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Home » Entertainments » Hollywood Releases

Man of Steel 2013

Does Henry Cavill deliver as the original comic book superhero?

Rating: 12A
Release: Friday 14 June
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

What’s the story?
An orphaned lad from outer space unravels the mystery of his existence, labouring tirelessly to win the trust of wary Earthlings. Along the way, he learns to fly, meets a nice girl with a good job and takes exception to a genocidal alien.

What did we think?
A fresh take on a familiar tale that blends the best of the past with a modern spin and sensibility, Man of Steel is across-the-board awesome. Perfectly balanced between epic and intimate, it’s neatly characterised with a winning cast and commandingly directed with genuine affection for the source material. Visually staggering and loaded with invention, it’s breathlessly paced with action to knock your socks off.

Who am I? Where do I belong? What’s my destiny? Doesn’t my cape look amazing, billowing in the wind like this? These are just four of the many questions young Henry Cavill asks himself as chisel-jawed Kal-El, by all accounts a good, brave boy who makes his mothers proud.

Born to be a hero, to do what’s right and dish out compassionate, uplifting smiles, baby Kal was rocketed to Earth by his awesome dad (Russell Crowe) mere moments before his birth planet blew to bits. Raised by a sensible stepdad (Kevin Costner) to err on the cautious side regarding folks who’d freak at news of alien visitation, Kal, or rather Clark, remains under the radar of all but intrepid reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

Cavill and Adams are a match made in movie heaven, a chemistry experiment gone wildly right

The situation is forced, however, when an outcast Kryptonian general named Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives rather showily on Earth, demanding Kal’s presence for purposes initially unknown. The cat out of the bag, Superman embarks upon his first great adventure, reflecting on the past in quieter moments, but mainly just kicking a load of alien arse.

Man of Steel is a movie that doesn’t waste any time getting started. Opening on Krypton with an explosive battle sequence which sees Crowe riding a dragon straight out of Avatar, the movie soon skips to the present with Kal all grown up and already on his quest. Flashbacks build a picture of how the boy became the man, but while the movie excels at the small stuff, as we bear witness to the man becoming a hero, the film delivers no end of big stuff too.

Action set pieces thrill us to pieces. Super-powered showdowns result in staggering collateral damage. Bad guys throw trains at Kal. Kal responds by throwing them at tremendous speed through towering skyscrapers. Heat vision cuts spaceships in twain. It’s wild and it’s fiery and yeah, your heart’s gonna beat a mile a minute. Because it’s not only loads of fun, but thanks to Cavill, director Zack and screenwriter Dave Goyer, it’s also edge-of-the-seat dramatic because we like Kal. We maybe even love him a little bit. Though supremely powerful, he’s unexpectedly relatable, and he’s on our side. It seems only right to support him back.

Handheld cameras deliver immediacy. There isn’t a single shot that isn’t slightly wobbly, and only once or twice is that a bother. For the most part, it draws you in a treat, to the story, the action and the great big heart that beats at its brilliant core.

Cavill and Adams are a match made in movie heaven, a chemistry experiment gone wildly right. As Zod, Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon delivers a villain to remember, a serious challenge for our hero, not exactly evil, but fierce and dangerous and certainly bonkers.

Man of Steel had a lot to live up to. Chris Reeve’s Superman remains a beautiful movie. But while that lovely Seventies effort reflected the Golden and Silver Ages of comic books, Watchmen-director Zack Snyder’s take is steeped in contemporary graphic novel goodness. It’s a modern effort for 21st Century audiences who demand depth and authenticity as well as thrills and super-spills. No doubt Chris ‘Dark Knight’ Nolan helped with that, in his capacity as producer.

All things considered, this is a bold and brilliant beginning for a shiny new franchise.

5 stars

Verdict: A rousing collision of heart, smarts and thrills, Man of Steel polishes decades-old mythology to perfection. Though he’s been around for 75 years, if this movie’s anything to go by, there’s plenty of life in the old boy yet.

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