This is a difficult film to review. It begins well, with realistic characters, and an interesting storyline. Superman’s boyhood is neatly told through flashbacks – which means we don’t have to sit through that familiar set-up again. The standard superhero geek powertrip at highschool is also refreshingly avoided – Clark knows he must avoid showing his powers so that they can remain a secret. His father (Jonathan Kent here played by Kevin Costner) has drilled it into him that if people find out about his powers, then they will fear him and want to take him away. The action itself then begins slowly and builds up well. Clark is now an adult and General Zod (Michael Shannon) – a criminal from Kypton begins an invasion of the Earth. Things are still fairly realistic at this point, however by the end of the film all sense of grounded-ness is gone, and half your belief with it as Superman and General Zod look like exactly like the 2 animated CGI men they are while having a fist fight high above the Earth.
So General Zod? Cleverly Zack Snyder (the director) realises we probably wouldn’t take kindly to just an origins story especially after the long-running Smallville, Superman Returns and also that Lois and Clark series in the early 90’s. This film is an amalgamation of both Superman 1 and 2. Superman 2 being the best Superman film of course.
I liked that Synder has taken his own approach here and hasn’t stuck too closely to the comics, however some of his constructs end up being more unbelievable that the original film. (You may remember Superman flying round the Earth to turn back time at the end of the first film – and have then wondered why he doesn’t just do this every time a tragedy happens? Interesting Fact : he was originally going to do this again at the end of the original abandoned Superman 2 ). Here Superman’s powers somehow come from the reduced gravity on Earth and our young sun. O…kay… and although it takes Clark years to master them, General Zod is able to learn to fly and direct even more impressive laser beams from his eyes than Superman can, all within the space of a few minutes.The only explanation given is that Zod has trained in the military and so finds it easier to learn stuff. Hmm…
It has a good sense of realism at other times though, for example Clark (Superman) frequently doubts himself and struggles to come to terms with his ‘otherness’ (Just as you would be if you knew one day you would be the most powerful man on the planet). And then as the real action starts, the tension is built well and builds until sadly things go too far and then everything – story, realism, groundedness seem to take a back seat, and eventually even the special effects begin to break down in the pumped up final action sequence.
The best Superman film since Superman II but is spoilt by an over-the-top ending section. 7/10