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Man of Steel' at BFI IMAX

Man of Steel is a blistering uppercut of a superhero film that reaffirms Clark Kent (or Kal-El as we first know him here) as the Mr Reliable of the genre. It’s clear Christopher Nolan has Zach Snyder’s back in a pulsating opening sequence, which breathes new life and impetus into Superman’s origins in spectacularly apocalyptic fashion. An initial assault on the senses is spearheaded by Russell Crowe (Kal-El’s father) a leading scientist on Kypton and the first to foresee the planet’s impending destruction as natural resources are exhausted.

So when Clark (Henry Cavill) shows up on the Atlantic Ocean bearing the entirety of a flaming oil rig on his considerable chest, we feel the full weight of his journey from Kal to Clark. We have an entrenched belief that Superman is one of us, our protector not some benevolent alien, but this is thrown into question through a powerful back-story revealing his parent’s sacrifice and their intent for Kal to bear the fate of their species as well as that of mankind. Sticklers for the original hooks of the story need not fear however, as soon enough we’re back in Smallville - all baseball jackets, golden swaying cornfields and fatherly advice - Clark reassures the anxious: “I grew up in Kansas, I’m about as American as they come”.

Kevin Costner plays Kal’s gentle adoptive father with an understated surety and honesty to the original character. Together with Crowe, and Michael Shannon as the vengeful General Zod, Costner tops off a quality male supporting cast and adds a venerability to set pieces that, if less well handled, could have come off too sugary.

Cavill himself, while not really given the chance to flex his acting muscles, is every bit the part and avoids the pitfalls of an at times docile script, particularly in scenes with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Lane’s arc is on a tangent from convention, as pre Daily Plant cohorts she seeks Kal-El out by tracing the urban legends surfacing in his wake. Adam’s scotch drinking, 21st century Lois Lane is a true tribute to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s original inspiration for her character; 19th century journalist Nellie Bly. Miss Bly made history with a career of daring journalistic exposés, not least her self-incarceration in a lunatic asylum suspected of mistreatment. This Miss Lane has a very central role to play in the fate of the planet.

Though grounded in the richness and warmth of American hopes and dreams, Man of Steel pivots and punches on its superb action sequences. Exquisite photography of sun kissed Kansas is shattered by the arrival of Zod, who is bent on cleansing earth of humans in preparation for the rebuilding of Kryptonian society (problem being Kal’s father engrained the codecs for the regeneration of their race in Kal’s very DNA). So too Snyder’s grand imagining of fictional city Metropolis gets the bull/china shop treatment as protagonist and antagonist proceed in throwing each other through everything in sight. The action interspersed with scenes of intergalactic space travel and Kal’s childhood flashbacks makes for very engaging viewing, if disrupting the pacing slightly.

While Man of Steel neither competes with the grit of Dark Knight nor the wit of Iron Man, there is an enduring quality in the bedrock of the story that has been rejuvenated with style by Snyder but purports the same values that launched the journey over seventy years ago. A fresh and engaging twist on the origins of our most beloved hero along with stylish and sophisticated action sequences, catapult Superman into 2013. Don’t miss the start of something special. 

To book tickets at the BFI IMAX, click here. 

Guest contributor, Rory Gibson, editorial@southbanklondon.com 

Rory was part of the team behind the first British Student Film Festival, a national short film festival which debuted in 2012. In his spare time he likes to put together his own short films and videos. Rory currently works within a video marketing team at Impact Marketing which offers video production and YouTube TrueView advertising services.