Looking past the explosions in Man of Steel

man-of-steel-henry-cavill-superman-imageMan of Steel (MoS), the first DC Comics film to be released for the year, opened in Singapore on 13 June 2013. I got a couple of friends to watch the movie premiere, and we all (with the exception of one) found the movie pretty awesome, mainly in the action department, though not so much of a great story in terms of plot.

First off, the film is actually pretty long: 2 and a half hours. I applaud film director, Zack Snyder, for breaking away from the conventional Superman-saves-innocents-being-oppressed-and-bullied storyline. Instead, MoS begins on Planet Krypton and the birth of Kal-el, the first ‘live’ birth in a couple of centuries to a world whose entire population is gestated in a state-run underwater hatchery, thus preempting the eternal question of where little Kryptonians come from. As planet Krypton faces imminent destruction, Kal’s parents decide to send their newborn child to planet Earth, as a final hope for the continued survival of their species.

I won’t go into the specifics of the plot, but all I’d like to say at this juncture is that the realistic cinematics and CG used in the film, coupled with the driven yet emotive Hans Zimmer soundtrack, make for a great action film. The combination makes for the biggest bang for a buck, the bang being totally literal. There are countless explosions throughout the film, and various instances where Superman breaks the sound barrier whilst flying, etc. Although MoS was meant to be a superhero action movie, the action part of the movie stood out really much more than the superhero aspect of the film. Plus, the trademark red outer underpants (ostensibly the last trace of vulnerability) of the Superman costume are gone! In his indestructible-looking suit, Superman is free to cause billions of dollars worth of collateral damage to Metropolis in taking on his fellow-Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod. After about two hours worth of explosions, flying and lots of fighting, all of us exited the cinema on a high.

Conclusion: Great attempt at remaking an already iconic character, but still a mostly plain plot that mainly serves to provide the excuse for an explosively kinetic action film. Definitely worth a watch. Plus I think Henry Cavill, who stars in Man of Steel as Kal-el/Clark Kent/Superman, looks much more like the comic-book Superman than Christopher Reeve of the 1978 movie, who, in my opinion, looks more like a model than a superhero :p

Bonus (Spoiler Alert): I couldn’t help but think that this whole film is a giant metaphor for the conflict between the ideals of socialism and capitalism (or the former USSR and the USA). Kryptonian society seems to be a largely socialist one, where there appears to be a planned economy, where everyone is born in the state-run hatchery/harvesting centre into a predetermined role in society. General Zod, the military chief of Krypton says, “No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people.” This appears similar to how the USSR’s planned economy was in the past, when ‘the good of the people’ was sufficient justification for toil and suffering. Furthermore, in the whole film, the USA is the only country attacked by the rogue Kryptonians, even though General Zod broadcast a warning message for Kal-el to surrender himself in various languages throughout the world. Not convinced yet? There is even the suggestion that the Kryptonian spacecraft submerged under ice in the Arctic might have been be a Soviet-era submarine. This, in my opinion, could be a possible clue to movie-goers to take note of the film in its entirety as a giant metaphor.

In this movie, I feel that the USA represents the ideals of a capitalistic democracy, with morality and love, while Krypton represents (possibly) the former USSR and socialism in general, while the clashes between General Zod and the US military symbolizes the clash between the two contrasting ideals. Superman is himself a moral person, able to distinguish right from wrong and help others because he grew up “as American as they come”. He also finds his ‘love’: Lois Lane here on Earth, in America. And, although Superman is the only one of his kind to exist in the end, he eventually chooses to blend in and lead an ordinary life by working at the same newspaper company as Lois Lane. I think that it represents the socialist ideals eventually succumbing to Western capitalistic ones, where socialists still have to lead a money-dominated, capitalistic way of life in the end, just like how Superman, hailing from a socialist world, fought his own people and eventually chose to blend in and lead a typical American life. And since this is, after all an American film, it has to portray the socialist Krypton and its people as bad and without morality, with the exception of Superman who manages to successfully integrate with Americans and their way of life, which is probably why people love him so much.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the film, but I can’t help but express my immediate thoughts and observations about MoS, and, to me, what appears as a political metaphor so huge, you might actually miss it! Go watch MoS if you haven’t done so, and see for yourself. Who knows, action, guns and explosions aside, you might notice a little extra!


One thought on “Looking past the explosions in Man of Steel

  1. Yea I did catch the slim against socialism. BetweenMos and DK Rises I think even the most dim bulbs out there shld get that socialism is evil


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