I used to think Superman was the most boring superhero ever, which from a certain point of view, he is to an extent. The big, blue boy scout just never interested me. This is mostly due to the fact that he's all but invulnerable and kryptonite is usually the only thing that can bring him to his knees. But all of this changed when I saw Man of Steel. This most recent take on Superman was met with mixed reaction, which I don't exactly get. All I know is I loved it! Let me tell you why...
We Finally Got To See What Superman Is Capable Of
For years and years fans have complained and begged to see Superman do Superman stuff. The Christopher Reeves films gave us a glimpse but frankly, they don't hold up well. If the good ones didn't have so much heart and weren't as iconic, we'd be making fun of them. With this film, Zack Snyder decided to show us what we've been missing. We got to see Superman's powers on display in this film, and we also got to see some of his struggles with his powers as a child. We got some standout action scenes between Zod and his troops against Superman, and were able to see what they were physically capable of.
What was so cool about these action sequences was that we were seeing an untested Superman go full throttle with his powers, which indicates that we will be seeing much more from him soon. I applaud Zack Snyder for giving us what he did. Even with Brian Singer's Superman Returns, we still didn't get to see Superman in a real fight.
Finally We Have An Emotional Connection To Superman
While the physical and superpowered aspects of this film were fantastic, there was a second aspect of Superman's character that I'd been longing for: The emotional side. Why should I root for him? What is ever at stake when he's involved. Who actually is Clark Kent? Well Snyder made sure he included that as well.
In Man of Steel, we see Clark grow up not exactly fitting in as he has all of these abilities that he just doesn't know what to do with. Something that was brilliant in the film was Kevin Costner's performance as Jonathan Kent. He is a good man, but flawed. He displays his humanity by admitting that he doesn't have all the answers. After Clark saves his classmates in the bus accident we see Pa Kent gently scold Clark about exposing his abilities. Clark asks his father if he should have let the others die in the accident. Brilliantly Jonathan answers, "Maybe." It's one of the greatest and most earnest pieces of dialogue in any movie involving a character like this. It's so great because we're being reminded that here is a human family trying to raise a boy that even they don't fully understand. Imagine a child having to expose to the world that he is an alien. Snyder challenges the audience to put ourselves in their shoes.
Then, not much later we get one of the saddest scenes ever: Jonathan Kent's death. Now, in the original Superman film, Pa Kent dies of a heart attack, a tragic occurrence showing Clark that he can't save everyone, as much as he'd like to. But Zack Snyder chose to go a different route here. Instead it's not a spontaneous heart attack. Instead, Clark is forced to let his father die knowing very well that he could have saved him. But his father puts his hand up, and gives him a look calmly letting him know that he would rather die than leave Clark to expose himself to a fearful world. It's incredibly sad, and Clark even jumps for a second to go save his father, but when he sees this it is clear that there is a strong bond strengthened with incredible trust, and Clark sadly allows the tornado to take his father. It's tough to watch, but necessary. This shows Clark that sometimes there are greater things at stake than just one life, and that is a hard pill to swallow.
This Is Not Classic Superman... Yet
Another thing that people who heavily criticize this movie don't seem to understand is that this movie does not feature the Superman we know and love. Mainly because he has not become that yet. He's never faced a situation where he is humanity's only hope. Shoot, when Zod came to Earth, he had only just recently gotten his suit and mastered flying. This is Clark Kent doing the right thing in this film. He hasn't yet taken on the full Superman persona yet. He's only just starting out, but he is quickly growing into it. Even Zod's second hand woman, Faora, mentions that Superman is unsure of himself. This should be obvious to the audience as we've seen all that he's been through up to that point, yet people still complain that he's not really Superman. Exactly!
This is a flawed Superman who hasn't had to save the world before. Many also complain about the "disaster porn" third act. I am perfectly fine with it. It makes absolute sense. General Zod's entire mission is to wipe out humanity in order to give Krypton another shot. Superman, knowing this is wrong, is left being the only thing capable of stopping Zod and accepts that role as humanity's savior. Initially the majority of the city's damage is caused by the terraformers that Zod was using, but after Superman and the military destroy them, things change.
General Zod Is One Of The Best Villains We've Ever Seen
This film is where Zod really gets the chance to shine as a villain. Now I'm about to say something that might ruffle some feathers here. Michael Shannon's performance as General Zod was nothing short of fantastic. Up there with Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. Granted, he doesn't share as much screen time or have as much dialogue, but what he does with his opportunities is magnificent.
Here we see a villain who was bred for a specific purpose, and even after his people are wiped out, he continues to further his cause no matter what the cost. He is remorseless, he is calculating, and he is passionate about one thing and one thing only: his people. Superman takes away his purpose when the terraformers are destroyed, and then Zod absolutely loses it. He is consumed by hatred and with nothing to lose, goes on an all out rampage at Superman and the city. In a way, he goes primal, having nothing to lose, and causes destruction like a rabid dog. He tells Superman that only one of them will survive this fight, letting him know that if Zod wins, humanity is done. This wasn't about world domination, or even asserting dominance. This was the necessary evil of genocide to further his own race.
Superman Killed... Get Over It
Superman's mindset is not to rescue civilians and cause little collateral damage. His mindset is much more simplified and focused. If he loses this fight, Earth is no more. This leads to one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, the infamous neck snap.
This was by far the most controversial part of the movie. A neck break is intimate, personal, and brutal. People were angry that Superman chose to kill. Here's what I say to that: let's say that Superman doesn't kill Zod here, what happens next? Zod continues his rampage, as he is determined to destroy humanity and kill Clark. He even said that the only way that this ends is if one of them dies. Clark had no choice here. He finally had the upper hand. He even begged Zod to stop, and gave him a chance, and coldly and angrily, Zod says, "NEVER!" Look at the image above. You see the pain in Superman's eyes, you see that he doesn't want to do this, but he knows what is at stake, and that he has no other choice.
As he closes his eyes he's making a regretful decision, but he knows he has to, and then he does. Now keep in mind that he has never killed anyone before. Then this happens, but it's not as if he just killed a man; let's dive a little deeper. Realize the reality of the situation; Superman has in a sense wiped out the last of his race by killing Zod. He is now the last of his kind. Imagine the psychology that goes into that realization. He does say that Krypton had its chance, but I don't believe that his intention was to murder the last of his kind. No, his goal was to preserve life, and when you are faced with a threat that is trying to their last breath to cause mass genocide, you must destroy it. So after this realization of what he's done, Clark lets out a blood-curdling scream that echoes throughout the entire building letting us know that he is devastated by what he had to do. I personally believe that the storytelling was nailed here, and such great performances were given in this film. I am incredibly excited to see where Batman v Superman takes us with the storytelling as the events of Man of Steel are directly addressed in the upcoming film. Also this will happen...
That is how Man of Steel made me stop hating Superman. I was given a contemporary character who was filled with emotion, and there were real stakes. This movie is brilliant.
So did I change your opinion of this movie? Or do you still hate it? How did you feel about Superman before and after seeing this film? Let me know in the comments below!