Man of Steel Review: Kryptonian Display Technology

SPOILERS for Man of Steel ahead

Display technology is a recurring theme in my limited perspective reviews. For Oz, I wrote about live display on smoke, and for the original Alien, I came up with a theory for why you’d have such high DPI green screens in the future.

Man of Steel offers a similar conundrum, as the display technology for Krypton is a flying pinscreen. It’s monochrome, it’s extremely low DPI, and of course it’s designed to look good on the screen, especially in 3D.

I have looked for some stills of this, but can’t find any. If you’ve seen the movie, the technology I’m talking about is what showed Kal-El in-utero, flew next to Jor-El in his escape, showed Lara’s head when she warned Jor-El to look behind him, and presented Artificially Intelligent (AI) Jor-El’s history of Krypton to Superman.

Like I said, the driving force behind this technology being in the movie is undoubtedly because it looks good on screen. But, as always, my review of the in-movie technology is based on the fictional world that we are presented with, not what it means to us as viewers of the movie.

Here’s what we know about this technology:

  • It needs to work in totally wireless flying displays, perhaps even in military contexts
  • It appears to be two-way as Lara can see what is happening on the other side
  • There seems to be a range of quality and size

It makes sense if this started as a military-use display. When Jor-El is riding the flying mount, and the display is flying next to him, it feels like this is common use-case. This display, made of metal “not on our periodic table”, would make this a nice piece of battle-hardened equipment.

This use-case also explains the low-DPI and monochrome you get in this context — this device needs to conserve power and be real-time in low-bandwidth situations. When power is readily available and you are connected (like in Jor-El’s “History of Krypton” presentation), the display becomes very high-quality.

And, true to Clay Christensen’s innovation theory, we expect that an innovative product to be worse on conventional measures, but better on new ones. This display shows 3D to the in-movie characters with no glasses or tricks because the display is actually in three dimensions.

The movie has another display, a perfect 3D projection (used to show AI Jor-El), but this seems to only be available inside of ships, so it’s not appropriate for outdoor military use-cases. I’m assuming that Jor-El didn’t use it for his presentation because Krypton also has advanced presentation theory and realized the the graphic/old-school look added a certain something.