Cinematic Flashback: Man of Steel (2013) Review
You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders as Jason’s Movie Blog revisits Zack Snyder’s 2013 superhero film for a “cinematic flashback” look at Man of Steel.
MAN OF STEEL
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane
Run Time: 143 Minutes
Release Date: June 14th, 2013
Kal-El (Henry Cavill), son of Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer), is sent to Earth after his home planet of Krypton is destroyed. Found a Midwest farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, the couple raised the alien boy as their own; teaching him to hide his powers from a world that won’t be able to fathom what he is capable of doing. Years later, taking the name of Clark Kent, the young man soon his true persona when he is guided to become Superman: A hero committed to protect Earth’s fate and the harm that threatens it. However, General Zod (Michael Shannon) , a former citizen of Krypton and its military leader, looks at Earth’s fate differently and decides to use it with a sacrifice for all humans. Superman, with the help of present military and news reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) makes an alliance together to stop Zod from obliterating human existence.
I haven’t done a cinematic flashback in a while. With the upcoming release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I decided to do a cinematic flashback review for Man of Steel, the first film in the DCEU. After the bland and “meh” thoughts after watching the disappointing 2006 Superman Returns, I was originally a little bit skeptical to find that Warner Bros. was going to do another Superman movie. However, with the promise of a new actor as Superman and more of an origin tale (rather than continuing with 2006 version….as was originally intended), I was bit intrigued to see what the 2013 Superman feature was going to be about. Plus, I had heard that it was being done by Zack Snyder, who had made quite a name for himself ever since 300. So, I remember seeing Man of Steel back when it originally came out during the summer of 2013. I hadn’t had the chance to revisit the movie of late. So, with the anticipation building for the new director’s cut version of Justice League, I found myself revisiting the 2013 film. And was it still good? Well, actually yes and I still enjoy watching Man of Steel; exactly how I remembered it.
As mentioned, Man of Steel is directed by Zack Snyder, who had previously worked on several hits from Warner Bros. Studios around that time, including 300, Watchmen, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Given the success of those films, Snyder was primed to tackle a superhero film and, despite a few grumbles, did a good job; establishing his iteration of Superman within the cinematic world with plenty of entertainment and action sequences abound. Plus, the film’s story was crafted by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan; lending creative writing weight to the feature and certainly shows that within the movie’s narrative. In truth, Man of Steel’s story is (to me) very well-made and shows depths within many different facets by expanding certain key events such as Zod and Krypton itself and showing more time with Clark growing up as a youth. It definitely makes the story more well-rounded and adds that extra layer to Man of Steel.
Plus, I’ve heard many fans, critics, and moviegoers debate this movie, but the one thing that most of the people I talked to about this movie was in the way that Snyder decided to upon Man of Steel with a terrific opening sequence. It really jumps at you and gets you quite engaged for the film’s first 10-15 minutes. I mean…. the birth of Kal-El, Zod’s insurrection, the departure of Kal-El, the destruction of Krypton….wow!
Even the film’s presentation is great and delivers quite a visual spectacle that is worthy of any blockbuster out there. Everything about the technical presentation from the film’s production, set decorations, costumes, cinematography, and editing is all tightly woven together and creates a very immersive film with all of its superhero nuances. This is made even more apparent with the CGI wizardry that the movie utilizes and creates a lot of excitement visual looks throughout, especially when focusing on Superman’s powers and / or depicting Krypton technology (i.e. Zod’s ship, the World Engine, and Krypton itself). Plus, I can not forget talking about Hans Zimmer’s awesome score for Man of Steel. It delivers on all fronts and creates several memorable musical moments throughout the film, with some been loud and bombastic to others being quieter and more heroic.
That’s not to say that the movie has problems and Man of Steel isn’t quite the quintessential superhero movie that it strives to be. First, the film’s pacing is quite off. Despite the opening action salvo piece on Krypton, the rest of the first and almost the entire second act slows down; offering more moments of character / narrative interaction rather than splicing action bits. There are a few, but not nearly as much. Perhaps Snyder believed that the film’s ending would benefit it from that, which leads me to the other big criticism in Man of Steel….the excessive destruction. Yes, the movie is quite intense within its action, but the entire third act just keeps on and on with its action and causing mayhem and destruction throughout. It all gets quite repetitive and I felt like I was watching a Roland Emmerich movie rather than a Zack Snyder one. The movie could’ve benefited from being trimmed down during this portion for a leaner cut of the film (like 10 or 15 minutes shorter).
The cast in Man of Steel is solid with almost every actor and actress giving great performances across the board. Of course, Henry Cavill is superb as the titular character in the film and makes for quite a convincing Kal-El / Clark Kent. Naturally, the character isn’t the most developed character beyond his initial setup and his character dialogue is kept for quite the minimal, especially in comparison to other past iterations of Superman of yesteryear. Thankfully, Cavill is up for the task and certainly embodies the role within a physical manner. The overall look of him as Superman is fantastic and the special effects that they use to capture his unique powers is a visual feast for the eyes. All in all, Cavill does pull off a memorable portrayal of Superman….hands down.
Similarly, Amy Adams gives a fine performance as Louis Lane. As the famous love interest character to Superman, Adams gives off a great portrayal of Louis and seems much more of a capable / compelling character in the role rather than the stock-like “damsel-in-distress”. Plus, seeing Cavill and Adams together on-screen is sublime as I could easily buy into their chemistry. As a-side note, I liked how the movie establish that Lois (as a character) knows of Superman’s identity the film’s ending rather than her never really knowing that much between Clark / Superman (despite the uncanny resemblance).
In the villian category, Michael Shannon is terrific as the main antagonist General Zod. Shannon knows how to play the villian role and really sinks his teeth into playing Zod as an almost megalomanic zealot who is hellbent on seeing his plans through…no matter the cost. In truth, Zod’s machinations for relatable and almost have just reasoning behind them, despite the fact that he takes the more vile and cruel way in handling the situation. No matter what they say about this movie (whether good or bad), no one can deny that Shannon makes for such a memorable and fun villian as General Zod.
Even supporting players such as Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Diane Lane are great as Kal-El’s / Clark’s parental figures in his life (i.e., Jor-El and Johnathan and Martha Kent), with the three acting talents lending their seasoned theatrical weight in their supporting roles. As a side-note, I thought that Antje Traue was a great side-villian in the role of Zod’s sub-commander Faora-Ul.
The legacy of Man of Steel has certainly been a prompt one for the DC Comics fans out there. While it may not beat out Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy as everyone’s fan-favorite, one can not simply deny the fact it was a pretty good movie and was probably a bit more throughout than other superhero movies of the era (i.e., characters, story, acting, world-building, etc.). Plus, the success of the movie cemented Snyder’s vision for the coming of the DCEU; launching a cinematic superhero universe that, while fumbling down its path, has brought us some entertaining endeavors with most notable release of 2017’s Wonder Woman and 2018’s Aquaman.
Overall, after revisiting the movie, I still very much like 2013’s Man of Steel. It’s a fun Superman movie that delivers something quite interesting and entertaining to watch. While the film does stumble its some of its undertaking, those faults can be still overlooked thanks to the film’s cast, some great visuals, Zimmer’s solid score, firm story, and Snyder’s directing. With the upcoming release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League set to debut on HBO Max, it still remains unclear if Snyder himself will continue his director’s path with the DCEU and with a possible Man of Steel 2 or even a Justice League 2. I guess only time will tell. Regardless, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is a large visual blockbuster adventure that I think deserves as much praise as it much as viewer’s point out the film’s flaws. Whatever your stance on the film is…. Man of Steel soars more than it falls.
Cinematic Flashback Score: 4.3 Out of 5
Fun Fact: The Kryptonian ship had one pod left open before Clark entered. It was revealed, in a promotional comic book for the film, that the ship was once occupied by Clark’s cousin Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl), possibly indicating her appearance in a forthcoming installment.