Discuss: Is Superman Too Old Fashioned for 'Man of Steel' to Soar?
by Tyler Wantuch
June 26, 2013
Zack Snyder's latest Superman incarnation, Man of Steel, may prove that not all superheroes can be made over in the modern superhero style. The genre has become darker, richer in themes, and more complicated over the past few years. With the help of The Dark Knight's Christopher Nolan as producer and his trusty screenwriter David S. Goyer, Snyder planned to create a Superman film to match. What they didn't count on is that the ultimate do-gooder may not be capable of such a treatment. In a genre that now highlights a hero's shortcomings and tarnishes their morality, is it possible to show the darker side of a being who has only one weakness and who is supposed to be the beacon for truth, justice and the American way? Read on!
In short, you can't. With each step taken by Snyder to create a modern, troubled human cape, Superman became less super and more boring. For instance, Snyder chose to play up Kal-El's (Henry Cavill) alien-ness, using his isolation from both humans and his own kind as the reason for his internal angst. For nearly the entire film he hardly connects with anyone (that he's not related to, that is) on a personal level. Instead, we watch him wander about performing superhuman feats with a scowl - not exactly entertainment.
In fact, his path is the exact opposite of the rest of our modern, troubled capes. These darker characters tend to begin their journeys as impersonal and spend the rest of their time becoming more connected to humanity. For example, Tony Stark's journey takes him from jerky playboy all the way to jerky husband. The last Son of Krypton is presented very convincingly as an isolated drifter, but he never convincingly ends up close to anyone. By the end Kal-El, could barely even force an uncomfortable alien kiss with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Snyder's alien Superman only pushed him farther away from the very humanity he is supposed to be protecting. Ignoring his human relationships simply to create a darker Superman seems to be missing the entire point of Superman. The film even highlights that he is to be the bridge between alien and human, yet Snyder's Superman seems to have little interest in human relationships.
Aside from this personal struggle, when we look at the man himself, we find Superman is a little out of place. The genre is urrently filled with edgy, flawed, and witty heroes, who draw us in with their energy and versatility. Kal-El, with his quiet demeanor, powerful restraint, and well-intentioned heart, seem miles away from the likes of Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. But this isn't Superman's fault. The hero comes from a time when quiet restraint was the definition of manliness. Superman was a powerful beacon of hope for an unstable America. His perfection was idolized and revered as a physical representation of the American dream; a boy from Smallville destined to save the world.
Today perfection is picked apart and criticized. We hunger for the internal secret sides of our heroes and are eager to see what makes them real. Superman does not belong in a world with such dark interests. His perfection is his power, the exact opposite of the modern-age hero like Batman whose weakness, his fear, becomes his power. Again we find the filmmakers eager to match the recent tone of superhero films while ignoring how un-perfect Superman may be for such a revision. The best way around this would be to pair the steady leader Superman with an energetic and flawed sidekick. Spock and Kirk, Captain America and Iron Man, and Wolverine and Cyclops feed off of each other. But the successful solo films are centered on the edgy, flawed hero. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Iron Man, and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek are all focused correctly whereas Man of Steel just winds up feeling boring.
Even the overarching struggle Superman faces seems to be a bit outdated. Snyder chose a rogue group of bandits, led by General Zod (Michael Shannon), who attempt to rebuild a Krypton on Earth. The legacy of Krypton is built on the very un-American practice of fatalism. Each Kryptonian's destiny is decided before birth; he or she may become a soldier, a worker, or a leader, but the Kryptonian is bred for this specific purpose and no other. Superman's biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), sums up a more American vision of life, when he questions General Zod, "What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?" Of course, Jor-El is a bit of a hypocrite as he has already destined his own son to be the bridge between Earth and Krypton.
But nonetheless, our nation's fear of caste systems and communism seem to be dwindling these days. The film correctly places Superman up against a backwards-thinking force that is threatening not only humanity's existence but also the American freedoms that he and his Kryptonian father stand for. But these pre-destined maniacal enemies did not grab my attention the way Thor's manipulative trickster brother Loki or the chaotic Joker we found in The Dark Knight did. This is because modern monsters lurk around each corner and invade our homes. They are not ancestral madmen hiding in a spaceship. Today they are darker than our dark heroes, often preying on the internal weaknesses that plague our heroes. A much more interesting foe would be one that dug at Superman's internal struggle of being destined for greatness while being taught to fear it. Zod and crew instead lead a predictably bland path for Superman to walk (or fly).
With each passing offense (isolating Superman from humanity; focusing on a bland, outdated do-gooder; and choosing equally bland villains), the movie became increasingly placid and forced. The filmmakers seemed preoccupied with matching the current trends and much less about finding a modern take on the classic hero. This raises a very interesting question that we would love to hear you answer…
Is Superman too outdated to reboot, or is Man of Steel just not up to snuff?
Very well said. What always made Superman appealing to me in terms of the DCU was his juxtaposition to Batman. Making them equally tortured, isolated and sullen takes away from their dynamic. It's the good cop/bad cop trope. Bad cop/bad cop isn't as interesting to explore.
Pietro Filipponi on Jun 26, 2013
Actually Pietro , you've hit on the MAIN problem with this : That it's ALWAYS only about Superman and Batman . I am TIRED of reboots on the same old stories we've ALREADY known for 70 - 80 years . I didn't see TDKR until this month , only cause it's on HBO . I don't care whether DC finally gives us the Justice League or not , but give us something ! else besides these two . The DC ' Universe " is just as rich as Marvel's ; this "small picture vs big picture( Warner will back ANYTHING that helps them compete with Fox or Sony ) " planning is why Marvel has won the Movies War so far .... Superman is just OLD not old-fashioned
Dominic on Jun 27, 2013
Superman's greatest weakness is not kryptonite; it is humanity and desire to do the right thing, which is also his real greatest strength. Superman is an American legend and will never be "outdated"
Mike on Jun 26, 2013
Agreed, if anything Superman is timeless and can never "age". He represents the ultimate human goodness that we all strive for, the unrelenting will to always do the right thing no matter what the cost to himself. Which if ya ask me, can never get old, no matter what the character was created for back in the day. If we live in a world now where critics and fans have become so jaded that we are trying to find dark sides and flaws in Superman then we really need to take a serious look at ourselves.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
Very true. Some folks didn't get the Superman they wanted. I didn't see "Superman" until he brought down the drone and told the general he was going to do things his way in the last 10 minutes. THAT was a glimpse of "Superman." Gave me chills because I knew the next film would really focus on him shaping his Superman ethics and becoming a part of the world in a more significant way. Story arc sound familiar (Eh-em, Batman Begins, the Dark Knight)? Otherwise, the entire film was about Kal-El/Clark Kent. I actually loved that. I wanted to see a deeper representation as to why Kal-El became Superman. I felt the tone was appropriate to his struggle. I get confused when I read from critics there was no character development. Not sure what movie those folks were watching. The action was an obvious response to Superman Returns. More importantly, there isn't just one kind of Superman. If people want Superman canon, watch Dick Donner's Superman (Which I love). If you want to see glimpses of other comic book incarnations, see MOS. Yes, it's earnest, but I liked that.
Quanah on Jun 26, 2013
Thats what i've been telling all my buddies, this is his Batman Begins. Its a cool movie, it had cool story, i thought it was great. I hope that is what happens here with this series... MOS 2 is Snyders Dark Knight... Hopefully
Sky on Jun 27, 2013
They should've called the first one Superman Begins, the next one MOS (vs Lex), then MOS rises (vs Doomsday).
nate on Jun 27, 2013
Man of Steel is a perfect name for this movie. The next one should be called The Last Son. And the third one should be called Man of Tomorrow.
Roderick on Jun 27, 2013
You cite the Joker from TDK as a great villain, give this franchise a chance for a second movie to have a villain of the same calibre before you write it if completely. Batman Begins chose a villain that could tie in with Batman's origin, MOS made the same decision, you don't need a great villain detracting from the origin, you want one that compliments it. Thor had Loki, but he didn't come into his own until The Avengers, and again Thor and Loki have a shared origin, just like Batman and Ra's and Superman and Zod. Lex Luthor has the potential to be as good as The Joker, but I agree with the film makers decision to leave him out of the origin, much like the Joker was left out of Batman's.
AvatarIII on Jun 26, 2013
Well said. It amazes me how everyone blasting MOS misses the point that this is a reboot/origin story, not to mention a potential trilogy. Suck it up guys, even Superman has to start somewhere. Just because you get paid to write something about anything doesnt mean you have to come across as a bored uber critic that cant find anywhere else to point his anxst.
Stalyan on Jun 26, 2013
This is actually the first bunch of replies that have not made me so frustrated, cringe, throw tomatoes at the screen, and actually most of the responses here have impressed me with their candid and thoughtful answers and maturity ....most of you. I go on the IMDB and all I get is rather angry at how rude and basically ugly many of them are to each other and just basically dogging the film like it was the worst film ever, which it certainly is not, and constantly bringing up even something else they don't like about it to add to everyone's misery of reading them. I mean there are some insightful responders but very few..almost seems like a conspiracy against it. At least this article I can tell required some thought and presented it somewhat intelligently. Anyway...I truly loved MOS...loved it! Sure I had a few tiny issues/questions but I guess I just love the character so much, was incredibly disappointed with the last one in 2006 (but still enjoyed it somewhat), felt they chose the right person to play Superman, loved the great ensemble cast, and I knew it was a reboot and some questions I may have had I felt assuredly would be answered in the next installment (and I think there is going to be one since Henry sign a 3-picture contract and I have already heard pretty much it is going to happen). I was excited and impressed with MOS. I walked out wanting more, wanting to see it again, wanting to KNOW this Superman as well as Clark Kent. I really liked the storyline of him trying to find his own path and figure out where he came from and trying to fit in with the rest of the world. It humanized him even more and made him more relatable on many levels. I really enjoyed all the action had no real problems with that like so many have and I truly felt they captured the essence of Superman and the spirit of what he stood for...truth, justice and the american way...right? I have kind of been floored at just how many people are dogging it sooo much and I can't relate to all the negativity. It almost makes me mad....well it kind of does because what it tells me is that people want this particular kind of Superman movie, a perfect one, one it can never be by the standards of the average viewer and along with that they want this character to represent something that they themselves don't even strive for and I can tell that by what they write and how they treat others in their posts. So their reasoning becomes nothing but irrelevant to me. Im not referring to the writer of this article by the way. This article made an interesting and thought provoking read, but, I did disagree. I believe Superman will always be relevant in today's world...otherwise all these people would not go see it knowing what he stands for..they wouldn't care,however, so many of them seem to want something else and sometimes I'm not quite sure what that is. All that being said, I LOVED MOS, seen it twice, plan to see it again in a few days, plan to buy the bluray. Its a character that has always fascinated me and is my favorite superhero and to me there is nothing boring about him or this movie.
Terri on Jun 26, 2013
That was well put but I loved Shannon's performance as Zod
Jon Odishaw on Jun 26, 2013
oh, so did I, when I said great villain I didn't mean in terms of quality portrayal, but I meant it in terms of Superman's greatest foe being Luthor, Batman's greatest foe being Joker etc.
AvatarIII on Jun 27, 2013
Oh yes of course. Good point.
Jon Odishaw on Jun 27, 2013
God I hope the rumors are true about Mark Strong as Luthor.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
damn... now that u mentioned mark stong, its hard for me not to see him now as Lex. unfortunately he's already great as sinestro
Leo on Jun 26, 2013
I think Philip Seymour Hoffman would make a great Luthor.
nate on Jun 26, 2013
nice choice, I personally think Michael C Hall or Bradley Cooper would be great
AvatarIII on Jun 27, 2013
eh, I don't know, honestly, I'd be perfectly happy to see him return as Sinestro if they reboot GL, he'd be a good Luthor, but it's just that he's already played one of the DC universes greatest villains (sort of) already.
AvatarIII on Jun 27, 2013
Honestly I just pretend like GL never happened.
Cody W on Jun 27, 2013
GL was not a good movie but I quite liked the GL corps part of it, Hal was rubbish, Hector was boring and and Parallax and the plot as a whole didn't really make sense, but I still liked the portrayal of the corps.
AvatarIII on Jun 28, 2013
Tired of Mark Strong playing the bad guy in every other movie.
cobrazombie on Jun 29, 2013
I honestly cannot relate to you on this in any way whatsoever, especially with your statement about how X-Men Origins: Wolverine was "correctly focused". No, just......no. I understand other people having their own opinions, but I strongly disagree with yours. Superman is supposed to be, for lack of a better term, above humanity while also caring for them. As Jor-El said, "You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards.", etc., etc. Superman is supposed to be detached on some level precisely because he is not human, and because he embodies hope.
FincherFan on Jun 26, 2013
I take it you didn't like the Movie...
Jon Odishaw on Jun 26, 2013
It's not about being outdated it's really about exploring different sides of the character. Batman / Bruce Wayne is still the same guy playing out the playboy image then becoming a darker person when the mask is on. Most of the heroes we know haven't changed a bit the only thing writers do to make them more relevant to the time is give them a new skillset. We don't need to change Superman we just need to explore different sides of him and put more emphasis on it on the big screen. The good thing that the smallville tv show did was show Clark Kent having the need to fit in, wanting to be normal and the refusal in accepting his destiny. These are things that were never touched on before that made the caped hero backstory interesting. What it boils down to is how the hero and villain are utilized in a film. You have to find the motivations that makes the character who they are and that was brilliantly done in Batman Begins. You don't really see why Clark chose to help people in Man Of Steel it was as if it was imprinted into his DNA to save people that were in trouble. As a child all you want to do is save the world but that gets corrupted as you get older. Why doesn't he use his powers to make money without bringing too much attention to himself? These are subjects that weren't really touched upon in this reboot to really solidify the character he becomes in which I found boring.
BinaryChaos on Jun 26, 2013
You must have been in the bathroom when they showed clark beeing raised by loving parents. Also you were probably pooping through all the father son talks he's had with both his earth and Kryptonian fathers. I understand though it was a long movie.
Roderick on Jun 27, 2013
Probably considering the fact that the flashbacks were 2 minutes max. In reality some people who are raised by loving families usually turn up a little dysfunctional in the head and rage out on their parents because they know they can but that's usually due to chemical imbalance. Getting back to the point I was merely looking for a reason why he had the desire to save people. Pa Kent kept ingraining it in his head not to help people because his heroic actions may bring disastrous repercussions so why the desire to save people without building some kind of resentment after being bullied again and again? A lot of people would say well the easy answer is he came from a superior race of people but that doesn't explains Zod's actions.
BinaryChaos on Jun 27, 2013
He wasn't happy with his parents all the time. He was yelling at them in the car (You don't need to be shown a lot of rebellious scenes cause they wouldn't add anything to the movie. They'd be pointless) Also the reason he helps people despite his parents telling him not too was because last time he did what his dad said his dad died so he now saves people but still feels the need to hide it because of how he was brought up hence why he just drifts around with different names. Also he's obviously been brought up well. He's an empathetic guy who can't be hurt. Why wouldn't he help? If you were a normal (empathetic not psycopath) person and someone fell onto the train tracks the only thing stopping you from helping them is the fact that you could get hurt/die but that's a non issue for Superman. So of course he's going to save who he can. Otherwise it's like letting his father die over and over again.
Liz on Jun 30, 2013
Superman Unbound greatly depicts what Superman is about, watch that if you doubt him...
dawko on Jun 26, 2013
Not sure he's too old fashioned, Superman always was a boring super nice guy, wasn't that the point of him? The obsession people have with wanting darkness or darker characters is that they go against the way the character that was written about in the comics. Superman, can't be a drug addict, same way Batman can't, he's like an American God. There is a whole load of comic book characters that are monsters, whose lives are a mess, they might be worth making films for people who love the dark. I've read a few comic book guys saying that they found it annoying that folk were wanting explosions and action in a superhero film and then went onto moan about how it didn't have character development.
Carpola on Jun 26, 2013
I don't think its out of character at all for him to be isolated and detached from humanity, thats always been one of his struggles, trying to maintain that connection to his humanity without going full god complex. Theres been a few 'What if' style comics done about a Superman that doesn't have that connection to humanity (Red Son springs to mind as one example, and Dr Manhattan from Watchmen is basically Superman if he lost his humanity), during that whole 'One Year Later' thing DC did after 52 they even had Superman spend a year as Clark Kent and not as Superman purely so he could reconnect with people and rediscover his humanity. Anyway, seems like an interesting story thread to pick up in a sequel.
khel on Jun 26, 2013
Injustice Gods among us videogame did something similar too, it was actually pretty awesome. Joker tricks Supes into killing a pregnant Lois Lane and destoying metropolis, he goes nuts just starts murdering everyone, including a very brutal Joker death lol
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
The point of the movie was to show Superman's powers as they were always supposed to look, show Superman actually kick some ass! Everyone wanted it, that was the purpose of the movie. That's why Snyder was chosen. Aronofsky would focus on story, and even if he would create a movie close to The Dark Knight, it would be action-boring (or on a level of previous comic book movies - Avengers, Amazing Spiderman). Now, when the audience is satisfied (at least with the action and Cavill), they can bring a story that can impress as much as TDK, to show more than just "always good Superman"...I just don't think Goyer is the man to do it. Luthor will appear in the next movie, but don't think he will be a villain, or the main villain at least. They know that at least they need to hold on the scale of the MoS, if not overcome it. So a villain like Brainiac, Bizzaro, Doomsday to destroy a couple of cities while dig into Kal's soul 😀
dawko on Jun 26, 2013
I find this sort of social commentary overtly forced to say the least. Man of Steel is not a perfect film - I walked away satisfied (maybe more so because I was never a Superman fan) - but archaic that one looks back at the time when the character was created and then argues that that is the reason why he can't exist in a time when we starve for the complexities of modern superheroes. Is this what people imagine when they think of Superman? No. But, to be frank, had the filmmakers made a film that was a "superman" film... it would have failed. The audience doesn't want a "superman" film... they want a conflicted superhero film. I am a bit surprised people still think summer blockbusters are simply "popcorn movies" - sure, they exist (Transformers anyone?) - there for our "entertainment" and nothing more. Films are meant to make you think (and entertain) not simply blow shit up (if you believe that is the case then maybe you should have a drink with Jim Carey because that is obviously what he thinks). I think the Nolans, et al did a fine enough job. I thought the first half of the film was the better half but overall I was fine with it. They could have toned down the CGI by 20% but... Nolan made this mistake with Gotham City in Batman Begins and he proved that he could make adjustments for the better of the series.
Alejo on Jun 26, 2013
I'm no Nolan apologist, but they CGI'd Begins' Gotham bcoz of insufficient budget.
Tey on Jun 27, 2013
Thanks Tyler! Awesome article.
DAVIDPD on Jun 26, 2013
I think it's more revealing on how terrible out society has become, when a invincible so called "do-gooder" is looked down upon! Shame on Tyler Wantuch and all of society if that's the mood.
Joe on Jun 26, 2013
Successful solo films... and you list X-Men Origins: Wolverine? What kinda shit are you on?
Chazzy on Jun 26, 2013
The trouble with Superman - and a lot of the DC characters - is simply that he is too powerful. And that makes it nearly impossible to put the character in situations of true danger. Man of Steel should have focused less on retooling the origin story of Superman - which has never been a problem - and redefined the character's powers. Putting limitations on them that allow for more opportunities of conflict where the outcome is uncertain. They should have also dumped the Clark Kent/Daily Planet/glasses component too. It no longer flies in today's world.
olddarth on Jun 26, 2013
Riiiight, like every superman fan in the world wouldnt have been up in arms if they "limited" his powers more.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
As a trade for better stories? In a heartbeat.
olddarth on Jun 26, 2013
I'll give you one tick in the outdated column, in that the "truth" and "justice" of Superman lore seem to be less relevant in an increasingly pessimistic, selfish, and jaded society that we now occupy (Is it too political to say that, in general, we as Americans seem to have lost our "way?"). The character is largely associated with an idealism that is a rarity in the 21st century. Marvel movies, like they're characters, tend to forego the pitfalls of idealism by presenting their heroes as normal people with personal flaws first, and giving them a reason to rise up. DC (with the exception of Batman) tends to establish their heroes as demigods first, which makes them iconic but more difficult with which to relate. From Frodo to Forrest Gump, heroism is mostly defined by the overcoming of obstacles. Villains are a large part of that; but personal troubles such as coping with one's powers, history, double life, place in society, etc. add to a hero's development. Part of the difficulty of a Superman movie is placing obstacles of sufficient difficulty in his path to justify the stature we already associate with him. As Superman will never be a criminal, an alcoholic, an abuser, hated, or even vengeful; his only personal struggle seems to be his isolation (or his opposite-side-of-the-coin friendship with Bruce, which has yet to be sniffed at cinematically). Thus, he needs better villains for a movie to work.
mghammervu on Jun 26, 2013
Your first paragraph sums up my sentiments perfectly, couldnt have put it better myself.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
What an internet idiot, finally a decent well executed supes film,with no stupid chicks , superman returns loislane had a baby with a work collegue and never knew an investigative reporter at that who one a pulitzer prize ...... a man as superman.....no pance,,,, plot as asci fi film was better then Prometheus, ,, oh yeah break a zods neck or watch children burn what would I do break that neck and spit on that bitch trying to burn kids alive on my watch is the world stupid. ?.I thought it was better then BB I know blasphemous right I say that as a true nolanite I got all nolan blurays no doubt ,,,,,,, I had problems with TDKR who didnt but mos is for me a more cohesive film then anything ive seen out of marvel or dc since TDK
me on Jun 26, 2013
Great points but damn dude at least attempt at some proper grammar and spelling.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
This is the worst internet editorial I have every read. MOS was an incredible movie on all fronts. Great acting, story, special effects, morals, ethics, and action. I have watched nearly every Marvel and DC superhero movie and this is my favorite. The critics got it wrong on this one.
fan on Jun 26, 2013
This article makes no sense, and once again misses the point. I think people WANTED this movie to suck, so they are rationalizing it any way they possibly can. "I can't believe Superman kills Zod!" despite the fact that Superman killed Zod in the comics over 25 years ago. "Buildings get destroyed" well, at least he's not eating Swarma while everyone cleaning up. People are dead, we're eating, LOLZ. "He's a dark outsider" um... yes, he is, he's also making a choice to save the day. "Why did they have to use Zod again?" You must have been pissed they used Joker again, oh, wait you praised it despite the fact that there was less time between Jack Nicolson Joker and Heath Ledger Joker then their was between Terrance Stamp and Michael Shannon. The fact is, you wanted this movie to be horrible, and now you're twisting things and ignoring facts to make it happen.
MH on Jun 26, 2013
Awesome I'm with you
311 on Jun 26, 2013
Agreed! Of course it's not perfect, but I had a great time watching it. That's all that matters to me.
nate on Jun 26, 2013
None of the points you bring up matter in any way. It was a boring movie, the protagonist had no developed relationships in the movie, no matter how true to the comics or the character it was, it was a boring snorefest of a movie.
Alexander Calvo on Jun 28, 2013
Honestly, if you take Ledgers performance out of TDK and then compare it to Man of steel, MOS wins hands down...IMO. It was easily the best paced superhero movie Ive ever seen.
Cody W on Jun 26, 2013
Exactly! Ledger transcended TDK! Let's hope they find someone like that for Lex!
Tey on Jun 27, 2013
Superman has no relevance in our day and age anymore...look at the intro to the character: "...faster than a speeding bullet...more powerful than a locomotive..." Faster than a speeding bullet? A locomotive?? Our world is far too fast and there are things in our world now that far exceed the strength and girth of a locomotive...our world is such a small place now and a character like Superman just loses ground and relevance in it. So what do we do? Tell the Superman story as a period piece...It's 1920 something and Ma and Pa Kent are truckin' along a bumpy dirt road on their way home from church in Smallville...when BAM Kal-El crash lands onto the scene. Now being faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive means something. There might have to be some adjustments but now the character works and Supes can be the boy scout fighting for the American way....
Dr.Zal on Jun 26, 2013
Seems like a lot of the comments missed the point of the question the editorial was asking. The question was is the ethos of Superman to dated for today's culture and the answer is yes. Clearly the Snyder, Nolan and Goyer tried to bring him into the 21st century and they made a pretty entertaining film, but the character of Superman did feel contrived. His character has never really had a dark side. He's a near Christ like figure in the comics. Aside from Christ himself there are no perfect heroes in our culture any more. They're all anti-heroes who have flaws and go against the norms of our society in order to protect a greater good. In today's world the greater good is often perceived from a Utilitarianism perspective where the the value of an act is measured by how many peoples lives are affected in a positive way regardless of the rules being broken. So in Batman's case he's obligated to the greater good of the city which is where the morality of whether or not covering up the true story of Harvey Dents death comes into play. Part of where the Dark Knight Rises struggled as a story is because it suggested that Batman should have followed a more deontological perspective where morality is judged by a duty and obligation to rules that all people should follow. Bane was a black and white pragmatic villain who believed Batman was his own version of evil for not following the rules. While Batman lives by a certain moral code (not killing) he will bend the rules to protect the "greater good" (the spy software in The Dark Knight). In The Dark Knight the Joker represented the extreme of the philosophies associated with Utilitarianism (chaos) and in the Dark Knight Rises Bane represented the extreme in the other direction (moral absolutist). Batman represents the balance. The balance is where today's heroes exist. Both good and bad, both rule followers and rule breakers. In this way the films conflict is often just as much with the character themselves as with the villain trying to knock the hero from their balance. Where does Superman fit into this idea? The problem with Superman's character in Man of Steel is they never showed him existing in a balance or as a counter to an opposing moral philosophy. He was just mopey and subdued, never really wrestling with any moral balance. He just feared being outed from the super hero closet. As a person and as a super hero his humility and powers are pretty set in stone, especially in the comics. He's deontological, a rule follower where the greater good is upholding the patriotic values of truth, justice, life, liberty and the American way of life. This film tried to break him away from those values by making him an outcast but that never really put him in the balance so when Zod a pragmatic to the extreme similar to Bane challenged him you never really felt the moral conflict. It became about conquering a planet for re-population...not about a moral code or philosophy that we live by, or that Superman must uphold. He was just defending us because he's Superman and that's what he does. It was like he was apathetically following a Utilitarian code of morality...which is why you hear people complaining about the amount of destruction. The greater good of human life was being ignored and it was just a battle of good and evil, right and wrong. It made for an entertaining film, but for those who do feel and look for greater meaning in a story there was something out of place, something missing and a sense of cognitive dissonance about Superman's morality in the story (the same can be said about The Dark Knight Rises). These two philosophies of morality are ancient and have been discussed since the days of Socrates, so they are internal struggles that we all deal with which is why when they're in the subtext of a big character like Superman its important that the story creators get it right and stick to the morality in a story line otherwise the audience feels a sense of discomfort or disconnect with the character. Its alright for Superman to be any version of today's morality because of how willing we are to accept flaws as potential strengths. The important thing is that they recognize in today's culture we're not black and white thinkers, we look for and accept flaws as part of our reality and morality so its important that our heroes exist in that balance even if that means recognizing their flaw is perfection. After that the villain needs to represent an opposing morality with distinctive aspects of likeability themselves (Bane, Joker, Sandman, Ra's al ghul, were all very likable villains) who represent more than just a threat to the heroes power (especially in Superman's case where his power is basically limitless). The villain needs to represent a threat to our morality and way of life (not just the simple idea of taking over our planet) that is also in conflict with the balance the hero has created for himself within that value system. The character of Superman can achieve this on film, but its certainly more difficult than it is for Batman who naturally fits in with our moral schema today. It'll just take a director who see's more than a battle of good and evil and understand there are aspects of both in a morality play, which at its core is what the story of Superman has always been about.
UrAllThumb on Jun 26, 2013
What the heck are you talking about? Clark is shown as a LOST character, searching for his place in the world. Not a flawed or dark character, like a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, but an alien LOST on his adoptive homeworld. He loves his family, but is trying to learn about his birth parents and his true identity. How does that not make sense in the context of this take on his origin? It makes perfect sense and, most of all, it makes him RELATABLE. It makes him more human. He found out he’s a frigging alien. How’s he supposed to act? Like ALF? He’s got two fathers. Two mothers. This is the story of adoption. This is the story of immigration. This is the story of a child with sensory overload, that actually depicts how that feels for the child. Show those scenes to parents with children on the autistic spectrum and tell me they’re not choked up. This whole article is b.s. and its quickly making me lose respect for you guys. Talk about jumping on the latest trends. You can’t see the forest for the trees. Clark is still Clark. He's just becoming Superman. He's not yet your perfect version yet. Just because the suit is darker and the music is more emotive and the stakes are higher and the colors are muted and the destruction is more epic, you think this version of Superman (the character himself) is dark and trendy or some such nonsense? Does he for a moment side with Zod? No. He’s not a morally conflicted character at all. He’s finding Superman within him. He comes into his role as Superman by the end of this film – his origin story. This film is a frigging triumph! It’s EXACTLY what I wanted from a Superman film for years. Sites like this are just picking it apart to generate hits. If you're reading this before you see the film, don't listen to the critics. They like to tear anything good apart. Yet, where were they when the two biggest letdowns of the Summer appeared? Sucking at the teat of Marvel and JJ Abrams is where.
I_love_DC_and_Marvel on Jun 26, 2013
I already lost respect when he said "But the successful solo films are centered on the edgy, flawed hero. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Iron Man, and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek are all focused correctly whereas Man of Steel just winds up feeling boring." LOL!!! Are you freak'n kidding me? X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a successful solo film????? Hahahhaah....
nate on Jun 26, 2013
Very well put! I've just lost the energy to defend the movie tonight (at least today because I had a very crappy day at work) . I've never understood the perception from certain viewers that this was a "dark" Superman. This is a "lost" Superman (and Clark) , a very human Superman and dark and lost are two very different things in this case. This is a very kind soul who has no idea where he fits in and doesn't understand who he is and what he is suppose to do with "what" he is. If he came straight from Krypton I would understand the misconceptions about his character being presented this way a bit more but he's been living on earth with two very loving and "down-to-earth" practical parents for a long time as a human., living and breathing as a human. Why does the movie have to follow every single aspect of the comic books? There are many many people out there who don't care about that. I understand the ones who do,but, these people care about a great movie and relating to this character (of course not everyone). I guess I wonder what if he had been portrayed as the "typical" Superman...no issues or problems at all, Mr. Happy Red Pants...never makes a mistake, does everything right. I have a feeling many people would not be happy with that either. Mr. I Love DC and Marvel....I like your statements and I really agree with them so thank you. To address the article a bit I think the question the writer of the article asks is certainly valid...just don't agree with everything he said...lot of things he said. I think there are indeed many people in this world who have just become so incredibly cynical and almost unfeeling...some just don't want to feel, and maybe for them perhaps the concept of Superman is outdated. When I left this movie I felt what I really like to "feel" when I see a good movie and that is I want more of that and this glorious excited feeling of "Yeah that was awesome"! It was for me. There is one thing for sure....everyone is talking about this movie whether they are defending it or upset over it and that is a good thing...obviously it made a lot of people think.
Terri on Jun 27, 2013
Bland do-gooder? Focus on a hero's "shortcomings"? You realize it is possible for people to be good right? I think you have a personal agenda, a liberal one where it isn't possible for someone when raised in a two-parent household in middle america to be a good person. I understand that having an inherently good person would take away from the liberal utopia where we are lorded over by a government of the intellectual elite that tells everyone how to think and act that you and Hollywood are striving for but try to keep your personal feelings out of this.
EK on Jun 26, 2013
'Superman' is not outdated. Outdated, are the screen treatments that are forcefully put together to follow a trend. I did enjoy, "Man of Steel". I thought it was a good flick. The best film of the year, no. I'd give, "Star Trek Into Darkness", that title so far. The biggest issues with, "Man of Steel" were it's blatant lapses in logic. Sure, he stands for truth, justice, and the American way; but when half of Metropolis is literally destroyed -with millions of lives' lost and yet, a family of four at the train station is lucky enough to be saved when 'Superman',snaps 'Zod's' neck before succumbing to his sinister heat vision, I knew it was the filmmakers' cash grab opportunity. The whole city-wide destruction finale has been quickly out-dated and overdone, thanks to recent flicks like: "The Avengers", "Transformers 3", and "Star Trek Into Darkness" (although, the body count was significantly less). I would have loved to see 'Superman' lure 'Zod' and his henchmen to a secluded part of the planet, where he could beat the hell out of them and risk no lives'. Christopher Reeve's "Superman 2", got it right in that aspect completely by making 'Superman' an average man, only to have a showdown in his fortress of solitude; no buildings collapsed at all. 'Superman's' love for humanity seemed only limited to just a handful of humans he knew--as he flew past collapsing buildings with so many lives perishing. Even worse, buildings collapsing and the following scenes showed hordes of people just standing there in awe of the superfight and destruction unfolding before them. I sure hope that the sequel brings in an intellectually stimulating and challenging villain amidst the reconstruction of Metropolis! How about that little guy whose only weakness is to pronounce his name backwards?
Spider on Jun 26, 2013
I found Superman's do-gooder-y rather refreshing. Tyler, you may think it's old fashion but the barrage of movies staring anti-hero protagonists is getting just plain old. Only other heroic protagonist I can think of is Captian America. Feel free to enligthen me if there are others.
VoiceOfReason on Jun 26, 2013
Superman's greatest weakness (also the greatest weakness of other heroes) is ignoring his own selfish need for others, he constantly has to be on the job after a while I would imagine any super hero would start to feel conflicted for not being able to fulfill his own wishes, like Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2: "Am I not supposed to have what I want, what I need, what am I supposed to do?"
Fidel Reyes on Jun 26, 2013
Look, it is way more interesting to have the character EVOLVE into the do-gooder role over the course of two sequels. It's about the journey and transformation that these characters experience that makes them interesting. Having the character established as a boy scout in the first part is unrealistic and boring. To be inherently good by default as opposed to finding it through experiences and character interaction is the best approach. Like with the DK the character had to evolve into the individual that would become a symbol. He did not start out that way in the first movie. If so, he would have been less interesting. I would give the other movies a chance to be made before writing this off prematurely as too old fashioned.
Super on Jun 26, 2013
I think Tyler watched a different movie from everyone else. Or he mistakenly watched Superman Returns instead. Or he just doesn't understand Superman...at all.
germss on Jun 26, 2013
Whole lot of people here never read the comics I see.... Most of the people complaining about this film cite how it isn't what THEY expect Superman to be about. They seem to be stuck on the early silver age depiction of Superman and how he was portrayed in the Donner films. If you want an answer to this very same question read "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way" written by Joe Kelly.
Kelly Bond on Jun 26, 2013
You are so wrong here..and I think the box office results..and the fan feedback proves we all wanted a real dark less cheeseball Superman...something with real action and darker. It was delivered, and finally we have the Superman franchise we can all get behind. All of you that whine about "this is not Superman" please shut up. What do you want? another Superman Returns? haha I have a hard time believing you actually posted this and mean it.
Sam . on Jun 27, 2013
what a boring article....people ...trust me ...go and see... man of steel...i was sceptical at first but this is my favorite superhero movie...
michael on Jun 27, 2013
bring on part 2....
michael on Jun 27, 2013
I was really disappointed with the film. The trailer created this intriguing vision of a film exploring how Superman would cope in a world of short sound bites, Twitter and low attention span. How would the public deal with him when he made the 'right' decisions rather than the 'popular' ones and whether there would be an endless crusade to get him to have a Facebook page. How would he find his place and bother to actually care for a race that on the surface can seem pretty damn selfish. How would he deal with a surrogate family who were desperate to keep him secret and protected, especially following the accusatory tone from the woman in the trailer 'my son was on that bus'. Unfortunately, we didn't get that film. Just a mess of bits from the trailer (practically all of Costner's comments in the film where in the trailer), characters you didn't really care about despite how much you wanted to, hollow writing and tiresome, uninvolving and consequence free action scenes. Endless noise and destruction with no resonance to what was happening and feeling as empty as the action scenes from the latter Transformers films. A very poor effort and a huge disappointment.
Payne by name on Jun 27, 2013
Finally, someone who says it! So tired of always being alone with that opinion. Couldn't agree more. The family and kids scenes were the best. The rest was forgettable.
toksin on Jun 27, 2013
I know, it's liked we watched a different film to everyone else. I was willing myself to like the film but as it went on I could just feel my enthusiasm and anticipation just ebbing away. The action just had no meaning as in the fights neither character seemed to get an advantage from all the wanton destruction. It was like you hit me with a train, I'll smack you with a building but there was no feeling that you were wearing the other person down or gaining the upper hand. Just another opportunity to make a cool piece of destruction. A case in point is where Zod and Supes are fighting at the end and they are in a building that looks like it's about to crumble. They both look alarmed and think it best to leave - why? They've both been totally everything around them without causing a hair out of place, so why the alarm at vacating a crumbling building? I don't mind action but there has to be a reason behind it other than it looking cool or because special effects now mean it can be done.
Payne by name on Jun 27, 2013
Go the IMDB message board..you won't be a lone I promise. I hate that message board...anyone that dislikes a film takes license to be very mean and rude to the ones who do. But if you don't want to be alone in your opinion believe me you won't be.
Terri on Jun 27, 2013
This movie needs to be seen for what it is. Not for what you the writer of this article wanted it to be. It is a masterpiece of compelling storytelling. Plot holes are not plot holes if you are too stupid to understand what is going on. DC's oeuvre of films has just added another classic to its stellar body. It is funny how no one is over-analysing Iron Man 3, the largest pile of cinema shit earth has been hit with in years! Man of Steel is a tentpole! Respect.
Onechi on Jun 27, 2013
I couldn't disagree more. Superman is better now then he ever was. He for the first time showed that being powerful is not enough. He made hard choices in order to become a greater person. That is why zod was a good character to put up against superman. He was just as powerful which showed the real power in superman. His ability to do the right thing.
Skinnymills on Jun 27, 2013
I dont really understand where all the hate is coming from?! Given the fact MoS is doing better outside US it might be the American psychology, and a sentimental holding on to the "american way" that was lost in the new century. It is a new era. Times have changed and the "is it a bird, is it a plane" thing seems too cartoonish for the times. "No, it is just a dude in his red underware." Come on! The movie was no were perfect, it had its flaws, but it was still a very good movie. one of my favourite movies this year (I liked Oblivion the best so far and IM3 was just weak). Yes it is different than Donners verse, but better diferent for sure!
AJ on Jun 27, 2013
What the fuck?? We finally get a bad ass Superman movie and you have to turn it into a gigantic negative rant!?! This is what pissed me off about the assholes in the world today. Can't you just have fun with the fucking movie and say oh man that was awesome!?? Why do people feel they have to be dicks all the time?? If you can do better then do it asshole. Then we can all sit here and write articles criticizing the living shit out of you. Hell, we could do that now just by criticizing the obvious arrogance, insecurity, ego, and negative bullshit that spews from your brain! Dickhead.
Angry Lester on Jun 27, 2013
I always wondered if there was someone actually being paid to write reviews that was worse than Ethan on this site. I now have my answer...his name is Tyler Wantuch.
Feldman on Jun 27, 2013
I think the use of Zod and the development of Superman in MoS was spot on for long term goal, the building of a franchise. It might not have the personal development of Wayne in Batman Begins, but as already mentioned we needed to believe Superman could fly again after the limp Superman Returns. Following the successful format of the Dark Knight trilogy we'll most likely have Lex Luther in a sequel, with Superman further developing his ethics in the knowledge that not everyone views him as a hero. I would follow up with a third before JL, again using TDR format and having a Krypton villain like Brainiac, ending with Superman's death or being trapped (been used in the comics). Then free him for JL WITH Nolan's Batman against Doomsday.
Steven on Jun 27, 2013
I totally disagree with this editorial. I remember seeing the Matrix Reloaded and watching Neo do his "superman thing" and thinking there is no way they could make superman this cool, but guess what Snyder did it. The greatest thing they did with MOS was put it into our world with all its flaws and truly show us what power and responsibility truly is. Having a superman in red shorts flying around for freedom and the american way would have bombed, i mean have you looked at world events lately? Mmmmm......let me see iraq, libya, yemen, syria........shall i go on? I think what is interesting about this take on superman is that you come away from it thinking this could almost happen....and the fact that clark/kal'el clearly tells the military that he is not controlled by them made this a much more interesting super hero movie than the avengers, iron man or even donners movies.
Korvac on Jun 27, 2013
I feel like superheroes in general, are an outdated concept and that science fiction is the genre best suited to an advancing society with advancing technology. I can see there's a lot of passion here from long time superhero fans, but I wonder how that will play out in years to come. All of the big superhero film properties are based on characters invented a long time ago (it seems), when society was nothing like it is today. Are we still going to be rehashing those stories about batman, superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man etc... in another 50 years time? Or will the kids of today grow up to support a whole new generation of entirely new superheroes? Do kids these days care about superheroes like kids did back in the 50s and 60s? Regardless, I hope to see more original genre film concepts, regardless of whether they are scifi or superhero based. We can't go on reworking the same small handful of ideas, forever.
crystaltowers on Jun 27, 2013
Essentially you have a god with the failings of a man, grist for any mill. I think for the most part they nailed the character, best Superman hands down. Knock a half hour out of it, eliminate some obviously stupid logistic coincidences and you would have had a great movie. Better than the first Nolan Batman, Raimi Spiderman and Favreau Iron Man.
97point6 on Jun 27, 2013
When people compare Man of Steel to The Dark Knight. I ask, how come they don't compare Man of Steel to Batman Begins, first... Seeing how Batman Begins what they really should be comparing MOS to. And when The Last Son comes out, then you can compare it to The Dark Knight.
Roderick on Jun 27, 2013
I will agree that Superman - as a character, and also as viewed by public perception - is extremely dated. This viewpoint has in no way been helped by most of Superman's comics where, as some have mentioned, he has been effectively depicted as being DC's equivalent of Jesus more often than not. Further exacerbating this belief in my mind are the four Superman films that starred Christopher Reeve. There (especially in the fourth film, which was basically Reeve's mouthpiece regarding nuclear war) he is often portrayed as an exaggerated boy scout. That may have worked all well and good for the time, but - as Martha Kent says in 2006's Superman Returns - not even the Big Blue Boy Scout can keep the world from spinning. Speaking of Superman Returns, I can appreciate what the film attempted to do by re-introducing the character to a new audience and attempting to humanize him a little more. Even if the end result was not so much a movie that stands on its own merits, but Bryan Singer masturbating furiously to Richard Donner's work. My core point is that times have changed. I feel that while people want to see their heroes win, we also want to see them struggle, to feel their emotions, to relate to them on some level. Man Of Steel did many things that I honestly felt, for a Superman FILM, were genuine and fresh on that front. First and foremost was steering as far away from the mark left by the older Superman films as possible. Clark's birth and youth are addressed without being labored upon. Clark himself is not portrayed as the nervous, comical bumbler most would think of him as, but as a man who believes in doing the right thing (and points to the film for showing the downside of such actions) but is very guarded about himself and attempts to take into consideration how people may feel about his presence on Earth. As for the "Superman" persona, I appreciated that he made it clear that despite deciding to use his powers as a force for good, he won't take any shit from anyone who tries to interfere with him. I also loved the way his powers were portrayed - namely being unable to immediately fly perfectly (and the elated joy he displays when he achieves consistent flight), the heat vision being implied to be painful when fired in concentrated blasts, and the general notion that he has yet to discover the full extent of his powers. We are also given a somewhat more fleshed-out portrayal of the "humanized" Superman that Returns didn't properly realize. Whereas Chris Reeve's Superman largely came off as a caricature and Brandon Routh's Superman swung to the other extreme - appearing to be clingy and pining for the life he willingly left behind - Henry Cavill's Superman does a better job of showing that even the most heroic of people are still just people - such as when Supes beats the crap out of Zod for harming his mother, and when unleashes a scream of devastated anguish knowing that he is now the last of the Kryptonian race. This is a new Superman for a new age, and one that I am happy to welcome into the world with open arms. The IDEA behind the character is - in my mind - still very much there. However, the execution is vastly different. As a result, Warner Bros has produced a film that had no relation to Batman, and more importantly DID NOT SUCK. Also, one final side-note: The Superman costume being found on the ship that serves as this Superman's "Fortress Of Solitude" also makes much more sense than it being fashioned from blankets (like the comics) or being a homemade creation (like Smallville), carrying the regal look that befits a character like Superman, while also looking somewhat more alien and distinct thanks to its design and texture. I believe tie-in material implies the suit to be a scouting uniform of some sort, worn by Kryptonian colonists.
soul_reaver265 on Jun 27, 2013
Wrong. Wrong. Completely Wrong. This reboot of Superman was great. Remember George Reeves Superman? Of course you don't, you weren't alive when it came on television during an old thing called 'syndication'. The little right-wing snark about communism shows than any article by this author will now always be taken with a grain of right wing salt in regards to any validity about cinema.
superman fan on Jun 28, 2013
"Snyder made Superman cool" = lots and lots of punching through cgi objects. uhah.
KilliK on Jun 30, 2013
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