Man of Steel works as a definitive Superman origin story, in the sense that I don’t feel the need to see any other narrative surrounding his emergence. Henry Cavill is strong in the lead role, providing enough gravitas in the movie’s first half to give his character emotional heft. This is a Clark Kent that struggles on a daily basis to accept who he is, what he will become; essentially, he doesn’t know how this world will view him, or if they’ll reject him. It’s a complexity that truly works, masterfully so, providing us with more than the traditional superhero entry needs to.
Yet no matter how fantastic the film’s first half is, the movie’s epic action finale becomes tiresome and ultimately boring. What works so exceptionally well in the film’s opening moments is its ability to engulf us in this world. Not just Krypton and other lore that goes hand-in-hand with Superman, but the emotional pinpoint of the ones that surround the legend and what makes him work. He’s an impressive figure because he has morality, as General Zod (Michael Shannon) mentions constantly. It’s shown as his weakness, a connection to humanity that he formed artificially. That’s where this character works perfectly, though.
Snyder delves into blockbuster tradition by creating an over-the-top conclusion that doesn’t necessarily feel out of place, just drawn out and time-consuming. It lasts at least 45 minutes, and the haphazard action makes it difficult to fully understand what’s happening. The film’s 3D, while done impressively, isn’t necessary and bogs down what is already a superb looking feature. Hans Zimmer’s score is outstanding, as expected, and the supporting cast well-rounded. I just can’t help but feel that if the film followed through with its first half and all its ambition in telling a story driven by character, it would’ve been destined for greatness. Instead, it’s simply good.
Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)