MAN OF STEEL. A lot of us have fiercely devoted ourselves to the myth of superheroes as they have always given a reality to our wildest dreams, whether it is flying amongst the stars or standing courageously in the face of a crippling fear. We love superheroes in that they have always exemplified an ambitious reflection of ourselves. Therefore, it is of no surprise that the creative minds behind films such as The Dark Knight Trilogy and Watchmen made a concerted effort to focus on the MAN underneath the legend, mixing many permutations of the canon narrated/visualized in comics, and adapted it on the big screen like never seen before. According to director Zack Snyder, this was to be an examination of Clark to not only relate him (and superman) more to moviegoers, but also to inject reality into an otherwise fantastical world, a formula which turned The Dark Knight into a billion dollar franchise. Does Man of Steel succeed? The answer is more of a ‘No’ than a Yes.
It is interesting that many directors and writers have avoided Superman movies, as it is difficult to exhibit real emotional weakness or physical danger due to the character’s inherent God-like abilities and undeterred moral high ground. So yes, Man of Steel is successful in its unapologetic depiction of Clark’s moral infallibility as a reluctant hero who questions the legitimacy of his birthright and it offers many adrenaline-charged moments of action with exceptional fight sequences, though at times TOO CG-heavy. However, M.O.S. fails considerably for the very same purpose it was first created…Character Development. Both writer and director explained that their aim was to show the development of a ‘MAN’ (Clark Kent and kal-el) who discovers he is an alien with extraordinary powers. It was to be a pure re-imagining of the brand superman by exposing the difficult choices and inner struggles of Clark Kent/kal-el, which is why the moniker of ‘Superman’ is hardly mentioned in the movie.
Unfortunately, much of the audience will be left scratching their head as to who exactly are these re-imagined characters and should we even care about them. Much of the scenes that were ripe to develop the main character’s personalities to give the audience SOME emotional attachment were either rushed through or given to the supporting cast to make us care more about them. Without great character development or understanding, it really desensitizes the audience in caring if these
characters live or die. We are unclear if we should like or even care about the Clark and Lois character in M.O.S., all we know is Clark is striving to be a good guy because his father told him to and Lois is tenacious… is that enough? Hell No! I would argue the only person who had proper character development was General Zod because we knew of his personality and his purpose. We can empathize more with Zod’s cause and resolve to destroy earth more than we actually want to champion or root for superman’s willingness to save it. The only emotion resonated throughout the film was pain, and while it definitely was something never before seen in live action incarnations of superman, the film should have dived into more examples on his interpretation of his pain. It would have been substantive to show the audience more interactions, instead of the brief scenes of bullying or parental advisory, so we can get a sense of his personality/purpose and not simply JUST his morality.
M.O.S. was expected to be a re-imagining of a popular icon and it was on many levels, but so many plot holes and unexplained happenings leave us to only fill in the blanks with the familiar references of previous stories/films, which damage the intent to re-brand superman. Snyder has said the intention with M.O.S. was to make the character more better to relate to for a new generation, he succeeded in relating Clark’s pain and anguish a way moviegoers never experienced on screen. However, he
failed in that he made superman so hard to relate to as a person and as a hero that I doubt the audience, even in his martyrdom, would feel anything close to sadness if doomsday were to show up in the sequel.
I hope they balance out the character development as much as the action in the next installment.