In a sense, Superman is an illegal immigrant to the US. He turned up as a baby in Kansas, sent all the way by space capsule from the planet Krypton. He was dispatched by his father because the family lived on an ageing planet with an unstable core that was close to destruction. Man of Steel is about the discovery of Superman’s status as an illegal alien and the subsequent process of his naturalisation.
In this film, he has to answer the most vital and intellectually stimulating question posed to all immigrants from unstable parts of the world: “Are you with us or against us?” Sure, he was born in Krypton and has unusual physiological attributes that were hidden from the FBI by his adoptive parents, but his heart clearly beats for mankind. Unlike other Kryptonians who turn up later in the film, Superman (Henry Cavill) is culturally and socially human. He is a ‘moral’ individual, not just a product of ruthless evolutionary biology like General Zod (played by Michael Shannon).
Earlier Superman adaptations could be taken as entertaining comic strips on film. Sadly, superhero films are increasingly turning political, particularly under the tutelage of Christopher Nolan. He is the producer and story writer here, and like he turned Batman into an allegory on capitalism, law enforcement and the State, he has turned part of this film into HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, where imperialist invaders turn up to colonise the planet.
A tripod-like alien craft, as in Wells’ novel, settles over the city, and this causes buildings around to collapse, astonishingly like documentary footage of the Twin Towers collapsing, with corrosive dust and paper flying around and a haze enveloping the metropolis.
So, unfortunately, the daft idea of turning a comic strip into a contemporary political reference turns Man of Steel into complete mishmash, neither comic strip nor science fiction, nor intelligent politics.