“Man of Steel”
What would happen if Super Heroes were real? Lets not just stop there; what if someone from another world was actually super charged by our sun to be, for all intents and purposes, a god among mere mortals like ourselves? The fall back to, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, almost seems to be an understatement. You could, if you so chose, bring humanity to their knees and force them to follow you. The other path would be to transcend ultimate power corrupting absolutely and use your abilities to better all of man kind. Even then you are faced with another struggle, one that even us “normal” humans face; acceptance. Will the people accept you, or fear and reject you?
I saw “Man of Steel” today and thought it was amazing. A departure from the norm of what we have come to accept from a Superman movie, but in my humble opinion better. For as long as I can remember, Superman has been my go to super hero. From a young age something about him just clicked, maybe it was the suit, the flying, saving people from utter destruction while keeping your morals, and a large part because he was indestructible. As I grew up my view of Superman changed, and what I related to changed as well. In those awkward pre-teen and teen years his story of just wanting to be accepted became more important then his super powers. Today, not far off from my previous teen years, I find myself more drawn to the themes of mortality.
As lame as this may be, I’m not a huge comic book person, and the first time I was truly immersed in Superman lore was with the TV show Smallville. It my not have been exact, but I loved that show. I loved how we got to see his journey, his abilities develop, got to see Clark figure out who he was, and who he wanted to be. For me that show had a lot to do with acceptance. Clark fought to keep his identity a secret from everyone. Those that knew the truth often ended up being hurt, and those he managed to keep it from ended up being his enemy. Lies breed hate and mistrust, even if you think a lie is in the benefit of those around you.
So here we are today with yet another go at the Superman legend, in the spirit of The Dark Knight, re-imagined for today; a darker, more truthful twist to the story. I was fairly sure from the fist trailer that I was going to love this movie. Reading the interviews with Henry Cavill, whom I have been watching since his days on The Tudors (A great showtime show you should all Netflix), I knew this movie would be spot on. While the storyline is crucial of course, the choice of who would play Superman/Clark Kent also has to be spot on. If your actor can’t be believed as an authentic Man of Steel, then the movie, no matter how well written, will flop. For me, Cavill embodied a perfect Superman. If you have not been able to read anything about Henry’s story I encourage you to do so. The article written up about him in the June/July issue of Details Magazine is brilliant, and gave me chills. In an odd twist, that interview was conducted just before and as news broke of the Boston Marathon Bombings. It’s powerful to say the least.
This movie took on the issue of acceptance, and showed a very real portrayal of how being different in our society can make you an outcast, and a target. Seeing that struggle from a young Clark Kent’s point of view, having all this power and strength, trying to come to terms with the fact that you are different and nobody knows what you are truly going through, all the while restraining yourself from unleashing all that power on people who push you around. When Kal-El is revealed to the world it’s by force, being outed by General Zod in a ‘give me Kal-El or you will all die’ ultimatum. And in true fashion we as a people, save Lois and Martha, are very willing to give up someone who doesn’t “belong” with us.
As I said before, the themes of mortality are something I notice more now. I’ve always found one of the most heart breaking things about the Superman lore to be how Jonathan Kent died, a heart attack. It’s something that literally strikes at the heart of humanity and shows how frail we are in comparison to this man from Krypton. It also shows that for all of his powers, not even Superman can stop death (let’s not go into turning back time…just no). I think that moment also taught Clark a very valuable lesson, and I was sad that they changed it for this movie. Don’t get me wrong, what they changed it to does make sense for the film, I just liked the old way better; simple and no frills, heartbreaking.
In another twist, Superman is faced with another huge decision. In order to stop Zod from destroying their only chance at sending the other Kryptonians back tot he Phantom Zone, he must destroy the ship they are on (His Fortress of Solitude for these films), and in the process destroy the only chance of his peoples survival. For the sake of his new home, Earth, Superman destroys the ship. It’s powerfully symbolic when you step back and think about it, but the only other choice is to let every living thing on Earth die.
The end of the movie did surprise me…or I should say the end of Zod. One of Superman’s high moral codes is to never kill. When the singularity fails to drag Zod back to the phantom zone with the others, it is left to Superman to stop him. In a sequence that accurately shows what would happen to a major city if this was actually happening, two indestructible men battling with god like powers, Zod meets a sudden end. Giving Superman yet another ultimatum, watch the people (in this case 4) you care so much for die, or kill me. There is no other choice, there is no chance of redemption, there is no other way to stop Zod. Superman is forced to kill.
You say to yourself, well you had to do it, it was either him or those innocent people, you saved them. That’s how outsiders would see it. It is a very different set of thing to come to terms with for Superman. If I kill you, if I resort to taking your life, what makes me better then you? That is never voiced in the movie, but one can surmise. After all, from Zod’s point of view he was doing exactly what he was created to do, ensure the survival of his people at all costs.
I’m sure there will be people, and die-hard comic cannon fans out there that will just hate this movie. I loved it. I love where they took the story, I love the themes they are focusing on, I love Henry Cavill and Amy Adams. I highly look forward to the next movies to come out of this franchise, and to see how they will expand this world.
I give Man of Steel a 5 out of 5.