Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Superman! The Man of Steel from the planet Krypton is back in Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder of Watchmen and 300 fame, and produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan, the man behind the stunning Dark Knight trilogy. Starring Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Man of Steel came out in theaters in June.
In my opinion, Superman is one of the most difficult comics to do justice. I can only assume it worked very well in the years after World War II, when people needed an infallible and indestructible hero to look up to, but nowadays, I believe we’re looking for more. We are looking for heroes with weakness, heroes with a bit of a human edge. That’s why Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy worked so well.
Superman has two weaknesses: kryptonite and his human side. According to the early trailers of Man of Steel, it seemed set to explore his more human side and to look at not just the hero, but at the child, raised in Smallville by two loving parents, who grew up to become Superman. With such a premise, a film helmed by Snyder and Nolan has to be a hit, right?
Wrong. Instead of creating a hero we can all look up to, Man of Steel delivered a young man who is inspired by his stepdad to be scared of people. After the death of Jonathan Kent, Clark travels around from place to place and job to job, saving people every now and then, and immediately moving on afterwards, terrified that his special abilities may be discovered. When events finally force Superman to become a public figure and fight the world’s battles, his disregard of human life become truly evident. Without so much as blinking, Superman smashes skyscraper after skyscraper, leaving the city of Metropolis in ruins and possibly tens of thousands dead. That’s not the Superman we know and love, is it?
In the wake of such destruction, the choice that Superman faces—to save his home planet or to save Earth—becomes meaningless. Zack Snyder clearly aimed to give the Man of Steel a more human edge, but he missed his mark completely.
While it held great promise, Man of Steel presented us with a superhero that only barely resembles the Superman we knew. Sure, it’s entertaining and spectacular, and you may enjoy it on those merits. Do not, however, see this expecting the newest installment in the Superman franchise. You’ll be disappointed. Between a scared Clark Kent, a weak and crying Lois Lane, a lot of destruction, and a drawn-out final battle, Man of Steel is at best a mediocre portrayal of the hero our world has loved for seventy-five years.