'Man of Steel': What the Critics Are Saying

Man of Steel Henry Cavill - H 2013
Warner Bros. Pictures

Man of Steel Henry Cavill - H 2013

The latest Superman film features an issue-heavy origin story combined with big special effects.

Superman has flown back into theaters for the first time since 2006's poorly received Superman Returns.

The Zack Snyder-directed Christopher Nolan-produced reboot focuses on Kal-El/Clark Kent's origins, including the discovery of his superpowers. Henry Cavill dons the iconic suit this time around, while Amy Adams steps into the role of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. Meanwhile, Russell Crowe plays Kal-El's birth father, Jor-El, and Michael Shannon is out to wreak havoc as the menacing General Zod. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark Kent's adoptive parents.

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Man of Steel has already taken in $21 million in the U.S. from Thursday night and midnight screenings. The film also broke box office records in Asia.

The big-budget tentpole combines a philosophical backstory with lots of action sequences, but will this combination convince people to see the movie?

Read what some of the critics had to say below.

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes that the film is a big, brash spectacle that should have staying power at the box office.

"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," he says.

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The New York Times' Manohla Dargis praises the movie's appearance but argues that the action-packed special-effects sequences sometimes overpower the deeper issues, particularly towards the end of the film.

"Everything [is] almost lost in the last 45 minutes, when Mr. Snyder piles on the hammering special effects, becoming yet one more director gone disappointingly amok," Dargis writes. "That’s too bad, because if you wave away all the computer-generated smoke and see past the pulverized buildings, it’s possible to remain hooked on the resonant origin story that wends through Man of Steel -- that of the immigrant."

The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan goes further, saying that, much like Superman's struggle with his identity, the movie "is similarly torn."

"This film is pulled in different directions, delivering satisfactions without managing to be completely satisfying," Turan writes.

Time's Richard Corliss agrees that the movie is divided, but is a fan of both components.

"The action is plentiful and thumping; Marvel-size thrills await you and the generations of kids who still believe in Superman. I just mean that the movie finds its true, lofty footing not when it displays Kal-El’s extraordinary powers but when it dramatizes Clark Kent’s roiling humanity. The super part of Man of Steel is just OK; but the man part is super."

As for Cavill, most critics say the British actor looks the part.

Corliss elaborates, "Conforming to the superhero template of the preposterously muscled hunk, the Englishman also brings to the role exactly the right haunted, stricken but resolute air of someone searching for a grand mystery inside him."

Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty isn't as complimentary.

"At the risk of damning Cavill with faint praise, the 30-year-old Brit makes a better Man of Steel than the milquetoast Brandon Routh did in 2006's Superman Returns. But he isn't exactly Mr. Charisma either."

Richard Roeper, who says Cavill can be a bit stiff, writes in the Chicago Sun-Times that the film's origin story, just the latest in a series of superhero-beginnings films, is not needed and disappointingly realized.

"Man of Steel held the promise of being the richest, darkest, most grown-up version of the Superman story ever put on film. And there are moments, even complete scenes, when we see glimpses of what might have been a great Superman movie," Roeper writes. "But then we’re plunged back into a mostly underwhelming film, with underdeveloped characters and supercharged fight scenes that drag on and offer nothing new in the way of special-effects creativity."

Not shy about voicing his opinion, The New York Observer's Rex Reed bashes the film for being unnecessary and unoriginal.

"Despite an obscene budget that could have made a giant stride in the cure for cancer, there isn’t much originality, and the whole endeavor appears to be the work of grown men who never outgrew puberty," Reed writes.