Much in the way Bryan Singer practiced with “Superman Returns,” director Zack Snyder displays amazing restraint and subtlety with his version of Superman. Which is surprising considering Zack Snyder is hardly ever about subtlety. This is the man behind the loud and sophomoric “Sucker Punch” and “Dawn of the Dead” after all. But with “Watchmen,” Snyder proved he could disassemble the superhero mythology and completely lands his masterpiece with his iteration of Superman. “Man of Steel” garners a ton of heart and soul, with a tale of Clark Kent’s journey for a sense of purpose and belonging in a home world that’s not his own.
Director Snyder provides us with a cliff notes glimpse of Krypton and then explores how Clark Kent was built to as a being with two sets of parents, both of whom embodied nobility and morality. Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer are enormous as the birth parents of Clark Kent, who sacrificed everything to ensure their son’s safety. Snyder jumps immediately in to Clark as a grown man who spends his time taking odd jobs and looking for a calling that could grant him an ideal purpose for helping people. After revealing himself during a fishing expedition in order to save a group of oil rig workers caught in a fire, Clark travels to various towns and always finds himself playing the hero for someone in need. Snyder and writer David Goyer jump back and forth between Clark’s life, exploring how he became the man he is, and why he’s spent many years on the road looking for some sense of purpose.
The moments with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark’s adopted mother and father are compelling, with Costner providing a very heartfelt portrayal as a man struggling to keep his son safe, while teaching him the meaning of right and wrong. Costner is wonderful in conveying a man who loves his adopted son dearly, but is incapable of comprehending Clark’s growing abilities that could prove to hurt someone if triggered. Snyder also delves in to the moral conflicts in concealing Clark’s powers, especially when Clark pretty much reveals himself in order to save a school bus filled with classmates. This causes an argument between Clark and his dad, to where Clark ponders if keeping his powers a secret is worth human lives.
“Man of Steel” is a reboot and a prequel, where we meet Clark at a crossroads who is given a purpose, finally, when he learns about his past thanks to his discovery of his Fortress of Solitude. Through this ordeal, he realizes he can implement his burdensome abilities to help mankind. Especially when the evil despot General Zod begins invading Earth, intent on seizing Clark and acquiring the Codex, a genetic program that could restart the Kryptonian race, once and for all. Sacrificing himself, Clark confronts Zod and his soldiers, and battles to save the world. Snyder and Goyer change the mythology of Superman to certain degrees, which allow for a different glimpse at the hero, and offering more windows for more movies down the road. The finer additions of Laurence Fishburne as Perry White is a radical but welcome change of pace, while Amy Adams is fantastic as Lois Lane, the wide eyed and bold reporter who takes it upon herself to help save the world.
Michael Shannon is a wonderful contrast to the heroes in the film providing a menacing and creepy performance as Zod whose own intentions are noble only to him and his Kryptonian allies that want to create a basic holocaust on Earth to rebuild their own home world. Henry Cavill is enormous as Superman, offering a homegrown charm, and pure charismatic performance that make him the perfect successor to Christopher Reeve. Snyder gives fans and general audiences a chance to revel in everything Superman is capable of, as writer Goyer cultivates the man and the hero, while leading in to the complete birth of Superman who is forced in to his first life changing battle for mankind. “Man of Steel” left me wanting so much more and is an incredible beginning to what I hope is a trilogy.