Perhaps the filmmakers don’t realize it, but “Man of Steel” has come out in a time when America needs someone like Superman. Over the past year, we’ve seen terrifying attack over terrifying attack, and we’ve seen normal, average people rise up and become heroes to those in need. “Man of Steel” is a film that reminds us what exactly makes heroism like that so inspiring. It brings back that sense of wonder and excitement from watching and reading about superheroes as a kid and shows us just what makes both them and today’s real heroes so incredible.
This is another retelling of Superman’s origins. Superman (Henry Cavill, “Immortals”) is sent from the dying planet Krypton to Earth in order to spread his ideals across the stars. After spending his early adult life trying to discover his origins, he catches the attention of General Zod (Michael Shannon, “Boardwalk Empire”), another Kryptonian who wishes to use Superman to bring the Kryptonian race back to glory on Earth. It’s up to Superman to overcome his limits and become the savior humanity needs.
The film is directed by Zack Snyder, who has a bit of a divisive reputation among critics and audiences. His previous films, such as “300” and “Watchmen,” reveled in over-the-top violence and stylized action while still presenting thought-provoking narratives. He and producer Christopher Nolan are known for their darker and edgier approaches to superhero and comic book adaptations. However, while Snyder’s trademark stylization remains intact (and used very impressively), the story is much more hopeful and inspiring.
Henry Cavill’s performance as Superman is simultaneously humble and confident. His performance is very human and empathetic, and when he rises to become the hero, we as an audience can connect with him and feel just as empowered and uplifted. In addition, Michael Shannon plays a very menacing Zod, always demanding the audience’s attention with every word and action he executes.
In addition, the worlds the filmmakers create are stunning. Krypton is like nothing sci-fi films have conjured before, being both flourishing and desolate without feeling generic. Zod’s Kryptonian fleet is almost reminiscent of the Reapers from the “Mass Effect” series in the sheer terror they can spark.
But there might be a little too much spectacle for some people. The movie, at least at the local Century 16, was incredibly loud, often to the point of being annoying. The huge computer-generated fight scenes and unnecessary 3-D effects have come to be expected from superhero movies, but the sound design and editing is enough to almost hurt some people’s ears. It seems like a nitpick, but it could be too much for some.
However, the focus is where it should be: on Superman. Unlike the tons of other superhero movies flooding theaters this summer, “Man of Steel” reminds us of why we love these heroes. They are flawed, but they can also be inspirational, and they serve to show us just what makes humanity strong. That is at the core of “Man of Steel,” and that is why the movie succeeds spectacularly.