Over the weekend I finally got my chance to see the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel.” In the capable hands of producer Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” trilogy) and director Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”), there is no question the franchise has been saved from the meterosexual hell that was “Superman Returns.”
“Man of Steel” is no classic, and doesn’t really come close to capturing the superhero spirit and movie-going joy of the first two Christopher Reeve films. The Nolan-Snyder vision is a little more dark and somber. And near the end, the action scenes all start to feel and look alike.
Missing most of all is that superhero moment that lifts you into the ether.
I’ve never forgotten watching Superman save Lois Lane from the helicopter crash in “Superman The Movie” or when he asked General Zod to step outside in “Superman II.” The first “Iron Man,” the first two “Spider-mans,” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy all have these “moments.” There is nothing like that in “Man of Steel,” and it could’ve used more humor.
But I was never bored, and am looking forward to the already-announced sequel. Here are five great things I liked most about the film…
1. Openly Christian: From Superman’s miracle birth to being sent to earth by his father to save mankind to his age of 33 to so many other things, “Man of Steel” is proudly and openly a very Christian film. There’s even a beautiful scene with a priest set in a church around all kinds of Christian symbolism, including a painting of Jesus Christ.
2. Superman is American Again: At the end of the film a still-wary Army officer asks Superman if he can trust him to look out for America’s interests. Superman responds with, “I grew up in Kansas. I’m as American as it gets.”
In a recent comic, Superman renounced his American citizenship. In “Superman Returns,” the writers were proud to ignore the character’s Americanism and used the famous “Truth, justice, and American way” motto for a cheap laugh.
On top of that wonderful moment, “Man of Steel” is filled with beautiful symbols of American iconography, including the stars and stripes.
Better still, Middle America is given its due.
3. The American Military Is Heroic: At first the plot demands that the military be a potential antagonist to Superman. By the time it’s over and trust is built (one of the screenplay’s meta-themes), the film’s respect for the men and women who protect our country is profound.
4. Watching Great Actors Work: Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Richard Schiff, and Laurence Fishburneare are all given great scenes.
5. Theme of Self-Sacrifice: Like the “Dark Knight” trilogy, the humanistic theme of self-sacrifice and humanity being something worth saving, is the film’s central theme. In an entertainment world buried in snark, narcissism, and ironic-distance, Nolan’s own humanity (he co-wrote the story) continues to inform his work in a way that is all too rare today.