It was four years ago today (at the time of writing this) that DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. released Man of Steel in theaters. Zack Snyder's Superman reboot took on the dual challenges of re-introducing one of the world's most iconic superheroes for the modern age, while also introducing the first threads of what is now an entire DC Extended Universe franchise.
Four years later, the discussion and debate about Man of Steel is still going on - which is, in some ways, the most telling thing about the impact and power of Snyder's vision. However, MoS and its director also remain as divisive as ever, with many hardcore DC Comics fans insisting that Snyder tarnished (if not outright ruined) Superman, with his somber, gritty, and violent depiction of the character.
However, for every Man of Steel hater, there is someone who fiercely loves and/or defends the film - and today, in celebration of the four-year anniversary, we're looking at Snyder's accomplishments in a positive light.
Here Are 5 Reasons 'Man of Steel' is a Great Superman Movie.
It Expands The Superman Metaphor
The greatest thing that Man of Steel does (especially early on in the film), is to expand the Superman metaphor to include entire groups of people who may have previously felt left out of it.
Man of Steel's first act explores Superman/Clark Kent's turbulent childhood from the angle of an outsider who struggles to find acceptance in the social order, constantly searching for his place and true identity. The metaphorical implications of Snyder's approach are bold and powerful - whether it's the literal (and figurative) "closeted" life young Clark must live while growing up in Smallville, or his dilemma of being a literal (and figurative) undocumented alien, trying to avoid detection in a xenophobic American order.
Best of all, in the midst of expanding Superman's relevance to touch upon the experiences of more disenfranchised peoples, Man of Steel never loses sight of that original thematic thread from both the Superman comics and the iconic Richard Donner films. The idea of being trapped in a small town that stifles your full potential, and having to show restraint and patience until a greater destiny can be achieved, is a part of the Superman mythos that any adolescent or teenager living in the world can still understand.
Because of Man of Steel, the themes behind Superman are more open and diverse than they ever have been.
It Grounds the Mythos
Superman's origin story is one of the most famous and iconic modern myths around, but that golden version of the story that fans used to hold onto with such reverence became outdated, and (for many of the groups of people described above) irrelevant.
That worn-out notion of "Classic Superman" and his story became apparent in 2006, when Warner Bros. tried (and failed) to cash-in on Donner Superman nostalgia with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. That film stalled, while the year before, Chris Nolan's Batman Begins proved that superhero movie fans were hungry for something more modern and serious from their DC icons.
Well, Man of Steel takes all the of the various elements of Superman's character and origin (American, extraterrestrial, superhero) and as stated, makes them feel cohesive and grounded in a way that a wide variety of modern viewers can believe and relate to.
Best of all, Man of Steel goes through great pains to show how Superman - as an imperfect being like the rest of us - starts the journey toward becoming the noble icon he eventually does, instead of simply stating that he's inherently so good that he can never do wrong.
It Reveals The Hero's Complexity
Man of Steel takes the bold approach of truly exploring the full character of Superman, as both a homegrown American icon and an otherworldly figure from an alien culture (with all the religious metaphor in between).
While other Superman films (like Superman I and II) also explored the dual cultures that make Kal-El/Superman who he is, Man of Steel delivered everything from his Kansas upbringing and Americana values, to a full-on alien invasion, and made it all feel as if it could believably and cohesively exist within our modern world and sensibilities. The reboot makes Clark/Kal-El feel more relatable and real, by depicting him as being flawed as the rest of us.
Some viewers like to criticize the "brooding Superman" or "killer Superman" the film depicts; however, by exploring Clark Kent/Kal-El's internal struggles and insecurities before he finds his way to a nobler heroic outlook, Man of Steel earns Superman's heroism in a way that few other versions of the character have.
It Innovates (And Not Just Recycles)
The big thing that went wrong with Singer's Superman Returns was that it tried to simply recycle the nostalgia and iconography that Richard Donner created with his Superman movies. As stated, reaction to Superman Returns proved that we could 'never go home again' to the era of Superman mythos that the Donner films had existed in. The post-9/11 world was a much different place and therefore needed a different Superman for the times. Man of Steel keeps a lot of the Superman mythos intact - but it also adds a lot of new elements (or elements borrowed from modern Superman comics) that make the story fresh and new for our times.
From the depiction of Kryptonian culture and the origin stories of Jor-El and Zod; to the limitations of Superman's power and the relationships he has with his two fathers; to the way Lois Lane and Clark Kent are respectively depicted as keen, smart, investigators; Man of Steel creates something new on top of the old foundation.
It's almost funny that the movie gets slammed for changing canon, as comic books, by nature, are platforms of constant change, evolution, and innovation. So if anything, Zack Snyder was simply following in that tradition.
It Sets Up An Entire DC Universe
One thing that is becoming more and more apparent as the DCEU unfolds, is that Man of Steel laid the groundwork for so many other DC Films to come.
Fans know the obvious Easter eggs like the Wayne Tech or Lexcorp properties destroyed in the battle of Metropolis (thereby setting up Batman v Superman); however, MoS also opened the cosmic side of the DCEU with its invasion story; catalyzed an entire shift in government initiatives (metahuman projects, Kryptonain tech influences, and even Suicide Squad's Task Force X), and was the milestone event that ushers in the new "Age of Heroes" that will arrive with Justice League.
Since its time of release, fans have gone back to Man of Steel with retroactive theories that suggest Aquaman could've been teased in the film (after that oil rig explosion) - along with any number of other Easter egg theories. The bottom line is: Man of Steel introduced the foundation of an entire universe, by first introducing its most powerful hero on a universal stage.
While Marvel may get credit for its connective threads, Man of Steel has slowly but surely established itself as an almost better launchpad than Iron Man was. Best of all: there is still more potential retroactive tie-ins that can (and probably will) be mined from it!
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In Justice League, fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Justice League is directed by Zack Snyder, from a screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on a story by Snyder and Terrio, and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, and Ciarán Hinds.
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