I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into Man of Steel. Zach Snyder's previous works, 300 and Watchmen, were a decadent aesthetic triumph and a hollow let-down respectively. What would happen when he attempted a visually spectacular, yet gritty reboot of the most iconic character in the entire comic book universe? The short answer is: action. This film went all-in on the blockbuster factor, and delivered some truly heart-pumping sequences. It may have been slightly lacking in humor compared to its counterparts like Star Trek: Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, but overall it's a winner of a summer movie.
At first however, I wasn't sold. The opening sequence on Krypton (which includes Russell Crowe riding some sort of dragon-beast in a battle against laser blasting hoverships) was just too big of a leap for me to make right at the start. When I think of Superman, I think of fighting crime in metropolis, not dragons in space, and asking the audience to go there right away was a risk that didn't pay off for me. Starting the film on the computer-generated landscape of Krypton also made the jump-cut to a non-CGI earth very jarring. I have to wonder if I wouldn't have been totally lost if not for the trailers.
But all is forgiven once we get into the obligatory “discovering his powers montage.” While many superhero movies drop off precipitously after this always entertaining segment (see The Green Lantern for a prime example), Man of Steel treats it properly as a launching point for the real action, and never looks back. The subsequent fight scenes absolutely blow the opening out of the water, and are just as good, if not better, than any of the visually stunning moments from 300. The scale on which the Krytponians fight is gratifyingly massive, reducing much of Metropolis to rubble. This is one blockbuster that busts a helluva lot of blocks. To quote Second City TV, “they blowed up REAL good.”
A major success for Man of Steel was that it didn't go too far in terms of grittiness. Of course this wasn't your classic: truth, justice, and the American way Superman of the 1950's, but they also didn't try too hard to turn him in a tragic figure like Batman in Christopher Nolan's recent imaginings. This Clark Kent (portrayed admirably by Henry Cavill) has got angst, but not so much that his darkness betrays the essence of Superman as a potential paragon of humanity. There was just enough depth to keep the film from being totally superficial, without taking away from the spectacle as the star.
So if you're looking for action, Man of Steel fits the bill. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the final 45 minutes, and I'm not just saying that to be cute; the suspense is real. If nothing else, Zack Snyder deserves credit for making a Superman movie where the biggest threat is something other than strategically placed kryptonite. Add in top of the line effects and the occasional decent actor, and you've got yourself a fun film that's definitely worth the price of admission.