For years Superman fans have clamored for a film that shows Superman in all of his glory while at the same time putting him face to face against a viable threat. ‘Man of Steel’ succeeds in both of those categories. While the film is an origin story, its framework allows it to be a nonstop super thrill ride the entire way through. Rather than tell a linear origin story, writers Nolan and Goyer give you Kal-El’s Kryptonian origin. It's a Kyrptonian origin story in which Russell Crowe outshines even Marlon Brando’s version of Jor-El from the 1978 Superman film. The film then goes a different route when telling Clark’s Kansas origin story by utilizing flashbacks throughout the course of the film, many of which have brilliant performances by Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent.
|The strong themes of the film are set up|
by Kevin Costner's brilliant performance as Jonathan Kent.
One of the biggest complaints most people have with Superman is that he is too damn powerful, which has hurt the character across all mediums. When you have an all powerful being like Superman it rarely feels like the stakes are high or that he is in any danger because no one can go toe to toe with Clark Kent, even on their best day. Enter General Zod. While Zod was originally introduced by Dick Donner in Superman 2, the technology of the time really wasn’t able to display the utter destruction he and his fellow prisoners from the Phantom Zone were capable of. It would have been easy for Snyder and company to pit Superman up against his arch nemesis Lex Luthor, but weaving Zod into Kal-El’s origin gave Superman an all encompassing threat to start off a new franchise. While Michael Shannon was strong as Zod, it was Antje Traue’s performance as Faora that made for some of the strongest interactions between Superman and a villain of the film, perhaps because it was Superman’s battle with Faora that finally gave comic book fans the on screen Superman battle they have always dreamed of.
|Faora is the best female villain in years!|
|No one does crazy like Michel Shannon!|
As exciting of a summer superhero film as ‘Man of Steel’ wound up being, it wasn't flawless. While Amy Adams was great as Lois Lane, Lois just seemed out of place in this origin story, almost as if she was put into the film just for the sake of having Lois Lane in a Superman film. While I realize how important Lois Lane and the Daily Planet are to the Superman mythos maybe it could have waited until Man of Steel 2? The film's greatest strength may have also been its biggest weakness: with nonstop action and the world threatening stakes that leave little time for decompression, it leaves the audience wondering where a Superman movie (or even a Justice League film for that matter) can go from here. Zod and Faora were as much of a threat in this film as the Loki led Chitauri army in Marvel’s Avengers, so how will Snyder top that in a second film? I fear Transformers type action overkill could be in store for this franchises future, so let’s just hope Goyer gives the Man of Steel a different type of threat in the sequel.
In the end what makes Zack Snyder’s version of Superman work so well is the tone of the film. Rather than being filled with camp and cheesey superhero stereotypes that could come easily for a Superman film, this film truly ask the audience to consider not what it would be like if a superhero existed in our world, But what if a Christ like alien existed in our world? What would it mean not only for society, but for that being themselves? These are the type of big questions that Man of Steel sets up as its central theme, which can be seen as allegories for a multitude of issues: the choices Christ faced, immigration, gay rights, and a host of other issues that deal with the struggle of an individual who is perceived as "alien" by their society. . Ultimately, the film asks you to consider how much better society would be if every individual chose to use the talents they have been blessed with to do good every single day; a pretty powerful message for a Superman film!