Zack Snyder widens his view as a director with Man of Steel, taking a proclivity for creating startling images in the service of storytelling and using it to enlarge and expand the action.
As a result, Man of Steel works as a compelling big-screen blockbuster because Snyder doesn't treat it as a comic-book movie. Instead, he brings a sense of realism -- veined with the speculative ideas of science fiction -- to this story of a man from another planet and his impact on Earth when it discovers his presence.
Working from a script by David Goyer, Snyder refuses to be encumbered by the linear story-telling of the origin story we all know. Instead of taking it for granted that everyone knows where Superman came from and simply glossing over it -- if not making sport of it -- he starts his story in the middle, then teases back to fill in the missing pieces.
The prologue, set on the planet Krypton, sticks to the facts but gives them a new spin. Instead of just being a planet that blew up -- and which happened to be home to a scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), who predicted the planet's destruction -- Krypton is now a planet that has, in essence, destroyed itself by mining its own core for energy.
But even as the planet's high council rejects Jor-El's pleas to evacuate Krypton, the planet's military leader, General Zod (Michael Shannon), swoops in to kill the head of the council and proclaim his own leadership. Jor-El escapes and launches his own baby, Kal-El, toward a planet where he should be able to survive -- indeed, one whose sun and gravity should give Kal-El super-powers. Zod, meanwhile, is captured, charged with treason and sent into the Phantom Zone.
Instead of giving us the Clark Kent story (found as a baby by Ma and Pa Kent, raised in Smallville, etc.), we find the now-grown Clark (square-jawed Henry Cavill) working on fishing boat in the North Atlantic - until he hears a radio distress call from an oil-drilling platform that's going up in flames several miles away.
This review continues on my website.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine