Jun 19 2013 11:30am

No, Man of Steel’s Superman is Not Your Superman. And That’s Okay.

Man of Steel, young Clark

Well before Man of Steel ever hit theaters, the internet was swarming with protests that were bound to spring up as soon as Chris Nolan’s name was attached to the project. Why do we need a gritty Superman? They better not make Clark’s story like the Dark Knight arc. Why can’t they just make the movie fun? And now that the movie has been released, there are legions of fans decrying, as everyone knew they would: “That’s not my Superman!”

And they’re completely right. So I’m going to make myself incredibly unpopular by saying—

That’s not actually a problem.


Though it’s likely another discussion for another time, we do have to come to the realization that we live in a world of the Neverending Reboot. Everything is going to be revived. Forever. All the time. In a myriad of wondrous (and not-so-wondrous) ways. The sooner we can accept it, the easier it will be to accept the state of entertainment for the foreseeable future.

Once we come to terms with that, we have to ask what the point of a reboot is, and the answer is usually to come at the material from a different angle. Hopefully. That doesn’t mean every reconstruction will succeed. In addition, there are many people who will come to these retold tales having never been exposed to previous incarnations. This is particularly true where the summer blockbuster is concerned, if only due to the sheer volume of people who go to see a hit.

Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, Superman

In that realm, Marvel superhero stock are coming from a distinct advantage—their incarnations are sparser. There was no Iron Man movie before a besuited Robert Downey, Jr. walked onto our screens, and he’s fared better for it. There was never an actor to compare him to and he was free to put his own spin on the character knowing that even a good portion of comic fans had not necessarily read any Iron Man issues. The problem with Superman (and his DC compatriot Batman as well) is there are so many interpretations to chose from. They’re endless. Comics and cartoons and films and television shows, dragging out the list offers us so many faces, so many different takes and thoughts about what these men represent and mean to humanity.

And that is essentially where the cry of “my Superman!” originates. As fans, there are elements of what we love that are deemed sacred, and the alterations of those essential-to-us aspects land like a slap. It feels as though someone you care about is being disrespected, and that’s going to incite some uglier emotions in response.

So I understand the complaints I’ve seen regarding Man of Steel all too well, but from the perspective of someone who does not have an investment in a “personal Superman,” it seemed time to take a look at what has everyone so up in arms.

Man of Steel, Superman scream

For the biggest offense, of course, we have the death of Zod. Not only is it brutal, but the key tenant that Superman does not kill has made this moment a hot button instantly. In the theater I was holding my breath; the inevitability of it had struck me. No, Superman doesn’t kill, and no, most will not take the “he didn’t have a choice” argument where Kal-El is concerned. Which was precisely why I wanted to see it—to have that moment where Superman fails, and more importantly, where he fails for us. If you ever needed further proof that Clark Kent will chose humanity every time, that was it. That was the moment. And it was awful, which made it gorgeous.

Slightly more baffling are those who were bothered about his “hurried” relationship with Lois, mainly because it’s not a relationship by the end of the film. What we see are two people who breathlessly fall for one another, but that doesn’t make them a pair by the end. The first kiss is born out of a pure adrenaline high; he’s saved her life multiple times and wears a snug alien catsuit, she’s impressed him by being stupendously brave and keeping his secrets when he was afraid to trust anyone. And that’s where they begin, ultimately, two people who can’t quite figure out why they’re drawn in, why they need to help and protect one another. She’s intrigued, but there’s no indication that she’s head over heels in love yet—she’s got a crush. So does he.

Man of Steel, Lois and Clark

And that’s why the place where the film ended is such a fun beginning for them. We have absolutely no idea how an actual romance between them might develop, where it could lead now that they’re coworkers and she has to keep the secret every day in front of a crowd. As a reversal of the usual gambit where Clark hides behind his glasses from the woman he adores, it’s a perfect switch and gives Lois a much more interesting role to play. The “poor burdened hero who can never tell those he loves of his secret” trope is something that we really don’t need to swing back toward any time soon.

Then there’s the “Jesus” imagery, which is admittedly goofy in its execution, but still doesn’t seem like anything to storm out over. All the shout-outs are too superficial to make much of a meal out of it. We get a stained glass window, a crucifixion pose in space after being told by a father to save people, and the fact that Clark is 33 years old. We get similarly weak Jesus-connections for Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings, but people tend to leave that story be, yet trying it with Superman is cause for fury? If there’s anything to be upset about, it’s the aggravation that Western culture never picks different imagery, or a different figure to echo heroically. The world offers us so many interesting choices outside the Christian pantheon….

And what about the collateral damage in Smallville and Metropolis? The action sequences in the film are overdone in terms of length and repetition, but most of the outcry is over Superman’s inability to save more people during the destruction. What is being ignored is the deliberate disadvantage Kal-El is placed at for the film; he doesn’t know how to fight, certainly not against a trained military force. He undoubtedly wants to help, but how can he when he’s being continually engaged in battles that will cost more lives if he doesn’t win them? Of course we want to see Superman more concerned for life regardless of his enemy, but he’s too busy trying to figure out how his alien body works under higher stress, how to make up for exactly zero combat skills while he’s being pummeled by the Kryptonian equivalent of Hannibal.

Man of Steel, Clark and Martha Kent

The point is that Man of Steel is a true origin story. That perfect protector, the one that so many fans are missing, he doesn’t exist yet. He’s learning how to be that man. The idea that someone is simply that inherently good right off the bat isn’t going to play for the majority of today’s audience, so we are watching him grow into the part. It’s intriguing to think that the film’s sequel has such potential to soar leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor by virtue of enjoying itself a bit more—that is the exact opposite of how most superhero movies are conceptualized, and Man of Steel is more interesting for it. This first film endeavored to prove that not all beginnings are joyful. Becoming who you are meant to be hurts. It is a struggle that everyone collides with, one that forces us to face fears (and foes) that often seem impossible to overcome.

And Clark Kent is the perfect person to reflect that back at us.

So he’s not everyone’s Superman, but he still has a great deal to teach us. For my part, I’d prefer this sort of Superman to the one who is already a better person at age 18 than I will become at any point in my life. It might be more fun for a new audience to grow alongside him rather than in his wake, as Jor-El insists we do. He’s a different sort of hero, but that doesn’t mean he can’t guide us to the best in ourselves and humanity.

Man of Steel, Superman flying

He’s not your Superman, but he is someone’s Superman. And that deserves respect, too.

Emily Asher-Perrin seriously just wants Lex Luthor, though. She was recently on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast talking about Star Trek Into Darkness, and an essay of hers can be found in the newly released Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Kevin T
1. Kevin T
Agreed. I think it sets up a sequel Man of Tomorrow where he has to become that man with the loved moral code. He has to become that beacon for us to follow. Hopefully because Lex (who never trusts Superman) is pointing out if he can kill a Kryptonian, he can kill a human but I'll leave the movie making to the pros.
Kevin T
2. RobertX
I keep posting about the cost globally vs locally. If Superman doesn't win at Metropolis it's game over. Those battles are faught "no holds barred". Afterwards we then grasp why Superman adopts a "do no harm" mantra when we look at the devastation and lives the victory costed.
james loyd
3. gaijin
"If you ever needed further proof that Clark Kent will chose humanity every time, that was it."
But...but he snapped Zod's neck TOWARD those people. He CUT THEM IN HALF with Zod's Red-hot Eye Beams of Death(TM). It was probably a continuity error, but for those of us who can tell right from left it was pretty clear those museum-goers were just as dead as if he'd let Zod live.
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
Quoth Emily: "but most of the outcry is over Superman’s inability to save more people during the destruction"

Not quite. The outcry has been over Superman's complete lack of interest in saving pretty much anybody during the destruction. He doesn't try to lure the bad guys away from a populated area (viz. Superman II), he doesn't try to contain the fighting (viz. The Avengers), and he doesn't make any effort to save anyone who isn't listed in the opening credits. Worse, he tells everyone to stay inside and then proceeds to smash lots of buildings.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Kevin T
5. Eric Saveau
Abso-fracking-lutely spot-on. It's not about being Superman, but becoming Superman. And since the film wasn't at all subtle about that process, or how hard it would be, I am utterly mystified at the fan-rage over this. And I say that as a lifelong comics reader who spent my carefully hoarded nickels on Superman starting around 1970.

The point of this film wasn't to show a Kal-El who is cynical and lonely and distrusful, but a Superman who realizes that he doesn't have to be those things, and who finds his greatest strength in that realization. And that's the perfect way to do it.
Sean Fagan
6. sef
There was no basis for "Superman does not kill." No set-up for it. So my outrage isn't that he killed Zod -- Zod told him it was going to be one of them -- but at his response afterwards: destroying more of NYC than the Avengers, no big deal, but killing someone who was forcing that choice to be made, at the expense of a half dozen or so bystanders? Must scream about that!

Also, I cannot, and will not, get over Pa Kent's answer of "Maybe." That is the thing that makes me the angriest about the movie.
Kevin T
7. LizF
YES! to each and every one of your points about MoS. Especially this: "If you ever needed further proof that Clark Kent will chose humanity every time, that was it. That was the moment. And it was awful, which made it gorgeous."

I absolutely believe that the sequel will be amazing because of where we're left off at the end of this movie. This was a completely different Superman story and I loved it. Great article!
Kevin T
8. Shellywb
But... (and I have no stake in this, just find the discussions interesting) this sounds like you're saying people have to be tolerant of other views of Superman, while you're not being tolerant of theirs.
Kevin T
9. Colin R
"Superman has to learn how to be a hero" is pretty backward from the modern conception of Superman though. He's not Batman, who confronted a childhood trauma by forging himself into a hero; he is not Spider-man, whose heroism was forged from personal failure. The whole point of Superman's heroism, traditionally, is that he is just a very decent person because he was raised by loving and decent people. The sunny, humanistic optimism of the character is that simply having a loving and nurturing family life is all that it takes to be a good person--that anyone raised in those circumstances who grew into Superman's power would also be kind and humble.

I think it's fine to like the movie version, but the way you're describing it here he's basically some other dude. I think understand why people don't like the movie actually requires engaging what people do like about Superman, rather than just dismissing it.
James Briggs
10. traveler
GOOD HEAVENS people ITS JUST A MOVIE> I liked all of th first batman and superman shows, but i liked all of the Dark Knight ,and this superman spacificly because its different. They did a reat job and thanks!
Kevin T
11. KF
@8: That's not at all what she's saying. Saying you prefer one thing over the other thing is not the same as saying that liking the other thing is invalid, or that you're being intolerant of someone liking the other thing.
Matt Hamilton
12. MattHamilton
I also love how people are whining about how he didn't try and save all those people in Metropolis while it was being pummled and while he fought Zod. First off, there was a GIANT ALIEN SHIP pulsing the ground and destroying evrything. Not a whole lot to do there. Then, when he fought Zod, he did try by taking him to the sky, but it's hard to keep him away from everything when Zod is also taking him right back to the populated areas. Zod even said, "I have trained my whole life to be the protector of a planet, where have you trained?" Superman has no training in this. He just knew he was strong and that was it. He didn't even know he could fly until just a few days previous. So while he's flying around saving people from one building, another is falling and people are dying. And while he's trying to do that, Zod is killing more people over there. Take out the source of the problem and the problem goes away. Just because he is God-Like to human beings does not make him a God.
Kevin T
13. KF
@6: "Also, I cannot, and will not, get over Pa Kent's answer of "Maybe." That is the thing that makes me the angriest about the movie."

A character saying something is not the same as the movie saying something. This version of Jonathan Kent is uncertain about how best to keep his son safe. The "maybe" underlines that uncertainty. That's all. It's not like he said "yes" in that conversation.

And it's clearly something Clark (and the film) didn't agree with, given that while growing up, he was helping people in Smallville (it's obvious there's been more incidents besides the bus crash) and spends his adult life, his wandering years, helping people despite the risk to himself.
Kevin T
14. Tarcanus
This was a welcome bit of a review/thought on MoS. Way better than the last one that TOR posted up. This one is much more objective and rational about the fact that this is a reboot and things may not be the same as they wer ein every other Superman story.

Thank you!
Mani A
15. sn0wcrash
I certainly agree that this is not my Superman, who's probably the DCAU/ Justice League/ Justice League Unlimited one. And I certainly do not fault anyone for enjoying this movie ('coz it is entertaining) or for liking this depiction - to each their own.
But I do think that the article belittles some of the criticism. A Superman that kills when left with no choice is understandable. I don't like it, but I understand it. But a Superman who isn't a paragon, who isn't already doing all he can to mnimize destruction, and a Pa Kent who's just...terrible is a depiction I find hard to swallow.
Also, my criticism on the Jesus allegory is that it's just so damn unsubtle. The Garden of Gethsemane scene alone. Frodo in LotR was allegory. Aslan in Narnia was unsubtle allegory.
This? This was like being hit over the head while Zack Snyder is yelling "DO YOU GET IT YET?".
Noneo Yourbusiness
16. Longtimefan
I miss optimisim in the story instead of in the review.

While digital effects are able to give much more spectacular explosions and distruction this has, in my opinion, lead to a new wave of film making where blockbuster films must destroy many things.

It is, in some ways, exhausting.

It may be a "boring" movie to build and create and expand with characters who are not always trying to bring about an apocolypse or to destroy the whole world (or universe) but these big stakes stories are becoming quite common.

Common eventually becomes boring.

It seems that currently when one is becoming bored the easy way out is to make the destruction even bigger.

If not the destruction of the in movie world then the destruction of the charaters so they can be rebuilt into more dramatic characters.

Long running characters are not long running because someone with a lot of money is forcing them on an unwilling public. They are long lasting because there is something about them that appeals to people over decades.

Reboots are inherintly lazy writing. They take something that the writer/director may know is popular but may not understand. Then they change the property to suit thier sensibilites or what they believe will be the sensibilites of the population willing to spend buckets of money on seeing a "new style" of movie.

It is not that the charaters do not speak to a modern audience, it is that the modern audience does not know how to listen.

Optimisim is not corny nor is it something that must be learned from tragedy. Sometimes it is just different enough to be interesting.
John Ginsberg-Stevens
17. eruditeogre
@15: "This? This was like being hit over the head while Zack Snyder is yelling "DO YOU GET IT YET?""

To be fair, that is every Zack Snyder movie ever.
Chris Bridges
18. cabridges
Nope, the movie simply didn't earn that ending to me. This was an Elseworlds Superman from a very bleak Earth that doesn't appear to allow any bright, primary colors.

The Superman at the end might very well have been thinking this was his last chance to win, that Zod would certainly go on to kill more people. But we didn't see that. We saw two superstrong guys bashing each other into buildings and then, abruptly, a family was in direct danger and suddenly, for the first time in the battle, there was concern on Superman's face. There wasn't before, or if there was we were never shown it.

We didn't need to see him trying to help people during the battle -- although every version of Superman I've ever liked would have tried -- but we absolutely needed to see him getting increasingly frantic over the people he couldn't save. A Superman capable of killing, in my mind, would have to been beat-to-hell, bleeding, desperate, at the very end of his rope. This movie did not earn that scene.

I understand people interested in a new look at the character. I understand story arcs, and hero journeys. I am, honestly, stunned at the number of people who seemed delighted that Superman finally got past the boy scout thing and killed somebody.

Here's the thing, for me. Superman is the hero other heroes look up to. He's inspirational. He is, as was hammered over and over in the movie, the symbol of Hope. That moment, when he had a choice to make, was the moment in the movie when I think he should have truly become Superman. Not just Clark, not just a guy who can fly and punch really hard, but Superman, the hero. That was the moment when, faced with a moral choice, he should have done the heroic thing rather than the expedient one. He didn't.

So many people defend his actions because what else could he have done? I can think of 6 or 7 things off the top of my head -- putting his hand over Zod's eyes might have been a good start -- and we'd already seen Kryptonian stasis pods in the old ship if the creators needed somewhere to put Zod later.

But that dodges the source of my disappointment. It's not that Superman did what he did. It's that the filmmakers decided Superman should kill someone and they wrote a script that led inevitably to that desirable point. And people seem happy about it. That's where my disappointment lies.
Kevin T
19. Alright Then
For me, I don't think this would be as big an issue if every other franchise weren't making its heroes---if we can still call them that---darker and edgier because the airheads in Hollywood think darker and edgier automatically means a more meaningful (and marketable) character.
Kevin T
20. MatthewF
The absolute best piece I've read about Man of Steel. So dead on.
Kevin T
21. glorbes
What cabridges said. The movie is a dumb brute of a thing, and that ending was not earned in the least by what preceded was just shocking for its own sake. Nolan should have followed his instinct and put the kaibosh to Goyer and Snyder's foolishness. Who knows...they may have come up with something better, fresher, and less horrible.

Alright Then...yeah, the movies seem to be following a similar track that the comic books themselves have followed...the darker, grittier, more violent elements become what is seen as compelling, as opposed to actually telling compelling stories with fun and fantastical elements.

Man of Steel, to me, fails because its a clumsy movie, loaded with themes that the director and writer can barely grasp. New and different is fine if its done well...this was not done well.
Kevin T
22. c3
cabridges groks it.
Kevin T
23. oliveramy
I have to say I'm quite thrilled to see a review of Man of Steel that isn't 100% fanboy biased.
Superman was never my favorite hero just because of his boy scout ways. Granted, he's a great hero to look up to and always does the right thing, but as a human myself, I have a hard time relating (even tho he is an alien, not human.) Thus, I never really particularly loved the character. I do love the old movies with Reeves, but again, the perfect boy scout ways of Reeve's Superman turned me off me at times.

I for one am loving most all these reboots. I never would have considered myself a geek or nerd (other than Star Wars) until these Marvel movies and reboots started hapening. I'm loving it! I can now enjoy these iconic characters without too much bias since I never read the comics or held too tightly to the old tv show or movie canons.

The few issues I have with this movie are:
1. The odd willingness Clark has to just don the suit Jor-El has made for him (that, for some reason fits just PERFECTLY) and be the symbol of Hope his biological father claims him to be without question.
2. The shaky hand-cam. Oh God! Someone make it stop!!
3. What happened to that family in the museum? Are they alive? Dead? Why didn't they just run away while Superman had Zod in a head lock?

Other than that, BRING ON MOVIE NUMBER 2!
I loved this version. I truly like gritty, unsure Clark Kent finding his way to Superman and I hope to see more development into the Superman we all know and love in the next movie.

Also: Kudos on seeing more of Krypton than we have ever dreamed of seeing! Where can I sign up to get one of those flying creatures?
Kevin T
24. KF
@18: "So many people defend his actions because what else could he have done? I can think of 6 or 7 things off the top of my head -- putting his hand over Zod's eyes might have been a good start -- and we'd already seen Kryptonian stasis pods in the old ship if the creators needed somewhere to put Zod later. "

Let me preface this by saying I would have preferred a film where he didn't kill Zod.

I've seen people make both of the suggestions before. However, the Kryptonian ship with the pods was destroyed, or at least that was my impression, when Superman attacked Zod above the city (before the other Kryptonians are sent to the Phantom Zone, or killed by that process). It seems reasonable to think there are no more pods to use, or none that he can locate amidst the rubble in time to prevent Zod from killing the people in the train station. I don't think there's any available Kryptonian technology left at this point, that Superman knows of.

And while I agree a hand across Zod's eyes would stop the beam, note how Superman isn't able to stop Zod's head from turning when he's using both hands. Even while Superman strains against him with both hands, Zod is still slowly turning his head. If Superman let goes with one hand, Zod's head is effectively free. It'd be a question of whether or not Superman could move fast enough once he lets go of Zod before Zod could finish turning his head. And I'm not sure this version of the character is that fast, or has that much control over his powers yet.

I agree that this would be a better film if Superman hadn't killed Zod. As constructed, at that moment in the film, I'm not sure the character has another choice. There's none that I can think of that wouldn't require re-working earlier elements of the screenplay. (Which, obviously, the filmmakers could have done.) Even doing something like flying Zod out of the city wouldn't work because, what then? He'll just head back to it, or to another city, unless he's subdued. 

What I would have liked to have seen would be Supeman talking Zod down, reasoning with him. Would have made for a better ending.
james loyd
25. gaijin
@23 "The shaky hand-cam."
Thank you. It looks like it was filmed by my 7 year old after 4 espressos and no bathroom breaks. And it's TWO AND A HALF HOURS of near-constant shaking. That doesn't make it feel more realistic, it just induces nausea.
Noneo Yourbusiness
26. Longtimefan
@ 23 oliveramy :

"I for one am loving most all these reboots. I never would have considered myself a geek or nerd (other than Star Wars) until these Marvel movies and reboots started hapening. I'm loving it! I can now enjoy these iconic characters without too much bias since I never read the comics or held too tightly to the old tv show or movie canons."

That is the attitude which keeps us from having nice things. :)

"we do have to come to the realization that we live in a world of the Neverending Reboot. Everything is going to be revived. Forever. All the time. In a myriad of wondrous (and not-so-wondrous) ways. The sooner we can accept it, the easier it will be to accept the state of entertainment for the foreseeable future."

This is the other reason.

People are not nature. The way entertainment is produced and manufactured is not a thing of natural forces like a snow storm or a sunny day. It is not something that has to be accepted because it is just going to be that way.

People are the the forces creating entertainment and storytelling and social understanding. It is complicated and wonderous and frustrating and unifying and polarizing but it is not absolute or irrefutable in the way that a hailstorm would be.

People can change, people do change and in that change people rally for it and against it to make different changes.

To understand that something is divergent does not mean that it has to be accepted wholly without any critical observation.

People like to challenge things. :)

That is why this movie is what it is and it is why people react to it as they do.

Sometimes though it is just really dissapointing. :)
Chris Bridges
27. cabridges
@24: "However, the Kryptonian ship with the pods was destroyed..."

I pointed those out to show that they existed in the movie. It would have been trivial for the screenwriters to include some handwavium that allowed Superman and Dr. Hamilton to fire one up. Makes every bit as much sense as Jor-El's Magic Phantom Zone Engine.

And if we must abide by the situation as defined by Goyer, Nolan and Snyder, Superman could have:
- Spun Zod around. If he's strong enough to twist Zod's neck against Zod's resistance, he's strong enough to do any number of wrestling moves.
- Put his hand over Zod's eyes.
- Shoved Zod in the direction Zod was pulling, pushing them both through the floor.
- Fired his own heat vision into the back of Zod's head.
- Used his heat vision to blast the floor, dropping them both.
- Kicked through the floor. Same thing.
- Used his heat vision to carve out the wall behind the hapless family, giving them an escape path.
- Let go of Zod. There'd be a second of startlement, during which he could punch Zod away again. Or he could have let go and placed his body between Zod and the family.
- Scream in Zod's ear, to see if he'd really figured out that whole super-hearing thing yet.
It doesn't matter whether you think any of those would work. The screenwriters/director could have MADE them work, had they any interest in doing so.
Kevin T
28. driceman
As a big Superman fan, I'm a little torn about this interpretation. I would've liked a little less endless action and a little more of a story arc about Superman and Lois, for example. You make a fair point about the adrenaline-rushed kiss, but what if the movie had been able to develop that romance in the first place? It would've been much more meaningful. Batman Begins, Spider-Man (the Tobey Maguire one in particular comes to mind), and Iron Man all managed to have the origin story, plenty of action, and a good love story all wrapped into one. They did a pretty good job developing Clark and Lois (best interpretation of Lois so far, in fact), but not explaining why they should be falling in love.

I am one of those who left the theater thinking that it wasn't what I expected at all. *spoiler* Clark doesn't join the Daily Planet until the last minute of the movie? That's like watching a Batman movie without Wayne Enterprises. Plus it made Lois's trips back to Metropolis to talk to Perry all the more strange because everything else was going on in Kansas or on Clark's way to the Fortress of Solitude. It just felt weird to me, although that might just be because I love the '78 Superman so much.

Speaking of the Fortress of Solitude, how did Clark know where to go to find it? That didn't make sense to me at all.

I didn't actually think the biggest problem of the movie was Superman killing Zod. No, Superman shouldn't be killing people, but if it's a choice between saving humans and letting Zod continue wiping them out, I think he made the better choice, even if it'll haunt him (and it should, really). Besides, it's not a situation like Batman's where any human can shoot the Joker and he's dead; no one but Superman could cause even the slightest harm to Zod.

No, my issue is the bad choices he makes long before that. The reason Clark is such a good person, even in, say, his teens, is because he was supposedly raised by two loving parents on a farm in Kansas who teach him to be a good person. My biggest problem is that this movie stomped on everything the Kent family is supposed to stand for. Jonathan Kent tells Clark he's supposed to hide his powers instead of save lives? What? I get that he's hiding his powers to not draw attention to himself, but at the cost of a life? That made Jonathan's death really lame, too.

And yes, I get that this movie is about Clark BECOMING Superman, not a movie about him ALREADY BEING Superman. And he definitely feels like he's become Superman in the end. But it really bothered me that Clark destroyed that guy's truck in the beginning. Clark, not just Superman, is supposed to be the bigger person when things like that happen, in part because that guy has no chance in a fight with him, and in part because he's a good person. I'm glad he didn't throw a punch, but trashing the guy's truck? Really?

What I hoped for from this movie was that Clark's biggest struggle would be his loneliness. He's the only Kryptonian left, at least after Zod dies, the last of his kind. And yes, he should have a hard time coming to the conclusion that he should be Superman. But his moral center is what makes him Superman- it's why he's different from all the other superheroes. The best part is that that's not a gift he has because he's from Krypton, it's a gift he has because the Kents raised him the right way. That's what this movie was missing.
Kevin T
29. KF
@27: Some of those might work, except the hand over the eyes (as noted before). I'll have to think about them.

Also, I meant no offense to you in my post. You're sounding a little hostile at the end of yours. If I caused you any offense, I apologize.
Chris Bridges
30. cabridges
@29 My apologies! I didn't mean to sound hostile, and any frustration I'm feeling is toward the filmmakers, not to anyone here. No offense taken at all.
Thomas Jeffries
31. thomstel
OK, I've been reading the various takes on this film enough now, time to chime in!

FYI, my biggest concern was the last 3rd of the film. Someone wanted to out-Bay Michael Bay. While I can appreciate the impact of super-powered characters doing big, overblown things, the running time made it tough to stomach. Faora did the blink/freezeframe punch thing a lot, the big dude (Nam-ek?) grabbed Supes by the cape & foot a lot, Zod gained powers, got thrown off-kilter from it and then mastered it in seconds. A lot. Neat ideas and fun to watch, but didn't need 30+ minutes of them. Also, from now on I'm running towards already-collapsed buildings when disasters happen. Running away and having
more buildings fall on me doesn't seem like the right thing to do anymore.

Second, rather than add to the debate of "cool!" vs. "not!", I've spent some time considering how much better a film it would have been _without Zod and the Kryptonians_. I mean, the Krypton scenes should stay, but have their breakout from the Phantom Zone and attack on Earth be part of a follow-up film. (Which would have been a nice nod to the original films.)

In its place though, what sort of story would there be for the second half of the film? Here's what I would have liked to have seen more:

1) Continue to have Clark debate whether he should trust humanity with his abilities. He still found the scout ship, talked to Jor-El, had Lois figure out who he is, etc. Some other event other than Zod's ultimatum could have brought the decision to the forefront of his thoughts (I'm partial to a Lois captured by bad guys scenario, to riff on the Donner film's first appearance being to save Lois in the helicopter).

2) Have Clark (as Superman) take part in other "heroic" missions and have the world react more and more to his sightings. I thought those early trailers that made it look like he was in the Middle East/Afghanistan/etc. with the soldiers would give a great opportunity to show what a superhero in a real life situation would be capable of (similar to Iron Man's liberation of the village in his first film).

3) Have Clark make mistakes. Maybe his attempts to help causes more harm, and he has to mature in the way he thinks about solving the problems to avoid all the casualties/damage he does. Maybe he's faced with the same sort of dilemma as what they actually included with Zod and the family (perhaps via a terroist with a bomb and innocents or something) and explore the same outcome/different outcome and how it shapes him. Show us _how_ he comes to be the paragon protector that we all know.

4) And finally, have Clark and the world have to come to terms in some fashion about what his presence here means. Have him learn of some "good guy" bad stuff (PRISM anyone?) from the powers-that-be and call them on it/do something about it. In the end, have some scene where the balance is established between him and the planet, similar to the final scene with the General with the drone crash, but know...well. That scene was really quite terrible, but luckily they saved it with the great Daily Planet intro right after.
Ty Myrick
32. tymyrick
The problem with Man of Steel is Clark Kent is given no real motivation for being Superman, and it shows. The people who raised him told him to be scared of anyone finding out what he really was--that maybe it was better to let people die than let them know aliens exist. Of course, it wasn't better for them, they didn't have a problem raising and loving an alien they knew nothing about, but the rest of world can't possibly handle it. So throughout the movie, Clark only saves people if it is convenient, until he finally has to reveal himself or let everybody die.

There is nothing inspiring about that. Only a sociopath would choose to let every other person on the planet die rather than put himself at risk. So he reveals himself, but he still doesn't bother to actually try saving people on an individual basis. Yes he has to fight off the Kryptonians so they don't destroy humans, and Earth, and himself, but until he actually has to choose between seeing Zod kill a few people or killing Zod, he doesn't show any compassion for the suffering of others.

I've seen lots of people arguing that in the next movie he will learn. In the next movie he will have a moral code and a reason for it (as if it is totally unbelievable than anyone might have a moral code unless they have suffered horrible tragedy). In the next movie he will really be Superman. But we didn't get the next movie. We got this movie.

If it had ended when he got the suit and flew for the first time, it would have been a decent movie. If it had lost 15 minutes of disaster porn and been about a different character, it would have been a decent sci-fi/superhero movie. But it didn't, and it wasn't. This isn't about whether it is my Superman or your Superman. This wasn't Superman.

"He's a different sort of hero..." You're right; he is a different hero. Too bad they sold him to us as Superman.
Chris Bridges
33. cabridges
It doesn't help that Zod's plan doesn't make a lot of sense. "Say! On this planet we have the powers of gods! Let's use our World Machine Thing and change Earth to be like Krypton so we'll be depowered and vulnerable again!"
Kevin T
34. Rancho Unicorno
The idea that someone is simply that inherently good right off the bat isn’t going to play for the majority of today’s audience, so we are watching him grow into the part.
Like others, I take issue with this. Sure, Superman being Superman may not play well, but that is all the more reason to be upset with this. If this had been a superhero movie about Superguy, then I could have bought the argument that the character was intended to meet audience needs. However, in a movie about Superman, the team is taking part of who the character inherently is, and remaking it for profit. That's where my problem lies. Action makes more money than drama, but you don't see Gandhi pulling out a weapon and saying, "no more Mister Passive Resistance," because it plays better to a modern audience.

Rebooting to examine a different angle is one thing. Changing the underlying traits is another.
This first film endeavored to prove that not all beginnings are joyful. Becoming who you are meant to be hurts.
This is true. But, why would this hurt any more than what so many non-killers have gone through, especially when he could have made a choice. He is above human physical frailty and doesn't have to resort to the actions that leave us as mere mortals, but he does. And in this world, that's what Superman chooses to become - a killer.
Kevin T
35. oliveramy
@26 Longtimefan
Wait a minute, because I don't cling dearly to the canon of old movies, tv shows, and comics, its my fault (and others that have the same opinion as I do) that you don't think these movies are good?
That seems a bit unfair. A smiley face doesn't seem to lighten the blow either.

Like I stated before, I actually did enjoy the orginal Supes movies with Reeves, it just wasn't my favorite story.

Also, why do I have to be a long time fan of the orginal canon to be able to have an opinion on these reboots? I got a lot of the same attitude towards the fact that I am a new fan of Star Trek because of Abram's 2009 reboot. It doesn't matter how I came into the fandom, just that I now have just as much weight to my opinions as any other fan.
It seems to me that the previous fanbase of most of these DC and Marvel stories are pretty exclusive and have no room for the newer fans that come to it by way of movie vs traditional comics.

It is my understanding that the goal for most of these reboots is to look at the stories in a new modern way AND to appeal to a broader audeince, that is to say, those who weren't previously exposed to or fans of the original stories while still maintainning enough of the canon to also appeal to long time adoring fans.

I was never into comic books or these sort of stories before. If these movies serve as the bridge to turn me into a fan, what right does anyone have to say my attitude is the reason that you can't have your ideal movie?

What is so wrong with me liking a new twist on an old favorite because I like the action and modern environment?
Chris Bridges
36. cabridges
OK, we absolutely have to keep the killing scene? Fine. Here's how you lead up to it.

Don't have Zod and his crew get Superman-level powers immediately. Strength and speed and flight, fine, explain that with lowered gravity (although would their internal organs still work properly? never mind, never mind...). Don't have them get the magic eyeballs and super-hearing when they take their respirators off, because that's stupid. Have that come to them gradually, as they absorb more yellow sun radiation. Clark's didn't kick in till later, remember.

So Clark starts off with more powers, just as in the movie. Have him try to move the fight out of Smallville, with limited success. Let him acknowledge Pete Ross' presence, maybe yell at him to get down. Have him save more people than just his mom and the one pilot.

In Metropolis, show him reacting to the devastation caused by the World thing. No smooching Lois in the center of the blast radius, because that's just tacky. Instead, have him start to help people. And then...

Zod blasts in and tries to kill the people Superman is trying to save. Superman tears into him. Other people see this. Zod throws down his ultimatum. The battle begins.

And it goes as it did before. Buildings are smashed, things blow up, yadda yadda. But Superman does his best to protect people as he fights. Yes, it's a huge disadvantage for him. That's the point. And he's got the sight and the heat vision and the hearing to compensate a little, and maybe he can even do a few things besides punch stuff. But Zod is getting stronger, and he's targeting humans, and it's getting harder and harder for Superman to help people and fight him. He takes several direct hits that would have killed some citizens -- and the citizens see this, camera crews are watching and the Daily Planet staff is on the scene and EVERYONE sees this -- and Superman is starting to show the damage. It's getting harder and harder to withstand Zod. He gets a break when Zod's supersenses kick in, and for a second we think it's over, but Zod masters them with sheer willpower and now the fight is truly on.

By the final scene. Superman is desperate. Every move has been countered. He's about to drop, and looks it. Superman has never felt so much pain in his life. Zod threatens that last family, and Superman barely has anything left in him to give, and the moment happens.

He screams, Lois comes to hug him, but he waves her off. He doesn't deserve to be comforted right now, and besides, he has a job to do.

Broken, bleeding, he starts saving people trapped under the wreckage.

From there you can move on to his encounter with the general, etc.

I would still disagree with the decision. But at least I'd have felt he still deserved to be called a hero.
Kevin T
37. GuruJ
The funny thing about reboots is that you can guarantee that a portion of the audience will never have seen a Superman movie or TV show before. Therefore, this Superman will become their Superman.

And when they find older interpretations of the character, they will probably wonder how people could ever have bought such an impossibly-perfect character. That's just the nature of reinvention; some people will always like The Magnificent Seven more than Seven Sumarai despite the earlier version being arguably the better film.

I have some personal experience of this. I can't identify in the slightest with the Teen Titans comics. Cyborg and Starfire will always be the characters in the CN cartoon to me since that was my first experience with the characters.
Kevin T
38. SF
@30: It's okay, no worries. I understand how emotional people are getting about this, and I understand why.

I'm more ambivalent than angry because I think I understand what the filmmakers were going for, and the process by which they arrived at where they did (from what I've been able to glean from the interviews). And because, for me, some parts of this film worked really, really well (like Clark in the closet at school), better than most superhero films.

I think if they hadn't dealt with Zod's defeat this way, and if they'd dealt with the collateral damage in a better way (I feel like the film changes from a Superman film to a Miracleman film after a certain point), this could have been among the best superhero films.
Risha Jorgensen
39. RishaBree
I don't have much of a dog in this fight, since I've never cared for Superman and have 0% interest in seeing the movie. But I have read several reviews this week, and the "hated it" side has swayed me, for one simple reason.

Picture, if you will, a Bruce Wayne that is raised to adulthood in the bosom of a happy family, showing up for family dinners on Sundays and working as an up-and-coming vice president at Wayne Enterprises. One day when he is in his late 20s, his parents are killed while being mugged in an alleyway. Bruce becomes mildly depressed and decides that he can maybe help people like his parents by donning a black suit and heading out to fight crime. Can you honestly call that character Batman? Would you feel betrayed when you showed up at the theater?

This Superman might be a compelling character in and of himself - I have no idea. But is he Superman? There is only so far you can twist a character before they become someone else wearing the same suit.

(For the record, I loved the new Star Treks, liked every TV and movie version of Batman, and adore the Lost In Space movie, so I have no problem with the concept of reboots itself.)
Shelly wb
40. shellywb
@11, sure she is. She's not saying she prefers their interpretation. She's step by step saying their criticism makes no sense, which implies that their view is invalid.
Noneo Yourbusiness
41. Longtimefan
@ 35,

I am only putting the smiley face in because there is no vocal inflection in written word. I am not trying to write an angry or upsetting message but I am not impressed by reboots in general and dark ones in particular.
Kevin T
42. GBSpurs
Never forget that this was the movie that attempted to get an emotional payoff from a scene where a beloved husband and responsibility-laden father threw his life away for a dog.
Mani A
43. sn0wcrash
#42. GBSpurs

I can't recall, but I recently read a reviewer's (Ebert?) opinion that one true sign of a crappy movie is where they invest more emotional impact in the potential death of a dog than in the actual death of humans (Independence Day was the example used in the article, I believe). I can't find the article now, so I may be mangling the reference somewhat.
Kevin T
44. reboot-it
Superman killed Zod in Superman II - threw him into a crevasse after crushing the bones in his hand. The other two bad guys were also tossed into the abyss in that film. It has also been pointed out in many other blogs that Superman has killed before in the comics as well. He also used to not do more than leap really far and be a really strong guy. Which version of the past are we mandated to follow?

Please also keep in kind that every Superman story starts with the death of an entire race of beings and the orphaning of a boy who is adopted by a family where his new father dies in one way or another. Plenty of room to read some darkness into that tale for the sake of a touch of realism and drama.

I hear so many complaints about lack of creativity and constant reboots. Yet, the argument against Man of Steel is that it isn't enough of a carbon copy. Obviously people like hearing the same story told multiple times. Shakespeare is reinterpreted over and over and nobody complains. A great story and iconic characters beg to be revisited because we love hearing new things about them or seeing them in a new light or with better special effectes or with new actors, etc.

Superman stories have been told for 75 years. I think the world can handle a couple movies where he is a bit more dark. There are plenty of other sunshine and rainbows versions to go back to of this isn't your cup of tea.

It is funny to think everyone is so upset about the story of an alien who happens to look exactly like a human, can fly, and shoots lasers out of his eyes ... all while traipsing around in underwear.
Kevin T
45. Colin R
The filmmakers aren't required to adhere to any particular vision of the character, but if they're going to do something new they'd better make damned sure that the new version is good and worth doing. It's been fairly widely reported that Christopher Nolan was doubtful about Superman killing Zod, for example, while Snyder and Goyer argued strongly for it.

So they clearly thought that Superman killing was important--that it was something that they wanted to see. And the reviewer here is arguing that too. Personally it makes me sad that people think that Superman killing makes him more human--that he somehow has something to learn from killing. That's not a vision of humanity that I'm very sympathetic to.
Kevin T
46. Matthew Rushing
You really hit perfectly everything I have thought about this film. This is a true origin story for Superman in a way the other films never were. Thank you for your level-headed approach and tone!
Emily Asher-Perrin
47. EmilyAP
Thanks, everyone, for your comments whether in agreement or not! :-)

@shellywb - That's definitely not what I was intending to do with this article. In fact, the point I was trying to make was exactly the opposite: no one's point of view is invalid. The argument I'm making for the film is just a counterpoint to the criticism; it's a different way of looking at what others had couched as serious problems. What I was trying to get at was simply that people who enjoyed Man of Steel are allowed to enjoy it without "betraying Superman." And if he's not your Superman, that's fine--you've got plenty of media to chose from where he is, so everyone can be happy!
Kevin T
48. gp.4
Glad to see that someone saw the movie and actually understood what was going. Thank You.
Kevin T
49. DDooF
The title of the movie is wrong, it should be HANCOCK 2. he's actually more careless and destructive than hancock. :(

They destroyed sup's personality as a boyscout.
Kevin T
50. fred gehelmiholtzenstein
The reboot eliminates the entire idea of "Superboy." I think that's a big loss.
Alan Brown
51. AlanBrown
My favorite incarnation of Superman is in the cartoons. First, those fantastic ones from the 1940s. And even that one from a few years ago was all right.
James Nicoll
52. JamesDavisNicoll
Which was precisely why I wanted to see it—to have that moment where Superman fails, and more importantly, where he fails for us.

Because Kal El is apparently too dumb to think of covering Zod's eyes with an indestructable hand before flying him off to someplace that isn't in a city filled with squishies. Granted, Supes traditionally forgets his powers when the plot depends on it (this is what he did not grab Doomsday at superspeed and fly him into orbit).

What bothers me is this version isn't dark enough. I think it would have been edgier if it turned out Kryptonian visitors inspired Aztec myths thanks to their need to eat the hearts of photogenic children to power their abilities; Kal could feel very badly having to zoom back to the Metropololis Orphanarium to get another power-up so it wouldn't just be pointless gore but characterization. I don't see things working out well for young Jimmy Olsen in this version.
Kevin T
53. mike 12
In one of the comic story arcs superman did kill the Zod and his companions,
an alternate earth- they wiped out all life and threatened to do the same on the home earth,
the following story arc concerned supermans reaction to his killing them. is this possibley the next movie view. (personally I think it would be too soon for the non comic viewers to understand why)
Kevin T
54. Peter Clines
"That perfect protector, the one that so many fans are missing, he doesn’t exist yet. He’s learning how to be that man. The idea that someone is simply that inherently good right off the bat isn’t going to play for the majority of today’s audience, so we are watching him grow into the part."

Ummmm... He's thirty-three years old.

If someone hasn't learned that murder isn't an answer by thirty-three, when exactly are they going to "grow into it"...?
Alan Brown
55. AlanBrown
I just heard an NPR news story of how this movie was deliberately marketed with Christians in mind, even a website with sermon ideas for pastors. Which creeps me out. A Christ-like figure who kills? Ick. I think not...
James Nicoll
56. JamesDavisNicoll
Isn't Superman a better fit with Moses?
Alan Brown
57. AlanBrown
Yeah, but the money people probably told them Jesus was a bigger draw.
Kevin T
59. Paul Riemann
Thank you for this extremely well balanced and fair article. As a fan of MOS who has had to defend this film, I will be referring as many as I can to this great write-up.
Tim Marshall
61. smaug86

So is Superman going to do that every single day Zod is around attacking and killing the people of Earth, per his threat? It might work that one time, but where does it end? The longer Supes lets Zod live the stronger he gets. And without the Phantom Zone to toss Zod back into, there's not really another option on hand.
Chris Bridges
62. cabridges
Stasis pod. There were some in the Kryptonian ship. Very easy for the screenwriters to have let one of those work (and the magic genie Jor-El would have told Kal about it) and you have somewhere to stash Zod.

Or they could have saved the Phantom Zone closing for the end of the final battle, so that Zod could have been sucked in there.

There were options. The creators of the movie didn't want to use them.
Tim Marshall
63. smaug86
And that's kind of the point of my post. I find it actually is a much more plausible(and refreshing) scenario than the basic comic book crap that has come down the pike over the last 75 years. You can't just shove someone into stasis pod or a phantom zone or whatnot and hope for the best. There are people/creatures that will never stop no matter what and most likely you will have to keep dealing with that problem until it no longer exists. So there are times that you have end someone's existence, regardless of your personal morality code. And I don't see anything wrong with showing Superman's more human side. Plus, it's a much more satisfying explanation to me regarding Supes' no killing policy; if he killed because he had no choice, but it tore his soul apart and he never wanted to experience that feeling again, than if he says he won't kill anyone just because it's bad.
Kevin T
64. SuperNitty
Great article. I felt like the statement of "maybe " was one of the most significant lines of the movie. .The writers showed at an early age how difficult the choices it will be for Superman.
Kevin T
65. Novashannon
Yeah, yeah, people want Superman to be "gritty" because "darkness is more realistic." I don't buy it. The movie has some good and some bad points. The actor playing Zod was great. The Lois Lane was not good becasue she lacked chemistry with the Superman actor. The whole death of Jonny Kent made no sense whatsoever. Why woould he have gone back to get the dog (who would not have been left in the car to begin with) when an indestructable Clarki would have been perfectly safe, and Jonny could have just gone with Martha to the underpass? Why would Martha not have told Jonny not to be so stupid? His death was not imspirational; the sequence of events made no sense at all. The whole Jor-El thing did not work. He is dead! His image could have been recorded, but react with independent thought to new situations? Come on! Too many plot holes. The entire script badly needed rewriting!
Chris Nelly
66. Aeryl
@65, In Re Jor-El, that's how it was in the original Donner movie. Superman could interact with the memories implanted in the Fortress of his mother and father, they were more than just memories, it was like an imprint, and could respond as they would have while alive.
Kevin T
69. Mina Johnson
I am a huge fan of the Superman franchise, particularily Christopher Reeve. Its the one I grew up with. Although I dont like such fundemental changes to the cannon (if thats what you call it), I still can't say I didnt like the film somewhat in some degree. Its just a different telling of the story. That is all.
Kevin T
71. Benji22
The man of steel reboot has gone wrong. To change a little is a good thing. But they have taken it to fare. With krypton not been an ice world and having no fortress of solitude has spoilt it and made the movie lose its magic as the reeves 1978 movie showed. It was a family movie that made you warm inside and the music made you want to fly. This movie is to dark. The main upset for me was krypton. And the reeves crest is the best. That thing on his chest will not make me want to buy a T.shirt,ill stick with old one. Man of steel in title only. Superman it will never be. I raise a glass to the magic of the donner films 1 & 2.
Kevin T
73. ChrisC
People seem to have a problem wrapping their head around the fact that this Superman wasn't a boy scout yet. This was new to him. Learning on the job so to speak. He has had to endure this tragedy so he will have those boy scout morals that everyone will strive for.

And if he didn't care about Metropolis being destroyed, he would have just let Zod do whatever he wanted instead of stopping him. You can say "well golly take him out of the city!"...but that isn't going to stop him from just going back. Plus, you know, that GIANT MACHINE DESTROYING THE CITY. Don't even get me started on the collateral damage crap I've seen people complain about. Pretty sure the machine did the killing and by the time Supes and Zod started fighting, those buildings were empty. "but they didn't show it!!!" you tell me as buildings started shaking and falling, people just calmly went about doing their jobs and didn't try to escape? Bullshit.
Kevin T
74. ChrisC
Also, go look at that scene/action sequence in Superman Returns when he saves people from the glass falling, racing ahead of the gas explosion to blow back the fire, catching the Daily Planet globe in mid air...that is the Superman people "want" and that is probably the Superman this one will become after the events of Man of Steel but honestly, wasn't that a tad boring? It's great he saved everyone. But he was just so damn powerful in that movie (lifting up the kryptonite island while he still had shards of kryptonite in his freaking body) that there was zero tension. He was going to save the people, stop Lex Luthor and still look spiffy in that terrible looking costume (that costume versus the one in MoS, not even a contest that the new one is better). It was boring. That's all people want out of Superman?

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