Still a Super Powered Boy Scout: Man of Steel (2013)

I suppose it’s because I’m dark and moody, some might call it Emo but I say, “Fuck you!” to them, but I’ve always seen Superman much the same way as Frank Miller’s Batman: a goodie-goodie boy scout that one needs a contingency plan for in case he snaps.

Yeah, yeah, I understand what Superman represented in historical context, he was a hero we needed during the dark times of WWII, but I don’t live in the 1930s – 40s. Likewise, I understand that Superman has changed with the times, but for the most part he’s always been the indestructible too-good-to-be-true superhero. He just isn’t compelling.

Actually, Frank Miller’s Superman was the first account of the man of steel which I enjoyed. Miller added a fresh perspective to Superman being a flag-waving do-gooder. Superman recognized that the human race, i.e. regular, everyday people, only just accepted the superheroes. He was conscripted by the US government to keep the heroes in line. He did so only because should a war between heroes and humans erupt it would mean total annihilation of humanity.

That take on Superman is fine and good for a graphic novel, especially one that falls outside of the canon. This is not a line one can take when presenting Superman to a mass audience and expecting a return on investment. This is why I don’t hold out any hope for there ever being a Superman I can really get into.

That said, Man of Steel isn’t a bad interpretation of the classical Superman image. For me there was two major reasons to go see Man of Steel: first, to see how Henry Cavill fared as Superman; second, to see the fight between Superman and Zod. The movie performed well under those circumstances. Granted, if you set your standards pretty low it’s hard to be disappointed, but I wasn’t going to have high hopes for a Superman story period, so any standard is high standards in this case.

Henry Cavill is as good a Superman/Clark Kent as Christopher Reeve. Cavill has the dashing good looks: a strong, chiseled jaw (and body) and dreamy blue eyes. You can’t get more All-American than that, which is funny because he’s a Brit. Actually, I think I liked Cavill better because he never played Kent as the bumbling idiot, though there is the option to do so in any further films. Cavill’s Superman/Kent is more a lost soul, introspective and even a bit frightened. Anybody who’s felt out of place in their own skin can relate—which means anyone middle school age or older.

Speaking of middle school and relating, the fight between Superman and  Zod and his men/woman, is pure summer block-buster bad ass. It is intense, and fast. It’s so fast that you don’t want to blink cause you miss the action. $225,000,000 gets you a lot of really cool special effects, and they poured them on.

In closing I’d like to return to the idea of one’s place and acceptance. Having the powers Superman has he was never going to fit in, even if he was from Earth. The whole question of will they accept me? is a natural theme for the movie, which, in my idealized vision of Superman, they would have explored further. Give Superman a little more torment over having to choose between being human or Kryptonian. Yeah, the human’s accept Superman when he’s saving our asses from General Zod, but do we really accept Superman when he doesn’t put on our “handcuffs” on, even if we know they are only psychologically for our benefit. There would be a gripping story.

But as it stands, Man of Steel is an entertaining action flick that’s well worth going to the theaters to see.

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