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Man of Steel (Official Novelization)

ManOfSteel_final_cvr_US-1Author: Greg Cox
Publisher: Titan Books
Titan  £7.99

Man of Steel is still smashing up the box office and, as you’d expect, there are plenty of cool tie-ins for fans to collect. Official movie novels used to be indispensible but, these days, with the quick DVD/Blu-Ray turnaround they aren’t quite the must-have they used to be. That said, the quality of writing seems to be a lot better these days, and Man of Steel has been put in the safe hands of Greg Cox who did such a good job of The Dark Knight Rises not long ago.

We all know the plot, but, just in case anyone has been trapped in the Phantom Zone and missed all the fun, Man of Steel is essentially a retread of Superman The Movie and Superman II. Krypton is dying and legendary scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara send their son Kal, the only natural born Kryptonian, to safety in an escape pod. Kal arrives on earth where he is brought up in Smallville by kindly and morally decent Jonathan and  Martha Kent. Slowly he comes to terms with his alien nature and astonishing powers and begins the journey that wll lead to him donning  the legendary blue and red suit. Meanwhile, the destruction of Krypton frees the evil rebel General Zod and his strike team from their prison in the Phantom Zone, and they come looking for the son of Jor-El. It’s epic, heady stuff.

There’s not a lot of scope for Cox to stray from the screenplay and so we get a direct screen to page adaptation of the movie. Fortunately, David S Goyer’s script is rich material to work with and, as so much in the movie is purely visual, Cox is able to give some welcome extra emotional depth to the characters. This works particularly well for the female characters, Matha, Lara and Lois, who all get some additional emotional insight that wasn’t possible on the screen. We also get a few passages that add a valuable window into the mind of Zod, whose conscience and morality have been suppressed by the genetic engineering that made him a warrior. He’s still a monster, but the real evil lies in the fact that he was deliberately made this way by his own people.

The Krypton based opening section, so spectacular and awe-inspiring in the cinema is, oddly, the weakest part of the book, which just goes to emphasise the fact that what’s successful  in film and in print aren’t  always the same thing. Cox works hard to capture the tragic majesty of the dying world but it has nowhere near as much punch on the page, and feels like a long-winded prologue to the main story.

The finale does benefit from the novelisation. Some critics of the film have focused, rightly, on the carnage doled out to Metropolis in the final act. The wholesale destruction, while jaw-droppingly spectacular, did not sit comfortably with the idea of Superman as the saviour of the Earth. Cox is obviously conscious of this and makes a point of showing Superman’s grief at the destruction his presence has caused and all the lives he can’t save. More emphasis is placed on the humans blaming Zod and acknowledging that Superman is trying to help.

As movie adaptations go it’s about as good as you can get. It’s nicely presented although the cover is a bit bland compared to some of the stunning poster images used to promote the film. If you’re a collector make a bit of space on your shelf for the trilogy set, because Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder have announced another two Man of Steel movies. Let’s hope they’re both as good as the first.

David Stonehouse

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