When MAN OF STEEL first premiered, it’s safe to say it wasn’t met with a lot of positive feedback from fans — though let’s be clear none of the current DC Comic films have been loved by fans at all.
With the recent DC announcements of re-branding, and taking the franchise in a possible new direction, I decided to give these films a second chance.
After finishing the MAN OF STEEL re-watch here is the verdict: Zack Snyder’s film is the most correct depiction of the hero that audiences have ever seen — a Superman that is struggling with his identity.
Unlike most accounts, excluding the WB television series SMALLVILLE, when we first meet Clark Kent in MAN OF STEEL, he is kind of lost, trying to find his place but feeling out of place, which is something we’ve all felt at some point in our lives — at once making Clark the most lifelike he’s ever been.
The path that Clark is on here is a heavily emotional one, and more importantly about the consequences that arise from the choices that life forces you to make.
Throughout his journey in MAN OF STEEL, Clark has to reconcile the teachings from his Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and Jonathan Kent, his father from Earth, if he is to become the man that, arguably, both fathers would want him to be, in their own ways, ultimately having to find acceptance and come to terms with who he is.
This is not the colorful Superman tale of old that flies with the swelling orchestral music of John Williams, this is a more relatable figure who deals with human issues of love, divided loyalties and family, even as he is anything but human himself.
From the vital flashbacks that take the audience across Clark’s childhood, teen years, and post high-school years, to the controversial yet powerful scene where Superman kills Zod, every moment within this film is a fragment of the puzzle that is Clark trying to understand himself.
Upon a second viewing all these themes stand-out more than they did before — and the violence that spreads out throughout the film becomes the least exciting.
Cinematographically, Snyder chooses a handheld feel throughout the film where the camera zooms in harshly during the action-packed moments mimicking a journalist filming the action as it happens, and softer hand-held scenes during the more intimate moments, reminiscent of a family member filming a home video.
With that in mind, the film has some breathtaking visual moments.
The film is CGI heavy, but what super-hero film isn’t nowadays? At least the CGI in MAN OF STEEL has purpose and doesn’t stand out like it does in a certain Wakandian film.
Most fans, including myself, complained about the level of destruction and violence that occurred in the film but this is the consequence of war, and an allegory at Superman’s internal turmoil.
Instead of uttering the phrase, “I’m being torn apart,” Snyder and co. decided to show and not tell.
War is not over-saturated heroes flying around defeating bad guys without it taking a toll on them — war is ugly, it’s devastating, and damaging both externally and internally.
During a scene that shows Clark fighting with his father Jonathan, Snyder yet again uses nature’s rage to parallel Clark’s, this time by the means of a tornado.
Clark is ordered by his father to take his mother to safety, and when Martha realizes that she’d forgotten the family dog in the truck, Jonathan that decides to go save it, which he does, only to be injured and lose the ability to get himself back to safety.
Clark, seeing this, moves to save his father using his abilities, only to have Jonathon raise his hand and subtly shake his head no, due to the countless witnesses around forcing Clark to stand by and watch his father perish.
This heart wrenching moment haunts Clark and is the basis of his identity crisis having lost the only father he’d known up until this point, and no other connection to his birth parents.
Never had we seen this amount of heaviness in a Superman film — and this is why MAN OF STEEL is in fact a powerful film.
It’s all in the choices that Clark makes — the decisions that later carry consequence.
On the other side of the coin, General Zod, the film’s antagonist is one whose choice was taken from him at the time of his artificially designed predetermined role to fill Krypton’s society.
He was designed to fight for Krypton and as such knows nothing else and cannot choose anything else to fight for nor live for.
Zod’s arc brings forth the theological aspects of the film.
His first feud with Clark’s father is due to Jor-El being an advocate of free choice, which made him a criminal and an enemy of the State on Krypton.
Jor-El, an advocate of free will, sends his son Kal-El in the hope that he will continue that philosophy and bring hope to the people of Earth.
As much as I have continually said that Hans Zimmer’s most recent scores have not been up to par with his earlier scores, the musical landscape he created for MAN OF STEEL is another crucial layer of this film.
Zimmer brings forth the souls of the characters with the sounds of his melodies and the rage of Superman with the gusto of the percussions.
Earth, one of the final tracks on the soundtrack, is a bittersweet theme for the trinity of Clark Kent: the son/man, the hero, the heart.
Ultimately, this is what this film is all about.
It’s the internal fight of a man who is trying to figure out who he is, where he belongs, and what his purpose on this planet called Earth is, and the brilliance of it, is that the film ends with Clark taking one step towards figuring it out.
MAN OF STEEL is the Superman chapter we needed — and I am disappointed that it took me this long to figure it out, but hey — if Clark Kent isn’t ashamed of not being perfect, then neither am I.