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Immersed in Movies: Snyder, Cavill and More Talk Unapologetic 'Man of Steel,' a Father's Day Superman Gift

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood June 14, 2013 at 2:41PM

I couldn't help thinking about my late father when watching "Man of Steel." He adored Superman and I still remember asking him as a child what the difference was between Batman and Superman. He said Batman was about darkness and Superman was about light -- a perfect complement. In later years, though, he bemoaned the prevailing cynicism and nihilism that led to Superman going out of fashion.
Russell Crowe as Jor-El.
Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

This identity crisis grounds him in a reality that we can identity with before unleashing the superhero pyrotechnics in the second half. One of the complaints with the movie is that it's the anti-Donner Superman. But what did you expect after "The Dark Knight" trilogy? Another is that it inevitably lapses into the usual superhero fighting and CG destruction. Well, you can only linger so long on Clark's angst before showing off the full-force of Superman.

But I like that it's a movie at odds with itself. I found it poignant and cathartic. And there's a certain humility that's also refreshing in this journey about adoption, alienation, and assimilation. He's constantly tested and bullied in what eventually leads to a crisis of conscience when Superman battles General Zod (Michael Shannon).

In fact, humility was the very word that Snyder described to composer Hans Zimmer, which found its way into the theme via a lovely piano motif. "And the weird thing about that piano thing is, it doesn't sound very good, and it's not very well played," Zimmer recalls. "I tried to get better pianists and better players than myself to play it, and it lost all its charm. It had to be played by somebody inept."

That humility is part of the charm of "Man of Steel," an unapologetic Superman movie that attempts to make the DC superhero meaningful again in the 21st century. "I always felt like in the recent past that people had been apologizing for Superman a little bit for his costume, for his origins, for the way he fits into society," Snyder says. "And we really wanted to just say, 'No, no. This is the mythology. This is how it is, and it's supposed to be this way.' And I think that's kind of the movie we made. We wanted to enshrine him where he belongs. And whether or not that's making it too important, I don't know, but it was the way we wanted to do it. So it was fun."

My dad would've been 80 this year and I think he would've delighted in the unapologetic reverie of "Man of Steel." It's the perfect Father's Day gift for a new generation of fathers and sons.

This article is related to: Man Of Steel, Zack Snyder, Immersed In Movies

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.