What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended for him or her? What if a child aspired to something greater? You were the embodiment of that belief, Kal.
As much as I appreciate and love Man of Steel as a Superman fan, when I try to summarize it within the confinement of a single article, I simply cannot find the words to do it. The art of filmmaking, the importance of a strong score, this pure character, and the importance of the message that it conveys – whatever it is, Man of Steel excels in every aspect and leads to the belief that contrary to what people may believe, superheroes can be a part of the world we live in.
It would be true to say that films generally have a profound impact on the audience they are hoping to attract. Whether they generate a series of intense emotions, fear or joy, they are bound to have some sort of impact. Moviegoers watch them, re-watch them and fall completely in love with them because of the feelings they intend to generate. Comic books are similar to movies in that aspect. They have managed to find large audiences over the past many decades, setting in motion an intensifying love and appreciation for the comic book characters that they relate to.
Superman was one of the first superheroes to be brought to life in the form of Action Comics #1 and ever since, the superhero has evolved in the eyes of the audience. The thing that remained constant was the undeniable love that they have for the character. Superman since the very beginning was known to fight for ‘Truth and Justice’ but soon his impact increased rapidly and in a world immersed with wars and deep-rooted hatred, he became a figure who was used for the purpose of propaganda. He was now known to be fighting for ‘Truth, Justice and the American way.’
When it comes to film adaptations, Superman was always provided with qualities that, according to some, made him special. Those qualities were aimed to get more people to develop a connection with the character. Unfortunately, they never achieved their purpose completely and for the audiences, something was still missing. With the increasing popularity of The Dark Knight trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic book movies had started being taken seriously. A widespread love and appreciation developed for them and simple films began the foundation of cinematic universes, bringing the world of comic books in to the film industry.
Things aren’t as simple when it comes to Superman. Superman’s popularity turned him into a fictional public figure rather than a simple comic book character. It wasn’t easy to come up with a new story for him that would win over the audience. But maybe a Superman story associated with reality could win over the audience.
The past two decades have represented an era of turmoil globally. Wars have been waged between nations and even within nations. People have come to a realization that these wars, once feared, are not just a fear anymore, they are all around us. And the worst part is that we don’t know what is it that we are fighting. Minorities live under a constant fear of oppression. The majorities aren’t at peace either. There is a widespread confusion among everyone.
What might help to lessen the extent of that fear perhaps is awareness. While political leaders, activists, and even the general public are constantly trying for the awakening of that awareness, the impact they have in the long run is lessening.
When it’s the films that people pay attention to, the awareness has to take place through filmmaking. And what superhero would be better to do that than Superman?
As the makers of this upcoming film got together or even thought about the direction in which this film would head in, it’s the ‘public figure’ aspect of Superman that they decided to enhance. Could this 2013 Superman represent everyone in the 2013 world? Could people finally relate to him?
It was a big step to have Superman’s story be the one that starts the franchise that will be equivalent to that of Marvel’s and looking back at it, it was totally worth it. While films are a source of entertainment for all and a way to escape the problems of your everyday life, Man of Steel proved that they could be an even better platform of awareness.
Created by the best possible team of writers, producers, cinematographer, visual effects team, and director and combined with a score that is out of this world, this film is simply a piece of art. And while the word ‘art’ has the physical aspect to it, what people didn’t expect was the emotional depth that came along with the near perfect physicality. It regenerated a multiple range of emotions among the audience and to this day, it does so with every viewing.
You would expect a Superman film to start with Clark Kent but you get to be taken to the very beginning. To tell a Superman origin story in the best possible way, you truly have to understand his existence. In the beginning, he isn’t Clark Kent, nor is he Superman. He is Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. Jor-El and Lara are the inhabitants of a planet that’s nearing its end and as any parent would, they don’t want their son to live in a place that has been brought to its end by the generations that existed before him. They want him to live to an extent that they’re willing to sacrifice their lives just to ensure that this isn’t the end for their son.
But out there, amongst the stars, he will live.
But as Jor-El and Lara love their son, General Zod loves his people and wants to ensure the survival of their race. Before the ultimate destruction of the planet, Zod’s determination is visible in his eyes when he promises that he will reclaim what was taken from them. You then get to the story of Kal-El. Did his parents succeed in protecting him? Did they succeed in ensuring his survival? This marks the beginning of Clark Kent’s story. Clark Kent is the son of Jonathan and Martha Kent and they are the ones that gave rise to a human aspect of him. Jonathan and Martha taught him everything. From simple human skills to every thing an average human might never understand, they were the ones who built his character. It can cross one’s mind that in a planet where there was the dedication of Jor-El and Lara and the completely opposite dedication of General Zod, why did Kal-El have to be good? It wasn’t because of his birth parents. He derived these qualities from his adoptive parents.
Clark has an urge for finding out his ‘story’ and why he was sent to this planet. Jonathan believes that he was sent here for a reason and he is the one to bring about this urge in Kal, telling him that somewhere out there he has another father who gave him another name and that he owed it to himself to find out why he was sent to Earth. Up until the age of 33, this is exactly what he does.
You just have to decide what kind of a man you want to grow up to be, Clark; because whoever that man is, good character or bad, He’s going to change the world.
This is where he gets to see his biological father in essentially the form of artificial intelligence. What is incredible to witness is the differentiation, there is a distance that’s visible which allows for distinguishing one from the other. Although not real, this ‘Jor-El’ is all that Clark needs to find out who is he and why he came to Earth. He asks the questions a human who feels alone asks and he gets the answers he is looking for. This is where the beginning of Superman’s story is seen. You see him walk out of the ship with the suit all while Clark’s still getting the answers to his questions. In the end, Jor-El tells him to keep testing his limits and you see Superman take his first flight.
This moment is perhaps a special one for many Superman fans. You see the excitement in his expressions and it’s apparent that he hasn’t had an experience like it before. When he falls, he gets back up and flies again, this time with much more confidence.
In the age of such advancements in technology, it would be unrealistic to think that no one could find out about Clark Kent being so different, so special. Lois Lane sees him walking out in the freezing temperatures and follows him. Clark ends up saving her from a hemorrhaging wound claiming that he can do things other people can’t. Lois is determined to find out more about him when he disappears and she doesn’t stop until she is at the Kent Farm and then eventually gets to talk to Clark himself. But understanding his reasons for keeping his identity a secret, Lois doesn’t pursue her article about him further.
Now that the story of Kal-El and Clark Kent is told, you realize that Superman’s story can’t be completed until he is the Superman in the eyes of the world—until people know about him. General Zod is then reintroduced, who asks ‘Kal-El’ to surrender to him. During this period of absolute chaos about an alien invasion, the FBI takes in Lois Lane and it is Superman who helps her yet again, asking for her freedom in exchange for his surrender. After a series of events that lead both Superman and Lois into seeing General Zod for the first time, you see Superman stuck in the middle of choosing the existence of his Birth Planet or his Adoptive Planet. It’s clear that General Zod wants Krypton to replace Earth, to which Superman says, “I can’t be a part of this.”
All while Superman is stuck in between choices that he isn’t sure about. Jor-El’s artificial intelligence is telling Lois how to stop Zod and send him back to the phantom zone. When Lois is speeding down towards Earth, bound to generate an impact that will kill her, Jor-El guides his son for the very last time. He makes the choice between Krypton and Earth easier for him by telling him that he can save Lois and that he can save them all. You see a contented look on Superman’s face before he flies off to save Lois.
The people of Earth are different from us, it’s true, but ultimately I believe that is a good thing. They won’t necessarily make the same mistakes we did. Not if you guide them, Kal. Not if you give them hope. That’s what this symbol means. The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief, in the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.
Zod is still in search of the codex that he believed was sent along with Kal-El. He ends up at the Kent farm in his search for it and interrogates Martha about it, which ends up frightening her. The filmmakers made this moment so meaningful and important concerning the love a son has for his mother as you see Superman flying in full speed, dragging Zod along with him, punching him saying, “You think you can frighten my mother?” There are aspects of Man of Steel that you wouldn’t expect to see in a classic Superman film. You’d expect Superman to be superior in terms of strength than many if not all of his enemies but logically, if Superman has never gotten into a fight before, its unlikely that he’ll be superior to those who’ve trained their entire lives to fight. That’s clear while Superman and Faora-Ul are fighting all across Smallville and Superman is clearly inferior in terms of strength. It almost ends in a stalemate but what is important about it regardless of the stalemate are the signs of acceptance Superman gets from the people.
The terraforming part of the film was simply a work of art. The importance of visual effects and the score are visible. The world engine is made to look like real alien technology and Superman’s efforts to stop Zod from turning Earth into Krypton are the essence of his love for his adoptive planet. He is struggling and he is weak around the force of it but he is still trying. It is what brings a greater reality to a superhero film. But what it also does perfectly is the portrayal of different points of views of a battle that is taking place in a largely populated city. You obviously get to see Superman’s point of view and then there is Lois’ while she’s helping to stop the world engine in Metropolis.
The civilian point of view is also highly advanced and the uncertainty and helplessness shown give a feel of what it actually would have been like. It helps you to immerse yourself in the film as some and then all of the characters. There is also Zod’s dedication that comes back and what makes him such a good villain is his ability to stop at nothing that comes in the way of him achieving his aims.
Perhaps one of the most under appreciated parts of the film is the Metropolis fight scene between Superman and Zod. You see two opposite figures engaging in a dialogue that makes their dedication and desperation clear. Zod is the superior one when it comes to strength but it’s Superman’s commitment to stopping Zod that gives him the upper hand. If Zod won’t stop at any limit to achieve his goals, there isn’t a limit for Superman when it comes to saving his people. Zod coerces Superman and gives rise to doubts in his mind as he tells him that he was bred to be a warrior and that he has trained his entire life. He proceeds to mock Superman asking him, “Where did you train? On a farm?”
If you love these people so much, you can mourn for them.
Superman takes him to space and he is brought back to Earth until it’s Superman holding Zod in place as Zod tells him that if he loves these people so much, he can mourn for them. You see Zod trying to kill the civilians in front of him with heat vision and the desperation shown in Superman’s eyes is made to be so powerful and the realization dawns that the only way to stop Zod is to kill him. Although this goes against all of his beliefs and upbringing, Superman makes this choice to save his people and kills Zod.
Man of Steel isn’t just a film that is utilized as source of entertainment. The message it gives and the deeper meaning it holds make it so much more than just an ordinary film. It promotes a diverse range of thought and somehow allows for everyone to relate to someone in the movie. But there are two ideas that stand out. The first one is a place where one often finds him/herself at: the times when difficult choices have to be made. The second one is the idea of love. Man of Steel brings forward a combination of the two. Such desperation presents itself often and the presentation of such hard choices is what makes this movie so real. It’s a representation of life in its true form, taking into account all the sacrifices that have to be made for love—whether that’s a person, a place or simply an idea that we believe in. The reoccurrence of these times ends up being surprising.
My son is twice the man you were. And he will finish what we started. I can promise you that.
Jor-El and Lara made the difficult choice of sending their child to another planet, knowing that they’ll not be able to ever see him again or raise him, but they do so out of the love they have for them. Clark Kent saves those who are helpless, knowing that all it will do is raise questions about his existence. It would only make him more alone, but he does this out of the love Jonathan and Martha instilled in him. Then there is that feeling of loneliness that he has and when he finds his people—he has to make the choice between his birth planet and his adoptive planet.
Superman has to make a choice many times, even while showing signs of hesitation portraying the relatable moment when we’re rethinking everything. He chose Earth every time, out of the love he has developed for his adoptive planet and its people, despite all the hardships he has had to face. In the very end, we see Superman having to make a difficult choice yet again when facing Zod. Killing Zod goes against his beliefs; Superman doesn’t kill anyone but if he lets him go there is nothing but the destruction of his adoptive planet. The tears in Superman’s eyes illustrate the desperation in a truly emotional method before he finally chooses to go against his beliefs to save the people of Earth.
This Superman movie makes the audience feel connected to the character. The filmmakers enhancing the public figure aspect of Superman was what brought about this connection. Suddenly, through the art of story-telling and filmmaking, Superman wasn’t just representing ‘Truth, Justice and the American way’. This Superman represents humanity in general. He helped to bridge the self-made gaps society has formed because of man-made borders and used them to discriminate others. This Superman is an ‘alien’ both biologically and socially and yet in this global era of turmoil and chaos, he stands out as what an ideal would be. Man of Steel changed the way comic book films work. They weren’t meant to be this thought-provoking, causing a real connection, spurring these incomprehensible emotions. It was supposed to be solely a source of entertainment. How did the team behind this movie make it so complete in every aspect?
Directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan, the aim of the existence of this movie was for the audience to become a part of it. The story is based on a reality and the hand-held camera technique of cinematographer Amir Mokri does exactly that. And when you have as powerful a score as that of what Hans Zimmer created, you’re bound to create a masterpiece.
Man of Steel is simply special. From the very beginning to the very end, it connects you with the character of Superman, it gives you a feel of what it would like to BE Superman and what it would be like to live in a world where he exists. Whether you think of it as a comic book film or a film in general, it’s unmistakable that hard work was put into every aspect to it, and regardless of the critical response it generated, this film is an underrated masterpiece. It doesn’t contain the humor element that critics seek to rate a film well but the truth is that in a world with such catastrophes and chaos, there isn’t a time for humor. Superheroes are so much more than a source of laughter—they’re a source of awareness.
You can save her, Kal. You can save all of them.
The existence of Man of Steel gives us a better perspective of everything that is going around us. You can’t perceive the world as black and white; there is a greater depth involving every matter, and if it’s a superhero film that wakes us up from the narrow perceptions we hold in our minds, it shouldn’t be deprecated. It does more than a regular film ever could and it’s truly upsetting how under-appreciated this film is. It is true that everyone has their preferences when it comes to films and when it comes to superheroes and with the expansion of cinematic universes, no one is supposed to regard Man of Steel as a favorite. But in the presence of such tumultuous times, politically and socially, I wish that comic book enthusiasts truly understood the essence of this film and recognized it for the masterpiece it was made to be.