After doing such a fantastic job with The Dark Knight Trilogy, it’s no surprise that Warner Brothers would hand Christopher Nolan the reins on their next big superhero franchise. As producer, Nolan appointed Zack Snyder (who has done good work with comic book adaptations before with the likes of 300 and Watchmen) as director, while relative unknown Henry Cavill is tasked with filling out the spandex.
Kicking off on Planet Krypton on the eve of its destruction, we meet Superman's parents (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) as they send him off to Earth to keep him safe. What they've also blasted him off with, though, is the capability of saving the future of their entire race. Along comes villain General Zod (Michael Shannon) then who follows him across the universe with the singular intention of continuing the future of Kryptonians at the cost of everything else. Once on Earth, the alien now known as Clark Kent is brought up by his adoptive parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), but over the years he finds it difficult to continue hiding who he is and what he is capable of. Eventually we catch up with present day Clark as he, along with investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), discovers an ancient alien spacecraft buried in the Arctic ice. From here Clark discovers who he really is, but also alerts Zod to his exact location...
There was concern that after taking the dark and moody direction for Batman, Nolan would suffocate all of the light out of Superman, too. Thankfully this is not entirely the case, although it is certainly a much darker shade than we are generally used to seeing with this particular superhero. As with most comic book adaptations, the temptation to put some heavy subtext underneath the action scenes has not been missed, with some far-from-subtle religious angles to be found throughout.
On the plus side, this is exactly the kind of epic action film that we've always needed from a Superman movie. Stylistically it's almost impossible to fault; between the immense action sequences and the beautiful cinematography, mixed in with Hans Zimmer's outstanding score, this is a joyful overload to the senses. There's also the uniformly excellent cast, with special mention to Shannon as a complicated but intimidating villain, and the inhumanly handsome Cavill who completely looks the part in the cape.
If there are any faults, it’s that the movie is perhaps 20 minutes too long with an indistinct and flabby midsection, and some of the action scenes get a tad repetitive; once you've seen Superman smash through one building, you've seen him smash through them all.
But this is still a great jumping off point for the new future of the Superman franchise, with some lovely subtle hints into the grander DC universe. This is very much Superman Begins, and we cannot wait for The Red & Blue Knight.