Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s (a pretty impressive attempt at) Superman!


ENTERING the cinema, I was in a state of nervous anticipation. Superman Returns had left a bitter taste in my mouth. For those of you unfamiliar with the tragic 2006 attempt at Superman who was portrayed as a sort of emo, pacifist superhero who spends an inappropriate amount of time staring at Lois Lane through her bedroom window (did someone say stalker?!) and throws not a single punch the entire film, superhero fans were left feeling unfulfilled, to say the least.

Man of Steel certainly does not make the same mistakes. The action is present from the very beginning, with the fantastic Russell Crowe as Jor-El (Superman’s alien father) battling to secure the safety of his son as his home planet of Krypton crumbles around him.

The visuals are stunning, the action continuous; neither of which an aspect that falters throughout the entire film. The scene, towards the end, in which Superman must fight criminals from his home planet who, led by the brilliant Michael Shannon as General Zod, have come to drain Earth of its natural resources, epitomises the quality of both.

However, when the action inevitably slows, the story still fares pretty well. We see Clark Kent struggle as a boy to come to terms with his powers, while hiding them from the public for fear of persecution, all the while guided by the advice of his loving parents (played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane).

Henry Cavill plays a brilliant Superman who feels lost amongst a people who aren’t his own, playing the character with equal parts contemplation and confidence. Playing Nobel Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane, Amy Adams also does a superb job; giving the role a degree of feistiness and intelligence that certainly leaves the impression that she is a perfect match for the Last Son of Krypton.

Perhaps what’s best about this retelling of Superman is that it has realised that a successful reboot of Superman needs to stay modern.

Gone are the days where women were seen as so naive that a world-class reporter like Lois Lane couldn’t identify Superman if he wore hipster glasses, and gone are the days where it was acceptable to wear underwear on the outside of any outfit. Thus, gone are the pants, gone is the naivety, and we are left with a Superman story that stays modern without losing the qualities that made the character so great.

As well as this, the idea of a villain wanting world domination just for the sake of it doesn’t stand up anymore, and so we are left with the moral ambiguity of General Zod, who wishes to destroy Earth for the survival of his own people, giving the story a sort of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” sort of feel.

However, straying as far from the minimal-action Superman Returns does not always work in director Zach Snyder’s favour. The action at times feels overworked and drawn out, and, as Superman throws villains endlessly through buildings, you can’t help but wonder if he considers for a moment the human that lives inside. The final scene, especially, ends up feeling overdone and tiresome and as it reaches its climax, viewers are left longing for a little more story.

Overall however, Man of Steel stands up amongst the best of this year’s summer blockbusters, and I can’t help but get excited at the prospect of a sequel, though let’s hope that too much action and not enough plot doesn’t equal kryptonite for the reboot.