Film Review: Man of Steel

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.

A poster where the skyscrapers are still intact
A poster where the skyscrapers are still intact

The Premise
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?

The Execution
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.

The Verdict
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.

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 31 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he can be found in a comfy chair reading a fantasy book. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing to boot. Stephan lives in a small town in The Netherlands with his wife Rebecca, an editor for The Ranting Dragon, and their two cats.

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  1. Interesting, I saw the movie very differently, but then again I wasn’t wedded to the older images of Superman. I thought the battle scenes were very messy and destructive, but that made sense to me. Clark isn’t prepared to be a hero and he hasn’t worked out the logistics. He’s not in control of how he deals with his enemies and as a result makes a lot of mistakes. I appreciated the journey. And Lois didn’t seem weak to me at all. I thought the overarching question of whether or not we are really ready for the hero we say we want is a very interesting one in today’s world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I liked it, but man, I found the way Superman crushes Metropolis goofy as all get-out. How many people did he kill by not luring Zod and the others out into the desert somewhere? Still, it was overall fun and I did like it – I just can’t really defend it.

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