Man of Steel takes The Dark Knight approach to the Superman franchise. First and foremost the title: like The Dark Knight it takes a more low-key nickname instead of the character’s official name. In terms of production director Zack Snyder takes a lot of cues from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy like skipping opening credits and showing the title of the movie at the end instead of the beginning. Dark Knight Trilogy writer David S. Goyer has also written the script for Man of Steel and puts a level of realism and gritty atmosphere to the story. Long gone are the days of the bright red and blue spandex of Christopher Reeve.
Everything is re-envisioned. From the way Krypton looks to the motivations of the bad guy: General Zod (Michael Shannon). The suit Superman wears isn’t spandex anymore, but rather a Kryptonian armor. Lois Lane is still a reporter but her relationship with the Man of Steel isn’t as cute as the one in the Richard Donner movies. When we meet Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill, he resembles Wolverine from the first X-Men movie. Alone, unshaven, working a blue collar job as a fisherman. He has his powers, and does good with them whenever necessary but he doesn’t fit in. Through flashbacks we see parts of his youth which was troublesome. His powers were overwhelming and he can’t expose them to the other kids. His father even sacrifices himself at one point just so Clark wouldn’t have to expose himself in front of friends and family.
When General Zod and his men enter Earth’s atmosphere the whole world’s made known of the fact that there is alien life and that one of them has been living amongst them for a very neat Christian 33 years. Clark Kent/Kal El/Superman is forced to expose himself in order to save the planet.
Man of Steel is at its most interesting when the movie revolves around Clark’s youth and the desolate path he’s walking as a young adult. I liked the low key approach of the guy being virtually indestructible working on a trawler. This fleshes him out quite well, but still doesn’t completely hide the fact that Superman is a pretty boring character. He’s basically indestructible and once the secret is out of the box he becomes this guy who has the possibility to change world politics but declares himself neutral. At one point high ranking army officials express their concern of his loyalties to the U.S. at which point he states that he has been an American all of his life. Time for old Supes to bring some democracy to the Middle East!
Snyder interjects the storyline with more action scenes than the rather tedious Superman Lives while trying to make Clark Kent more fleshed out. He succeeds quite well in the first department as there are lot of moments where Clark has to use his powers to save the day, whether an oil rig is on fire or a school bus goes of a bridge. The finale between two super strong aliens on planet Earth generates a lot of impressive scenes full of destruction of public and private property as well as human lives although the latter is never shown onscreen.
To date there have been six Superman movies and the only notable villains from those movies have been Lex Luthor and General Zod. When they first tried rebooting Superman with 2006’s Superman Lives they reused the character of Luthor, now it’s Zod again. In the next movie he’s going up against Batman, but what I do wonder is: aren’t there any other interesting Superman villains? Batman has a couple of dozen as does the entire Marvel universe, but somehow Superman’s only nemeses that matter seem to be Zod and Luthor.