Man of Steel isn’t a borderline summer blockbuster that tows the line to try and lure in all ages. It’s a darker, edgier take on Superman’s mythology that purposely thinks on an epic scale – but leaves behind its potential younger audience in the process.
Move over, General Zod. I’m going to have to play the bad guy for a few minutes, particularly if you are the parent of a young kid who has been asking to see the new Superman reboot, Man of Steel.
Warner Bros. makes a calculated move releasing Zack Snyder’s movie into theaters on Father’s Day weekend. Kal-El (Henry Cavill) might be pop-culture’s most famous orphan – yes, more famous than Harry Potter – and the dueling advice dispensed by the superhero’s two fathers means plenty of families might be planning Man of Steel trips to the movies.
But you might have to be careful about the violence and darker tones in this purposely grittier take on the Superman legend.
Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer make noticeable changes to Superman’s mythology in Man of Steel, but the core values to the classic D.C. superhero are intact. It’s part of the reason why parents might be thinking it’s OK to bring kids to Man of Steel. Superman never was Batman. He stood for hope and justice, where Batman fought crime from the shadows.
But Nolan’s Batman trilogy changed everything, so Man of Steel leans closer to The Dark Knight than it does to the action-packed by more accessible The Avengers.
The reasons we’ve adored Superman for decades are present in Man of Steel, though they’re sometimes obscured by a non-linear storytelling approach and an onslaught of bombastic action. Yes, the action sequences are going to be the main reason why your kids are going to WANT to see Snyder’s Superman movie. But by failing to pull a punch – literally and figuratively – Man of Steel becomes a hammering exercise in devastating movie violence, and might not be what a parent is expecting.
You know, it wasn’t even the violence that surprised me about Man of Steel. It was the language.
Snyder was tasked with delivering a Superman movie that allowed our hero to finally hit someone (after Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns took a pacifist approach). When the final 45 minutes of the films descended into chaotic sequences of city-destroying carnage, I rode out the storm of two super-powered beings clashing like titans even though I had little emotional investment. When the action kicks in, Man of Steel resembles a Transformers sequel – wonton devastation and perilous human consequences that young viewers might view as being too realistic.
I think that there’s an audience out there who have been waiting for an edgier Superman, and Man of Steel delivers on that promise. For years, Superman has received a somewhat gentle, entirely accessible silver-screen treatment. You can pull Richard Donner’s original Superman movie off the shelf and show it to most ages.
Man of Steel isn’t meant to be that movie. It was made in direct response to that movie. It’s a Superman movie for the Dark Knight crowd. It has a deep, convoluted sci-fi mythology. It gets confusing with its villainous motivations. And it’s action-packed, but also violent.
I think Man of Steel earns its PG-13 rating. And I also think that was Snyder’s intention. I wouldn’t bring my sons, ages 9 and 5, to Man of Steel. They want to see a Superman movie, obviously, but the language, violence and often-confusing non-linear approach to the storytelling would turn them off. This is a somber movie. It’s deadly serious. It isn’t very fun. And that makes it a tough sit for young kids.