Posts Tagged ‘Michael Shannon’

So here is my promised take on Zack Snyder’s latest flick, a reboot of the “Superman” epic.

I enjoyed Fr. Barron’s observation of the conflict between external control and personal autonomy in the film.  I must confess, however, that this never occurred to me.

While watching the film, I was more drawn to the contrasting images of what it means to be a super-man.

movies-man-of-steel-henry-cavillOn the one hand, we have Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) — alias “Superman.”

General ZodBut then we also have General Zod (Michael Shannon), the arch-nemesis seeking to rebuild the lost empire of Krypton on the bones of vanquished humankind.

I’m not going to go into a routine exposition of how one uses his superpowers for good, and the other for evil.  There’s nothing new in that, nor does it take a summa cum laude doctoral graduate in quantum physics to see it.  But I do want to take that general split as it appears in “Man of Steel” and look a little deeper into it.

Actually, it is from one of Zod’s soldiers, Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) that the audience gets a good summation of his brand of super-humanity.  While engaged in one of the film’s many slam-bam action sequences, she tells Kent that she and her companions possess an “evolutionary advantage” over him in that he has a sense of morality, and they do not.

She then caps off her assertion with the chilling phrase: “…and evolution always wins.”

NietzscheMany people are unaware that the term “Superman” was coined by the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  An unapologetic nihilist, Nietzsche believed that such things as religion and morality were relics of a bygone phase of human evolution.

What is more, he believed that humanity was progressing beyond that childish phase — “beyond good and evil” — and was only meant to progress further from then on.

Eventually, this evolutionary progression would produce a new race of man: The Übermensch, or “Superman.”  Free from the restraints of religion and morality, this master race would rule the mindless rabble of humanity by virtue of their power and ability to exercise dominion.

Nietzschean philosophy would seem to be in some sense the height of Social Darwinism, of the “survival of the fittest” philosophy.  General Zod and his cronies are clearly super-humans of the Nietzschean Übermensch variety.


But there is another aspect of the evolution question that is useful here, and that is the general notion that our current state — that is, as far as the physical aspect of our being is concerned — is the result of progression from one state to another, and that perhaps man is still meant to progress to another, more exalted stage.

What might that next stage be, and do we see it reflected in Clark Kent?  We’ll tackle that in part 2.

Movie images obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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