In one of the film's quietest but most effective scenes, we feel the full weight of Clark's double life as his mom (Diane Lane, Secretariat) gently coaxes him out of a janitorial closet he's locked himself in at school. Lovingly advising him to imagine the world as "small" when it feels so big and out of reach, she reaches into Clark's inherently sacrificial nature that is both a blessing and a burden to him—a theme that rings throughout Man of Steel.

Even at 33, Clark (played as an adult by Henry Cavill) still struggles with many of the same issues. Drifting from place to place and finding little real connection in the process, Clark nonetheless shows up when the fate of his adopted planet hangs in the balance. While it would be far easier to remain in obscurity and let someone else intervene, he opts to reveal his true identity, fight a formidable foe and save his country from danger, no matter the cost.

Clear parallels to the life of Christ and themes of sacrifice, redemption and an unwavering love of mankind elevate Superman's story above the realm of mere entertainment. Trouble is, as emotionally effective as Man of Steel’s underlying story is, the filmmakers simply can't resist all the trivial trappings that come with big-budget behemoths, particularly the seemingly endless action sequences that feel like leftovers from Transformers.

One almost forgets who's fighting with whom—and why. Worse yet, some characters you'd expect to play a more integral role in a Superman story, namely journalist Lois Lane, are practically M.I.A. While Amy Adams (The Muppets) does her best with what she's been given, she's basically playing second fiddle to a slew of meaningless special effects.

Still, when compared to most summer blockbusters and superhero movies, Man of Steel offers a superior balance of substance and style. And who knows? If we're lucky, this Superman franchise (and Justice League movie?) will follow the trajectory of The Dark Knight Trilogy, with the inevitable sequels significantly upping the ante.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None
  • Language/Profanity: Not excessive, but there are a couple of exclamations of God’s name and uses of milder profanity including he--, da--, as-.
  • Sex/Nudity: A quick childbirth scene (nothing too graphic) and a couple of shots of a naked baby boy. Some kissing. A reference to Superman being "hot."
  • Violence/Mature Themes: In a scene that looks strikingly familiar to what happened recently in Oklahoma, a tornado rips through Kansas, and several people perish as a result. In one of the film’s most intense scenes, a school bus filled with children falls from a bridge into a nearby river. We see the bus sink and kids on the verge of drowning until Superman intervenes. There are several extended scenes involving rapid gunfire, crumbling buildings, explosions and intense fight sequences with the fate of Earth in question. Although not as menacing as, say, the Joker or Bane in the recent Batman franchise, General Zod is plenty scary. Lacking any sort of moral compass, he will take out anyone in his way. There are also some troubling scenes of bullying/persecution as classmates make fun of Clark for being different.
  • Spiritual Themes: Although Jesus is never mentioned by name, there are clear parallels in how Clark conducts himself, particularly with his selfless nature. When Clark’s mom's house crumbles spectacularly to pieces, she remarks how it’s "just stuff." Clark is encouraged to make a difference in the world, and while he’s not perfect, it’s clearly a guiding principle for his existence.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the MeddlersBased in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.

Publication date: June 13, 2013

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