I grew up in Kansas. I’m about as American as you get—Superman
Over the last few years we have seen comic book movies transform from cheap thrills into real movies. The Marvel movies, now under the control of Joss Whedon, have given us great entertainment. But the DC films under the control of Christopher Nolan have given us inspiration. Man of Steel is no exception. It is a film that entertains, inspires and makes you want to stand up and clap as the credits start to roll. Plot, character development, action, meaningful themes, and pure unqualified patriotism are present in this film. From the trailers and my trust in Nolan’s writing ability I knew this film would be great, but even with high expectations, I found that this film exceeded everything I had expected. Quite frankly, looking at what is already scheduled for release, I don’t see another film this year being more enjoyable, deeper, or more well made than Man of Steel.
Obviously the grade is A+. While I’m sure there are flaws and plot holes and nitpicky errors that I will find upon re-viewing this movie, I saw none on the first viewing as it kept suspension of disbelief going almost all of the time, only breaking it when the themes were so beautifully correct I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it was to see a movie state the truth about life.
Okay, I’m going to try and point out why this movie is great without giving too much away…honestly you might get more out of this if you see the film first though. Go see it.
The first of the reasons why I loved this film was the fact that for the first time ever in the Superman universe the characters aren’t all dumb. Lois Lane actually acts like a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and is actually able to do some investigative reporting…this is not the slightly dumb bimbo who can be fooled by a pair of glasses and a bad comb over that we have seen in every other incarnation. No this is a woman of intelligence and strength, who does more than her fair share of being on the front lines. And unlike most other renditions of Superman, we see that true to the original character Clark Kent isn’t a mental midget either…here the son of Krypton’s greatest scientist actually appears to also have a brain, shown winning science fairs and reading the complete works of Plato at an early age. He also appears to be a man of faith who in times of trouble will go see a Catholic priest for advice when he needs it. And he states that his allegiance is first and foremost with America. He is shown repeatedly to be a hero not because of his strength of muscles but his strength of will and ethics. And while in this whirlwind of a tale we have few chances to see the lighter side of Clark Kent, they are there and leave us with the promise of our favorite mild-mannered reporter for future rounds.
And then, of course, there is General Zod. The perfect villain who like all tyrants and bullies justifies his actions with the most horrific words: the greater good. “No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.” If I can be blunt, Zod is everything that America is not. He believes in control over freedom, force over law, might over right…no, really, one of his subordinates has a little speech on how morality is a weakness for Superman. Zod even goes as far to say that deliberation in making laws is wrong…one can almost hear him complaining about how the Constitution doesn’t just let him do whatever he wants. He thinks himself above everyone, and demands subservience just because his ego is so great.
And of course there is the thematic material laid out by Krypton in this movie. I have no idea if this vision of Krypton is taken from any of the comics, but whether it is nor not, it presents a clear philosophic contrast to all that Superman represents. Krypton in Man of Steel is a planet dying for many reasons. It has become stagnant and isolationist from the rest of the universe. In its stagnation the Kryptonians have not only drained their planet of all resources but drained their species of souls. In a typically liberal utopian scheme they have determined to replace natural reproduction with population controlled planned parenthood, each child of Krypton for the few thousand years grown in a chamber. Each one genetically engineered for a specific purpose in society. Worker. Warrior. Leader. Scientist. Each with no purpose but to live out the function the Kryptonian society assigned it, as if to point a finger at a fetus and say “Street sweeper” was enough and that said life had no purpose or hope beyond that. It is the nightmarish hell first planned by Plato in The Republicand re-imagined over and over again by Marx, by Stalin, by Hitler, by Mao and by a few who are in office today. Thankfully one man on Krypton has the vision to ask “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?” The film then sets out in Kal-El a clear distinction between this Utopian hell and liberty and freedom we so prize and must fight for. Though Superman does not use the word Truth, Justice and the American Way in the film, he is shown to clearly believe in them.
One of the early reviews I saw of this film stated “Christopher Nolan story, Zach Synder action” and I have to say that this is accurate. The second half of the movie is basically one long action sequence. But whereas in the past Synder has action sequences that ruin the film (300) these never go so far over the top that you’re taken out of the movie (not to say the battles aren’t over the top, but it’s super-powered aliens fighting, what did you expect?)—further while in them we see the most of Superman’s drive, humor, and humanity. Also in the middle of the battle we see a tanker truck with the words “LexCorp” on the side, promising us the villains to come.
As for the plot, yeah a few things were rushed over, but this is an origin story, they often include the least character development and plot points (see Batman Begins to it’s sequels). However for this film they gave us all the main characters, developed them, and re-created a universe we thought we all knew in a way that lays the groundwork for a trilogy that has the potential to outdo The Dark Knight.
We do not get Zod’s trademark line “Kneel before Zod” in this movie…probably because if there is anyone we should be kneeling before it is the greatness of producer/writer Christopher Nolan. Kneel before Nolan!…and hope he can keep up his streak of now 6 great films in a row for another two installments of theMan of Steel and then a Justice League film to humble the Avengers forever.
I will undoubtedly have more to say about this film upon viewing it a few more times (there are hints of Nolan using philosophy as the basis for these Superman films in the way he used Shakespeare and Dickens as the basis for the Dark Knight, but I want to double check before I go further), but I highly recommend you go see it. And then see it again. And again. A clear message needs to be sent to Hollywood—that this film with a clear demonstration of patriotism, of the individual, of what is right and good and true in life is the kind of film we want and the kind of film they need to make more of.