Cinema Reviews

Man of Steel

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

The latest incarnation of Superman sees Warner Bros recruit two of their star directors in an attempt to revitalise the character after the huge success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

In a sense, this was to be to Superman what Batman Begins (2005) was to the other DC Comics superhero. The relative failure of the previous reboot, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006), led the studio to the key players behind Batman’s recent success: writer-director Christopher Nolan and co-writer David Goyer.

They in turn recruited Zack Snyder to direct and assist them with bringing a fresh angle to the material and whilst some of the approach is interesting, the end result ultimately becomes an indigestible dish of CGI-fuelled set pieces.

Although Singer’s vision was criticised for being too respectful to Richard Donner’s 1978 film (it was an ‘unofficial sequel’), Man of Steel opens with the destruction of Superman’s home planet Krypton as his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends him to Earth.

Then it takes a slightly different take by exploring Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) in flashback as he learns of his real identity and has to defend himself from a sceptical Earth and the evil General Zod (Michael Shannon), whilst dealing with intrepid reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

To their credit the filmmakers have tried to establish a new universe for this iconic character: Alex McDowell’s production design is a striking mix of Dune (1984) and Alien (1979), the main actors perform well in their roles (quite a feat given some of the dialogue) and there are some nice touches put in for the fans.

Perhaps the most radical and refreshing of all is Hans Zimmer’s score, which jettisons the famous John Williams one and brings a more sombre feeling to the action on-screen.

But despite the presence of Nolan as producer, this DC adaptation fails where Batman Begins (2005) largely succeeded.

With the Batman origin film Nolan managed to convey the struggles that inspired Batman, but here Snyder squeezes way too much story into the mix.

The most interesting parts of the film are when the younger Clark is struggling to cope with his powers but he (and presumably the studio) couldn’t resist the temptation to wreak digital carnage on the screen.

For the first two-thirds of the film this just about works but when the climax begins the battle between Superman’s allies and Zod’s army becomes almost incoherent. Snyder’s sickly, desaturated visuals and shaky, handheld camera work also don’t help.

The visuals of skyscrapers collapsing during the Metropolis sequence also feel like a cheap reference to 9/11 and a way to darken up the material.

At times it feels as if this film was directed by game controller, with Superman and Zod smashing through buildings and leaving a mass of destruction in their wake. Perhaps if two characters with those powers did fight then they would cause mass destruction, but the way it is done here is pure overkill.

Superman has always been a problematic character, with his almost invincibility and lack of worthy villains (Zod excepted) making him less interesting than Batman or some of the Marvel characters (Iron Man, Hulk, X-Men etc).

Although the attempt to dig in to his Krypton heritage is welcome, ultimately it isn’t enough with the film descending into a swamp of CGI when the focus shifts to Earth and specifically Metropolis.

Perhaps someone will one day do for Superman what Nolan’s films did for the Batman character.

But when Nolan himself is part of the team behind this attempt, one wonders if Hollywood is just beating a dead horse.

> Official site
> Reviews for Man of Steel at Metacritic

Images In Production

First image of Henry Cavill as Superman

Warner Bros. have released the first image of Henry Cavill as Superman in the upcoming film version Man of Steel.

Here is a close-up version:

The film is directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, with a release date scheduled for June 2013.

> Man of Steel at the IMDb
> Henry Cavill at Wikipedia


Henry Cavill cast as Superman

British actor Henry Cavill has been cast as Clark Kent / Superman in the upcoming film Superman: Man of Steel.

The 2012 film will be directed by Zack Snyder, who has said:

“In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time, and I am honored to be a part of his return to the big screen. I also join Warner Bros., Legendary and the producers in saying how excited we are about the casting of Henry. He is the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield.”

It will be produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Deborah Snyder, with a screenplay by David S. Goyer based on a story by Goyer and Nolan.

But the big question on many people’s lips right now is: ‘who is Henry Cavill’?

Born in 1983, he is a British actor who has appeared in supporting roles in films such as The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), I Capture the Castle (2003), Tristan and Isolde (2006) and Stardust (2007).

Here he is as Albert Modego in The Count of Monte Cristo:

However, it was the role of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, in the Showtime series The Tudors (2007-10) which got him serious attention.

Previously he was considered for what eventually became Superman Returns (2004) but Bryan Singer replaced McG as director and cast Brandon Routh as the lead instead.

In 2005, he was also up for the role of James Bond in Casino Royale (2006), even performing a screentest, but the producers decided he was too young for the part, which they gave to Daniel Craig.

Because of these setbacks, December 2005 Empire him dubbed “the most unlucky man in Hollywood”.

Aside from the trend of casting relative unknowns in the role (Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh), it also bears the hallmarks of Batman Begins (2005) as Warner Bros and the same producers have gone with a younger British actor.

Superman: Man of Steel is scheduled for release in December 2012.

> Deadline report on the casting of Henry Cavill
> Henry Cavill at the IMDb
> More on Superman: Man of Steel at Wikipedia