Redefining America: A Man of Steel Review

We’re continuing our Man of Steel Monday with a very super review of the film!

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In the very multicultural Miami, one would think they were in another country. People speak Spanish first and English later; the caffeine of choice is not ice coffee from Starbucks, but café con leche purchased from a no name bodega on calle ocho; and Spanish music blasts from the rolled down windows of cars with a Cuabn flag on its bumper. Miami is another world and in many profound ways, separate from the rest of the United States.

Yet as you drive through Miami you see some of the hallmarks that makes this country so great: freedom, hard work, and family. Miami is full of people who imigrated to the USA for political reasons and they want to relish in our values. You even notice the feats of American business and achievements: Fords, Best Buys and McDonalds. I don’t say this in a scolding, diminishing way. Rather I want to convey a sense that no matter how foreign Miami may seem, it’s adopted many core American values and franchises. It may not be America in the conventional sense but it is still America.

There is no doubt Miami is a city of immigration and it’s in this city, where I was born and bred, that I wait in line to see the Man of Steel.

The theater I sit in is the same one I’ve gone to my entire life, where even before Superman was revived for a new generation of moviegoers, I wore a backwards cap with a Superman emblem on it and watched other films that took me to far off worlds.

The Man of Steel is Warner Brother’s latest attempt to revive Superman. True, it’s been six years since the last Superman movie but that one no longer counts anymore (Sorry Bryan Singer, we still love you). This new movie is a reboot, a fresh start. How do you revive a franchise that’s had a straight up formula since the 1940s? Easy: you omit his nom de guerre and make him hide his underwear.

Henry Cavill is the post-9/11 version of Superman. This Superman represents the new version of America and American thought that has come into being since Christopher Reeve donned the tights in the 70s. He’s isolated, lost, and wasn’t born with the core values of truth and justice. Heck, he wasn’t even born in America! He’s an immigrant and he has to learn American values before he can become the poster child for the good ol’ Us of A.

The movie’s message is straight forward and very positive: the outsider is American too.  Anyone can come to this great country and fall in with the cornfields of Kansas and be an inspiration of hope. That’s a very deep and very real approach to the character and I applaud director Zack Snyder for taking Supes in that direction. One of the challenges when it comes to writing Superman is making him relatable. In the past he’s been portrayed as too damn perfect. You can play up the idea that he’s Clark first and Superman second, but that gets old and further reinforces the idea that he’s a superhero and beyond convention human emotions.

Isolation is a key theme in Man of Steel. Superman is struggling to find his place. It’s reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Le Petit Prince in his quest for answers, and yet very Red Badge of Courage as Superman faces his call to arms. I found this refreshing and according to ticket sales, so did most of America (the film made over 200 million at the box office this weekend).

However to say this is solely a Superman story would be wrong. The film is as much a Lois Lane movie as well. Lois is portrayed by the very talented Amy Adams and she does one fucking amazing job (she’s so great we have to cuss). Lois is a pivotal aspect of the SupermanAmy-Adams-Lois-Lane-Man-Of-Steel mythos and getting her right in this movie was incredibly important. You can no longer justify her being a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigating journalist, and have her daft to the point Clark Kent is Superman. It just doesn’t work. Luckily this Lois is everything you’d think a prize winning journalist should be. She even sports an iPad in one scene (you may think I’m  making a joke, but that’s a very relevant prop you can have for a writer). Without giving away any spoilers, viewers will be pleasantly surprised to know that she is not sidelined as a damsel in distress archetype and is at the center of the action.

I do have some qualms with the movie that I will discuss after the spoiler warning. If you dropping off here, then know our final assessment of the film is: AWESOME!

Spoiler warning

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My main grief with the film is ACT III and the battle of Metropolis. Metropolis gets leveled. We’re talking completely destroyed. 9/11 imagery is thrown around and people are dying in the masses. This too adds to our perception and suspicion of other cultures in our post-9/11 world and the movie does a good job representing the destruction. However after the climax, the characters are shown going back to work as if nothing happened. How is there even a building like the Daily Planet still even there?

The fanboy in me wanted to see Metropolis being rebuilt and since this was the epicenter of the alien invasion, see it dubbed as The City of Tomorrow (the nickname it’s given in the comics). It earned this moniker after the invasion and would have fleshed out the universe a bit more.

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