M C’s review published on Letterboxd:
The themes addressed in this movie really are what is needed to perfectly encapsulate Superman.
One line which struck me in this film was when Clark said to his earthly father, “Why did you let me believe I was something I wasn’t?” This “reverse culture shock” is something a lot of second generation immigrants experience. When they assimilate into a culture and then learn more about their roots, there’s an identity crisis which can occur making one feel detached from their heritage, while simultaneously feeling as if they’re outcast from the culture which they learned. The film expertly handled this struggle which many people go through. In the culture which they assimilate to, they can feel like outcasts, as well as their heritage which they never knew, both sides seemingly will always reject the person making them “pick a side.” A perfect example of this is when Kal-El meets Zod for the first time, and he says “Hello Zod” and one of Zod’s soldiers snaps at Kal, and Zod says “it’s alright, he’s unfamiliar with out Kryptonin customs” this is a textbook occurrence when meeting/greeting people from ones heritage without knowing the culture.
While one must always remember their roots from their heritage country, they must also remember the reasons why they left. This was addressed well when Jor-El mentioned how they were no better than the colonizing tyrants of Krypton. Another great scene encapsulating this was when Zod was attempting to take control of the second world engine, and Superman crashed into it, Zod said “if you destroy this ship, you destroy Krypton” and Superman hesitates, and then declares “Krypton had its chance”
When Kal-El killed Zod I was taken aback, but I do think that this was justifiable (by his character in the given context) Yes in the comics Superman doesn’t kill, however, I find it to contribute much better to the overall story, (potentially later, which we don’t get to see) though it makes sense for him to never harm a human, this is something he’s never prepared for.
The Father/Son story in this film built upon itself so well since the main conflict between Clark and Jonathan was that Clark felt like he was never able to truly be himself, and was being constantly told to do so by his father. He always said he had to keep this side of himself a secret, and could not save people. But it’s clear that Clark respects his father, because he still chose to obey him lest Jonathan’s worst fears come true about the world outcasting and descending into chaos as a result of Clark’s alien nature. Jonathan chose to die rather than let his son live a life of total despair and rejection and chaos. This scene was a true testament to his character, his beliefs, and his love for his son.
The scene when Kal-El sees Lois in an escape pod falling towards the earth was the turning point Clark has been waiting for his whole life. Permission from his father to save someone. Jor-El tells Kal, “You can save her. You can save all of them”
Jor-El tells Kal that they wanted him to first learn to be human, so that one day he could be the bridge between humans, and kryptonians. Without Jonathan Kent’s guidance, a reckless parent would have allowed Clark to be a god to the humans and completely dominate/destroy them. Though he may be greater than humans in physical strength, his fathers instilled in him that his life should not be valued higher than any other person, and only when he can recognize than will he be able to lead.
The World engines concisely convey colonization. The Kryptonians for generations would send their world terraforming to change the conditions of the environment to withstand themselves rather than adapting from their own physiology to become familiar with the new environment. This most definitely goes deeper than the environment of the planet, but the culture and the customs which they frequently raze. This is not a loose interpretation from the machines, but rather a careful theme which was inserted, as can be proven from the line Zod delivers in response to Jor-El taking about co-inhabitance. “So we can suffer through years of pain trying to adapt like your son has?”
References to other comics
In some of Snyder’s other films I largely do not agree with the overwhelming amounts of references to other comic books that do not contribute to the story and can be largely attributed to fan service. However, Snyder sparingly used references, and one instance in particular which showed a testament to Superman/Kal-El/Clark’s power. As we know, Superman gets his powers due to the young yellow sun energy his cells take in, and the weaker gravity field on earth as compared to Krypton. When the first world engine tossed Superman into the gravity beams being tossed and back through the center of the earth, regardless of his powers he was at the mercy of the world engines. There is a comic book, which was a shining moment for Superman in his publication history, overcoming gravity. In this comic book, Superman is trapped on a planet with strong fields of gravity and no yellow sun, however, he overcomes it and rejuvenates his powers because for over three decades he has been consistently absorbing yellow sun energy. So when I saw this moment being replicated in the film, it was absolutely spectacular. It was a string callback, yet the point of the scene did not fly over the heads of non-comic book readers, because they understand the stakes of how much power it takes to overcome those gravity beams and destroy the world engines.
Superman’s original costume has never looked cool. His alternate suits from doomsday, Superman red/blue were far better, kingdom come, justice league beyond, justice lords were great, but they have never found a way to make his outfit look appealing, until this film, which the comics have taken note from.
This was an exemplary depiction of Superman. I think that as a stand alone film it is nearly flawless. However when introducing other characters to create a universe, problems could arise because they already “went public” whereas in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the conflicts of an international incident were not addressed until the Avengers movie and in a way “revealing” the Avengers to the world. I do believe that the DC would have substantial acclaim if things were planned from the beginning and with patience.