The quintessential Superman film, Man of Steel successfully captures the awe inspiring, epic nature of what Superman means to all generations and ages.
Zack Snyder blends together the traditional “comic book” film with a sci-fi backdrop, political themes, and a strong adherence to the legacy and lore of Superman. From creating and displaying a distinctly beautiful Krypton, setting up a villain in Zod with true movivations that go beyond the “good vs evil” trope, and proving some of the greatest action sequences ever seen in a comic book film, Man of Steel truly delivers on multiple levels.
Henry Cavill fits into the role of Superman perfectly with a mix of heartfelt, stoic and epic character moments. By concentrating on displaying Superman’s most human elements without disregarding his alien birthright, Cavill has set the stage for himself to be Superman for years to come.
To give a small background, I have been a Superman fan all my life. Growing up in the late 90s, most of my reading came heavily from that era going forward. As a Superman fan and long time reader, there are a few major takeaways from Zack Snyder’s version of Kal-El.
Snyder perfectly combined elements of the Post-Crisis Superman while respecting the legacy from the Golden & Silver Ages to create the most comic accurate Superman film of all time. While this Superman draws from mostly Post-Crisis Superman, from Byrne’s Man of Steel run to stories like Birthright and Earth One, his Superman also has a Golden Age stoic nature to him, without losing a Silver Age charm. For me, Zack Snyder’s Superman is a great amalgamation of the 75 years of legacy, lore and heroics that preceded it.
Man of Steel kicks off the DCEU in the best way, introducing a Superman into a world that was not ready for him. By challenging the world to answer the question of Superman, challenging Superman to answer his own purpose, and challenging the audience to think beyond the level of a normal comic book film, Man of Steel sets the stage for what is to come.
Man of Steel does not pull any punches literally or metaphorically. Up until this point, we never truly got to see the raw power of Superman like we did in the Comics or Animated series. While Donner’s Superman made the world believe a man could fly, Man of Steel showed that Superman is truly the most powerful character in Comics. For fans, Snyder drivers on some of the most visually pleasing, exhilarating fight sequences in film history, all backed with a bombastic score by Hans Zimmer which is my personal favorite soundtrack of all time.
As said above, Snyder’s Superman does not pull any punches. While we covered how this accounts for amazing fight sequences and awesome displays of power, it is just as important to address the “why” of Superman. The world’s perception of Superman is just as important as Superman’s perception of the the world. While many recognize the utopian figure that is Superman, it is important to realize that Clark, a man who grew up among us, is just as human as us. This accounts for all the fears, imperfections, flaws and potential that comes with being “human.” In fact, that is the whole point of his natural birth. It makes it clear Superman can not be a cookie cutter perfect character. He needs to make mistakes in order to succeed and needs to fall before he can rise. The moment he kills Zod to save Earth, his scream shows how agonizing it was for him. As we see in future films, this plays into his character development.
In short, Man of Steel simply delivers on what it is trying to accomplish. It rebooted Superman for a new generation. It brought it new and old fans alike and made them gravitate to this character even more. It delivered on some of the greatest action sequences in film and balances it out with some of the most heartwarming and hopeful sequences as well. The character of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman is the most comic accurate version ever brought to the scene with respect it to the lore and legacy that he embodies. It made Lois Lane, Martha Kent more than just the damsel in distress or Clark’s mother. It made them multi dimensional, powerful characters with their own agency and their own purpose. It has a villain that didn’t see itself as one. General Zod doesn’t have a blind ambition to take over the world, he wants to do whatever it takes to protect his people. An extension of the blind nationalism we see today but not without a sense of understanding of his mindset and his soul.
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is my favorite comic book film of all time. It’s the quintessential Superman film and one that I will forever cherish.