Superman might look like just an exciting* film about a superhero, but it’s really a** profound statement about the environment, feminism and anti-Social-Darwinism hidden within an action film. It starts by showing us the unfortunate consequences of the hubris of a government intent on solving its environmental and energy problems with technology. Then, we quickly move on to the idea that Krypton is the logical conclusion of eugenics – every child is created to serve a purpose. Superman’s*** mum and dad then have a natural birth to give him the choice to be different. It’s the classic ‘we are not biologically determined’ argument (which reinforces the decent range of relatively strong female characters, including Lois Lane who saves the day before being saved). The clearest statements are easily missed because they come towards the end when everyone is getting thrown through walls. One is when Faora-Ul is about to throw Superman somewhere and she tells him that her race is superior because it has evolved to the point where they are better warriors because they (a) are more powerful and able to survive in their environment; and (b) they have fewer feelings and connections to others (this sounds like Social Darwinism but, confusingly, not necessarily what Darwin was going on about). Another is when Zod justifies his behaviour in terms of being designed with a particular purpose (and the consequences of achieving his aim are largely irrelevant). Finally, it gives some men something to aspire to – big muscles and being nice (and, if possible, destroying satellites designed to spy on him).
*No, it’s not boring.
***I know he isn’t yet Superman and they refuse to call him that. Symbol of hope my arse.