Superman has always been about more than his abilities. The real themes of Superman center around the moral challenges. It's the pain of not being able to save everyone, not even your loved ones, despite having seemingly unlimited power. It's the challenge of being different from everyone else and having them fear you even when you are trying to help them. It's the constant ebb and flow of fitting in for a moment, then being reminded once again that you never can because of who you are.
Superman was my childhood hero. He was the first one I was introduced to, as he was for so many, and he remained my favorite while growing up. I read the comics and watched the original black and white TV show repeatedly, but it was Superman the Movie, starring Christopher Reeve, in 1978, that started what would become a life long interest in the superhero. I was only 7 at the time, but I remember how impressed and deeply effected I was by the movie going experience. I continued to read the comics, see all the Superman movies (often multiple times), watch the Lois and Clark series, and then Smallville. I was hopeful for Superman Returns in 2006, but sadly it fell short in so many ways.
When the trailer for Man of Steel was first released my expectations soared. The trailer foreshadowed a movie that nailed the very essence of Superman. Unfortunately, the comics, movies and television shows always seemed to miss the point. They focused on what kinds of great power could be a threat to Superman. From different colors of Kryptonite, to magic, to hundreds of different races of aliens, each new story attempted to challenge Superman's physical abilities.
But Superman has always been about more than his abilities. The real themes of Superman center around the moral challenges. It's the pain of not being able to save everyone, not even your loved ones, despite having seemingly unlimited power. It's the challenge of being different from everyone else and having them fear you even when you are trying to help them. It's the constant ebb and flow of fitting in for a moment, then being reminded once again that you never can because of who you are. Superman illustrates that even if we were all-powerful, there would still be suffering, pain, loss and disappointment. In some ways, it becomes even worse.
The Man of Steel is an origin film and a retelling. The writers, Nolan (who knows how to nail a superhero origin story) and Goyer, who cowrote with Nolan on the Batman trilogy, take some liberties with the storyline we all know so well. Elements are changed and the story is not told in a traditional timeline. While some may initially be taken aback by this approach, and, many movies fail miserably in making these changes (Star Trek: Into the Dark for example), in the end, the story changes not only worked, they actually strengthened the major themes. From the way flashbacks are used to enhance the story and illustrate character growth, to a sacrifice made by a major character, to changes in the way characters are introduced not only to us but to each other, each element of the story is carefully crafted to develop the characters and the theme.
The casting was superb, chiefly with Cavill as Superman. He will forever be thought of as Superman, much as Christopher Reeve has been for generations. Not a single character felt underdeveloped or poorly played. The score by Hans Zimmer was spot on and created the perfect feel for each scene. The special effects were well done, even breathtaking at times, and never cheesy. They supported the story and didn't draw attention away from it, and yet at times, you had to stop and think, 'How are they doing this so well?' The directing and editing were perfectly executed to help tell the brilliantly written story.
In the end, there is no doubt this movie was the best Superman of all time, but I'll go even further than that. For me, it was the best superhero movie of all time, and, my favorite movie of all my years and 1000's of movies seen. Yes, you read that right. Man of Steel is my favorite movie of all time. There were so many moments when I either had chills from my neck down my arms into my soul, or had tears streaming down my cheeks. There was loss, triumph, uncertainty, and self discovery.
The team behind Man of Steel have created a once in a lifetime movie about faith, determination, parental love and support, being different, and a willingness to sacrifice in the name of love.
I give this movie the highest rating possible, 10 out of 10, or in my rating system for this site, four dollar signs. See it at the movie theater as soon as possible. You'll want to see it more than once and buy the DVD. I'm already planning my next viewing.