Man Of Steel - Cinema Review

Initially, Snyder’s anti-pants policy seems a minor aesthetic choice; after watching his film, I now see it more as a metaphor for director’s entire creative outlook

Of all the changes Zack Snyder chose to make when he took control of cinematically rebooting DC Comics’ most iconic superhero, one of the most talked about prior to the film’s release was the decision not to include the infamous crimson briefs on the outside of Superman’s costume. Initially, Snyder’s anti-pants policy seems a minor aesthetic choice; after watching his film, I now see it more as a metaphor for director’s entire creative outlook for Man Of Steel. Snyder wants his Superman film to be taken incredibly seriously, and he won’t let anything get in the way of that.

What this means is we are left with a comic book adaptation almost entirely devoid of humour. You can count the jocular moments in Man Of Steel’s near two-and-a-half hour running time using just one hand. It’s a decision which makes this superhero origin story one of the dourest seen so far on the big screen, and means Snyder’s film at times is really quite a slog. Obviously Man Of Steel was never going to be an out-and-out comedy, and expecting Iron Man levels of laughs would be misguided, but even Bale’s po-faced Bruce Wayne had Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman to trade quips with throughout Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Receiving story and producer credits, Nolan’s touch can be seen here and there particularly during the film’s opening couple of acts. After the grandiose, CGI-heavy sci-fi of the Krypton-set prologue – influenced by everything from Avatar to The Matrix – the choice to focus on the Clark Kent and Kal-El sides of Henry Cavill’s tripartite character is a smart move. Clark/Kal’s troubled youth and early adulthood are dealt with in a satisfying melange of non-linear sequences and flashbacks, with the focus on the character’s humanity one of the film’s major strengths.

Superman as a persona is barely seen until the film’s final hour, which makes it all the more of a shame that Snyder doesn’t seem to know what to do with him once he does arrive. The director instead opts for overblown action replete with wanton destruction as Superman and General Zod (Michael Shannon) destroy building after building in a drawn-out Kryptonian brawl through Metropolis. Whilst Snyder doesn’t quite achieve Michael Bay levels of overkill, we’ve still seen this many times before, and it’s a shame the director couldn’t manage anything more original or stylish for his finale.

Man Of Steel ends up as a bit of a mess, albeit quite an enjoyable one. The plot has some holes which cannot be overlooked, and the character development outside of Superman himself is distinctly lacking. Clark/Kal’s two dads, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), suffer particularly by being reduced to a combination of expositional and emotional devices and – in the case of Crowe’s character – lazy deus ex machina. But the strong cast perform admirably, and Snyder’s film must be admired for its bravery in approaching one of the most potentially vanilla superheroes of all from a radical angle, even if it ultimately fails as often as it succeeds.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. I really enjoyed this film, I just think that you have to accept this is a fun film trying to be a little to serious. It was the one small problem of this film.

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    1. I think that was the main thing that hindered my enjoyment: it's a fun film with all the fun removed. The final act also fell back on generic overblown action too much for my liking. There's plenty to like here, just not nearly as much as I had hoped.