This is part 2 of my analysis about Man of Steel, celebrating Action Comics #1000 releasing today. If you need to catch up, Part 1 is here.
So continuing, we begin at Clark entering the Kryptonian ship for the first time. He wonders around until he stumbles upon a familiar looking shape, similar to his ‘S’ key he’s had since his Earth father gave it too him. At this same time, Lois is curiously following him, discovering the same alien like structures within the ship. Kal-El discovers pods that have deceased remains in them, however, one is open, left for the viewer to make up their own mind about who it belonged too. This is when Lois comes into contact with the Kryptonian security system and is severely wounded and Kal-El is shown using his power to stop her bleeding. This is the first time he is shown, helping a single person directly and not hiding what he is capable of doing. This sequence of scenes ends with a beautiful shot of the Kryptonian ship leaving the ice structure it had been trapped in for close to 20,000 years.
As Lois explains what she witnessed, we learn that this is an article she wants published so she can let the world know there is someone like Clark out there. And this is where it becomes a First Contact film. Lois, hellbent on getting word out, allows her story to be published on a blog known for publishing anything and everything. Unbeknownst to her editor, she is willing to risk everything because she believes in what she witnessed and experienced with Clark. That brings me to my point of loving the portrayal of Lois in Man of Steel. She is unapologetic and relentless that I’m very happy my 10 year old daughter is lucky enough to see this. By the way, Henry Cavill is her Superman so I may have to warn her that we will see another Superman in the future.
We are brought back to Clark, as he is discovering what seems like a foreign land and is introduced to what appears to be a man. Clark learns that this figure is actually his real father, Jor-El. Imagine not knowing what you are or why you were sent somewhere you had no control over. So when Clark hears his father call him by his Kryptonian name, Kal, he simply smiles knowing that he has just discovered what his real name is and who his father was. Kal is finally introduced to who he is as a person, as well as his heritage in a personal way. It’s at this point we are shown just what Jor-El believes is his purposes. “Your mother and I believed Krypton lost something precious. The element of choice; of chance. What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society intended for him or her? What if a child aspired to something greater? You were the embodiment of that belief Kal, Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries.” Kal finally learns that he may be alone on Earth, to which Jor-El explains “No. You’re as much a child of Earth now, as you are of Krypton. You can embody the best of both worlds. The dream your mother and I dedicated our lives to preserve.” As the door reveals the Superman Suit, you start to see that Kal-El can finally embrace who he is as a Human as well as a Kryptonian. We hear the rising of the Zimmer score and begins what I feel is one of the best Superhero reveals in all of film voiced with some of the best dialogue. “That’s what this symbol means. The symbol of the House of El means hope. Embodied within that Hope is the fundamental belief in the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.”
The doors open from the Kryptonian ship and out walks Superman, listening to his fathers words and pushing his abilities to the limit. I feel this is the greatest capture of what Superman represents. Taking one giant leap in the air and landing, then smiling and laughing as he discovers for the first time that he can actually fly at which point realizing he’s falling down back to earth faster than anticipated. Crashing into the mountain top that last words his father tells him echo in his ear allowing him to embrace his true reasons for being who he is: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”
The score plays “Flight” from Zimmer and we finally see Kal-El fly into the sky, smiles and learning how to control his aerodynamics. I absolutely love seeing him figure out that by moving one arm in front of the other, he can create his own turns and change his direction so quickly. If you had a huge smile on your face while watching Superman fly, then you can understand what happend to me. It was at this moment I started to notice my feelings for Superman starting to shift in favor over Batman. For the first time, I felt that if I had Superman’s power set, this was exactly how I would feel and experience things. It made me see Superman as one of us; as a Human having the ability to fly.
Now if you’re like me, when you were a kid, you always imagined you could fly, but this was the first time I actually felt connected to someone experiencing flight for the first time. Add the score and visuals of everything, and I was hooked.
You can’t have Superman without Lois Lane. So I feel it was perfect that we finally see Superman and then return to Lois actively searching for him. She manages to track him down by, ironically, the bus accident his father told him could happen. Lucky for Clark, she wasn’t the government. Now knowing who he is, Lois does what she does best: Getting to the bottom of her story. We hear Clark explain what his father instilled in him. That if the world found out who he really was, we would reject him out of fear. It’s brilliant that we get to see Clark, who just figured out who he really was, explain what happened to his earth father.
In the next flashback, we see a tornado approaching and they make their way to the overpass. Clark witnesses his father leading everyone to safety and is then told to get a child to her mother. With their dog stuck in the car, Clark tell his father he’ll get him. Jonathan making sure his son is safe, like any father would, tells him he will do it. Clark can only watch as he sees his father live the lesson he told him about when the bus accident happened.
Now you have to remember, this is Clark before learning that he can fly or that he has super speed, which is pretty evident since he didn’t know he could fly until Jor-El told him to keep testing his limits. Jonathan once told Clark that there was more at stake than just their lives and he truly believed it. Trapped and immobile to get to safety, he looks at his son one last time. Knowing that his son, if fast enough, could save him and risk being exposed to the dozens of witnesses, or give his life to preserve Clark’s life stay hidden, he makes the only decision any parent would make. He tells Clark no. This is the moment for Clark where he fully understands and trust what his father was trying to teach him all those years.
We’re brought back to the present where most probably looked the same as Lois. Teary eyed knowing now just why Clark is willing to save anyone he can, but also why he leaves so he’s not found out, makes you feel for him. Again, this is that raw emotion I mentioned earlier where you really understand what Clark has gone through. He knows the world isn’t ready to find out about him. General Zod has different plans.
This is where the film begins to feel like a First Encounter film and in the best way possible. After visiting his earth mom and sharing with her the good news of discovering who his real parents are, is when the film opens up to give an open world feel. The military is introduced to us when we see the first sign of General Zod’s ship orbiting the moon. Just like in the real world, the moment people realize what it is, it’s shown every where. General Zod creates the perfect opportunity to share with the entire world what he’s after. When you see that his message is broadcast all over the world, it becomes very evident other people live in this film along with everyone finding out about Kal-El at the same time. It feels like a horror film as we hear General Zod request for Kal-El to be returned to him.
So within the first hour of the film, Zack Snyder has given us a Sci-Fi film at the beginning, a film of self discovery in the middle, a Superhero film after that, and now a Close Encounters mixed with a Horror film to show his ability to create a real world setting. One of my favorite lines from Perry, Lois’ editor, asks Lois if she knows where Kal-El is since everyone now knows about him. When she says she doesn’t know, he simply replies “The entire world is being threatened here Lois. This isn’t the time to fall back on journalistic integrity here.” That line puts the situation at the forefront especially as Lois is arrested by the FBI. I have seen people ask why Clark didn’t just fly back to the ship but I always ask, why would he? Simple logic would say that it was because of the ship he was in that General Zod has shown up. Which would mean that General Zod might have control of that ship now and since his father explained to him about what General Zod did on Krypton, he’s not willing to just agree to show up to him.
This brings us to another flashback, and this time it’s one where Clark is being bullied into a fight. I imagine he thinks about this because it’s exactly what is happening at the current moment, only the bully this time is General Zod. He remembers the words Jonathan Kent told him when he wanted to punch that kid picking on him: “I know you did. I mean, even a part of me wanted you to but then what? Make you feel any better? You just have to decide what kind of man you want to be when you grow up Clark because, whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s going to change the world.” If that’s not life lessons then I don’t know what is.
Superman agrees to meet with the Government but only if they allow Lois to be set free. We then get our first interaction of Sub Commander Faora-Ul and Superman. I’m not one to usually enjoy the villain but Faora handles her own without the need to feel forced. Superman is then introduced to General Zod and the conflict is realized. Aboard the Kryptonian ship, Superman becomes weak in the atmospherics, giving us the first sign that his weakness involves anything organic from Krypton. In a coma like state, he tells Clark that he has the codex that can restore his race and people’s survival, but at the cost of the Human population.
This part of the film is where it becomes a full fledged Superhero film. After General Zod discovers where Kal grew up, he joins Faora and Nam-Ek to retrieve it. When Zod realizes the codex isn’t at the Kent farm, he threatens Martha. Superman flies to save her and it’s at this time we are seen Superman actually throwing his first punch of his life; defending his mother. We also see Clark blast through a gas station, causing an explosion and again we are seen that a Petroleum explosion causes Superman to be dazed. Zod also gets affected, by being thrown when his helmet is damaged, and begins to experience what Kal did when he was a child. A ship arrives to pick him up and that’s when Superman sees Faora and Nam-Ek walking towards him. I won’t even bother describing the fight that ensues because to do so, would only be a disservice of the incredible music and choreography displayed. It still remains one of my favorite scenes Snyder has ever filmed.
After everything settles, we see another iconic shot of Superman. While walking out of the destruction, the military, with guns pointed at him, begin to lower as they start to realize he isn’t like the other Kryptonians. And one of the last men to see him is Col. Hardy who, during the Smallville battle, was insistent on Superman being targeted as well, now sees him as an ally. “This man is not our enemy”. A line that becomes even more important in Batman v Superman by Alfred, but that’s another time. Lois explains to Clark that she knows how to stop the Kryptonians but we learn that may be too late. General Zod is brought to his scientist on the ship and is told the codex is actually in Supermans blood and that they don’t need him to be alive to extract it. He then releases a terraforming device to begin to build a new Krypton on Earth. The visuals of seeing normal people witness an alien ship descend upon their city gives the feeling you’re not just watching a Superhero film but a real life expose on what it would look like seeing this in real time.
The fact Snyder used this entire situation as the bases for the next film is pure genius, but that will be a different discussion. From here it becomes a very comic book film again when we realize Superman has to stop a device in the southern Indian Ocean while the military tries to prevent things in Metropolis. It truly feels like the world is involved with doing what they can to help just like Superman is, which is a shame we weren’t given that same type of feeling in Justice League. I actually felt the threat of General Zod was more intimidating then Steppenwolf but that wasn’t necessarily Snyder’s fault.
If you’re reading this far, I won’t continue about the film in its entirety because there is plenty of battling and fighting to be had. I will talk about one of the most controversial decisions of the film though. That is when Superman makes the ultimate decision and snaps General Zod’s neck. Some people felt this was unnecessary but to those people I always ask, what else could he have done? If Humans found out someone like Superman existed in the real world, we wouldn’t be able to build anything to hold him because we don’t have the material of making a red sun or quantifying synthetic kryptonite. This is a real world he lives in and MacGuffins, though easy to write in, are not real world solutions. General Zod tells Superman that either he will die, or that Superman will die. That is pretty clear that he has no intention of letting up and that he will take out as many Humans as he can.
Before the moment happens, Superman pleads with Zod to stop his laser vision before harming more innocent people. Zod says “Never”. Now if you’re thinking that Superman could have just covered his eyes, remember that when Superman had just ONE eye covered by Faora, once he used his laser vision she couldn’t hold her hand over his eye anymore. But even if that was the case and he covers the eyes, then what? Does he ask politely for Zod to stop committing murder? I’m sure that wouldn’t work. So, with his last plea to stop it, he does what he has to in order to prevent more Human life from ending. He takes Zod out. Now you have to remember that Clark was just Clark up until 24 hours prior before he put on the Superman Suit. He is fresh and green and doesn’t have any predetermined rules of being Superman. Also, this establishes the why of Superman never taking a life again. You can see his pain and agony of doing something that final, as well as realizing he just took out the last remaining member of his race. But Zack knew what he was doing. Remember when I talked about the literally birth of Kal-El at the beginning of the film? In almost the exact same way, the film cuts to see Lois, and then it cuts to Superman falling to his knees and then lets out a cry. It is done with the exact same mannerisms as his birth on Krypton, symbolizing the birth of Superman here on Earth. It was this moment that I truly became a fan of Superman over Batman in terms of film. Snyder changed what I thought would never happen after The Dark Knight. That was, of course, until Batman v Superman came out and I saw how Batman took out Superman and was in awe of what I was just witnessing. Back to the final moments in the film and we see Clark talking with his mother about what he’s going to do when he’s not saving the world. I wrote that out because it’s also the name of one of the best composed tracks from Zimmer from the Man of Steel soundtrack. The film ends with Clark starting his new job as a journalist, being formally introduced to Lois at the Daily Planet with her final words to him being “Welcome to the Planet“. With the famous Superman smile, Clark replies “Glad to be here Lois.“. Cue title card and the film ends.
I hope this makes you want to enjoy and celebrate Superman as much as I do when I watch Man of Steel. Watching it with an open mind allowed me to see just how much thought and care Zack Snyder put into the making of this film, along with the rest of the cast and crew. I am so thankful I was able to witness this in theaters and that my daughter is growing up with this version of Superman.