You Can Save Them All: Man of Steel Review

Hope
Hope

Man of Steel is huge. Superman is huge so that’s certainly as it should be. There’s no ‘wink, wink’ or snarky Marvel one-liners. Along with the Dark Knight trilogy, DC is making Marvel’s current films look like Saturday morning cartoons. While I enjoy the movies of Marvel, I prefer the realistic take on these iconic characters. This movie is as realistic as a movie about an alien who uses his extraordinary abilities for the greater good can be.
Right from the start, we see that this is a brand new take on the character and nothing is being carried over from the previous films. To this day I will defend Superman Returns. It’s by no means a bad film as so many people make it out to be. Again, that was just a different take on the character. Yes, I have some problems with that film, but the overall picture is one that I love to look at. That being said, I’m glad that Man of Steel starts with a clean canvas and stands on its own.
The opening on Krypton is a movie on its own. Oh to have a stand-alone prequel with Russell Crowe as Jor-El before his son is even conceived: that would be something special. The opening scene reminded me of how much of a bad-ass Crowe can be and even reminded me of his ‘Gladiator’ days. We spend a lot more time on Krypton than we had in any other previous Superman film, but you still get that feeling that it’s not enough.
I loved that Krypton was re-imagined and was no longer the crystal world that we saw in Superman: the Movie. Krypton is an alien world, and it was nice to really see it fully explored. We get to see more of Jor-El later in the film, but that’s only through holograms; the Jor-El from the opening sequence is completely different from what he becomes later in the film. I enjoyed every second of that opening on Krypton.
What else did I love? Well, the list will be long but let me talk about the genetically engineering that takes place on Krypton. Krypton used to be a space-faring culture devoted to exploration and spreading its culture across the stars. What happened? It seems Krypton got lazy. Physically conceiving children became outlawed and instead Krypton’s children started becoming made instead. They were made and bred for a specific reason: to become leaders, warriors, scientists. It’s a fascinating thought. Now of course, because of all of this Krypton has doomed itself.
This leads to the ‘villain’ of the film. Now is Zod really the villain of the film? Well, yes and no (at least not in the traditional sense). Zod does have evil intentions and does evil things in the film, but there is a reason behind his madness. Remember Kryptonians are actually made for specific reasons and Zod’s purpose for living is to ensure Krypton’s survival, that’s it. That is literally the only reason Zod is here. It’s not really about some sort of payback or making Kal-El kneel before him: his mission is to form a new Krypton. So hey, if there happens to be humans on this planet Earth, so be it. Zod has bigger plans and he’s certainly not going to allow a couple billion pesky humans get in the way of his people’s survival.
Superman: the Movie features a scene where Lois Lane interviews Superman for the first time and he reveals that he is from a planet named Krypton. This is treated as no big deal and just like that it’s on to the next question. So yeah, think about that. Finding out for a fact that we are not alone would not be casually brushed aside. There would be multiple reactions varying from terror to panic. I love that the film can be so many things. Along with it being a father/son movie, it’s also a first contact story. Kal-El’s arrival on Earth is treated like the big deal that it should be. Superman waits 33 years to reveal himself to the world. It didn’t just happen overnight as we see in all the flashbacks between Clark and his ‘second’ father Jonathan.
There is much debate as to whether or not the world is ready to accept an alien being into their daily life. Surely the discovery of an alien from a faraway planet would be treated like one of (if not THE) biggest stories in the history of man. Think about what that revelation would mean. For a while we’ve thought that perhaps we are not alone, but his arrival confirms that. It places even more doubt in the existence of God. Hell, to many people, this man will be looked upon as a God. It’s a heavy burden to carry for a child who just wants to be his father’s son.
This leads us to the flashbacks that take place throughout the film. These flashbacks did such a wonderful job of expressing how even among so many people, Clark is so isolated and truly alien. Never is this more evident than when we see the flashback of Clark as a young boy in school. The teacher asks Clark a question and well his focus is elsewhere. Clark hears everything surrounding him, inches and miles away. He sees through his teacher into her internal organs. He is a ball of confusion as he locks himself in a nearby closet. To all his classmates, he is a freak. Clark hears all of their whispers through the door. He certainly didn’t ask for any of this yet here it is in front of him.
Many people complain about how dark the film is, especially for Superman. Well, would you expect Clark to be jumping up in down in joy. Superman is not like the rest of us, he is better. I mean, who knows what we would do with such amazing powers. At the same time, Clark has his father telling him to hide all of his special abilities from the world. Yes, Jonathan is responsible for so much of the greatness in Clark and most of what keeps him humble comes from his Earth parents, but so do so much of those doubts. Clark’s first instincts are always to help people when they need it, so when Jonathan tells his son that maybe he should let them die, well how are you supposed to take that? Clark becomes a wanderer for nearly 15 years, all the while trying to find out his place in this world and who exactly he is.
So the first scene and even before that, the first sounds we hear in the film, are of baby Kal-El being born. Jor-El has went against Kryptonian laws as he and his wife Lara conceived baby Kal-El the old fashioned way and the child is literally the first natural birth in centuries. Not only that but Jor-El actually places Krypton’s codex into baby Kal-El’s DNA as he sends him off to the stars. So Superman is literally the last Son of Krypton and carries his people’s heritage wherever he goes. As long as Superman is alive, so is Krypton.
Clark Kent has never been in a fight before. Really, think about that. We see in the flashbacks how Clark was bullied and how much he wanted to fight back, but come on. Even if Clark did retaliate, it’d hardly be considered a fight. It’d be more like a massacre since all it would take to destroy anybody on Earth would be a small flick. So I don’t get the people who complain about all of the destruction caused by Superman and Zod. This is Superman’s first fight. This is him fully unleashed and learning on the go. Yes, he will get better at it and yes, he will be more careful eventually when it comes to the damage caused to the city and to its people, but at the moment? It’s a full on disaster and Superman will hold nothing back to stop his first adversaries, which are of course Zod and the rest of the criminals from the Phantom Zone. You have to realize how much pent up aggression Clark has in his fight with Zod. Zod threatens Earth and the people closest to him, including his mother so yes we see Superman go berserk on Zod and yes it leads to a bunch of Metropolis being destroyed. I do hope that destruction isn’t just glossed over and is actually discussed in the sequel because we are talking about one of the biggest disasters in human history.
Glasses. Yes, let us discuss those glasses. Prior to the release of the film, I wondered if Clark would work at the Daily Planet in this incarnation of Superman. I realize if he didn’t, people would throw a fit, but even as a huge Superman fan, I don’t really mind the changes that were made. All I care about is seeing a great Superman film, which is what I got. So getting rid of the red underwear? Why not, after all removing those underwear in not going to make him any less super. So I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that Clark will actually maintain a secret identity in this new film version of Superman.
I really believe that it could have just said, ‘screw the secret identity.’ That didn’t happen of course and the film ended with Clark’s first day as a journalist at the Daily Planet and putting on those glasses. Sigh. I hope it becomes a running joke then about how no one knows Clark Kent is Superman because he is wearing a pair of glasses. ‘Oh, don’t mind the extremely muscular, extremely handsome new reporter that was just hired, just as Superman came out to the world.’ We’ll see how it plays going forward, but I know that initially I didn’t like it and it was my biggest and maybe only complaint with the film.
Now, let’s talk about the big issue and big scene that everyone is talking about. Superman kills Zod, and guess what? I didn’t have a problem with it. Was there another solution to Superman stopping Zod from frying those people with his heat vision? Maybe, but it was an in the moment reaction that could have even saved millions, even billions of lives. Like I said, this Superman is barely starting out, this is all new to him. I consider his action growing pains and it doesn’t make him any less super to me. I get it, Superman does not kill. I know, in ‘What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,’ Supes is also forced to kill his adversary and because of it, we never see Superman again. I know all of the stories with Kingdome Come being another great example of Superman not killing. Well, this is another story in Superman’s long history, it’s a new version. No one will ever justify killing period, not even Superman, but I believe in this situation it made sense. Trust me, Kal-El felt it and he will carry it to the end of his long life.
I couldn’t get the Man of Steel out of my head this weekend, both the film and just the Superman character in general. It’s no secret that I’ve always loved Superman so the aftermath of watching this film was pretty awesome as well as knowing that there’s some pretty cool things to look forward to. One thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how there would be no Zod on Earth if it wasn’t for Superman. The second Kal-El enters his new fortress of solitude, he activates a beacon that alerts Zod of his presence on Earth which therefore makes Earth a prime candidate for New Krypton. It reminds of how there would be no Joker if there was no Batman. Sure, the Joker would have still been out there, but Batman’s theatricality forced the Joker to take center stage as well.
So in a way, Superman’s presence on Earth is both a gift and a curse. Zod would be out there somewhere even if Kal-El never came to Earth, but it’s hard to believe that Zod and his men would have arrived on Earth. Even beyond Zod, you now have other villains (as well as heroes) who will appear because this Superman now exists and has been revealed not only to the Earth but the universe as well. I like the idea of Superman being the first hero and the jumping point to everything else that DC has in mind.
A couple of years ago, I said how great it would be if the same thing could be done with Superman and Man of Steel that was done for Batman with the Dark Knight Trilogy. These are not commercials or cartoons, I believe in Gotham and in Metropolis and these worlds that have been created. Not to keep picking on Marvel since I enjoy their films as well, albeit on a different level, but those films aren’t even in the same league as the Batman/Superman films. I certainly got my wish and greatness has been delivered with this new Superman film. Now, I just salivate at the thought of what Man of Steel 2 can be. I believe a man can fly, and I believe in Superman, now more than ever.

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