Australian Council on Children and the Media

Man of Steel

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Not suitable under 12, PG to 15 (Violence: Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Man of Steel
  • a review of Man of Steel completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 July 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to violent and scary scenes
Children 12-15 Parental guidance recommended due to violent and scary scenes.
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Man of Steel
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science fiction violence
Length 143 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film Man of Steel, about the origins of Superman, 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 in centuries with Kal-El’s mother Lara (Ayelet Zurer) and father Jor-El, (Russell Crowe) having committed a number of crimes to achieve the birth of their son. Unhappy with Krypton’s leaders, a number of the planet’s warrior cast lead by General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempt a coup, at the height of which Jor-El is killed. The coup fails, Zod and his followers are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone and Krypton self destructs, but first Lara saves her baby by sending him on a spacecraft to the distant planet Earth.

We next see Kal-El as a grown man called Clark Kent, the adopted son of Jonathon (Kevin Costner) and Matha (Diane Lane) Kent. Clark has kept his special powers hidden from the world for the past thirty three 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. Clark now discovers his true identity, but also sets off a homing beacon that leads a revengeful Zod, who has escaped from the Phantom Zone, to Earth.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Super powers; Alien beings; Revenge

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Man of Steel contains intense sequences of science fiction action violence, occasional brutal,   including the depiction of some deaths and some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • Kryptonian soldiers with laser-like guns shooting their way into a room and shooting 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 we see one strike the other in the face with a rifle causing a bloody wound and see them punch each other in the face, 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.
  • In one perilous scene, a Kryptonian man after being shot at by a gunship jumps off a cliff to land on the back of a flying creature. The man is pursued by gunships that fires laser cannons at him with the man dodging the gunfire. The winged creature is wounded and we see a bloody wound on its side, and we see the creature and rider crash-land on a platform; the man is uninjured while the creature appears dead.   
  • A couple of scenes depict a young Clark being bullied by his peers. On a school bus Clark’s peers taunt him calling him offensive names. In one scene a group of young boys push Clark into a fence 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 and thrown hard against a wall; we see two small bloody wounds on her abdomen.     
  • An alien being strangles an elderly woman then throws her to the ground.
  • Superman, in a fit of rage, repeatedly punches General Zod in the face for an extended time.
  • An extended scene of a battle between Superman and General Zod and his followers results in mass destruction including a petrol station exploding in a gigantic fireball and a truck hurled through the air to crash into a helicopter, causing the helicopter to spin out of control and crash. Alien beings are thrown like missiles through a skyscraper, causing it to crash to the ground and an air force jet crashes into a skyscraper, causing mass destruction. 
  • An alien picks up Superman and throws him around like a ragdoll. He is brutally bashed against a truck and the ground, and punched in the face and stomach.
  • An alien being brutally snaps the neck of a soldier, killing him. Superman (with much reluctance) does the same to the alien.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are a number of scary looking characters, including alien beings wearing threatening body armour complete 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; when the baby is delivered there is blood on the newborn.
  • One emotional scene depicts a gigantic tornado heading towards a group of motorists on a freeway, cars being lifted up and thrown about by the tornado and a man sucked up into the tornado while his son watches, screaming. 
  • An alien spacecraft creates a massive gravity pull on a city, resulting in mass destruction with hundreds of cars being squashed and massive buildings toppled with dust and debris thrown up into the air. People scream and run for their lives and people are trapped beneath rubble.         
  • In one perilous scene we see a blazing oil rig with explosions erupting and fireballs shooting up into the sky and several men trapped. Superman, engulfed in flames, rescues the trapped men. The oilrig 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 amongst a field of foetuses in balloon-like sacks. A skeletal arm reaches out and removes one of the sacks.  
  • A group of Kryptonian prisoners moan and writhe as they are covered by a liquid which transforms into a crystal-like substance that completely encases them.   
  • An apocalyptic scene depicts the surface of a destroyed planet littered with bodies and skulls.  Superman sinks into the skulls as if they are quicksand and we hear him screaming.
  • Unable to breathe the atmosphere aboard an alien spacecraft, Superman begins to choke, falls to the ground vomiting up significant amounts of blood and then falls unconscious. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could particularly scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • While a school the young Clark  has a panic attack when his senses become overloaded his  x-ray vision becomes uncontrollable and 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 storeroom hiding, refusing to 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 and we hear them screaming. We see the bus and the school children completely submerged and children drowning, but in the next second the bus rises out of the water being pushed by Clark.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

Includes Nikon cameras

Sexual references

The film contains one sexual reference.

  • A female air force officer says in relation to Superman “I just think he’s kind of hot”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • 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 manner.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • People drinking beer and spirits in a bar; Lois drinks a “scotch on the rocks”.

Coarse language

The film contains some coarse language (some of which is spoken by school children) and name calling. Examples include:

  • Dumb arse; arse wipe; dick splash; arsehole; are you effin’ stupid?;creep, weirdo, freak

In a nutshell

Man of Steel is a superhero action adventure targeting adolescent and adult males, and particularly fans of Superman films and comics. It is darker than previous Superman films and has a similar feel to the Dark Knight films, although not quite as dark. While the film is likely to entertain target groups with almost non-stop action, the running time of nearly two and a half hours is perhaps longer than it needs to be.  The film’s scary characters and many violent and disturbing scenes are likely to terrify younger children and it is not recommended for under twelves, with parental guidance recommended for 12 to 15 year olds. The scary scenes are more intense in the 3D version

Several characters in the film demonstrate selflessness. For example, both of Superman’s fathers gave their lives to protect the people they loved and Lois risks her life several times to save Superman. Throughout the film Superman used his powers selflessly to protect humanity and the message that one’s powers and talents should be used for good comes through strongly.

Parents may wish to discuss the real life implications of the dilemma faced by Superman when he was placed in the position of either having to kill a fellow Kryptonian or allowing the Kryptonian to murder an Earth family.

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