It was June of 2013. My parents and I went on a trip to New York City. It was my first time and as you may guess I was BEYOND excited. After our long treks through the city we’d return to our hotel room and I remember vividly playing one specific game on my 4th Generation IPod Touch. Man of Steel. You may be asking yourself, why does this mobile game from 2013 matter in the review about the film? Well, that whole trip I saw countless Man of Steel billboards, people wearing Superman shirts (my father being one), and comic book stores holding events. Most importantly though, it was opening weekend.
I begged my mom to let us see it, especially in IMAX at the Lincoln Square Theater, yet all she said was “No, we didn’t come here to see a movie.” (Little did she know that six years later I’d drive with my father to Washington, DC to see 1917 a week early)
Simply said, this movie was a big deal to me. That following week, Monday, June 17, 2013 to be exact (I still have the ticket), my dad and I saw it at our local theater. And when it ended I was disappointed. Why was this Superman so dark? My dad didn’t know the answer, all he complained about was that Lois knew who Kal-El was before he was even Superman (he still complains about it).
Months passed and the film faded from my memory. Blu-ray eventually came out and I bought the Target Exclusive Digibook. When I came home I used the digital copy and put it on my self, never to see the light of day again. Until –
(Read as if it is the most dramatic line you’ve ever read)
May 13, 2014
I sat in my chorus class singing some random song I can’t remember, counting down the minutes until it was done and I could go home. I was in middle school at this time, eighth grade to be exact, and during this phase I was admittedly shy about my love of pop culture. But then, like a god ray shooting out of the heavens, my lord and savior Zack Snyder –
– released the first official picture of Ben Affleck as Batman in his then upcoming and untitled Superman – Batman film.
My god, it was as if time halted completely. My favorite fictional character of all time (at that time) was being rebooted and he looked like that. The short ears, the fabric suit, the Dark Knight Returns-esque emblem. It was perfection, as a matter of fact, it still is.
I raced home that night to draw my version of that shot. I was a avid artist at the time so whenever I had the chance I would practice, always trying to use a resource to base my work off of. I could never draw in silence so I popped in the Man of Steel Blu-ray that was covered in dust and let that play in the background.
And then, like a bull in a China shop, Hans Zimmer’s Flight began to boom through my speakers. His inspiring and epic score caught my attention and I stopped drawing to watch Superman attempt his first flight.
This is when it happened, when I finally realized my love for this film. Watching Clark stumble as he begins to learn his true potential, only to succeed when he truly believes in himself is a wonder I haven’t felt in a long time. I related more than I could have ever imagined. And for the remaining hour and change, my eyes were glued to the screen.
After the end of The Dark Knight Trilogy, and their failed attempt at a cinematic universe in 2011’s Green Lantern, Zack Snyder was tasked with bringing to life a grounded Superman origin story to kick start DC’s answer to the MCU (we know how that eventually went down).
Casting was stacked with Henry Cavill, a relatively unknown at the time (Fun Fact: Cavill was in the running to play Batman in Batman Begins, James Bond in Casino Royale, Green Lantern in Green Lantern, and even Superman in the failed Superman: Flyby), as Clark Kent, Amy Adams as Lois Lane (Fun Fact: She was also in the running for Lois Lane in Superman: Flyby and even appeared in Smallville), Michael Shannon as General Zod, Kevin Costner as Johnathan Kent, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El.
From a screenplay by David S. Goyer based on a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan (yes, you read that correctly. Many people forget he had a strong hand in creating the beginning of the DCEU), Man of Steel tells the origin story of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman as he comes to grips with his abilities and his place in a modern world.
I, for one, enjoy the story of the film. The idea that Superman is a god like figure and his symbolism to Christianity has always interested me, even when I didn’t exactly like the film. I believe Goyer and Nolan captured perfectly how the modern world would view a “Superman”. Would he be trusted? Villianized? These questions also correlate with the topic of racism and hatred to those different than ourselves. Throughout the film many characters treat the idea of Superman as a threat because he’s different. They judge him on the basis of his biology and heritage rather than the person he is. Not only is it brought up here but even more so in its sequel Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The film opens with a twenty minute prologue, set on Krypton during it’s final days. Here we are introduced to a world unlike anything we’ve seen in the comic book genre, and are greeted to Jor-El and his wife as they attempt to send their son away. They hide a codex within him and ready the ship when General Zod breaks into their home and attacks. Jor-El dies as he sends his son away from the damned world, leaving behind a beaten Zod, determined to find the only natural born child Krypton has seen in forever.
Many people bash the opening of the film, deeming it long and unnecessary, however, I disagree. In these twenty minutes we learn just how important Superman’s destiny is. He is free to forge his own path and become the man he wishes to be. No longer are Kryptonians forced into a life without freewill. Additionally, it sets the tone for Zod’s characterization. In this forgotten world it’s inhabitants are predestined to a path that they are unable to be released from. Zod was the General, required to protect Krypton at all cost, any cost. We see him attempt to take the Codex to further along the next generation of Kryptonians. He believes in Jor-El’s warning and in his own twisted view, thinks raging war against his own people will save them. But more on him later.
The next hour of the film is pretty simple. We see Clark moving from one place to another as he learns what it means to be a hero. We see him make mistakes and act out. For example, when he is working at a truck stop he stops a man from harassing his co-worker. After he does so the man attacks him, and he leaves. Clark then decides to destroy the man’s truck by stabbing logs into it. It’s a scene of levity in a rather grim film, but it also shows that Clark isn’t the man he is destined to be yet.
It isn’t until he is literally called into action that Clark discovers who he is meant to become. He dons the his Kryptonian pjs and fumbles into the sky.
It is at this moment that Clark learns the path to becoming the hero he needs to be. As he stands in the cold, icy artic, Clark looks into the sky and remembers the words his father told him.
You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They’ll race behind you, they will stumble, they’ll fall. In time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.Jor-El, Man of Steel
The words echo in his head as he embraces the warm sun. He accepts his destiny as not only the savior of the world, but as a member of it.
Then an hour and a half of action happens. But before we get into that I have one more thing to add about Clark.
As of now this review has gone on longer than I ever dreamed of, yet, I’ve only scratched the surface. I hardly mentioned Lois, Johnathan, Martha, and the rest of the supporting cast, for one very important reason. It’s not their story. They are critical to the fundamentals of Superman, but this is a story of Clark. We get flashbacks throughout the film of Johnathan teaching Clark what it means to be a human, and on the Kryptonian Ship Clark learns what it means to be an alien, but only after that does be realizes what it means to be himself. It’s powerful stuff, even if I am reading into it a bit much.
After the release of Bryan Singers 2006 Superman Returns, many fans were critical about its lack of action, which leads us to the CGI fuck fest that is the last hour and change of the film. And I love it.
I know many aren’t keen on the idea of Superman punching Zod through buildings and killing thousands of people but if you really think about it what else could happen? Not to mention throughout the fight Clark constantly tries to get Zod out of the city. But I digress. The action adds as a pay off to all the character drama of the first half of the film, leading to an intense end scene where Clark has Zod in a headlock. Zod threats Clark with the notion that unless he dies today, he’ll stop at nothing to make the people of Earth suffer.
Previously in the fight, Zod exclaims how his sole purpose is to protect Krypton and since it has been destroyed his purpose has shifted to the Codex that has been infused with Clarks DNA and to use the World Engines to rebuild Krypton on Earth. However, he must kill Clark in order to achieve his goal. His motivations are unique for a comic book villian, because in a way he isn’t truly a villian. To Krypton he is essentially a hero, a savior, like Clark is to Earth. They have a duology, similar to Batman and the Joker.
Now, back to the headlock. Zod ignites his heat vision and puts it towards innocent people, attempting to kill them. Clark begs him to stop, which Zod replies with:
Never.Zod, Man of Steel
As the beams get closer, Clark is left with two options. To kill him, or let those people die. He’s forced to snap his neck, and while the lifeless body of the last remaining Krypton lies before him, Clark unleashes a grueling cry. With Zod’s death he has officially ended the restoration of his world, thus making him the Last Son of Krypton.
The film ends with him moving to Metropolis and taking a job at the Daily Planet alongside his new love interest, Lois Lane.
From it’s rushed romance, destruction porn, exhausting length, and countless other things, Man of Steel is a film that on it’s surface is very flawed, but, boosted by Zimmer’s magnificent score, Snyder’s beautiful visuals, and a perfect Superman in Cavill, gives a hopeful future for DC Films to come.