Justice League Man of Steel
4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Zack Snyder
scr David S Goyer
prd Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Emma Thomas
with Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue, Laurence Fishburne, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer
release US/UK 14.Jun.13
13/US Warner 2h23
Man of Steel
Facing the enemy: Adams, Cavill and Traue

shannon crowe lane
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Man of Steel Christopher Nolan brings Superman into his Dark Knight universe with this gritty, violent retelling of the character's origin, cleverly nestled in flashbacks between action scenes. It's a beefy story packed with parent-child issues, hope for humanity and ethical dilemmas, plus of course massively thrilling set-pieces that will be difficult to top next time round.

As the planet Krypton faced certain doom, scientists Jor-El and Lara (Crowe and Zurer) packed their illicitly natural-born son Kal-El into a capsule and sent him out of reach of the aggressively nasty General Zod (Shannon). So Kal-El (Cavill) has grown up in Smallville, Kansas, as the Kents' (Lane and Costner) son Clark. And some 30 years later, just as nosey journalist Lois Lane (Adams) figures out his secret, Zod tracks him to Earth and launches a full-on invasion. Zod's plan is to recreate Krypton even if it means wiping out humanity.

The key conflict is whether Kal-El should protect his adopted planet or help his birth species. It may be fairly obvious, but at least the script forces Kal-El to really grapple with the issue. The fine middle-American values he's been raised with could go either way, and a holographic Jor-El encourages peace and hope. But Zod and his henchmen are the only people like him that he's ever met. Meanwhile, he feels guilty about putting the people he loves into so much danger.

This kind of character development may not be hugely complex, but it adds depth of emotion to the visual carnage. And there's a lot of that. Action scenes feature so much destructive mayhem that we wonder how anyone will ever rebuild things afterwards. Unlike The Dark Knight, scenes are also heavily augmented with special effects, although at least they're integrated with earthy lucidity that never steals focus from the characters (with the exception of the Indian Ocean sequence).

From the start, the film's design is a signal of the serious approach. Krypton is a relentlessly grey-brown place where even the clothing is mud-coloured. So why they give Kal-El a blue and red suit is anyone's guess. But at least Cavill fills it well, adding dramatic interest even in the battle sequences while generating spiky chemistry alongside everyone else. Scenes with Adams, Shannon and Lane all pop with energy, and make the mayhem that much more involving.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 11.Jun.13

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