Man of Steel (12, 143 mins)
Director: Zack Snyder
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Man of Steel, the summer season’s most anticipated movie arrives on home video after a mixed reception in cinemas; loved as an action blast by some, despised as a betrayal of the Superman character by fans.
Henry Cavill dons the cape as Kal-El, the only survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, sent to earth as a baby by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe). Part origin story and part continuation of the mythology, it’s a smartly structured blend of Superman and Superman II that flashes to Kal’s childhood, filling us in on adoptive parents, the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) who bring him up as Clark.
It’s this that gives the film a real emotional depth, as Clark struggles with who he is, coming to terms with his powers in a film about choices and decisions on a massive scale.
Steeped in the classic Superman iconography, though slightly overplaying Kal-El’s status as a god among men, Man of Steel is respectful to its cinematic predecessors without the need for the suffocating reverence that blighted Superman Returns.
The serious threat that forms the comic-book conflict of the second half comes from General Zod (Michael Shannon), who
was banished from Krypton and has made it to earth with plans of
resurrecting his planet at the expense of ours. A properly menacing
Shannon facing off against the perfectly cast Cavill is the backbone of a
rousing adventure, while Amy Adams adds layers of strength and
intelligence as Lois Lane.
The action is truly cataclysmic, fully recognising the fact that these are near indestructible super-beings fighting, so when they hit each other, they stay hit, and entire cities crumble in their wake. It’s stunning stuff, with director Zack Snyder gleefully taking advantage of the $200m worth of resources available to him, even if the third act does go on forever and threatens to become repetitive before too long.
On second viewing the narrative flimflam at play is more obvious, and Snyder’s aesthetic can grate, but memories of the disappointing Superman Returns are wiped clean, and there are more than enough great moments to make the upcoming Supes/Batman crossover one to look forward to.
Blu-ray: On every level this is a stunning presentation, with pin-sharp visuals allied to rattling audio. It’s a shame the extras are a little on the thin side, with a couple of behind the scenes featurettes not really digging deep enough to add lasting value to the package.