It’s probably a bit late to write about ‘Man of Steel’ the movie, but it just shows that the movie impressed me so much, I feel compelled to write about it.
[WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD]
I love movies with ‘themes’, and Man of Steel is one of them. It does not matter whether it is a summer blockbuster, a high-brow “award” movie, or innocent animated feature (Wreck-It-Ralph!), if a movie has a strong theme, it usually sticks to my mind. Now ‘Man of Steel’ may have several themes, but one particularly stands out to me. It is about one’s fate and destiny.
The subject of fate was first brought up when we learned that Kal-El is the first natural birth in Krypton for ages. For so long Kryptonians were born with designated roles, through genetic engineering. One is born as scientist, a worker, a warrior, or other roles determined by the government or society. But Kal-El was born naturally, and hence Jor-El’s hope that his son can choose his own destiny.
Kal-El’s earth father, Mr. Kent, also expressed the same thing. “You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good or bad, he is going to change the world”.
So on one end, we have Kal-El. A baby born naturally is a society where everything is predetermined. And he was raised by Jonathan Kent, an earthling who believes a child must decide who he is growing up into. In other words, Kal-El/Clark Kent is a man of choice. He has choice to decide his own fate.
On the other end, we have the complete opposite, General Zod. We learned that General Zod was part of the genetically-predetermined reproduction. He was born to be a warrior. Unlike Kal-El, General Zod’s fate was sealed from the moment he was born.
General Zod was portrayed to be a cruel, cold-hearted villain in the movie. But if you think it further, he was as much a victim in this story. In fact, the audience should spare a moment of pity for the guy. And the cue for sympathy actually comes in the scene when the last of his fellow warrior has fallen. Zod lamented, “…I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born…and now, I have no people. My soul, that is what you have taken from me“.
I do not know how you feel, but upon hearing this, I did feel sorry for him. What good is a warrior without people to protect and defend?
Did General Zod have a choice? Perhaps. But he was acting the best as his designated role demanded. “No matter how violent, every action I take is for the greater good of my people”. And the scary thing is, he IS right. All he wanted to do was to preserve Krypton’s civilization. That is all he was designed for, as a warrior. That is his sole reason for existence. And with the last hope of reviving Krypton’s DNA code gone, he lost his purpose.
In the finale, you can almost feel that General Zod wanted to die, in a way worthy of a true warrior – in the hands of his opponent. He knew Kal-El would have no choice but terminating him if he continued to kill humans. And that was what he got. An honorable warrior’s death.
‘Man of Steel’ sends a strong message about the danger of lost freedom. Of the threat of predetermined life. Of not being able to choose one’s own path. Of not being able to decide one’s own fate. But also of the hope that lies in the freedom of choice, as was embodied by Kal-El, Son of Krypton, Son of Man.