Man of Steel (2013, Zack Snyder)

Man of Steel is good. It’s really good. Not only is it really good, I like it enough for a 500 word special.

There’s always a moment in a good action movie when it eventually runs out of steam and one has to give it some thought. There’s a breather scene, in other words. For Man of Steel, director Snyder uses flashbacks to Kevin Costner (as Superman’s dad) for the breather scenes and they aren’t breathers. They’re these intensely emotional scenes in between the action, which often have intense emotions too.

The present action of the film takes place over a few days, maybe a week. David S. Goyer’s script never gets exact–he’s dealing with alien spacecraft and a man who can fly so speeding between two locations isn’t a problem–but it never feels rushed. Snyder gets in a few nice little human moments for Superman Henry Cavill, who’s usually busy flying around the planet.

Snyder and Goyer take a moderately realistic approach to a super-powered alien suddenly flying around the globe. They seem to err on the side of excess–why would anyone get so excited about a guy in a red cape when there are alien spaceships too–but they know how to manage it. Snyder’s not original in his approach (he acknowledges his sources in a cute way) but he applies them well.

Snyder’s assured direction would be the star of Man of Steel if he weren’t consciously putting Cavill front and center. Michael Shannon gets a lot to do and he’s great; he and Cavill play wonderfully off each other. There’s a lot of nice subtext in their scenes. Shannon always gives the impression he’s holding back a little, making a well-timed outburst all the more effective.

As Lois Lane, Amy Adams does fine. She has surprisingly little to do, even though she’s undeniably integral. She’s not the star and Snyder and Goyer’s economy doesn’t allow for her to have much to herself.

Costner and Diane Lane are both excellent as Cavill’s adoptive parents. Snyder gets away with implying a lot about their relationship; the music from Hans Zimmer, Amir Mokri’s photography and David Brenner’s editing are essential to those implications. Snyder doesn’t exactly require a lot from his audience, but he’s definitely setting certain bars higher than others. The fight scenes, while technically magnificent, are still rather simple. The character stuff… he veers towards the sublime.

And there’s an even mix of character and action, even for the supporting cast (so when they forget someone, it’s unfortunately noticeable).

Russell Crowe’s good in the Brando role, surprisingly so, even if he’s around a little much. Not around enough is Ayelet Zurer as Cavill’s birth mother. She’s fantastic in her scenes. Antje Traue doesn’t have enough to do, but Goyer still takes the time to give her a whole arc with Christopher Meloni’s military guy.

Man of Steel can’t be much better. Goyer, Snyder and Cavill (and Zimmer) hit all the right notes.

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