As most of you know, it is hard for me to write an unbiased review about any superhero movie. Either I go in with too many expectations, get my hopes dashed, and kick dirt all the way home while calling for the coming of Christ…or I see the movie seventeen more times before I even considering sharing my thoughts with others. You must understand, there were only three career possibilities for me since the night I was conceived: pastor, country music singer, or superhero. In the interest of full disclosure, I almost chose the last.
Though my license tag says BATMAN3, Superman is my first love (he just does not have a cool car that I could be expected to name mine after, like Batman). Ever since I was six years old, when the first Superman came out, my imagination has been consumed with Kal-El’s greatness in a world that did not deserve such grace. After all, who can really do what Superman can? No one in the entire comic world, DC or Marvel, can compare. The legend of Superman has, at times, had to blush at his seeming perfection; through time, his creators have had to insert ways for this immortal to (possibly) fall. After all, when you have a guy who can displace entire planets, who is really going to serve as a legitimate foil for his powers? But the big screen has never seen a Superman who lets loose. The closest yet has come in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, where Superman finally breaks free from his cardboard box and punches Dark Side through an entire city. But even then, they held back the Man of Steel’s power to make it interesting.
Let me start with this: This is not your mom’s and dad’s Superman.
This is Superman in the raw. Now, don’t get bent out of shape, apart from a few incidentals here and there (and these will probably be spoiled by people in the comments who blast me for calling these “incidentals,” so don’t read them if you don’t want to know), the boy scout we all know and love is still there. But it is darker. It is not that Superman himself is darker, but this movie re-imagines Superman and reads between lines that often get left unexplored (except for those of us who watched Smallville). You enter into the struggle of Superman’s two sides at a deeper level than any previous movie. You may find yourself saying a silent prayer for Clark as he attempts to overcome the reality of his power and let bullies skate without witnessing his wrath.
Because of the depth of character they develop for Clark, this Superman proves to be every bit as good as any we have seen. Henry Cavill is perfect for this role. No slight to the original portrayer of the big screen superhero, Christopher Reeve, but I think we finally have someone who can handle the depth to which Superman needs to go. (And, thank God, Cavill does not try to be Reeve). His look and stature are fitting for the Man of Steel. His character has yet to be rounded out, but starting with this level of emotional depth, it only gets easier. Cavill is going to be donning the cape for a while and I can’t wait to see what they do with him as the explore different aspects of his character.
This darkness is extended into the character of Zod. Zod, Zod, Zod… How do I do justice to Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Zod? It is not that he overshadows Terrence Stamp (Zod in the 1980 Superman), it’s that he digs underneath him (just as Henry Cavill does with Superman), exploring the unexplored aspects of his character. In the end, I hate to say it, you really empathize with Zod. He is the best villian, far and away, of any Superman movie yet (sorry, Gene).
Russell Crowe is out of this world as Jor El (Superman’s real father)—literally, out of this world. His role was much larger than I expected and I think you will be very pleased to see how Jor El’s contribution is mined out for the first quarter of the movie. Lois was on par, at best. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) was, unfortunately, hardly noticeable. But my biggest surprise was Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. They departed from the canon a bit with him (and where they did most was quite possibly my favorite part of the movie), but his role was so crucial to understanding why Superman was the way he was. The interplay between Superman and his “earthly” father creates the core of the emotional drama.
Don’t mistake this movie for Marvel. This is modern Nolan DC. It is not the action, laughter, action, laughter that you may be expecting. I was at the 12:01am showing so believe me, we were all willing to be moved in whatever direction the movie wanted to take us. But I remember only one time that anyone laughed, and, upon further thought, I don’t think we were supposed to. This is 2.5 hours of white-knuckling it, so be prepared. You may want to take a cab, as you might pass out immediately after this thrill ride is over. The special effects and utter destruction that take place may be quite disturbing to many but, let me tell you, this is the zenith of what Hollywood can do. I thought that pinnacle had been reached by Transformers, but let June 14, 2013 mark the end of this era. All other movies can only attempt what has been done by Zach Snyder. From now on, there can only be copycats.
Even though the darkness is present, I don’t think the mood or tone will serve for the hopeful marrying of Nolan’s Dark Knight with his Man of Steel. Though more down to earth than you might think, Man of Steel is just too other-worldly to imagine its eventual incorporation into a Justice League Movie. I am sorry. They will have to reboot Batman for that to happen.
Please understand, Superman movies are not easy to make. God give thick skin to anyone brave enough to attempt such a feat. After all, this is not some barely-known character like Iron Man or Thor, where whatever you pull off is more than expected. There are such high expectations for this movie both because of the grandeur of its 1978 predecessor (the father of all Superhero movies) and because Superman is so culturally well-known and loved that it is almost impossible to please people (especially me). So (and here comes the snapshot review) for those of us who have been waiting for Superman to punch his way out of that cardboard box, we finally have our hopes realized. For those of us who wanted the wrestling-with-himself-and-his-mission Clark, of CW’s Smallville, to somehow be presented to the world, this is it. This movie is no joke. I think I can safely say that this should be the best Superman you will ever see.
Besides saying thanks to Nolan and Synder for taking up this dangerous ball and putting on the big screen everything this Superman fan could have hoped for (with great expectations for what is coming), let me say thanks to them for not being shy about making Superman the Christ-figure he was meant to be (see more below) and for making Superman an American again! (You will see what I mean.)
Superman: Man of Steel Parallels to Christ
- Jor El (El meaning “god”) sends his son Kal El to Earth to save humanity even though humanity does not deserve it.
- It takes an alien righteousness to make us righteous.
- Superman is given to parents (originally named Mary and Joseph) who raise him as their own.
- Superman’s human earthly father dies early.
- When Superman is 33 he travels to the “wilderness” (the arctic) to be qualified for his mission.
- Superman is guided the entire time by Jor El, from whom he learns his mission.
- Superman is of two natures (Kryptonian and Human).
- Superman has two names, Kal El and Clark Kent, which finds perfect expression in one personification, Superman (Hypostatic Union)
- Clark Kent is rejected and made fun of by peers.
- Superman is continually tempted by the outside world.
- Superman is nearly omnipotent with the power to destroy the humans who hate him, but does not ever use it for such a purpose.
- The “S” on Superman’s chest can mean “Savior” (in Krypton is means hope).
- The most overt of all: Jor El on the ship says to Superman: “You can save her Kal. You can save them all.” Then Superman lightly floats away with arms stretched out in the form of a cross.
Of course, there are many things that don’t parallel the Christ story, but this should at least give you a strong conviction that the producers of Man of Steel are not shying away from his Messianic parallels.
(And, just as a side note to all atheists: this cannot be used against the historicity of Christ (you know. . . the parallels/myth thing?), so wipe the spit off your chin. Remember, it must come before the Christ-story.)