The Genesis Chamber

Man of Steel

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Christopher Meloni, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Richard Schiff, Ayelet Zurer

Director Zack Snyder’s ambitious retelling of the origins of Superman in Man of Steel is visually dazzling and grittier than the cheesier Superman movies of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. With Christopher Nolan as the producer and co-writer of Man of Steel, Snyder’s vision of Superman is darker, edgier and more realistic with the occasional humorous nod, but ultimately its firmly rooted in Sci-Fi with Krypton taking a centre stage in the spectacular production design of the opening sequences which shows influences of Snyder’s previous darkly toned blockbusters, 300 and Watchmen.

With newcomer Henry Cavill in the titular role fresh from his role on the TV series The Tudors and relatively unknown outside of the UK, he does a fairly good job of becoming one of America’s iconic figures. In Man of Steel, the comic and sci-fi iconography is rife, with Snyder paying homage to a range of influential Sci-Fi films from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to War of the Worlds, while firmly rooting the narrative in the celestial journey that Kal-El takes from Krypton to Kansas to Superman saving America. There is even a scene of the conflicted Superman in a Kansas church, complete with religious imagery mulling over whether to save his adopted planet Earth from destruction or side with his extraterrestrial origins that of his Kryptonian heritage represented by the ruthless General Zod, expertly played by Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Premium Rush) who after a period of isolation tracks Superman to Earth and soon brings a wake of devastation from Smallville to Metropolis.

The trick which makes Man of Steel so compelling is that along with the dazzling visual effects, the casting was spot on surrounding newcomer young British actor Henry Cavill with a galaxy of veteran Hollywood stars from Russell Crowe as his birth father Jor-El to Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. Then there is the brilliant Amy Adams (Doubt, Julie and Julia) cast as the adventure seeking tough investigative journalist Lois Lane, who plays the part in stark contrast to the goofy, slightly dizzy take on the role by Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies.

From Krypton to Kansas…

The narrative is deeply rooted in origins mythology and told through a series of expertly crafted flashbacks about how Kal-El was naturally conceived on Krypton by his birth parents without the help of the sinister looking Genesis Chamber on the doomed planet Krypton and shunted off to earth as the last surviving hope for his celestial race. Kal-El, better known in Kansas as Clark Kent soon discovers his extraordinary powers as a growing boy and transforms into the mature, measured and slightly emotionally stunted Man of Steel, complete with X-Ray vision and high-speed atmospheric flight capabilities. The narrative arc closes when Lois Lane discovers Superman’s origins and naturally as most Superheroes do, he must don the fetching red cape and suitable attire, complete with underpants in the right place saving Earth from the Warrior General Zod, whilst balancing his newfound status as an alien with that of being a saviour of mankind.

Man of Steel is a superb cinematic retelling of the original comic book hero, worth watching for the fantastic opening and closing sequences, with Snyder desperate to cram all aspects of the Superman mythology into this slightly long and explosive action-heavy blockbuster. The only criticism is that the penultimate sequence of the film could have been effectively edited for effect, as the action outweighs the narrative and character development and often resembles a CGI-laden video game.

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Snyder’s Superman version in Man of Steel is destined to become a cinematic blockbuster and firmly establish him as a skilled action film director. Whilst not as thrilling or tightly written as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Nolan’s influences are apparent in Snyder’s darker more stylized vision of Superman as another conflicted superhero having to choose between his own dying civilization and becoming the new found saviour of Earth. Recommended viewing for Sci-Fi and Comic book fans, Man of Steel is sure not to disappoint Zack Snyder followers who have eagerly traced his quirky directorial growth from 300 to Watchmen to Suckerpunch and beyond…

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