This year, four science fiction-loving booksellers will delve into Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents: The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films, the new book by film historian Douglas Brode. They’ll watch the movies, read Brode’s take, and tell you – point blank – how they feel about all of it.
The following review has been written by Master Bookseller, Thomas W!
#52 in Douglas Brode’s Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents is Zack Snyder’s second superhero film, Man of Steel. The 2013 release of Man of Steel officially began the shared DC cinematic universe and did its best to bring the high flying Superman down to a level where viewers could identify with him.
First off I just want to say I think it’s hilarious that this film is #52 on the list since 52 has been a huge recurring number in the DC comics continuity for the last five years. When taken as just a sci-fi film, not a Superman story, this movie is legitimately very, very good. Its brilliantly constructed – both digitally and physically – sets, great acting, and a dark story of a young man’s struggle to find his place in a world where he clearly does not belong, all make for a wonderfully compelling film. Clark Kent’s story as a man torn between two fathers, who see two completely different paths for their son, as well as a dark paranoia created by a fear of aliens & superpowers, along with a climactic battle between two super beings that validates the fears of both fathers as well as the masses, make this a film that I would normally love to see higher on this list. The only problem with watching this movie while not thinking about it being a Superman film is that, well, it is a Superman film and on that level, I think Snyder swung and missed. Superman, at least for me, was never a character to identify with, he was someone to be inspired by, not someone to aspire to be. Superman should be a bright, hopeful figure that we place on a pedestal, not a lost, broody man who lets his adopted father die because of fear.
Brode cites the film’s condemnation of modern science, both Jor-El’s warning of doom should Kryptonians continue to harvest the core of their planet for resources and the natural conception of Kal-El as opposed to the technological birth of other Kryptonian children, as a theme that links it to other classic science fiction tales and notes that this film manages to convey both liberal, environmentalist, and conservative, natural childbirth, ideas of science at the same time without contradicting itself. The worst part about all of this for me is that he’s right. From the right point of view this is a really good sci-fi film that explores the fears of technology, a young man’s search for belonging in a world that isn’t his, and humanity’s place in a galaxy that has suddenly become much larger. For me, though, the first thought I’m always going to have about this movie is: I wish it were in color, not various shades of gray.
So yes, this film totally deserves its place, if not a higher one, on Brode’s list if you can separate it from Superman, but if you can’t I understand why you might be scratching your head on this one.
For Superman lovers, we have many Superman titles on our shelves now:
In our kid’s comics section: