Superman is one of those parts of pop culture that needs no introduction. When someone has a weakness, we refer to it as their “Kryptonite,” and even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life, you know exactly what that person means. Since debuting in 1938, Superman has been the quintessential all-american superhero, and by now, there’s really no part of his story that has gone untold. Even his origin growing up in Kansas has had an entire television series devoted to it. What makes Man Of Steel unique is that while we don’t so much get a new story about Superman, but we look at him as something other than simply a superhero.
While on the whole the film doesn’t seek to give us new information to the Superman story, I did learn one thing about Superman’s past: his home planet of Krypton is really weird. Of course I would expect an alien planet to have unique and advanced technology, but everything on Krypton seemed to be designed with the intent of being as bizarre as possible. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in itself, however throughout the entire sequence on Krypton explaining how Superman’s home world was destroyed and he ended up in Kansas, I found myself constantly distracted by the wild costumes, settings, and technology, with the characters and story left quietly in the background.
Where Man Of Steel shined brightest was when we got to see the candid moments of Clark Kent’s growth as a midwestern boy with superhuman abilities. We see that what may seem like a great power can be as troubling and difficult to deal with as the growing pains we all experienced in learning who we are. Even while he was physically stronger and more gifted than anyone around him, he still needed a mother’s love and a father’s encouraging words to get through the troubles of this world. As he began to grow into his own, Clark Kent never really sought to be Superman (a title that’s only mentioned once in the entire film), he only sought to be a good man who was able to use his gifts to help out those he saw in need. There was no desire to fight crime or bring justice, he simply wanted to do the right thing whenever possible.
Unfortunately, Man Of Steel was not able to maintain this heart as the problems facing Superman turned from saving a few people in peril, to saving the world from the last surviving members of his home planet who sought to create a “pure” race of Kryptonians, using Earth as a surrogate home world, led by a very menacing Michael Shannon as General Zod. As the stakes became higher, story and emotion were replaced by action and spectacle, albeit quite impressive spectacle. For the latter half of the movie, dialogue was only used to explain the next action sequence rather than promoting any kind of character or story development. We still of course want Superman to come out victorious, but there just isn’t the same emotional attachment as when we were rooting for the scared boy trying to make sense of the overwhelming hand life had dealt him.
Man Of Steel succeeded in bringing a new perspective to one of the most well known stories in our culture today, but was unfortunately unable to ever really tie all of it’s unique threads together. It is one of those movie’s where you can’t look too closely, or think too hard or things might start to unravel and you’ll miss the big picture, that is still worth seeing. Superman is still most certainly a picture of good, but we get to see the bumps and bruises that it took to make him a hero, even if that’s not what he set out to be.
My Rating: 2.5 Stars