*THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL IN THIS POST*
I’ve been a fan of Superman since I was I was a little kid. I ran around my house in Superman pajamas nearly all day pretending to fly and trying to get my Velcro cape to stay attached to my shoulders and billow just right. I wanted to be Superman. I wanted to fly, have super strength, be invincible, and save people everywhere. That’s pretty much the intention of Superman, I think. Inspire us at a young age to be not only strong, but good to each other. To inspire hope and teach us that it’s not about us but the greater good of people. I think he does a pretty good job of that most of the time. He’s often criticized in today’s age for being too much of a boy scout, too much of the good guy, and completely unrelatable. I’m pretty bummed out that people can feel that way when we all should strive to be boy scout, the good guy.
I started this post after having finally seen Man of Steel. Two times. It’s an attempt by Zach Snyder, David S. Goyer, and Christopher Nolan to bring Superman into today’s times and make him something that we can once again relate to. Someone we can see as a shining beacon of hope for all of humanity. I think they did a fantastic job pulling it off.
In the past, Superman has suffered on the screen because those in charge of getting him there have been very focused on his powers and giving him big things to fight or heavy objects to lift. These people have pretty much missed the point of Superman. He’s super powerful, yes, but he’s also a very complex human being. He has every human emotion that any of us have, but the only thing that is ever focused on is which villain he’ll fight and how he can be shown doing super human things. We have created a Superman for the screen that is unrelatable. It’s not something that is simply ingrained in his character. We made him that way.
What the team behind Man of Steel has done is brought Superman back down to our level. Show him for what he is: an alien on a planet that may not accept him for who he is, an outsider, a person searching for answers to why he’s here, and someone struggling to find their place in our world. They focused on the “man” part of Superman first and foremost and let him find his way into being Superman. They really drive home the point that we should feel for this person who has no idea who he is supposed to be or what he is supposed to do with his abilities. Not only that, but he has a father on Earth that has pushed that he not reveal anything about himself until the world is ready. Pa Kent, played incredibly by Kevin Costner, is terrified of how the world will change once they realize that an alien with incredible powers is on Earth. It could change everything about what we believe.
There was so much about this movie to love. I may have gone in with expectations so high that no movie could have satisfied all of them, but Man of Steel came darn close. It’s not the campy mess that we’ve had in the past. The filmmakers took this one very seriously and made sure that the world we were seeing was believable. They wanted us to believe that this could happen in the world we live in and what reaction we may have to it. They also had some amazing casting choices that pushed it over the edge for me. The script had it’s weak points, and some really weird lines of dialogue, but the cast delivered everything with excellence. I guess that’s what you get when you hire a few Oscar winners to back up your less-than-well-known main star. That being said, Henry Cavill is Superman.
We don’t get to see Henry Cavill playing Clark Kent as much as I’d like, but we do get to see enough to know that he will rock that role as soon as it’s given some more legs. The focus in this movie seemed to be less about finding out about the Clark Kent side of Superman, and more about getting him into the suit and letting him use his powers for good. He’d had to hold back pretty much his entire life in order to protect his identity and to protect those around him from whatever threats there may be. That didn’t always stop him from saving the day though. We get to see plenty of that. This movie was all about Clark finding out about his origins and getting him into that suit to truly go kick some major booty.
This was definitely an action movie at the end of the day. The action set pieces were amazing and the amount of destruction rivals any movie that I have ever seen. Fans have been wishing for a movie where we get to see Superman punch something and they definitely delivered that and then some with this movie. Between the giant machines that Zod brings to earth and the battles that occur between Superman and the other Kryptonians, multiple skyscrapers are simply reduced to dust. There is an apocolyptic amount of destruction in this movie. It’s insane.
The action is all well and good, but the points in this movie that really grabbed me were the heartfelt moments shared between Clark and his earth parents. I was reduced to tears more than once during those times when it shows Clark as just a good kid with parents who really love him. There is a scene that pulled directly at my heart when little kid Clark is getting hammered by X-ray vision and his super hearing, and gets so overwhelmed he runs out of the classroom. The only person that can talk him down and get him calm is his mom, who is so incredibly sweet in this scene I don’t know how you couldn’t be touched. If it didn’t grab you, you may not have a soul. Get that checked out. There’s another scene where Clark comes home after his long journey to find the answers, where his mom is just downright excited to see him but at the same time worried she’ll lose him. It’s so real, and I wish that there had been more moments like that to really bring it home how much of a human he really is.
Aside from those few quiet moments that we get, this movie is fast paced and packed to the brim with action. From the opening moments on Krypton, to the epic fight with General Zod, we’re given pulse pounding action sequences that I know kept me on the edge of my seat. I really wish I could say more about them, but it’s honestly something you just have to experience to get a real understand of. I can only assume that the script had one line that said “forty-minutes of destruction all over the place” that they then had to fill in with their imaginations. They definitely succeeded there.
I loved this movie so very much. If I had one thing to say about it, I would ask for more of those quiet, real moments and about 10 minutes less of crazy action. There were a few moments where I was getting bored with the action. You can really only see someone get thrown through a building so many times before it becomes a bit repetitive. There were also moments where I felt like they were just running out of idea and felt like they just needed to keep hitting Superman with bigger stuff. It was a great action sequence for sure, but it could have been a bit tighter in order to keep our attention.
There is one major moment in the movie where Superman does something that many feel is incredibly un-Supermanlike. He kills General Zod. We all know that Superman never kills. It’s just something that he would never do. However, given the circumstances of what was going on, plus this ‘real’ take on Superman and how they are looking at him, there was really no choice here. General Zod is ready to burn a small family alive with his heat vision while Superman has him in a headlock. Kal-El is BEGGING Zod to stop, but Zod refuses even going so far as to say he’ll never stop. I think it’s this realization that drives Superman to snap Zod’s neck. The remorse he feels is evident split-seconds after it happens. It’s devastating. I think it drives home Superman’s moral compass more than any other moment in the film. Henry Cavill shines in this moment, when he lets out an absolutely painful scream of regret. Lois shows up moments later and as he’s on his knees, she just comes over to hold his head while he downright weeps. It’s a beautiful moment. My mouth dropped open.
To understand the entire fight between Zod and Kal-El, it’s super important to understand WHY Zod is doing what he’s doing. General Zod was engineered from birth to be a warrior, to protect the people of Krypton, and to ensure they’re survival. This isn’t just something that he was tought to do, it’s something he was bred to do. It is literally in his DNA. It IS his purpose in life. When Superman banishes all of his people back to the phantom zone, Zod’s world ends. Zod is now alone on Earth, with no more people of Krypton to protect. He sees Kal-El as an abomination to begin with (the first natural birth in Krypton for over 100 years), and how that abomination has destroyed all hope of Krypton’s return to prominence. Zod is not happy about this. “My soul. That is what you’ve taken from me,” he says with an intensity that only Michael Shannon could project. That man dials the crazy up to 11 and leaves it there throughout the entire movie. But not without reason. It’s actually less crazy and more intense. You definitely understand what he’s doing, but you also do not want him to carry out his mission. I love this approach to Zod. It’s logical and gives him an actual reason to want to take over earth. The entire idea of how Krypton works is amazing to me, and it really stands out as one of the best decisions they made when it comes to the Superman mythos.
I could talk about this movie all day long, and I’m pretty sure that I have. I’ve talked to Stephanie non-stop about it for a year, and my friends and I have been going on and on and on about it, even after seeing it. I’m not sure when I’ll be done obsessing over it. I’m already looking forward to the sequel since I know that they have the foundation set up and we can really see Superman grow at this point.
At the end of the day, this movie really took me back to those times where I ran around in my pajamas pretending to fly. I’ll always be a fan of Superman, and I’ll always sit around and wonder what it would be like to be able to save the day like he does all the time. What if we could have those powers and do those things. How would we handle the pressure of knowing that we could possibly save everyone, but there may come a time when we couldn’t? Would we always be able to show restraint when necessary, or would we end up doing the wrong thing out of some selfish human desire? Superman has and always will be able to decide when and how to use his power, and I think that the same principle applies to us as people. We may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we can always use the talents and abilities we have to do something good for people.
I think that at the end of the day, that is what Superman is all about. Using our gifts for the greater good. I can definitely get behind that.