In 2006, acclaimed director Bryan Singer delivered his Superman reboot to mild fanfare and mostly quizzical audiences. 'Man Of Steel' again kickstarts the Superman mythos, with a more divisive figure at its helm - Zack Snyder, an understandable choice considering his relative talent in capturing action as seen in the likes of '300' and 'Watchmen'. Snyder was joined by Christopher Nolan behind the scenes, but does 'Man Of Steel' provide the Superman we deserve? Find out in our spoiler-free review below.
Unlike 'Superman Returns', Snyder's 'Man Of Steel' offers a retelling of the Superman mythos - opening on the dying Krypton, as two parents send their baby off to a far flung planet to preserve the remnants of their soon-to-be extinct species. Here, General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to stage a coup, establishing him as the antagonist, whose quest for the continuation of the Kryptonians knows no end.
Through a series of flashbacks throughout the film, we see that the young child lands on Earth and is raised as Clark Kent. Clark undergoes much of the same hardships faced by many a schoolboy but with the added responsibility of his burgeoning superpowers. His father (Kevin Costner) is against revealing the use of his abilities but encourages his adoptive son to explore his identity, while his mother (Diane Lane) is continually supportive and caring.
As a nomadic adult (Henry Cavill), Clark's journey of self-discovery binds him to investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the re-introduction of the formidable Zod and his small army brings Superman into world view. From there on, the action is almost relentless, as the superhuman Kryptonians battle for supremacy and survival.
'Man Of Steel' opts to immediately drop the viewer into scenes of heavy battle, as we see Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) fight to save their child from the imminent destruction of Krypton and the overtures of General Zod. Indeed, the film relies heavily on its action sequences, and often does so in a rather lamentable fashion - typically viewed through unintelligible shaky-cam and lacking the investment required to make these scenes feel resonant.
Occasionally, the emotional moments that 'Man Of Steel' so yearns to deliver actually hit the mark, none more so than a poignant highway scene involving Costner and Cavill. These two actors are at the heart of the best of 'Man Of Steel', with Costner particularly excelling with his quiet demeanour. Cavill, on the other hand, is a physical specimen - knowingly framed to resemble the late and great Christopher Reeve at times, Cavill nonetheless brings his own gravitas to the role.
Shannon is arguably considerably less successful as Zod, bringing a certain pantomime villainry to his performance - one which suffers not only in comparison to Terence Stamp's portrayal in the original films but also to Antje Traue's strong performance as second in command. Her increasing dominance thankfully makes up for Lois Lane's fall into the "romantic interest" role while Jor-El is reduced to becoming the Kryptonian version of the Microsoft Office paperclip.
Writer David Goyer does not quite succeed in balancing the action, humour and emotional elements - something that further extends to the curious tone of the score from Hans Zimmer, which comes across as frequently overbearing. The drama rarely fails to escalate while the lack of character development stifles any action scene, leaving just the occasional moment and the impressive production design to shine through. Despite the thoughts of his harshest critics, Zack Snyder certainly can do better.
'Man Of Steel' is out in UK cinemas through Warner Bros Pictures.