Superman may be the most well known superhero and among the most revered in comic-book culture, but putting that awesomeness into film has proven to be a much more difficult venture. I always found the Superman movies in the past to be pretty lame. It’s hard to put together a great film around a guy who is invincible. “Man of Steel” was the best job any director could muster in trying to break through the crowd of superhero hero movies with a successful superman flick, but it couldn’t quite break the barrier warranting high marks.
Being produced by Christopher Nolan, the guy who put together the incredible Batman trilogy of the Dark Knight, automatically gave this heavily advertised adaption high expectations. And for the flaws of past Superman movies, “Man of Steel” corrects them in good pace. This is the first Superman film to bring us to Krypton and show the story of Krypton tied with Earth and Clark, the best performances of the film coming from the parents and the villain in the opening sequences.
The enormous obstacles of showing Clark’s journey to Earth and childhood were cleverly introduced through relevant flashbacks explaining how difficult it was for Clark to fit in on Earth, and how his Earth parents shaped him, which shapes the direction of story. I feared the obvious Kryptonite weakness making an appearance, because it’s a boring conflict point, but I’m glad the “Man of Steel” was given wordly foes that actually made the action sequences entertaining. The immense budget of the film means its CGI action sequences and visuals are on par with some of the best in the genre, which was also a huge falling point in the past.
Being tied to Christopher Nolan, I expected “Man of Steel” to draw a more interesting grand morale for superman in a darker tone, which indeed it did, yet there was a lack of sorely needed comic relief or tangible emotion. The jokes made by characters were cheap, and the times when it was laugh out loud funny was not by the intent of the director. Henry Cavill does a good Superman, but aside from him his Krypton parents, there is a lack of noteworthy performances to merit much praise.
What made The Dark Knight so brilliant was that although Batman was this amazing altruistic hero, his fight was localized and not stepping into over escalated consequences like the fate of the Earth. Because Superman is nearly invincible, his journey drawing human relevance is limited and his fights are always either going to be grandiose attempts to save the world with predictable points of conflict, or the typical “save the people from the collapsing bridge” scenario. Both of these plotlines will be exhausted quickly.
Maybe “Man of Steel” is just the first in a planned trilogy, and like “Batman Begins”, it will be the weak link of the series because of introductory necessities. The unanswered missing pieces of Superman were filled in well to complete a story, but they will need to rely on more than just a bloated special effects budget and hero recognition to compete with the likes of the Avengers or the Dark Knight monopolies on superhero entertainment. It wouldn’t hurt to hire a comedian or two for the writers room either.