Originally published on 6/26/13.
Man of Steel. Directed by Zack Snyder, from a script by David Goyer.* I’m not one of those people who thinks they own Superman. He’s an idea created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and stolen by DC Comics. I don’t have any right to him, and neither do any of the many fans of the comic books, movies and live action/animated series featuring the character. It’s hard not to feel like he belongs to us. Superman’s an iconic character that’s been portrayed in thousands of stories by dozens of creators, so it’s understandable that we all have specific ideas about the character that sometimes make adaptations difficult.
Superman is an American/global symbol of justice; a populist strongman; a defender of the establishment; the ultimate immigrant who is a symbol of assimilation and/or cultural pluralism. He’s a science fiction hero and a mystery man. His brand of heroism encompasses the firefighter and law enforcement models of heroism. Some people like him best when he inspires others to do good, while others enjoy the more cosmic dream logic filled stories that emphasize his near-infinite power. It’s hard to do a Superman movie that pleases everyone, especially in an environment in which most superhero movies fit a predictable origin/existential crisis/reboot cycle. We want a movie that blends the accessibility of Superman For All Seasons with the imagination of All-Star Superman and the iconic quality of Birthright. We ask ourselves why a film can’t capture the magic of the original while forgetting that it was a charming but imperfect film.
I was looking forward to seeing Zack Snyder and David Goyer’s vision of Superman. Snyder’s Watchmen was not a good movie, but I enjoyed the elements that complicated my appreciation of the recent run of Marvel Studios movies. His heartfelt, sometimes clumsy effort to convey the politics and stakes of the original reminded me of what I was missing from movies like Captain America or the Avengers. The biggest problems with Watchmen was Snyder’s almost obsessive fealty to the original book by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore and the horrifyingly bad performances from all involved (many of whom have been quite good in other things). In contrast, Man of Steel was an original project with performances from really good actors (Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane), a promising actor as Superman (Henry Cavill), and actors who are delightfully hammy in the right roles (Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe). It also had this trailer:
I knew it wouldn’t be great, but hoped that it would be good. I was wrong.