One of the biggest movies of the year, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, is now available to take home on Blu-ray. If you only saw the picture once, or even twice in the theaters, there’s likely quite a bit you missed. Luckily, the Blu-ray is packed full of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a multimedia commentary track that delves into every facet of the filmmaking process. And for those of you who want to minor in Kryptonian studies, the special features also explore the newly created language and alphabet, technology, and all-around culture of the inhabitants of Krypton, plus an in-depth look at the alien world itself.
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Antje Traue and Russell Crowe, Man of Steel is an enjoyable, yet absolutely detailed and expansive entry in the pantheon of Superman films. The quality of the film alone is worth picking it up on Blu-ray, but the special features put the icing on the cake.
I’ll be honest, when I first saw Man of Steel on the big screen, I loved the direction Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer took the beloved hero in, even if I had a few issues with the story. Upon a second viewing, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the sheer amount of work that went in to making the film. From the Kryptonians’ grueling training regimen, to the stunt team’s exhaustive preparation and execution of some truly massive action sequences, to the creative crew’s development of Kryptonian culture and technology, Man of Steel is more than just two-hours-and-twenty-three minutes of a superhero slugfest.
Superman’s struggle to find his place in this alien world while attempting to make both his blood father and his adoptive father proud plays better once you’ve heard the story once and can really sink your teeth into it during another time around. It also makes you appreciate Cavill’s work even more, as Superman carries the weight of two worlds and civilizations on his shoulders, and isn’t free of at least half of that burden until the very end of the film. Crowe and Costner turn in warm, heart-felt performances that give the best of both worlds to Cavill’s Clark and Superman; Shannon’s Zod plays the antithesis to the fathers’ care and compassion, going to any lengths to protect his people, even if that means obliterating some of them along the way.
As good as Man of Steel is, it’s not perfect. Writing the genetic code of millions of Kryptonians into the cells of one shuttle-launched son is a bit of a head-scratcher, but no less effective than any other MacGuffin. I wasn’t a fan of the wanton destruction of Metropolis, but on a second viewing it’s not as bad as I originally thought. Most of the damage is to vacant office buildings (must have been a Sunday) or parked cars. I was also pretty miffed at Superman’s final decision on how to deal with Zod, but in light of the battle that preceded it (and the likely fallout in the coming sequel), I’m a lot more forgiving of it now.
Overall, Man of Steel is a great start to what could be an epic franchise. If future DC films are up to the level of Superman’s latest entry, then we’re in for a lot of fun in the coming years. If you want a second opinion, be sure to check out Matt’s review of the film here.
Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (~25 minutes) – The cast and crew comment on the legacy of Superman. Geoff Johns joins to talk about the hero’s origin story, the Death of Superman, the New 52, and Superman’s history on screen. The discussion further turns to Cavill taking on the mantle of Superman. The featurette changes from the canon of Superman to how Man of Steel interprets the character, althought Johns does talk about the story of Superman: Last Son and how it provided some source material for Goyer’s take on Zod, especially the backstory between Zod and Jor-El. They also talk about the new direction for Lois Lane, a reintroduction of Emil Hamilton and Pete Ross, expanding the world of Krypton, the Man of Steel comic arc, and how the ecology of Krypton parallels that of Earth.
All-Out Action (~25 minutes) – Director Zack Snyder and stunt coordinator Damon Caro, plus trainers Mark Twight and Michael Blevins take viewers from the physical training of the actors to execution of massive action sequences. Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon and Antje Traue comment on their training while a montage of all sorts of strength/flexibility/cardio/fighting routines plays. There’s also an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the film’s major action sequences.
Krypton Decoded (~10 minutes) – Dylan Sprayberry and John ‘DJ’ Desjardin talk visual fx: Destroying Krypton, Scout Ship, Display Technology, Armor & Weapons, the Phantom Zone,
Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (~2 minutes) – Superman literally leaps off of the page of Action Comics #1 and into … well, action, taking an animated journey through his various iterations over the years. He’s joined by a cast of fan favorite heroes and villains, and is animated in a number of styles reflecting comics, movies, video games and television throughout the decades, all the way up to the current Man of Steel look.
New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth (~5 minutes) – The cast and crew of The Hobbit trilogy and a behind-the-scenes look at their filming process in New Zealand. A great look at the varied and beautiful landscape of New Zealand.
Journey of Discover: Creating Man of Steel – A feature-length commentary with director Zack Snyder and more of the cast and crew, complete with concept art and script discussion from producers. It delves into the language and history of Krypton, from creating a language to using the lexicon to expand and enrich the world. Other highlights include:
- A look at the costumes of Zod and his followers, some of which were computer generated.
- A shot-by-shot sequence of action scenes/fights. Multiple camera angles for scenes.
- There’s a great story about how Russell Crowe originally met Henry Cavill, and Cavill’s journey that eventually led him to play Superman.
- Cool moment during Superman’s destruction of the world engine where they take out all the sound fx and dialogue and just let Hans Zimmer’s score do the work; it’s magical. Zimmer himself comes on screen to talk about his process, using steel guitars in a unique way and bringing in a group of drummers for one of the score’s most powerful pieces.
- Richard Schiff adds a lot of humor to the commentary but it’s pretty light and entertaining around.
- Snyder appears to be a bit of a prankster on set as he has some zombies attack Superman on set.
Planet Krypton (~15 minutes) – A retrospective mock-umentary about the arrival of the Kryptonians and the introduction of Superman, an alien life-form on Earth. Concept art used as “artist’s renderings”, a translation of the Kryptonian language and an exploration of Krypton’s landscape, people and culture. Also includes a “scientific” exploration of Krypton. It’s interesting to note that Lexcorp has modeled the Kryptonian spacecraft. There’s a detailed look into the weaponry, clothing, language and lineage of Kryptonians. (For example, did you know that “Krypton is a cape culture.”) There’s also mention of S.T.A.R. labs from the DC Comics.