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Man of Steel - DVD Review

Man of Steel

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ZACK Snyder may have been a polarising choice as director of Superman reboot Man of Steel but his best film arguably remains another comic book adaptation, Watchmen.

The fact that he also has the creative forces behind one of the very best comic book incarnations, Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer of The Dark Knight trilogy, in his corner only served to heighten the possibility of seeing something special.

Alas, Man of Steel can’t quite manage to hit the heights it so obviously aspires to. It’s good but seldom achieves greatness. And its Kryptonite could quite possibly be its over-adherence to special effects based carnage.

On the plus side, it does re-invent quite well while cleverly and sometimes humorously tipping its hat to past incarnations (an early scene in a diner recalls a similar encounter in Superman 2 while the final scene delivers the Clark Kent incarnation we’ve become accustomed to, albeit subverting it at the same time).

The decision to tell Kent’s own story via flashbacks also works fairly well, managing to combine an origins dynamic with elements of a second or third film in a series.

And there are some great performances, starting with Henry Cavill in the lead role of Kent/Kal-El and extending to Michael Shannon’s General Zod, Amy Adams’s Lois Lane and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent.

But in aiming to be consistently big, Man of Steel sometimes underwhelms. An opening, establishing segment on the planet Krypton is largely uninvolving and indicative of the worst excesses of special effects.

While the final showdown between Kal-El and Zod bludgeons viewers with one effects heavy smackdown after another, often reminding of the worst elements of The Matrix trilogy.

It’s here too that Man of Steel once more like it’s conforming to the need for wanton building destruction on a par with The Avengers and Transformers 3, irrespective of the collateral damage (ie, loss of human life) that this particular superhero is at pains to preserve.

But with these criticisms in mind, Snyder still ensures that there’s much to enjoy. And its ironically during the lesser moments that this Superman flies.

The darker tone is welcome and there’s a sombre feeling hanging over much of the build-up as Clark and his Earth father Jonathan (Costner) wrestle with his place in the world. The scenes involving Costner and Lane are particularly strong and affecting without the overkill sweetness of the Spider-Man universe, while Cavill deserves credit for credibly portraying a man who has come to realise that loneliness is his only real ally until the world is ready for his truth to be revealed.

Establishing acts of heroism are well handled, too, showcasing the complexity of Superman’s decision to reveal himself with suitably crowd-pleasing stylistic touches.

Similarly, the decision to tone down the romantic element is a bonus too, enabling Adams to create a very different, more contemporary Lois Lane who is as much Superman’s saviour as he is hers at times. Their relationship is nicely played, hinting at romance without ever really getting there.

And Shannon brings trademark menace to Zod, as well as a justifiable (if maniacal) cause, and is nicely supported by the eye-catching Antje Traue as his kick-ass second-in-command Faora-Ul.

Hence, while Man of Steel undoubtedly has some big flaws and can perhaps be accused of trying too hard, it’s also good enough to overcome them and prevail as a welcome return for this particular superhero character. What’s more, the prospect of sequels remains an enticing one.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 143mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: December 2, 2013