[The following article represents the sole views of Kofi Outlaw. They do NOT represent the views of the entire Screen Rant staff, owners, or subsidiaries. - "The Management"]
As another year in movies draws to a close it’s once again time for the usual annual debates, ranking movies released in 2013 according to various criteria of consideration. While every critic and awards show will be arguing over which movie ranks as overall best, or which actor or actress did best, we here at Screen Rant would rather take on a more specific – and more volatile – debate: which superhero movie was the best of the year.
2013 brought us a group of sequels - Kick-Ass 2, Iron Man 3, and Thor: The Dark World – and a semi-sequel thingy (Wolverine), but the biggest story was no doubt the world being reintroduced to the character of Superman on film. It was a long and hard road to get the character back into theaters, but for all intents and purposes, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has indeed secured a place in the zeitgeist for a new vision of Superman.
My praise of the film should come as no surprise to any longtime readers of Screen Rant; I gave Man of Steel a four-star review, whereas so many other critics (and viewers) were harsher. I’m not ignorant of the many objections to the film (if you listen to our Man of Steel podcast, I even support a lot of them) – it’s just that there’s been such deafening debate about what all is wrong with the Superman reboot, it’s drowned out a lot of the discussion about just how much was done right.
Here is why – in my opinion – Man of Steel is actually the best superhero film of the year – maybe of the last few years.
It Has Something to Say
Thor 2, Iron Man 3 and Kick-Ass 2 were all fun times at the theater – but all three were also short on substance when it came to any real themes or messages. That distinction is often the difference between comic book movies that make a deep impression on the cultural consciousness, and ones that are cast eventually off and forgotten for being silly, shallow, or generally ill-conceived.
Man of Steel is a different story. Literally. Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer – whatever you want to say about their dialogue or narrative structure choices – crafted a very substantive and multi-layered examination of who Superman is, and why he is an icon. Director Zack Snyder only compounded those ideas with some keen and insightful visual iconography and visual metaphor.
Whereas Superman Returns tried to repackage the world’s greatest superhero in a familiar (read: dated) package of Richard Donner nostalgia, Man of Steel posited ideas that are wholly relevant to the here and now. By way of the reboot, Superman is made a symbol to any kid who feels closeted, ostracized, unsure of their identity or is simply impatient for a greater purpose in life that awaits them. He’s a reminder that basic salt-and-earth principles and values never go out of style, that righteousness is a choice one must make – I could go on…
People have centered in on the “Fall of Metropolis” climatic battle or Superman’s killing of Zod as evidence that MoS has “ruined Superman,” but not only are these specious assertions - Zod wanted to level Metropolis and far outclassed Superman as a warrior; Superman also killed Zod in the comics as well as in Superman II - they are also views of narrow focus that totally discount the aspects of the character and mythos which Man of Steel highlighted in ways no other movie has before (Superman’s youth spent (sometimes literally) “in the closet,” his ethnic identity struggles, his faith, etc.).
The reboot offered real and timely messages about the world, by way of one of its biggest icons. No other piece of superhero escapist entertainment this year even came close to such an accomplishment. Very few superhero films ever have, if I’m being truthful.