Director Zach Snyder attempts to address some serious problems with the Superman mythos that have generally been conveniently ignored for eighty years, and for that “Man of Steel” deserves attention beyond the usual fan-based hyperbole surrounding every new comic book epic. Beyond his status as one of the original superhero characters in popular American culture, the character known alternately as Superman (Henry Cavill) and Clark Kent is a continuous template of American values as adopted by the ultimate immigrant traveler: his story is that of one whose individual powers are that of the most invincible force on the planet, yet held in well-tempered check through an upbringing rich in the simple human values (cue in Truth, Justice and the American Way) instilled by his adoptive parents, Kansas farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), though- in keeping with the Richard Donner original -the guiding hand of Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is also prevalent, though in the case of “Man of Steel”, this aspect of the story suffers from an extreme excess. (It’s hard to take the constant whining about the population of Krypton being extinct when the film features far more of them running about than Earthlings. The Kryptonians in this film are like obnoxious dinner guests who just won’t go home.) A few key figures of the usual suspects are present- mainly Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) -but the general focus is a tale of separation; of a surrender of one’s cultural roots in the establishment of an assimilation into an entirely foreign environment. That Superman represents both an outsider seeking commonality with a potentially disposable populace while simultaneously acting as selfless protectorate to that same society is one of the universal appeals of the character, which has undergone generational passage by similarly empowered and costumed “heroes”, many (if not most) who fulfill their destinies armed with equal amounts of personal problems, aggressive neuroses and general feelings of societal dislocation. Superman, among almost all comic book heroes (though Wonder Woman may be comparable) has remained- despite his necessary initial cultural and parental separation -for lack of a better phrase: extremely well-balanced. Much of the enormous appeal of Superman throughout the years has been his relative behavioral normalcy when not engaged in saving the planet from enemies both galactic and Lex Lutherian. He is the Everyman of Supermen, though certainly guided by far stricter guidelines of personal conduct that would the average person equipped with equally destructive powers. It is also this normalcy which naturally makes Superman just a tad dull next to the more flamboyant personalities of Batman (especially in his modern incarnations where he is often temperamentally inseparable from those he pursues) and the bevy of Marvel muscle which seems equally engaged in petty squabbling and flashes on manic ego rather than getting to the action at hand.
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