-El – his original Kryptonian name – and Clark Kent, the boy from Kansas, than he does Superman. Amy Adams plays a Lois Lane that is capable of more than being a simple damsel in distress. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane excel as the Kent family. Russell Crowe impresses mightily in the role of Jor-El.
Michael Shannon plays an intense General Zod, and he does it well. It would have been easy to make him some sort of cosmic racist and be done with it, but Shannon’s acting and some solid writing add more depth to the character. He’s still the bad guy, of course.
“Man of Steel” also does a good job separating itself from other comic book movies. The movie never forgets that Superman is an alien, not of this world, and vastly different from the like of Batman or Captain America, who are simply extraordinary humans.
The action also serves as a reminder of how alien Superman is. Superman and his foes, who are also from Krypton, punch, kick and fly into each other with force. No gadgets or Iron Man-esque acrobatics are to be found here. For the most part, Zach Snyder handles this action well.
On the other hand, one begins to wonder how much property damage Superman is willing to cause. By the time the fighting is over, much of the city is gray and smoldering rubble.
And therein lies the main weakness in “Man of Steel.” The movie is as cold as steel. There’s very little brightness in a movie that is about a character that has traditionally worn a bright red cape and underpants. The doom-and-gloom approach worked wonders for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, but feels wrong for Metropolis.
“Man of Steel” is solid, entertaining sci-fi action, but it might not be the most super film possible.