Adapting a big Hollywood picture into a novel can be a very difficult thing to do. You don’t always have that much control over the story you’re telling. It’s already been written, complete with plot structure and dialogue for every character and every scene. Certainly you could deviate from the story by adding new scenes and subplots in place of what was onscreen. The novelization for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith ended up having plenty of new scenes and several different subplots were involved, which in my opinion actually improved the story greatly. But instances like that particular adaptation are rare finds. It’s very easy to pick up a film novelization and just think that you’re enjoying only the bare bones to the real story, without any of the meat. Thankfully, that is not the case with the Man of Steel‘s novel.
During the reading, it does become apparent that the writer knows what he’s doing, and the reader may guess that he has experience writing this sort of thing. The novel was written by Greg Cox, a veteran of comic-book film novelizations, and geek culture in general. He actually wrote the novelizations for The Dark Knight Rises, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider, as well as adapting books and stories for various other films and television series as well.
The novel does a very good job of depicting the events of the film, in a way that only a book can do. A novel allows the reader to actually venture inside the hearts and minds of the characters that they’re reading about. Film, being a more visual medium, demands that the viewer instead learn to analyze the facial expressions and body language of the actors to try and understand what the people are feeling. The narration in Man of Steel does an excellent job at fleshing out some aspects that didn’t actually come across during the movie. There’s the idea that Clark always moves with a sort of quiet confidence. He knows that he’s nigh-invulnerable, so he doesn’t move with quite as much caution as normal people. We hear just how much he struggles with himself internally, and how much he truly wants to be accepted by the people of Earth. Though Henry Cavill did a great job with the character in the movie,
Cox manages to actually work in a great deal of references to the Superman mythology outside of what’s in the script. We learn that Zod’s personal scientist is none other than Jax-Ur, another infamous Kryptonian war criminal from the comics. We also discover that the Kent’s terrier is named Shelby, just like the family dog from the Smallville version. As a longtime Superman fan, I appreciated each of these little easter eggs immensely, and I’m sure that other fans would as well.
Although the events of the novel closely mirror those that occurred in the film, they do feel different in a way. For example, the fight sequences don’t feel as long or drawn-out as the ones in the film, which gives a bit more of a balance in the third act. It also gave the beats of the fights a bit of a smoother flow.
I didn’t just love the Man of Steel film, the way that some of the other writers here at Renegade did. That being said, something interesting happened while I was reading the novel. I found that sitting down and reading this book actually made me feel better about the film overall. Even though I’ve always been more a bibliophile than a cinephile, I never really expected something like that to happen.