‘Man of Steel’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:32 am,

Man of Steel Review starring Henry Cavill Amy Adams Michael Shannon and Laurence Fishburne Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel has more than earned its keep, and deserves to be THE iconic Superman movie for a whole new generation.

Man of Steel re-imagines the legend of Superman in modern movie fashion – beginning with the story of his home planet, Krypton. We first witness the miraculous birth of Kal-El, son of prominent scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer), who happens to be the first naturally born Kryptonian (i.e., not genetically engineered) in a long time. Unfortunately, Kal’s birth comes just at the time when Krypton’s society is fracturing under the fear inspired by Jor-El’s prediction that the planet’s end is nigh.

An attempted military coup by General Zod (Michael Shannon) sets into motion a series of fateful events that see young Kal-El raised on Earth, where he is warned by his adoptive parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) that his god-like alien powers will one day force him to make a choice about how he will change the world for better or worse. And when Zod and his minions suddenly appear in Earth’s orbit, ready to finish what was started on Krypton, Kal-El/Clark Kent realizes that his prophesied moment of choice has now arrived.

Michael Shannon and Antje Traue in Man of Steel Man of Steel Review

Michael Shannon and Antje Traue in ‘Man of Steel’

As was hoped for by many, Man of Steel is a fine marriage between the rich character-centric storytelling of Dark Knight Trilogy architects Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer, and the signature visual talents of director Zack Snyder. The movie is very much “Superman Begins” in terms of its narrative approach and structure; however, in terms of themes and tone the film achieves its own identity as an insightful, reverent and effectively relatable Superman story. Are there liberties taken with certain details of the costume, origin story or character relationships? Of course. But then again; this is a fresh start to present a new Superman to a modern world – and in that, Man of Steel ultimately succeeds.

Visually, this is Snyder’s most impressive film yet – and it looks pretty stunning in 3D. Everything from Kryptonian culture and technology to the way Superman’s powers (and the impossible physics surrounding them) operate looks on point and believable (enough) in a real-world context. Add to that an abundance of visual iconography and head nods to both the comics and Richard Donner’s seminal films (in particular Superman II) and it’s clear that Man of Steel‘s director has true love, understanding and appreciation for the subject matter at hand.

Man of Steel Full Trailer Spoilers Man of Steel Review

The action sequences – while at times a bit too CGI-heavy – are pretty epic in nature and certainly deliver on that perennial fanboy desire to see a film that depicts how super-powered beings would look and feel battling it out in a real-world setting. The wonderful pacing, editing, smart selection of scenes and abundance of action make this two-plus-hour ride go rather quickly; although by the climax, seeing flying men get punched through buildings over and over again might have you checking your watch. The score by Dark Knight composer Hans Zimmer is phenomenal and heightens the film every turn, while also establishing yet another new-age superhero theme to replace a classic favorite (John Williams’ Superman theme from the Donner films).

Script-wise, the story moves at a nonstop pace and should be wholly familiar to fans of Batman Begins in terms of structure; while comic book fans will also recognize several modern Superman stories that were mined for this film’s plot. A lengthy prologue introduces us to the world of Krypton in detailed and imaginative fashion, before we break into that signature Nolan non-linear scene montage format, covering Clark Kent’s life on Earth, past and present. The second act settles back into linear character and plot development (the re-introduction of General Zod), while the third act takes things into a full-on, over-the-top, super-powered showdown.

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel Man of Steel Review

Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent in ‘Man of Steel’

In terms of quality, the script definitely has strength and heart in terms of characterization and themes; Nolan and Goyer seem to understand Superman and his origins as well as they did Batman’s, as well as the similarities and the distinct differences between the two characters. The film contains some powerful moments and character beats – particularly where Clark Kent and his human parents are concerned.

At the same time, Man of Steel  is not without some noticeable narrative flaws. The script can be very “comic-bookish” in some scenes of dialogue, and the jumps in time and place during the first act are not as cohesive as they were in Batman Begins. Clever editing and speedy movement earlier on often comes at the price of effective narrative development. In short: if you were one of those people who were hung up on the question of how Bruce Wayne made it back to Gotham after escaping prison in Dark Knight Rises, you’ll find similar gripes with Man of Steel. Thankfully, the studio and filmmakers pull the same magic trick they did with the Batman franchise by casting an impressive array of highly-talented actors, who help elevate the weaker points of the script.

Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne in Man of Steel Man of Steel Review

Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne in ‘Man of Steel’

Henry Cavill’s role is pared-down and restrained much of the time, which, combined with the talent of his co-stars, helps to overcome any deficiencies in his performance and sell him as the new Superman for a new era. By the end, he locks down the role and franchise as his own. Amy Adams (even with her different hair color) and Laurence Fishburne (even with his different skin color) both nail their respective characters of Lois Lane and Perry White and have great chemistry with each other, and with  Cavill. Michael Shannon was the perfect left-field casting choice for General Zod, as he and Antje Traue (as Zod’s lieutenant, Faora-Ul) manage to ground all of the alien fantasy with no-nonsense performances that steer well clear of comic book villain campiness.

Meanwhile, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe add Oscar-caliber gravitas and heart to the film as Superman’s two sets of parents. Crowe gets a substantial amount of screen time to really flesh-out the character of Jor-El like never before, while Lane and Costner totally carry the family drama subplot, which is the most moving and beautiful element of the story. Even military side-characters like Genearl Swanwick, Colonel Nathan Hardy and scientist Emil Hamilton get a boost from being portrayed by fine actors like Harry Lennix (The Matrix 2 & 3), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) and Richard Schiff (The West Wing), respectively.

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent Kal El Superman in Man of Steel Man of Steel Review

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Man of Steel’

On the whole, this movie is exactly the sort of experience that many Superman fans have been asking for, with the added benefit of having some smart storytellers providing fresh insight into why the character is one of the most iconic fictional creations out there. Like Nolan and Christian Bale’s first Batman outing, Snyder and Cavill’s first crack at Superman isn’t a homerun (we’ll call it a triple), but having succeeded in re-introducing the franchise to the masses; crafting a satisfying summer blockbuster; melding real-world sensibility with sci-fi fantasy (better than Green Lantern ever did) AND leaving the door open for an entire DC superhero universe to follow behind itMan of Steel has more than earned its keep, and deserves to be THE iconic Superman movie for a whole new generation. (Sorry, Bryan Singer…)

…And, if the Batman franchise is anything to judge by, imperfections will be corrected and the best is still yet to come with the inevitable Man of Steel 2.

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Man of Steel is now in theaters. It is 143 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

Want to discuss the film without SPOILING it for others? Head over to our Man of Steel Spoilers Discussion. If you want to hear the Screen Rant Editors discuss the film, check out our Man of Steel special episode of the Screen Rant Undergound Podcast.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. I don’t like it, too many plot holes and simply not the superman reboot I expected :( Why reboot if you don’t have a good story? Death of both his fathers, Zod’s plan, civillian deaths, pointless battle scenes etc. Meh..

  2. some technical mistakes in storytelling delivery keep it from being perfect. But supes is ultimately saved by a better lead actor, a relatable villain, great supporting options and unparalleled technical wizardry.

    I’ll be honest. i never really liked superman as a hero. though i liked the original and it’s sequel i wasn’t really a fan of the comics. Wolverine was always my favorite(now his movies suck too). Superman comics were always kind of lame and boring. and his movies started to suck badly. however with this top notch team led by nolan, snyder, Goyer and Zimmer I held out hope that this might be the one to reverse the curse and lift the “all American“ superhero out of mediocrity… i don’t know what i was expecting. but when it was over i was certain of one thing. it was BIG. It appears that the filmmakers objective was to outdo the original movie from every conceivable point of attack.

    Lets be clear this isn’t Othello so it shouldn’t be scrutinized as such. But it’s not the plot and characterizations that is the problem it is how the story flows. it has a disjointed quality about it. Some scenes don‘t earn their dramatic weight and come across as rushed. instead of the story being delivered naturally it jumps forward and back or skips to fill in crucial plot points whenever the opportunity presents itself. This constant backtracking and forward cutting redirection keep the pace from generating authentic suspense. A structural miscalculation by Goyer.

    However, the imagination in the special effects are extraordinary and exceed anything seen before this point in cinema history. countering a near fatal mistake in storytelling technique successfully.

    Action scenes are choreographed on an unprecedented level of mayhem and destruction. Buildings splinter explode and disintegrate, city streets implode, vehicles get tossed as well as a train, mid air rescues and giant smack downs on ground (Foara is the wicked b**** of the galaxy) and in flight propel this action epic into the stratosphere. When the director hits the action button in the final 45mins he mashes it in. breaking the damn thing. they go for home runs throughout connecting on more than a dozen radical set pieces. this is the Superman movie you always thought you’d never see. but hoped you’d direct.

    But it is the soundtrack by zimmer that absolutely lifts MOS from being very good to damn near perfect. If the others were shooting for the fence, zimmer’s objective was to hit the moon…And he connects. zimmer drops the hammer and unleashes his masterpiece wiping away the original John Williams score and replacing it with this gaudy muscle flexing score for the eons. It’s easily the soundtrack of the year and the very reason why Man of Steel will stand the test of time. if you buy a new sound system and need to test it’s limits this is the movie you try. there may not be another score this good for some time.

    4 1/2 out of 5

  3. I thought the CGI could have used some work, mainly due the the color palate. Too much gray. Therefore, too dark at times.
    Fights… pretty cool. Next film, lets see some slo mo fist to face connections.
    My only real gripe was I thought there was way too much Lois. She was frigg’n everywhere. Like the Lois and Clark TV show.

    Loved the ending.

    • Onpoint bro,
      the film was just fast and that wasn’t good enough for a reboot, I mean the fight scenes that were meant to be enjoyed just happened too quickly,

      at least I was expecting a touch of Snyder like in 300 or they should have gotten a cue from the Matrix for their slo-mo acts of which I didn’t see any,

      I mean they are supes, Zod and the rest are aliens and are pretty fast at what they do ‘that’s Understood, the more reason some parts of the film should have been in slo-mo for us the Humans who are going out to see this movie in the cinema, I think they should include this in the MOS2.

      Though man of steel managed to Rock the boxoffice, I believe it could have done better, I had really high hopes for the movie, after seeing this movie I still believe the Christopher reeves movie rocked, and I guess that’s not supposed to be because that was kinda like made in the 80′s or so and MOS been modern is something that ought to be 100 times better, that been said,

      I think it was a bit too dark, they better tone done the dark and gritty effects. .. Just saying my mind though, I really like the franchise, the more reason I have to say a lot of this stuff that i guess wont be making a lot of sense to some people though.

  4. Dude, what?! You gave this movie the same rating as Dark Knight Rises? You’re crazy, DKR was a whole nutha level higher than MoS. I mean, I enjoyed both, but come on…MoS’s story wasn’t very impressive.

    • TDKR dropped the ball in places. This is superior film.

    • I’m sorry but DKR is not close to MoS. It’s not bad but it really wrecks all the work Heath Ledger did in DK. Plus in MoS I got to see epic battle damage.

    • Can somebody explain to me why TDKR was great? It seems that whenever someone raises serious issues about TDKR, the normal response is, “What? You’re crazy.” Can somebody say, “I think TDKR was great because…”?

  5. i thought it was ace better than t5he original movies not just in effects which is a given but story line two

    check out my superman merchandise site: Here

  6. MOS is worthy of your hard earned bucks! Just because ‘some’ people don’t understand the movies direction doesn’t mean the movie is bad. I think too many people were expecting something ‘like’ the Avengers or IM3 but this movie stands alone and many more creative ideas can get their genesis from the foundation that this movie laid.

  7. DC comics is really sucking the big one in the translation of their characters (yes, even Batman!)from comic book page to the silver screen. Sorry but you can pump as many millions of dollars into promoting these cinematic crap bombs as you want til you’re blue in the face, but it still wont alter the harsh reality purist’s are left with by the time those end credits start rolling. Folks want to b**** about the purist’s, but we’re the ones who really remember what it was that made these characters great to begin with. Now we have these persistent talks of the Justice League being made into a movie & I guess why not? Batman, Green Lantern, Superman. They’re on a roll so they might as well f*ck up the Justice League too while they’re at it.

    • It seems you must be a blind and foolish Marvel fanboy. Enlighten me as to what makes a Marvel movie so intelligent in the first place, since you have denigrated DC movies so badly. I, for one, am pretty satisfied with the performance of Zack Snyder in Man of Steel, while the Batman trilogy blew all those kid-like Marvel s*** outta the water. Only DC mnovie I wasn’t satisfied with was Green Lantern and that was only because they made a light-hearted joke out of it, just like all those Marvel movies.

  8. I’ve seen it twice now and I have to say it was MUCH better second time around.

    1st time: process new information, new style, debate about how they’ve messed with it all.
    2nd time: accept new format and start to enjoy the new creative direction and understand choices in the film.

    I was still bummed about the John William’s score not being used that I re-cut/edited a (my very first fan-made trailer) trailer for Man of Steel. It uses the old John Williams score (nothing against Hans Zimmer – his was awesome) and most of the clips from all the trailers/featurettes online.


    Let me know what you think fellow screen ranters!

  9. This movie was a bit of horrible. They totally failed with the origin story so they should have as well ignore it. 5/10 for me

  10. I am Weasel.

  11. Just my 2 cents worth-

    But I dont see how you people can give this film a 4\5!!??

    Poor story, poor movie and POOR Russel Crowe- U had your chance mate and you blew it- well actually maybe the producers blew it!!

    The only good thing was Henry Cavil.

    The Chris Reeve Superman was great up – you see how he earns the mantle of Superman. MOS just sees Crowe give Kal-El the suit (which happens to be on a scout ship from 20,000 years ago) and says go fly!!!!!!!! Bad!!

    A big Michael Shannon fan but he just can’t do Terence Stamp!

    2/10 for MOS!

    • Right on Dude!!! Couldn’t agree with you more.

  12. Agree with the 4/5. A far from ideal outing, but what it did right more than made up for it’s flaws.

    Superman is the perfect protagonist, that is both his blessing and his curse. When Supes must face a buffoonish Lex Luthor or a Lois Lane who is a full-on see-you-next-Thursday to his alter ego, as he did in the Donner films, he is himself diminished. (No need to ask himself if what Lois would think about him if he wasn’t “super”, he already has his answer.)

    Yes, it is brooding, somber, and disjointed, not enough leavening in the bread, but it gets the job done, laying a solid foundation for the future.

    Purists may balk at the new Clark/Lois dynamic, but the change was needed. In 1939 a woman reporter was a novelty in itself, but today the character would have to display actual professional competence to be believed. A better Lois makes for a better Superman. We also saw signs that Lex Luthor will next appear as a successful businessman and not a cavern-dwelling self-proclaimed “criminal genius”.

    It may not have been “super”, but it does give me….hope.

  13. I have posted this already. But since I’m desperate for SR attention, I’ll do it once more (on a side note: this post is addressed to all those who were satisfied with MOS and would also like to outline the future of both this franchise and the DCU in general):

    I just did some research and came up with this tentative schedule (potential villains included):
    2015 MOS 2 – Brainiac
    2016 GL 2 – Sinestro
    Flash – Professor Zoom
    2017 Wonder Woman – Cheetah
    World’s Finest – Luthor / Metallo
    2018 Justice League – White Martians (introduction of Martian Manhunter)
    2019 GL 3 – Manhunters
    Flash 2 – Mirror Master
    2020 Wonder Woman 2 – seemingly Aquaman (to get the introduction and an epic battle of the fantastical variety out of the way), but it would turn
    out that Ares had been pulling the strings all along
    Batman Reboot – Killer Croc or Clayface
    2021 Justice League 2 – Secret Society of Super Villains: Luthor, Grodd,
    Deathstroke, Black Adam, Solomon Grundy, Dr Psycho (the big reveal
    being that Darkseid has them other his thumb to test the waters of
    a future confrontation with the JL)
    2024 Justice League 3 – Doomsday / Darkseid (the latter controlling the
    former by virtue of the Omega Force, maybe by trapping him in several
    different realities in which Doomsday is loyal to his master;
    Darkseid would then send his ‘pet’ to Earth as both an advance party
    and a distraction for the JL before launching an attack himself – with or without an army of minions – I’m not that familiar with the comics: could he handle the JL all by himself?)

    I haven’t made up my mind about the films bridging JL 2 and 3, yet.
    But I’d still like to know what you guys think about my schedule.

  14. dam the guy who did all those epic fights scenes should do a dragonball z movie..my god the last part was awesome

  15. That was the worst super hero movie I have seen yet. The original batman series was better and the original Spiderman series was better too. I got my hopes up and they were crushed by a dumb storyline, terrible dialog, and sub-par special effects. Superman is already lame but KEEP THE ORIGINAL STORY!!! I don’t think that anyone can make a decent superman movie because superman is just retarded

    • Agreed!! I thought the 1966 Adam West Batman show was better!! MOS was awful.

  16. This is the worst of the superman movies. When I saw the last one, I thought that was the worst, but this one beat that one even. Looks like they are competing to make worse movies by changing the characters, the costumes, storyline, and sentimentality of the superhero movies. I saw some fan made movies on you tube of Superman and Batman and they were much much better than these series from the “Dark Knight rises” so on and “Superman returns ” so on. These movies only reflects depression,it makes one harder to believe that the good wins over the evil at the end. We are from the generation were we grew up with the comics. I have real nearly every comic character available. It used to be a different world to enter into these books and merge into them. The comics were basically started in early 1930′s to lift the spirits of Americans during depression. But the mavies from the same characters in 2000′s shows and revolves around depression and at the end of the movie, instead of lifting your spirits up, succeeds to make you feel miserble and lousy. the big producers should learn something from those fan made movies on you tube.

  17. Loved Lois and Faora. Loved the movie on the whole. Just didn’t like the scene where Jenny Olsen is conveniently trapped and Perry White unconvincingly tried to help her. The part looked to be shoehorned into the story to sort of unite physically the supporting characters around Superman.
    But like I said, loved the movie on the whole. MOS II – bring on.

  18. I was somewhat disappointed. Not much of a story line, just senseless action. That just replaced the story line! Hopefully the sequel will be better!

  19. I love how so may of you want to convince everybody that NOBODY liked this movie, yet in the poll of 16,000+ people 83% gave it at least four stars.

    • thank you!! I tired of people attacking the film because they don’t understand the direction. The killing at the end of the film will help him not to kill. In man of steel, he had no other choice, he wasn’t going to let anyone else die, the phantom zone was out of the picture at this point, and he wouldn’t listen to reason. Just because you don’t understand good storytelling doesn’t mean other people don’t. I definitely gave it a 9/10 and it is better than batman begins. its a modern re imagining of the character

  20. this movie is just amazing had to come revisit this lol

  21. Okay, here`s my review of Man of Steel. Best film in the franchise since Superman: The Movie by Richard Donner! Moving forward, I would like to see Harry Lennix return as General Swanwick in the sequel. I really like the chemistry he had with Henry Cavill on screen. By the last scene they had together in the movie; I felt that Superman and the General have the makings of a Batman & Commissioner Gordan like relationship! And that would be cool to see :D Kal-El (to my knowledge) has never had a friend and ally like Bruce Wayne has with James Gordan.

    There was just something really playful and charming about thier final interaction in Man of Steel. The General chastising Superman about destroying a 12 million dollar Spy Drone. Although I got the sense that Swanswick wasn`t really all that upset about it ;) Superman`s line: I know you want to know where I hang my cape. I hope to see more from these two in MOS 2 :)

    Now on to other matters: The kiss that Clark & Lois shared was unnecessary and inappropriate imo. As an Observor, looking out at all the destruction and death surrounding them. I finally understand those famous words of the reporter who was witness to the End of the Hindenberg “Oh the humanity!” If I were in Kal-El`s shoes, there is NO WAY that I would have been making out with anyone at that moment. Also, I feel that they really didn’t earn that kiss. Hell Christopher Reeve didn’t even kiss Margoret Kidder until Superman 2.

    So does the ‘S’ stand for sadist now? I know Zod and his thugs attacked and threatened his mom and farm, but Clark really did seem to enjoy watching General Zod suffer in agonizing pain, when his superpowers went in sensory overload mode. I mean Kal-el was downright smiling about it.

    One last thing that really troubled me about Superman`s charectization in MOS was how indifferent he was to all the devastation he caused (in part) Like a doctor who becomes desensitized to blood and gore. But for someone who had been living a super-powered life on the Down-Low for 33 years. His first attack to get Zod away from Martha was probably the most destructive thing he had done in his life up to that point. Yet he doesn`t even take a backwards glance at the violence he has unleashed upon the world! A child who accidently breaks a neighbors window playing baseball is more affected by that unintentional act of vandalism than Supes was by anything he did. Look at what he did to that guys truck at the bar he worked at!

    Zack Synder`s Superman clearly has a darkside. But he also has a lightside. Like how he comforted Lois and healed her wound in the ancient Krypotonian Starship. That`s one of the best scenes in the film to me. Cavill projected a real sense of warmth and compassion. In that moment, Henry Cavill was Superman. The first encounter betwixt Lois Lane and Kal-El has been done well in many mediums. But MOS did it best in that scene.

    I give Man of Steel 4.5 out 5 Stars.

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