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Man of Steel (3D)


Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Schiff

Director: Zack Snyder

Having very profitably revived Batman at the box-office, Christopher Nolan now brings his Midas Touch to the dormant (whatever happened to Brandon Routh?) Superman franchise.

Result? Comic book and cinema history have been successfully tweaked to create a surefire blockbuster whose prime audience appeal will almost certainly be for director Zack Snyder's stunning – and very frequent - action sequences. They will probably linger in audiences’ minds rather longer than the narrative written by David S Goyer from his and Nolan’s original story.

The film opens on Krypton with a woman screaming in pain as she gives birth to the infant Kal-el. “Krypton’s core is collapsing – I will ensure the survival of our race” states his scientist father Jor-el and, before the planet implodes, sends the baby into space on a journey to Earth.

There, raised in Kansas by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, the youngster becomes Clark Kent, comes to terms with his extraterrestrial powers, including X-ray vision and projecting heat beams from his eyes, saves fellow pupils when their school bus goes off a bridge into the river and, after a series of meandering minor jobs and now known as Clark Kent, is discovered by reporter Amy Adams, and finally comes to understand his destiny as Superman…

Which is fortunate since villainous general Zod (Shannon), dedicated to saving the Krypton race, turns up on Earth with his evil acolytes, intending to take over the planet. And he and Superman – interestingly played by an impressively buffed-up Henry Cavill - engage in a searing life or death confrontation…

Man of Steel seethes with splendid pseudoscientific dialogue, first to explain the imminent death of Krypton and later to demonstrate how Mankind will become extinct when the Kryptonites set out to transform Earth into a human-hostile environment suitable for the invaders.

But dialogue isn’t the key aspect of the film.

The frequent action sequences are the film’s real raison d’être and on that level alone, it should be a blazing blockbuster. Bodies fly through the air; skyscrapers cave in spectacularly, especially during the climactic airborne duel between Superman and General Zod as they lay waste to Metropolis, a city that bears striking resemblances to New York. Oscar-worthy special effects – I particularly like the Krypton spaceships that resembled giant turtles and the massive insect-birds ridden by Crowe on Krypton - potentiate the thrills, accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s painfully noisy score that deserves an Oscar for Loudest Sound.

Cavill is appropriately compelling as Superman (although rarely referred to as such during the movie) and able to convince with his feet on the ground as well as soaring through the air in combat. Adams is fine, Shannon’s driven (“No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people”) General Zod is genuinely scary and Crowe scores strongly with a laid-back performance, happily never resorting to the overripe hamming used by Marlon Brando while reading his cue cards for the same role in 1978’s Superman.

Result? Mission accomplished and profitable screen franchise successfully renewed by a splendid action thriller whose interesting subtext can safely be left for later consideration after the initial adrenalin surge wears off.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour by deluxe.
143 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 Jun 2013