Published Nov 12, 2013Let no one ever again claim that Superman is boring. That seems to have been Zack Snyder's mission statement for the ridiculously action-packed Man of Steel. And boring, it is not — bloated and numbing through use of sheer brute force, yes, but never is this reimagining of the American Sun God's origin uneventful. Despite being uncharacteristically ponderous, DC's often effectively paced and visually stimulating bid to lay the groundwork for a unified cinematic universe to compete with Marvel's already established legions of cash cows does its job as planet-smashing blockbuster entertainment and is easily the most consistently enjoyable and sensibly plotted Superman film to date. Not like that's saying much; removed from the filter of nostalgia, the Christopher Reeves films were horrible — save the actor's performance as Clark Kent — and though it was somewhat unfairly maligned, Superman Returns had more than its share of problems.
For the Blu-Ray release of Man of Steel, as is his standard practice, Snyder pulls out all the stops to provide viewers with an immersive look at the myriad technical achievements of his big burly superhero movie, packing this double-disc set with additional, largely superfluous Kryptonian lore. "Strong Characters, Legendary Roles" is a historical overview of the character's various incarnations in pop culture. Composed of interviews and behind the scenes footage, the cast and filmmakers discuss the universal appeal and enduring qualities of the blatantly Christ-like alien. That's about as much as we get regarding the subject of theme in the first disc's supplemental content. "All-Out Action" speaks more directly to the heart of Snyder's take on Kal-El, last son of Krypton. Over almost 30 minutes, we're treated to footage of Henry Cavill building his massive torso and Michael Shannon questioning conventional wisdom while attempting to cotton to the importance of physical fitness. Throughout what's essentially an extensive workout video, the trainers and most of the actors harp on the importance of how training helps character development while providing few concrete examples.
The rest of the disc is far less interesting. "Krypton Decoded" is a cheesy look at alien technology with the actor that played teenage Clark, while "Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short" is simply a run through of significant moments in the character's history set to the classic John Williams theme. Strangely, a location feature from The Hobbit is also included without explanation.
The second disc of bonus features starts with "Planet Krypton," a history lesson shot like a crappy television exposé set within the reality of the film's universe. There's some nice concept art on display, but that's as far as its value extends. The collection's crowning jewel is not-so-creatively-titled "Watch the movie with Zack Snyder," presumably because "Maximum Movie Mode" never caught on. If you've been through one of these glorified commentary tracks before, it's exactly that, but more streamlined than many; there are no prompts to click on icons to access features — it's all presented in sequence as the film plays on in one of a variety of picture-in-picture configurations. Any questions viewers may have about the production are almost certainly answered here (unless you're interested in story mechanics). There is, however, fetishistic attention to design detail and a fascinating conversation with Hans Zimmer on composing the new iconic score, including footage of 20 drummers (Tool's Danny Carey among them) pounding out body-rattling dramatic tribal war beats. The only moments of self-awareness that crop up among the special features are courtesy of the hilariously frank and awkward Michael Shannon. So, there's a little something for everyone, even if the cynics get the short end of the stick overall. (Warner)