Making the Grades
Playing the iconic characters Clark Kent and Lois Lane requires a lot of pluck even from talented actors like British-born Henry Cavill and Oscar-nominated Amy Adams. But both seem up to the challenge in Director Zach Snyder’s adaptation of the Man of Steel.
Snyder brings a serious and pensive Superman to the big screen. While there are moments of humor in this film, audiences never get the same endearing antics we saw in Christopher Reeves’ portrayal of the alien visitor disguised as a bumbling reporter. Discovering who he is and what his role is on his adopted planet is a somber quest for this extraterrestrial.
Clark’s (Cavill) identity issues begin as a child, often leaving him brooding over his obvious differences from the other Kansas kids he attends school with. And the dissimilarities are big. Not only does he have x-ray vision and the ability to melt metal with a fiery stare, he has incredible strength that he has to control and conceal. His earthly dad (Kevin Costner) is even more anxious to keep his son’s super strengths a secret. He fears the world isn’t ready to accept an alien—even one as normal looking as Clark. While the boy slips up a few times (he pushes a sinking school bus full of children out of the river and onto the shore), he tries to obey his father’s wishes to wait, even when it comes at a great cost. But as an adult, his inclination to save others and his search for answers means he can’t stay in one place for too long.
However when he finally stumbles upon an alien ship buried deep in the ice, meets a holographic version of his birth father (Russell Crowe) and gets the answers he’s been searching for, life doesn’t get easier. Now Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Adams) and US Military personnel (Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni) all have questions—especially after Earth receives a threatening communication from Krypton’s General Zod (Michael Shannon).
From this point on, storytelling takes a backseat to special effects as Smallville and then New York City are demolished in an extended sequence that sees buildings, a train yard, cars and even an orbiting satellite destroyed. While this kind of destructive chaos in a comic book movie (or any sci-fi for that matter) isn’t unusual, the explosions, falling office towers and crushing blows exchanged between the protagonist and his mortal enemy go on and on and on and on. Fortunately the catastrophic destruction is mostly bloodless and with few other content concerns the film stays in an orbit appropriate for most teens.
Like Warner Brothers 2006 reboot attempt in Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh, Man of Steel depicts a savior figure sent to protect mankind from themselves. But he can only do that after he figures out who he is. In this 2013 version, that takes a lot of brow furrowing and soul searching by this steely alien superhero.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Man of Steel.
According to an online article by The Independent, Man of Steel has already brought in millions of dollars from product placements and has positioned itself at the top of the charts for the use of this marketing technique. In addition to several references and depictions of IHOP, can you spot Sears, U-Haul, Chrysler and Nokia merchandise among others?
How do the filmmakers update this old story and incorporate new technology into it?
What environmental messages does this script include?
What are the advantages of having an embedded journalist cover a story? What challenges does this type of reporter have for soldiers, explorers or others he or she is covering? Are there times when journalists should not be allowed into an area?
Why does Clark’s father try to protect him? How does he help his son realize he has been “born for greater things”?
Learn about the history of the Superman character.