Man of Steel begins on the doomed planet Krypton with the birth of a baby boy named Kal-El. This is the first natural birth to have occurred on Krypton in centuries. Kal-El’s mother, Lara (Ayelet Zurer), and father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), have committed crimes to have their son. Many of the planet’s warriors are unhappy with Krypton’s leaders. Led by General Zod (Michael Shannon), the warriors attempt a coup, during which Jor-El is killed. The coup fails, Zod and his followers are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, and Krypton self-destructs, but Lara saves her baby by sending him on a spacecraft to distant planet Earth.
We next see Kal-El as a grown man called Clark Kent, the adopted son of Jonathon and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Clark has kept his special powers hidden from the world for the past 33 years, although investigative journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) almost uncovers his secret.
Circumstances change drastically for Clark when he discovers an ancient Kryptonian scout ship buried in the ice in Canada. This reveals his true identity, but also sets off a homing beacon that leads a revengeful Zod, who has escaped from the Phantom Zone, to Earth.
Man of Steel has intense and sometimes brutal sequences of science fiction action violence, including some deaths and some blood and gore. For example:
- Kryptonian soldiers with laser guns shoot their way into a room. They shoot two guards, who fall to the ground. An unarmed woman is shot in the chest and disintegrates.
- During a brutal fight between two Kryptonian men wearing armour, one man strikes the other in the face with a rifle. This causes a bloody wound. They punch each other in the face, and head-butt and elbow each other. One man stabs the other in the abdomen. We hear the sound of the blade slicing into his abdomen before he falls to the ground dead.
- After being shot at by a gunship, a Kryptonian man jumps off a cliff and lands on the back of a flying creature. Gunships chase the man and fire laser cannons at him. The man dodges the gunfire. The winged creature gets a bloody wound on its side, and the creature and rider crash-land on a platform. The man isn’t hurt, but the creature seems to be dead.
- A couple of scenes show young Clark being bullied by his peers. On a school bus Clark’s peers tease him by calling him offensive names. Young boys push Clark into a fence. They physically threaten him and taunt him to fight back.
- While aboard an alien spacecraft, Lois is attacked by the tentacle-like arm of a mechanical probe, which throws her hard against a wall. There are two small bloody wounds on her abdomen.
- An alien strangles an elderly woman then throws her to the ground.
- In a fit of rage, Superman repeatedly punches General Zod in the face.
- An extended battle scene between Superman and General Zod and his followers results in mass destruction. A petrol station explodes in a gigantic fireball, and a truck flies through the air and crashes into a helicopter. This causes the helicopter to spin out of control and crash. Aliens are thrown like missiles through a skyscraper, causing it to crash to the ground. An air force jet crashes into a skyscraper, causing mass destruction.
- An alien picks up Superman and throws him around like a rag doll. The alien brutally bashes Superman against a truck and the ground, and punches him in the face and stomach.
- An alien brutally snaps a soldier’s neck, killing him. Superman reluctantly does the same thing to the alien.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- There are a several scary-looking characters, including aliens wearing threatening body armour with helmets that cover their faces, a four-legged turtle-like beast and giant four-winged pterodactyl-like creatures.
- A woman in childbirth moans and screams out in pain. There is blood on the newborn baby.
- One emotional scene shows a gigantic tornado heading towards a group of motorists on a freeway. It lifts up cars and throws them around. A man is sucked up into the tornado while his son watches and screams.
- An alien spacecraft creates a massive gravity pull on a city. This results in mass destruction. Hundreds of cars are squashed, massive buildings topple, and dust and debris are thrown up into the air. People scream, run for their lives and get trapped beneath rubble.
- A blazing oil rig explodes. Fireballs shoot up into the sky and several men are trapped. Superman is engulfed in flames but rescues the trapped men. The oil rig then collapses into the ocean with Superman trapped underneath. He floats lifeless below the water for a couple of minutes before he regains consciousness.
- A Kryptonian man swims underwater among a field of fetuses in balloon-like sacks. A skeletal arm reaches out and removes one of the sacks.
- Some Kryptonian prisoners moan and writhe as they are covered by a liquid that changes into a crystal-like substance and completely encases them.
- An apocalyptic scene shows the surface of a destroyed planet littered with bodies and skulls. Superman sinks into the skulls as if they are quicksand. He screams.
- Unable to breathe the atmosphere aboard an alien spacecraft, Superman begins to choke. He falls to the ground, vomiting up significant amounts of blood and then falling unconscious.
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:
- While at school the young Clark has a panic attack when his senses get overloaded. His x-ray vision becomes uncontrollable and he sees through his teacher’s skin and flesh. We see images of her muscles, skeleton and beating heart. Clark runs away crying and locks himself in a store room. He won’t come out until his mother comes and calms him down.
- A school bus full of young children crashes through a bridge and into a river, sinking below the water. The bus driver is knocked unconscious, and the water rises in the bus. The children struggle to keep their heads above the water. They scream. The bus and the children are completely covered by water, and the children seem to be drowning. In the next second the bus rises out of the water being pushed by Clark.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
This movie has one sexual reference – a female air force officer says that she thinks Superman is ‘kind of hot’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- People drink beer and spirits in a bar.
- Lois drinks a ‘scotch on the rocks’.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie has some sexual activity. For example:
- Superman and Lois hold hands in a couple of scenes, briefly hug and kiss passionately a couple of times.
- In a bar, a man touches a female waitress on her buttock in a sexually suggestive and dominating way.
There are some products shown in this movie, including Nikon cameras.
This movie has some coarse language (some of which is spoken by school children) and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Man of Steel is a superhero action adventure targeting teenage boys and men, as well as fans of Superman movies and comics. It is darker than previous Superman movies and has a similar feel to the Dark Knight movies.
Although the movie will probably entertain its target groups with its almost non-stop action, its running time of nearly 2½ hours is perhaps longer than it needs to be. The movie’s scary characters and many violent and disturbing scenes are likely to terrify younger children. Therefore it isn’t recommended for children under 12 years, with parental guidance recommended for children aged 12-15 years. The scary scenes are more intense in the 3D version.
Several characters in this movie show selflessness. For example, both of Superman’s fathers give their lives to protect the people they love, and Lois risks her life several times to save Superman. Superman uses his powers selflessly to protect humanity. The message that you should use your powers and talents for good comes through strongly.
You could talk with your children about the dilemma Superman faces when he must choose between killing a fellow Kryptonian and allowing the Kryptonian to murder an Earth family.