Man of Steel – Slave to the Story

Posted Pete Bauer Screenplay, Uncategorized

The latest incarnation of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel, does many things well and some other things poorly. The overall experience, however, is satisfying.

There are **SPOILERS** in this post, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, take the necessary steps.


When facing the blank page, the story tellers (David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan) decided to tell the origin story of Superman by including a battle between two Kryptonians, Kal-El (Superman) and General Zod.

If you decide to take that route then a couple of things have to occur. The battle between two super-human beings must be epic. The scale must, therefore, be large. And the ferocity of the fight must be like something we have never seen before.

And Man of Steel does all of this very well.

The problem? The battle is so large, with bodies, cars and trucks destroying all of the buildings in sight that the collateral damage will invariably include hundreds, if not thousands, of casualties.

The effect? You lose a sense of concern for the inhabitants of Metropolis during the struggle. After watching entire buildings crumble and collapse, seeing a few people huddling behind cars for safety is almost laughable.

The story tellers also do their best to try to get us to identify with an alien that cannot get hurt by our standards. The end result is a mixed bag, where you have sympathy for Superman, but we can’t possibly feel empathy.

Another wasted moment was due to the misplaced revelation, or clarification, of Zod’s motives. Kryptonians are bred for a specific function in society. They are engineered. Kal-El is special because he was born the old fashioned way, which is illegal.

Why is this important?

Zod decides, in order to save his people, he is going to terraform Earth to make it the next Krypton. The down side? Humanity gets destroyed in the process.


At the end of the story, before Zods ultimate defeat, he tells Kal-El that he was made, genetically, to protect the people of Krypton and that he has no option but to do whatever it takes to do that. Including killing everyone on Earth.

That clarification, that revelation, came too late, in my opinion.

It would have been far more powerful if Zod would have told Kal-El that information when they first met. Because then the epic, explosive battle would not only have been massive, it would have been inevitable.

And that inevitability would have made Kal-El’s sacrifice, being forced to kill the last of his people, even that much more devastating.  He simply would have had no choice.

Finally, by choosing this uber-villain as Superman’s coming out party, I can’t help but wonder; how can any human villain ever come close to being a threat to Superman as was Zod and his army?

How do you top that? How will an average bank robbery, or kidnapping, or nuke, or terrorist event even blink on the radar of consequence when Superman already took out an army of super beings?

When you commit to a story line, there can be some unintended consequences. The creators of Man of Steel may have written themselves into a corner by choosing to tell this new origin story this way.

What do you think they’ll do to give Superman a legitimate challenge in the sequels?  Will it be more spectacle or more personal?

With two sequels already planned, it won’t be long before we find out.

3 Comments on “Man of Steel – Slave to the Story

  • Karl says:

    Great insight Paul. I just wrote a review of the film for my blog. I would have to say that I disagree about the revelations of Zod. It is at the end that Superman has no choice but to kill Zod when he puts humans in peril. But I agree with your thoughts on the carnage that happens. In the comics Superman would never allow other humans to die, and it is a bit silly to have Superman conflicted about the deaths of humans when all the carnage that preceded it has no effect on our hero. Good to see you blogging again!!!!

    • Karl says:

      Sorry Pete. I called you Paul. Why I have no idea!!!!

      • sonlightpicturesblog says:

        That’s okay. Being the last of eight kids, my Dad used to call me Steve. 🙂

        I think your take on Lois’ affect on Superman is spot on. And, in a lot of ways, I liked how different this origin story was from pervious versions. I especially liked the history and the struggle of what to do with his power as told through the relationship between he and his father. That was very effective.

        I think Cavill makes a perfect Superman. He’s both rugged and very natural as an actor. I, like you, felt the pacing was uneven. And I thought it was overtly loud at times for no real reason, especially in the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *