[NOTE: This isn't as much a review as it is a rant. This article does contain spoilers, so if you wish to experience Man of Steel with fresh eyes, come back later. Also, I'm pretty emotional and tired, so that may contribute to my opinions and the content of this post as well.]
In the 1990s, DC Comics developed a storyline in which a character named Doomsday would appear and kill the once-thought invincible Superman. Many fans viewed this as an unnecessary stunt to boost comics sales and met the event with heavy backlash. To some, "The Death of Superman" included concepts that outright insulted fans of the character. It is with a heavy heart I find that Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder's reintroduction of Superman into popular culture, has transgressed just as much.
Before I get into the meat of the subject and the commenters have a go at me, I should probably mention Man of Steel's positives. The all-star cast is great, and Henry Cavill plays an excellent Kal-El. Much of the Kryptonian architecture looks cool, and there's a few adjustments to the Superman mythos that lead to a more sensical story. Are those enough? Okay, cool.
There are plenty of complaints to be had with the film, so I won't get into all of them here. I especially won't mention the rampant product placement (like the indestructible Sears, the extended shots of IHOP, or the Uhaul trailer with the pricing listed on it). However, one area in particular stuck with me: The unnecessarily dark tone, and, by relation, Superman's utter disregard for life. About halfway through the film's bloated runtime, a large battle between Zod and his cronies and Superman commences. What happens from then on is... appalling.
For about an hour or so, the audience is pelted with imagery of countless citizens being crushed by buildings, caught in explosions, and tossed around like rag dolls. It's all done to raise the stakes and make the need for a hero all the more dire, but there's a problem: Superman never shows up to save them. So there I was, watching a sizzle reel of death and destruction, all of it shocking and none of it impacting anything. And the worst part? The onscreen hero doesn't even care. The concept of being unable to save everyone he encounters has always been a hurdle for the character of Superman; instead of Man of Steel leaping over it in a single bound, it just...avoids it. As a fan of not only this one but all other heroes, I found Superman's laissez faire approach to the death of innocents on display here sickening.
One could compare the film's battles in Smallville and Metropolis to the one found in last summer's The Avengers, in which New York City takes a major hit from an alien attack. A similar amount of destruction occurred in that film; but since the movie never actually showed people dying in the streets, the illusion that most if not everyone was saved was put out. As unrealistic as that was, I didn't mind - the heroes were successful and I wasn't left depressed.
Man of Steel brings a conclusion as oddly as it brought a climax. Superman has Zod in a headlock in a crowded train station. In a last-ditch effort to break Superman, Zod starts to aim his laser vision at an innocent family. Instead of putting his indestructible hand in front of the beam or simply moving Zod, Superman breaks his neck. It's done with the aim of showing that he had to test his morals to save those he cares about, but it all just feels uncomfortable.
I wouldn't recommend Man of Steel to any fans of the character. In fact, there's three groups of people I imagine would be downright offended by the film. The first is those like me: Not exactly fans of Superman, but fans of other heroes and those with enough respect for Superman that they know when he's been tampered with. The next would be those like my parents: They grew up with the lighthearted Christopher Reeve films, and this one's tone steps all over that. The last group hurts the most to me: The kids having their first experiences with a superhero. Costumes and comics shaped the majority of my childhood, and to think that such a gray and grim version of a classic role model is being distributed to those needing someone to look up to is simply unacceptable.
At the end of the day, Man of Steel doesn't make me angry. It only makes me sad. It makes me sad to see that such a classic and admirable character can be made out to have such a blatant disregard for his fellow man. If you ask me, the death of Superman isn't a tattered cape on a flagpole or a bloody "S" symbol, but rather what I saw earlier this evening. If there's a Justice League franchise to be built here, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.
I apologize if this article was a bit over the top and melodramatic. However, superheroes are a topic I tend to get riled up about. Also, if Snyder can be over the top and melodramatic, I don't see why I can't. Have a good night, everyone.