Zack Snyder's Man of Steel is not your father's Superman movie. The film sets out to re-establish the origin of Superman. The film begins with a rather lengthy sequence on Krypton that establishes Superman's home planet as well as his parents and his soon to be nemesis, General Zod. This is not a Superman who from a young age knew his goal was to protect humanity, but a man who is left searching for reasoning as to why his father jettisoned him to this unknown planet. The film's narrative really begins with him as an adult but the sporadic flashbacks between him and his earth parent's are really what shapes the theme of the story. The film is really about the conflict between optimism and pessimism, with Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent being a man who is pessimistic about humanity's ability to deal with something they don't understand. Don't get me wrong, the optimism of Superman is embodied with this film, but it does a great job at questioning this unabashed optimism. Even before I saw Man of Steel I was impressed with the casting, and I'm happy to report that all the actors are really perfect for their roles. I was particularly impressed with Michael Shannon's portrayal of General Zod. While Zod is without a doubt willing to do monstrous things, he is given a surprising amount of relate-ability, as a being who is simply doing what he believes is best for the sake of his race. Most of the characters outside of Superman lack a great amount of screen time, and depth, but this was the right approach, in my opinion, letting the viewer soak-up Kal-El's struggle to belong and discover his true calling.
Tonially the film is very serious, with very little humor at all. Some will find this to be a problem but when you really consider what the story is about, It makes perfect sense to me. My biggest complaints in the film revolve around a script that at times can be ridiculously on the nose and meddling but honestly this is a pretty apparent problem in all blockbusters. The third act is definitely a little clunky compared to the first two thirds of the film but Snyder's skill in directing a mind-blowing action sequence is in full display during the later section. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel is not the best superhero film ever made but it's a strong origin story which sets up a more adult-themed Superman whose very human emotionally.
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