Man of Steel: review round-up

The critics have had their say on Zack Snyder's superhero reboot - but has it soared into the stratosphere or fallen victim to the curse of Superman?

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Zack Snyder’s new take on Superman has had a lot of hype. Countless images and trailer have teased an expectant audience, eager to find out whether Henry Cavill can impress in the famous red cape. The summer blockbuster boasts an all-star cast that also includes Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Michael Shannon – but did it win over the critics, or has yet another adaptation fallen victim to the Superman curse?

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Andrew Pulver in The Guardian praises Cavill’s efforts as the superhero – “a rootless drifter, blundering from one low-paid job to another in a frustraiting battle to keep his taunters unbattered, his rescuees oblivious, and his inner demons placated.” He awards the film four stars for its “visual fireworks”, but takes issue with Clark Kent’s relationship with Adams’ Lois Lane: “The whole film ends up feeling weighed down: though Man of Steel bounds from one epic setpiece to another, you’re left with the nagging feeling that you just can’t work out what the central twosome see in each other.”


Matthew Leyland from Total Film also awards the film four stars and is equally impressed by Cavill’s performance. “True, he’s more solid than spectacular; Christopher Reeve’s wholesome authority safely remains the performance benchmark. Yet Cavill nails many of the key beats, whether howling in grief or grinning like a loon as he climbs the clouds for the first time.” While taking into account its downfalls, Leyland suggests a promising start for a new generation of Superman movies, calling Man of Steel “a bracing attempt to bring the legend back into contention that successfully separates itself from other Super-movies but misses some of their warmth and charm. But given the craft and class, this could be the start of something special.”


Empire‘s Dan Jolin is another to offer up four stars, crediting the film for its enormity – “Man of Steel is huge”- but taking issue with its dearth of laughs. “It aches for more depth and warmth and humour, but this is spectacular sci-fi — huge, operatic, melodramatic, impressive. It feels the right Superman origin story for our era, and teases what would be a welcome new superfranchise.”


Across the pond, Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter is impressed by the scale of the project. “To the oft-asked question of whether or not the world is really starving for yet another superhero origin story, Man of Steel simply responds by serving up what could be as much spectacle and action — minute-by-minute, frame-by-frame — as any movie anyone could think of.” He goes onto express his hopes for the movie’s success over the next few months. “Zack Snyder’s huge, backstory-heavy extravaganza is a rehab job that perhaps didn’t cry out to be done but proves so overwhelmingly insistent in its size and strength that it’s hard not to give in. Warner Bros.’ new tentpole should remain firmly planted around the world for much of the summer.”


But over on Variety, Scott Foundas was less impressed, announcing the film “might more accurately have been titled “Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Spacemen,” given the amount of screen time devoted to exiled Kryptonians body-slamming each other into all manner of natural and manmade structures.” Unimpressed by the lack of humour and “relentlessly noisy” aesthetics, Foundas terms is “a ‘Steel’ sequel directed with less of an iron fist.” And Snyder isn’t the only one to escape his scathing critique: “Blessed with the most classically chiseled jawline of any actor who’s yet donned the red cape, Cavill is also the most dour and brooding, lacking even the sardonic self-amusement of Christian Bale in Bruce Wayne mode”.


Collider‘s Matt Goldberg also posted a disappointed response, awarding the film a B- for “missing the heart of Superman. Almost everything that surrounds the character is amazing from the set pieces to the restructured origin story to the score to the acting to his path before putting on the cape. But inside the iconic suit, there is no Superman.” While he admits that the film’s physical sequences are “a wonder to behold”, he goes on to lament that, “these battles lack any emotional weight and eventually become exhausting. They don’t tell us anything about Superman’s personality or development. That doesn’t mean the fight needs to take an intermission so that Kal-El can have an emotional breakthrough, but these set pieces are completely devoid of any character moments for our hero.”


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Man of Steel is released in the UK this Friday 14 June