Man of Steel
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Superman's back in brooding, action-packed reboot.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
As is the case with most superhero movies, the underlying message is one of good versus evil, with Superman caught in the middle trying to decide how to navigate between his people by blood (the Kryptonians) and his people by circumstance (humans). The other main message is Superman's hero's journey of self discovery and acceptance of his power, his role and his responsibility to help and protect others. Another theme is preservation, whether it's self-preservation (Jonathan Kent thinks it's important for Clark to hide his powers lest he be manipulated by people and the government) or preservation of an entire race (Jor-El sends his baby son to Earth so he can be the best of both Krypton and his new home planet, and Zod is willing to eradicate humanity to see a new Krypton flourish).
Positive Role Models
Clark/Kal-El/Superman is always selflessly willing to use his strength to save others, whether it's kids drowning on his school bus, strangers working on a burning oil rig, or Lois Lane being hurt by a Kryptonian robot. Even younger viewers will understand that this Superman is what his father Jor-El called the best of both Krypton and Earth. (That said -- possible spoiler alert! -- Superman does kill an enemy in this movie, which isn't typical for the character.) Both of Superman's fathers are wise and selfless. Jor-El guides his beloved Kal-El, even from beyond the grave. He encourages his son to use his superhuman gifts and strength to help humanity, not destroy it. Jonathan Kent reminds Clark to protect himself and not show off his strength until he feels the world is ready for him. Martha is a loving, unconditional mother who just wants whatever will keep Clark safe. Lois is a courageous investigative journalist who's willing to kill a story if it means helping Superman.
Violence & Scariness
The mass destruction and collateral damage caused in the movie aren't shown in a close-up or bloody manner, but buildings collapse or burn down, cars are flattened, and helicopters and planes are downed. Both adults and children are frequently in peril. An entire planet is destroyed. General Zod and his army have no regard for human life and plan to kill off the entire species and repopulate earth with Kryptonians. Lots of almost too-fast-to-process hand-to-hand combat between Superman and Zod and his warriors -- necks are broken, and people are killed so quickly that it's hard to keep a body count. At one point, Martha Kent is nearly choked to death for information about Clark, which infuriates Superman. A final confrontation ends with Superman reluctantly breaking someone's neck.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lois and Clark hold hands, look longingly at each other, and share a couple of kisses.
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Occasional language and insults include "s--t," "ass," "hell," "d--k," "a--wipe," "d--ksplash," "oh my God," "damn," and "crap." "F-ing" is said once, without the other letters filled in.
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Products & Purchases
IHOP restaurant is displayed prominently a few times: A character works there, the logo is shown (exterior and interior), and scenes are shot in the Smallville IHOP. Sears is also shown. Lois's DSLR camera, a Nikon D3 (a $10,000+ camera), is shown close-up in one sequence. The movie has more than 100 global off-screen product tie-ins/promotional partnerships.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One scene takes place a bar-restaurant where adults are drinking. An adult drinks a Scotch on the rocks.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Man of Steel, the latest take on the legendary Superman character, is darker than the classic Superman films but lighter (and less bloody) than The Dark Knight trilogy. There's definitely a lot of violence (including a destroyed planet, necks being broken, hand-to-hand combat that results in deaths, and -- possible spoiler alert -- Superman actually killing an enemy), but it's more macro than micro in scale: buildings topple, the sea crashes down, planes plummet, etc. Language is infrequent but includes occasional use of "s--t," "d--k," and "ass." The romance even tamer: Lois Lane and Superman hold hands and kiss twice in one scene. Product placements are limited to IHOP, which is shown a few times, and Nikon (but there are more than 100 off-screen licensing deals/promotions in place globally for the movie). Expect plenty of messages about good and evil and identity and what it means to be a hero; ultimately this is a story about the duality of Superman's life (part Clark Kent, part Kal-El), as symbolized by his two fathers.
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Man of Steel
Based on 47 parent reviews
Mindless violence ruins great build up
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What's the Story?
MAN OF STEEL begins with the origin story of Superman's birth on Krypton. Unlike all the other babies on Krypton -- who are engineered by a codex to be workers, warriors, leaders, or scientists -- baby Kal-El was made the old-fashioned way, by the planet's head scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), and his wife, Lara (Ayelet Zurer). During a failed coup attempt by General Zod (Michael Shannon), Jor-El is killed -- but not before his wife launches their newborn son to the distant planet Earth. Zod and his cronies are banished -- a sentence that ultimately saves the troop of villains when Krypton implodes. Fast forward to Earth, where a grown, bearded, and handsome Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is a nomad who -- as his late father, Jonathan (Kevin Costner) instructed -- hides his special powers, except for occasionally saving men from a burning oil rig or rescuing fearless investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Clark finds out who he really is when he discovers an ancient Kryptonian scouting ship, but the same command key that lures his father's ghost acts a beacon for Zod and his army. When Zod's ship enters Earth's atmosphere, they demand Superman's surrender, making the caped Man of Steel reveal himself to the government and setting up a massive confrontation between Zod and Superman.
Is It Any Good?
Director Zack Snyder's take on the Superman legend is seriously reverent. He strikes a tone that's lighter than Christopher Nolan's unrelentingly violent and contemplative Dark Knight trilogy but darker than the humor- and banter-filled The Avengers. Superman has always been unique among the popular superheroes: He's not a mutant or a billionaire with a penchant for vigilante justice; he's a straight-up alien who doesn't know why he's on Earth, where he came from, or what his purpose is as a lone outsider in a world of humans. Cavill is dashing and strong enough to pull off the role, and he certainly has the broodiness and the requisite Snyder-mandated six pack. But all of his self reflection, as understandable as it is, could use more levity, more spark, more of Christopher Reeve's sense of joy in the red and blue costume.
It's the more mature generation of actors in the movie who lend it its gravitas: Costner and Crowe as Superman's two fathers, both dead but still guiding and inspiring and encouraging him (literally, in the case of Jor-El and symbolically -- and via flashbacks -- in the case of Jonathan Kent). Ultimately, though, Man of Steel, like Superman II, is a face-off between Superman and his ideological nemesis, supervillain General Zod. Shannon is brilliantly cast, and despite being ruthless, actually expresses precisely why he's willing to sacrifice humanity: Protecting and ensuring the future of the Krypton people is what he was created to do, no matter what the cost. And Snyder certainly knows his way around action sequences and huge CGI set pieces, while keeping the violence much less bloody than 300. The two-and-a-half-hour movie is considerably longer than necessary, but the dramatic fight scenes will keep audiences from checking their watches. The prospect of a sequel is enticing, because now that Clark has accepted his Superman persona, there should be more fun, humor, and romance in store for the Man of Steel.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how this Superman differs from past interpretations of the comic-book hero. How is Man of Steel unique? What parts of the story are the same? Which adaptation do you like best, and why?
How does the impact of the violence in this movie compare to other superhero stories you've seen? What about to other types of movies, like thrillers?
General Zod's behavior is "terrorist-like" -- he's willing to have his army destroy anyone and anything to further his cause. But he also makes decisions not out of a sadistic need for violence, but for what he considers the greater good of his people. He's genuinely upset that Jor-El and then Kal-El won't help him. Is Zod completely evil?
How does Superman's relationship with his two fathers influence the different aspects of his personality?
Many have raised the issue that it goes against the established Superman character to (possible spoiler alert!) have him kill someone, as he does in this movie. How does that action affect your opinion of Superman? Does the act have repercussions?
- In theaters: June 14, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 12, 2013
- Cast: Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Run time: 148 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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