In what is essentially a remake of Richard Donner's "Superman" (1978) and "Superman II," "Man of Steel" delivers the goods in a satisfying, if not familiar, summer-fun-fest.
Told mostly in a long series of flashbacks, with minor deviations from "Superman" and "Superman II," Zack Snyder's origin story of Big Blue has lots of big-money CG, sound effects, and sets -- it's just a massive movie and it zips along at a torrid pace with very little down time.
It's more sci-fi-y then the original movie (think "The Matrix" and Star Wars prequels) and, of course, has many more special effects, but certainly no more heart then the original.
Which isn't to say it doesn't have heart -- it does. Henry Cavill is the real deal as Clark Kent, and he's helped along mightily by a very good cast.
Kevin Costner and Russel Crowe are both wonderful as Kent's respective fathers, and Amy Adams is fine as Lois Lane. Ready steady, but not great. No one can really recapture the brilliance that Margot Kidder brought to the role, but Adams certainly doesn't crap the bed like Kate Bosworth did in "Superman Returns."
Michael Shannon is fairly wooden and 2-dimensional as Zod, but I get the feeling that's exactly what Snyder wanted. He's OK.
Diane Lane is the only one really and truly miscast -- while she looks the part (sorta), she's just not there emotionally and you don't believe for a second that she's Cavill's mom. She not stinkingly bad, but she's not very good either.
The production is top notch -- and while there's far too much CG/space stuff, at least it's well done.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
The music is good, but can't scratch John William's original score. William's theme for planet Krypton alone smokes anything in "Man of Steel." I mean, Zimmer delivers a fine score, but you can't unhear William's masterpiece either. Perhaps most disappointing, there is no villain theme song to speak of -- and that's a shame considering how much face time Zod gets.
In the end, there's waaaaaay too much CG, and Zod's crew -- like Zod himself -- are so wooden that without seeing the original film, I wouldn't really know what to think of them. "Man of Steel" is definitely both a remake of, and a reaction to, the original two movies, and the villains definitely had more personality in those films.
But it's Superman that really matters, and in Cavill they have the right man -- huge, charismatic and completely believable, he manages to channel Christopher Reeves while being himself. He brings something new to the part, but remains true to everything that made Reeves so great in the role. It's his film in the end, and he's worth 3 stars all by himself. He's just great, and the movie itself is damn good, even if we have seen it before (albeit not with as many lens flares).
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Released by Warner Bros., "Man of Steel" was directed by Zack Snyder from a screenplay by David S. Goyer. It's produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Rovenm Emma Thomas, Deborah Snyder.
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