On the evidence of Man Of Steel there is no reason to believe director Zach Snyder has done any growing up. His dark modern take on the Superman franchise is so concerned with its own immensity that amongst the onslaught of CGI spectacle and mushy mid-west Americana anything relatable is lost.
We begin a little earlier than previous films with Krypton on the brink of destruction and the Machiavellian General Zodd (the great stonefaced Michael Shannon) attempting to save his race by purging the lesser bloodlines. The newborn Kal-El – soon to be Clark Kent – is sent to Earth by father Jor-El (Russell Crowe in full Shakespearian mode) with the hopes of his people hidden on board. From here we skip to a brooding older Kent (Henry Cavill) trying to find his way and keep his abilities somewhat under-wraps while a series of flashbacks build his mythology before a scorned Zodd returns to exact revenge.
Dark Knight scribe David S. Goyer takes up writing duties with Chris Nolan’s Syncopy productions pulling some strings in an attempt to continue the gritty universe of Nolan’s hugely successful Batman series. Sadly the end product feels miles away from Gotham city. As far as event cinema goes Man Of Steel commits a cardinal sin of sorts, as unlike the slick noir of Nolan’s films, it just doesn’t look all that good. A metallic colour pallet of greys and blues combined with some shaky Bourne-style camerawork – both of which are blurred considerably by the post-produced 3D – results in a finale so difficult to decipher it might make Michael Bay blush.
Snyder simply fails to provide any humanity to anchor these scenes. One of Superman’s charms was the earnest rapport he has with his adoptive race but the only real glimpse we get of this – with Lois Lane (the ever-affable Amy Adams) in a military interrogation room – lasts for little more than a minute. A lighter touch just wouldn’t fit with the execs over in Warner Bros and their gritty DC dream. The moneymen seem desperate to kick-start a Justice League series and while Snyder’s film is far from deserving of spawning such a project, if and when the big bucks come in there will be little left to stop them. Sighs all round.
Man of Steel | Directed by Zack Snyder (USA, Canada, UK 2013) with Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon. Starts June 20