Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Man of Steel movie novelization!
Let me start by saying that like most novelizations of films, if you didn’t like the movie in the theater, you’re not going to like it as a book. Greg Cox’ novel, based on the screenplay by David S. Goyer, is no different. So how did Cox do?
When I read a novelization, I’m looking for little additions. On screen, directors rely on actors to emote through gestures, facial expressions, and movement. But on the page, readers rely on the author’s descriptions and writing style to evoke those same feelings. Hopefully the writer can effectively use vivid description and a character’s internal monologue as well as their spoken words to express what the scriptwriter was trying to convey in the theater.
In Man of Steel, Superman gets a well-deserved update. Instead of the “Big Blue Boy Scout” from Smallville, Clark Kent is now a conflicted man coming to grips with the reality that he doesn’t neatly fit into our world or the one his parents saved him from in a small space ship. This is a Superman envisioned by the same writers who brought us Christian Bale’s Batman in Batman Begins back in 2005. A darker, grittier character for a modern world.
Clark goes on a walkabout through much of the first half of the story, attempting to not only get answers to his origins but figure out where he fits in the world, which made him much more relatable. And by the time he gets some of those answers, he has to make some tough decisions. Will the world accept him? Or shun him?
Growing up with the Christopher Reeve version of Clark Kent from 1978, I think it was definitely time for our resident Kryptonian to get a makeover in this age of comic book movie adaptations. And Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer managed to take concepts from the comics as well as inspiration from the Mario Puzo-written scripts for Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) and rough them up a bit for today’s audience.
Quite honestly I enjoyed much of the rebooted story at the theater and Cox’ novelization did little to take away from that. That said, describing some of the visuals from the movie was definitely a challenge. Sentences like “Blazing gouts of plasma and charged neutrons streaked through the air, spreading death and destruction” did their best to relay vivid other-worldly details of a battle on another world, but it became almost comical counting the number of times “blazing plasma” appeared in the text at one point. Even so, I think Cox did fairly well converting the screenplay to the book.
Did I enjoy the novel? I had the same issues with it that I had with the movie on the big screen, so yes and no. If you enjoyed the movie, you’ll likely enjoy the book. The quiet moments came through beautifully but the battles in the third act left me cold. For me, Cox could not save the story from itself.
For more about author Greg Cox, check out his website at GregCox-Author.com. And for details about Man of Steel and other DC Comics movies, check out the DC Comics/Movies web page for details on recent live-action and animated productions.