[Review] 'Man of Steel' is The Best Superman Origin Story Yet
General Zod: “Our damnation became our salvation.”
Man of Steel is a remarkably underrated and unique comic-book film. It’s a grounded origin story that introduces us to possibly the most powerful and popular superhero out there, Superman/Kal-El (and what would be considered his human alter-ego, Clark Kent).
It’s uniquely beautiful and heartfelt in its message that focuses on our humanity. It’s a story that shows us a God, an alien, an otherworldly superhero – Superman, yet despite these larger-than-life labels, he is presented to us more so as a human being rather than an existing-being more prodigious in nature such as a deity.
Man of Steel is thematically rich with the question of “what makes us human?”… Is it our skin and bones? The composition of what makes us human? Or is it our humanity? The morals we hold ourselves accountable to and the beliefs we set ourselves to put faith in? The ethics that make us feel sympathy, love and every emotion we are able to feel?
It deeply questions this with its study of Kal-El, a God-figure who stands out to be more human than most humans. As Ben Affleck’s Batman says best in Justice League, “He’s more human than I am.”
Henry Cavill is a brilliant Superman, not only fitting the look of the titular hero, but also being able to resonate with the iconic character’s struggle with his identity and humanity.
Amy Adams, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon also shine in supporting roles.
Adams’ Lois Lane acts as a sort of friend to Clark, with Adams being as great as she always is, making her character feel very 3-dimensional, like with the conflict she has with wether she should expose Clark for who he is, on one side wanting to publish the truth but on the other, wanting to respect his privacy to keep his true identity a secret from the masses.
Costner plays Clark’s dad, only appearing in a handful of scenes, yet leaving a major impact on the film’s story as a whole. His scenes are some of the most memorable in the film, with his final actions leaving an impact on Clark’s growth as a character, and more importantly, as an alien who is more human than he is alien.
Shannon’s General Zod is easily the DCEU’s best villain. He is powerfully capable of damage, yet not as powerful as other villains such as Ares (in Wonder Woman) and Steppenwolf in Justice League), but he is definitely the best developed villain. Not only is Zod developed brilliantly with his villainous ideals of building upon Earth’s foundations to construct a new Krypton, but Shannon also gives the performance his all, with his execution of the supervillain being wholly fueled by anger and the hungry and desperate need for vengeance of his home world, Krypton.
Hans Zimmer knocks it out of the park with his outlandishly compassionate score, truly being one of his most underrated scores, especially with tracks like “Flight”, which just adds an extra layer of emotion and meaning to the film’s “Flight” scene.
The film oozes with Zack Snyder’s visual style, especially with dynamic action sequences and stylised landscapes. This in particular makes Man of Steel feel very much like a graphic novel, since the film itself is adapted from existing material such as DC’s Superman graphic novels and comic books.
Through Snyder’s study of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El, an alien God living among humans on Earth, it strangely but effectively tells us about humanity and our paths towards being better humans – “You have to choose who the man will be, Clark.
Not only is Man of Steel a deeply resonating film, it remains to be one of the most human, heartfelt and stylistic comic-book movies ever made. It truly is a uniquely empathetic origin story, presenting a benevolent take on the iconic DC superhero.