Superhero movies mean merchandise, which for most studios, is where the real money lies once the box office cycle is done. Because while Warner Bros. is likely enjoying (and still counting) the $580 million that “Man of Steel” has brought in so far, they are likely just as excited to see the sales of the numerous toys and tie-in products, and of course the numbers that the eventual home video release will be bringing in as well. The money never really stops being printed. And so perhaps it’s the long reach of the unending revenue streams that has kept the movie novelization business alive, when the very purpose of owning the book of a movie that will be available to watch at home in a matter of months feels antiquated. But then again, there will always be super-collectors, those who can’t help but spend their disposable income on any movie-affiliated material, and maybe they will be the ones to keep the movie tie-in book alive for the future. However, at least in the case of “Man of Steel,” the book does offer some minor glimpses of new scenes and textures that will make anyone who loved the movie at least curious to see what may have been left out of the theatrical cut.
“The movie was still in production while I was writing the book, so I didn’t have an opportunity to see the film,” author Greg Cox told Comic Book Movie about his work on the Superman book. “What happened was that I flew out to Los Angeles last summer to read the script, check out a gallery of pre-production art, inspect some of the props and costumes, and generally pick the brains of various people involved with the movie. Later on, I would occasionally email Warner Bros. with specific questions about this scene or that.” And indeed, being involved that early in the game, and crucially, getting a peek at the script (we can only imagine the security Cox had to deal with to get near it) means that his book, which only hit store shelves on the Tuesday after the film opened, does contain some stuff from David Goyer‘s initial drafts that didn’t get in front of the cameras.
So what kind of revelations do you get? Well, like we said, most of it isn’t exactly Earth shattering, though it is interesting. As IGN revealed when they published the opening excerpt from the book, General Zod and Jor-El were childhood friends and more than a few of the things revealed in Empire‘s dissection of the film’s development are fleshed out a bit in the Cox’s book. For example, the polar bear shot in the movie is just one in a handful of animal-centered sequences that found Clark crossing the path of sea lions after the oil rig disaster, and flying over herds of zebras in Kenya when he finally tests out his abilities after donning his new suit (he also takes a quick tour of Monument Valley in Utah, managing to break one of the rock formations in the process). And there are all kinds of other little flourishes: the WikiLeaks-esque blogger that Lois Lane meets in the film is far from a dapper nerd and is described in the book as “a scuzzy, middle-aged newshound who reeked of booze and tobacco,” young Clark Kent is called a “fag” by one of the bullies and other tiny changes or additions are featured.
But perhaps one of more significant scenes in the book that we don’t witness in the film, that Goyer explained was one of the things cut from the first draft of the script, saw Ma and Pa Kent bringing a six-month-old Kal/Clark to the doctor. The growing baby couldn’t stop crying, and the Kents, trying to find out what was wrong, brought him to get examined. Believing Clark to be suffering from colic, the doctor administers a hearing test, and Clark proceeds to scream so loud that he blows out the glass elements not just in the doctor’s office, but in the windshields and storefront windows across town. “It was a funny scene but we decided not to keep it in,” Goyer said. “Originally you cut from that pod landing to this scene to the fishing trawler and we just felt it was a more dramatic way to go if we went straight to the fishing trawler. And also coming off of the destruction of Kyrpton, it was a little early for any ‘Ha ha ha’ humour.” But it should be said, that in the book, it’s less a humorous scene than an early indication to the Kents that Clark is something far more than they imagined.
So, aside from all the little extra elements, what’s the actual read of “Man of Steel” like? Well, about as interesting as you might imagine reading an otherwise straightforward description of a movie might be. The novelization suffers the most with the opening Krypton sequence and endless action-packed climax, simply because reading them on the page lacks the gravitas and dynamics Zack Snyder brings to them in the movie. Written on the page, it’s simply not as engaging as watching it unfold in front of your eyes, and if you found those sequences punishing in their length in the movie, in the book it becomes even more draining, occupying pages upon pages upon pages but without any sense of tension or pace. But the middle third of the book works well enough, reading like the quasi-procedural that the movie is, and moving swiftly enough along, though your knowledge of the film fills in character traits that might not be all there in Cox’s writing.
All told, it’s only a certain audience that these kinds of books cater too. If you haven’t already snapped this up, you’re likely not going to. Until the Cormac McCarthy of movie novelizations comes along, that will likely remain the case for any tentpole that gets a book spinoff, but for the curious, “Man of Steel” does an adequate though not particularly memorable job of recapping the movie. But you’ll probably just want to watch it again on DVD or Blu-ray in a few months. [C]