Director: Zach Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan
Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Antje Traue, Richard Schiff, Harry Lennix and Laurence Fishburne
Run Time: 143 minutes
Release Date: June 14th
Summer blockbuster season has been a little lax this year, a comedown from last year’s Avengers. We haven’t even had a movie as hyped as Prometheus was (though Star Trek came close, without being such a let down). But at last here is a tentpole to get excited about. Zach Snyder has blown Superman to an astounding scale.
Opening on Krypton we’re given a bit of uncertainty as to how the film will work out. Snyder messes around with the Krypton we all know, and while it doesn’t really screw up the key elements, this is a more alien world than it used to be. There’s also a little bit of altering characters. Jor’El (Crowe) is still the wise scientist, but now he also comes with a hefty serving of badassery as he tries to save Krypton’s future while simultaneously feeding out the first drops of exposition. It just about works, but some of the fans might take issue.
There’s an interesting balance between changing the formula just a little, and letting the audience’s familiarity with the classic story advance things. Snyder gets to leap forward quite a bit and skip the bits we already know.
A more tricky balance to find is that between the epic nature of Superman’s heritage, and the smaller tale of Clark Kent trying to find himself. Flashbacks to Clark’s childhood are used to colour his quest to find out who he is. It gets the message across, but it’s not always a smooth ride, and doesn’t imbue quite enough of an emotional connection to the characters. Snyder uses an awful lot of close detail shots of minor features of the surroundings. A technique done well in many other films (see Mud for great examples) but Snyder doesn’t quite seem to know how to work them. Not that it makes for a bad film, it just sometimes feel like a good film that keeps you aware of its running time.
That is, until General Zod shows up looking looking for Superman and threatening Earth.
Things kick into gear as Clark is forced not just to find himself, but to choose who he wants to be. From this, the physical conflict emerges. And it is epic.
For the first time we see what Superman in action really looks like. There are no physical barriers. Buildings, freight trains and explosions don’t get in the way. They simply disintegrate heavily as Superman faces off against Zod’s forces, and Zod himself. The combined forces of the US military are just distractions in a war between gods. And that’s just the opening skirmish.
As the conflict heightens the battles become more epic. Snyder tries to keep it somewhat grounded by showing us side scenes of humans in peril, but the peril features characters we haven’t really seen. One woman in danger we’re supposed to feel connected to, but the first time we hear either her voice or her name is as the rescue attempt for her begins.
But as the scale heightens, the humans must become involved. The invincible Superman is placed in real peril and yet sequences of mankind’s part in this war of gods can at times be more interesting that what Superman is up to. And all of this leads up to a climax which hurts.
Henry Cavill is strong as Superman, but like Superman’s early attempts at holding great weights, he does occasionally struggle. He’s not always easy to connect with, though that is part of the aloof nature of his character. In the end though, he does manage to hold up the film, and looks set to grow stronger. And thanks to the impressive CG throughout, you really will believe a man can fly.
It’s a strong film which does send up a few question marks over tone and some choices. But those niggles are soon washed away by one thought: Wow.