Man of Steel written by David S. Goyer and directed by Zack Snyder (Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, PG-13, 143 minutes)
Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon.
Superman has been around for what seems like forever. Since his original incarnation in DC comics in 1938, the franchise has spawned a television show (Smallville), and five earlier films including Superman I-IV, and the less popular and more recent Superman Returns. The character of Superman has been popular for some time.
Numerous adults my age have had that conversation, “who is better, Superman or Batman?” and I always got the loosing argument when I chose Superman. Probably because of his flamboyantly colored tights. That didn’t stop me, however, from wearing a superman cape every second I could as a kid. What I didn’t think of at the time, however, was how I really was attracted to how the character Superman was perfect. He could do anything. He could fly. He had super-intelligence. He could bench press a building. But, now, what I think about when I watch a Superman movie like Man of Steel is Superman’s messianic mirroring.
Man of Steel opens with Superman’s father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) telling the leaders of his home planet, Krypton, that the planet is about to implode as they’ve used up all of its natural resources (eat your heart out, environmentalists). The leaders promptly ignore him, but the general of the armies, General Zod (Michael Shannon) isn’t happy with the planet’s leaders either and plans a coup. He wants only the purest of bloodlines to rule Krypton in a genocidal, Hitler meets Pol Pot kind of a way. Before Zod can get the codex, a biological imprint of future pure-blooded Kryptonians, Jor-El puts the codex into his son in some weird scientific-voodoo, and blasts him off towards Earth to live a life free of the evil world Krypton has become. Zod, meanwhile is imprisoned in the phantom zone (black hole), and Krypton implodes upon itself shortly thereafter.
It’s not a happy beginning.
Searing For A Purpose
Once we get to earth we find Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as a worrisome drifter, going from job to job to find meaning in his life. Knowing he is different from the rest of humanity, this thirty-three year old (Jesus was thirty-three when he started his ministry), wants to find his parents and where he is from, knowing full well that he isn’t from Earth. Even his adoptive father (Kevin Costner) knows that his son is different and will change the world because of it.
“I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason… one day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.” – Jonathan Kent
This earlier part of the film is the most successful as we see a plausible context for the worried Clark Kent’s introspection. This man, greater than all others, seems to have a purpose, but doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with it. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) encounters Superman while she’s investigating an alien craft, and shortly thereafter is saved time and time again by her hero.
Superman finds his purpose upon meeting his father Jor-El in a simulation on the alien craft Lane is investigating. He finds that his father’s hope for him was that he would become the best of the Kyrptonian and Earthy races, someone that everyone could look up to, and someone that could be a hero. Suddenly, Clark Kent’s fears disappear, now invigorated by his father’s will. With the knowledge of why he was sent to Earth, he can now mount an all out defense against the evil General Zod who has escaped the phantom zone and found his way to Earth.
After the genesis of the story, the plot gets a little dry. We see building after building destroyed in all-out epic battle scenes, which to be honest, are still fun to watch. The action is an amazing spectacle to be certain, but the action is chaotic and unfocused.
The best part of the movie is built in the story that so many have heard before. A man is born, not an ordinary man, to grow up like the rest of mankind, but whose purpose is much greater. At thirty-three years of age, that man finds his purpose, to save humankind from an evil too great for them to face, and to be selfless, humble, and perfect. That kind of story, one that is deeply rooted in truth, is the best kind to tell. It’s what makes this new Superman movie, Man of Steel, worth watching. The action is nice, but it’s the story that really rivets.
“You will give the people an ideal to strive toward. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders” – Jor-El
Verdict: 4 out of 5