What is strength without honour? What is Power without Morals? What is Authority without compassion?
The new superman film: Man of Steel. Takes a new direction with an old but beloved character.
I have seen the superman origin story many times. Whether from an animated film or from a movie. However this is the first time that I felt it was treated and presented as a Bildungsroman.
The fact that the first half of the movie did not solely focus on how superman came into existence, is instantly new and satisfying.
What the director has done is to weave the story of Clark the boy on his journey to becoming Clark the man. You see the choices he has made along the way. You see the tragedy that he has to endure, the human struggle that he undergoes.
It is only when you have seen Clark’s growth into a man. That you are allowed to see him as more than a man. Only then, is he presented as the hero he is meant to be.
The psychology of the character was explored intensively. As the story seamlessly moves from the present to the past. With a creative and unobtrusive use of flashback, you never get a sense that your immersion in the film is broken.
At the end of his journey of growth. You realise that the Man of Steel. Is more Man than Steel.
What made superman a flat character – in my eyes – is the complete inoculation of human weakness’.
Gone are the days of the square-jawed Olympian blessed by Ares. No longer do we have a hero unwavering in his choices. Faultless in his action. Existing as the moral equivalent and physical embodiment of innocence.
What we see is a man and a hero, that struggles with his choices, feels pain, anger and rage. A man has been given the emotional and mental fortitude to cope; from the love of his parents and the choices he has made on his journey to becoming a man.
I do not wish to draw comparisons for General Zod. Unlike previous iterations of the character. He actually looks and acts like the warrior that he is meant to be.
What we have in Zod is not a case of man driven to do good or bad. But the story of a man who lives in the grey area in between these two choices.
It is the tale of a man whose sole purpose of existing, is to protect and ensure the longevity of his people, his race.
When you have the fate of an entire world resting on your shoulders. Your every decision matters.
But what happens when you have limited choices?
Zod is the archetype for a dead world with antiquated ideals and anachronistic beliefs.
Zod is a man forced into his role from birth. His every breath is predicated on the well-being of his people. He was engineered to be the man that we are presented.
In this…he is the foil for Clark. With every choice Clark makes to shape the man he has become. We see in Zod the absence of those choices.
We see a man who did not journey to adulthood, meandering along his path. But a man who’s role and choices in life were decided for him before he was even conceived.
When his home planet is destroyed, his aim, his reason for being. Is to restore what has been lost.
His only choices: Victory… or death!
The climax of the film has Superman doing something I have never in living memory seen a Superhero display. It might have been suggested, it may have been hinted at through context clues. But never has it been so explicitly depicted
I am not praising the act. Indeed it isn’t what is ideal. However, Superman in this film does not live in an ideal world. There is the way things should be, the way you want them to be and the way things are.
What superman did solidifies within my mind: His humanity and the flaws that embodies that existence.
Flawed though he may be, it his anguish at having to be forced to make this choice. That creates in your mind that idea that he is still a hero. We saw it when his father died, and we saw it again near the end of the film.
When placed in a position of placing the needs of the many over the needs of a few. He steps up and fulfills the needs of the many.
Being a Hero then, is not about the power you wield. But about the choices you make.
In a world that is fluid those choices may not be black or white but in varying shades of grey.
TLDR? Man of Steel is one of the best superman films I have seen. If you have not seen you’re missing out!
To reiterate, life is all about choices..I hope you will make the right one and go see this movie.