This re-telling of the Superman story actually begins in Krypton, with Russell Crowe playing Jor-El, Superman’s Father (or Kal-El as Superman is named after birth). The Kryptonians are destroying their planet and themselves from a greed for resources and a lack of coherence. Jor-El has plans for the continuation of his blood line.
This intro sequence actually lasts quite some time, and whilst it is nice to get some backstory, the designers obviously struggled to balance making things seem Earth-compatible but also alien. It comes across very “remastered Star Wars”, with laser bolts and flying creatures everywhere and a sense of impending – but coming at just the right moment – doom.
Still, Kal-El (Henry Cavill) gets to Earth and we pick him up pretty much in the “present”, with the story of his childhood told in a number of flashbacks. We first see a glimpse of Kal-El’s powers on an oil rig, in a hilarious, entirely computer generated display, but leaving that behind as the man does himself, this part of the film dealing with his conflicts and his exercising restraint are great to watch. The logger’s truck certainly brings a good chuckle! Kal-El’s Earthly parents are played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane and for me Kevin Costner is the best part of the film. The things he is trying to explain to his adopted son are the essence of the superman story and a scene by a motorway bridge in the film nearly moved me to tears.
The film takes another shift now to action setpieces. Louis Lane (Amy Adams) is a rather shallow character who starts popping up all over the place and trying to show how amazing she is, but General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) is a convincing, cold, passive-agressive nasty man. The action is probably better watched on a smaller screen to be honest. I watched it in a digitally projected 2D screening where the picture quality was mostly good with some graining in darker areas, but the shaky camera was getting incredibly annoying and combined with the UNNECESSARILY LOUD VOLUME OF EVERYTHING started making me feel a bit woozy. Despite some sounds being impressive (Zod’s gravity machine had the most terrifying noise I think I’ve ever heard), it all gets a bit too much after a while and I was closing my eyes and putting my fingers in my ears to get a break. Take some earplugs or watch it on a tv!
Then, just when you think it’s calmed down, it starts up again. And again.
Buildings are smashed into, whole skyscrapers are collapsing, the collateral damage must be off the scale! I looses its way somewhat at the end and whilst reminding you in some senses of Inception, especially the galloping music-bed (so seeing that Christopher Nolan was a producer and Hans Zimmer composed the score is no surprise), it is nowhere near as good as that film was.
Nonetheless, there is an enjoyable centre and when it’s understated it is at its best – Superman in the scene with handcuffs is a great example of a high point. The first time you see him take to the sky and catch the edge of a cloud you smile, the 5th time you’ve had enough and your ears hurt.
3 on 5
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe
UK Release: 12th June 2013