Well here it is at last, the most eagerly anticipated superhero film since Iron Man 3. Man of Steel has an awful lot riding on it. The revival of a stale film series (Superman Returns anyone?), the potential to spearhead a series of DC licensed films culminating in a Justice League film, or, 'doing a Marvel' as it should be called.
So, after a snowballing advertising campaign, it's finally time to spit out all of the hype and see if the film is any good.
It almost breaks my heart saying this but I was....disappointed in this film.
I think it's the best Superman film I've seen so far and quite possibly the best the film could be but the weaknesses of the film aren't belonging to the director, or cast, but to the character itself.
I was hoping, based on the trailers, that they would explore the emotional frailty of the character and present a new, Nolan/Goyer-esque unravelling of Kal El, to give him some emotional grounding. They don't really, there are several flashbacks to his youth and his difficulties growing up which provide many of the best scenes of the film but once he dons the famous cape and the action really starts, the film has nothing new to offer other than really, really good CGI and an epic scale which earlier film couldn't realistically create.
The cast is a varied bunch, Henry Cavill provides a physical presence and is actually very capable in the role. Amy Adams as Lois Lane, not so much. If she's a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, then I'm Vladimir Putin's favourite hunting rifle. Laurence Fishburne is really quite good in a small role as Perry White and Ayelet Zurer provides a nice evil henchwoman to the General Zod antagonist.
And whilst we're on the topic of General Zod, it must be mentioned that is a really, really good villain. His portrayal by Michael Shannon is intimidating, honest and nuanced in ways you wouldn't have expected it to be. His character is easily one of the more outstanding parts of the film. The other standout character for me is Kevin Costner, the 'earthly' father rather than the smug, superior Jor El (Russell Crowe). Costner's Johnathan Kent is the main reason the 'young Superman' scenes work so well, providing an honest and human voice.
But as I mentioned earlier, once the costume is on (no red pants on the outside anymore), the non-stop action really begins. It's visually stunning but lacks force or threat. It's like watching the fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith towards the end of Matrix Revolutions, in the sense that there's a lot of impressive effects, being thrown about the place and loads of collateral damage but very little honest threat or drama. Having these super being fight each other and throwing themselves hundreds of yards, or destroying buildings all over the place is very impressive to watch, but it just underwhelms in almost every other respect.
I think it's the weaknesses of the character that let me down, Superman is just not interesting. The secondary cast is interesting (Zod, father Kent, etc) but Superman himself, even when shown his moral turmoil as a youth, is just very one dimensional. There's none of the lovable rogue of Tony Stark, or the moral darkness of Batman. Even goody two shoes Captain America has an honest appeal to him, a humanity. But Superman isn't human and his powers are godly.
The other oddity about the film is the universe that's been created for other DC heroes to fill. There's other planets, super beings and absurd technologies. How's a hero like Batman (Nolan/Goyer Dark Knight type Batman) going to have any real impact in a world like that? The answer would be a re-introduction, a new actor, having the character reinvented into this universe with new toys, tricks and powers.
When leaving the cinema, we heard another patron say "The film would have been good if Joss Whedon had directed it."
Whilst harsh on the visual genius of Zack Synder, it does highlight just how Marvel still have a large advantage in the cinema stakes. Even Gods in the Marvel films have very human flaws, something that Superman for one finds hard to replicate.
Despite the last 500 words saying otherwise, I didn't dislike the film. I was just hoping for so much more. I was hoping that the film would bypass the flaws of the character and deliver an emotionally engaging Superman. Instead, you get an emotionally engaging young Clark Kent and then forty five minutes of CGI cities falling apart.
It's also painfully unfunny. Seriously. They try to put some jokes in there that are so flat, so badly timed. They'd be funny if Joss Whedon had directed it.