In my mind, Christopher Nolan can do no wrong, the man has yet to make a bad movie, and his Dark Knight trilogy re-invented the superhero genre again. David Goyer has written a ton of amazing movies, and has written some of my favourite comics.
Zach Snyder…he has made movies I have enjoyed looking at, and creates the best movie trailers on the planet…but has yet to execute on a good movie.
So with that in mind, my hopes for The Man of Steel were earthbound. When I saw that it was 2 hours and 30 minutes long…sigh. Before it was released though, I was defending the movie, saying that our memories of the 1978 “classic” are clouded by the mists of time. Having just watched it again recently…that movie just isn’t that good when exposed to the cold hard light of 2013.
Unfortunately my already low hopes were dashed, and I nearly walked out of the theatre on three separate occasions, and there is no way in hell I will be taking my kids to this flick any time soon.
The movie was commercially successful, but unfortunately the Superman story…domed planet, desperate scientists, last hope, kindly couple…that story was missed.
Let me talk about what I liked first, but to do so, I need to nerd out a little bit.
I am a DC Comics kid through and through. My favourite heroes growing up were Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Firestorm, The Justice League, and the Teen Titans. I loved the DC stuff because they were gods. Marvel comics were very grounded. Thor was actually a crippled doctor. Spider-Man was a teenager. The Fantastic Four were tragically flawed scientists and adventurers. DC was a world of gods, and for whatever reason, that mythology appealed to me more.
I was never really a Superman fan. Sure, I bought the odd Superman Family comic, but it wasn’t until 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths that I cared about Superman. There was something truly heroic about the way he fought and sacrificed up against the literal end of the universe. Shortly after that John Byrne relaunched Superman with The Man of Steel, a six issue mini-series that humanized Superman, brought his parents back as supporting characters, and de-powered Superman significantly.
In John Byrne’s hands, Superman became a symbol of hope, the inspiration of all other heroes. Jonathan and Martha Kent became the most amazing parents, who inspired him daily to be a better man. Lois finally became not just the foil for Clark Kent, but she also became a believable romantic interest not just for Superman, like she had been in every previous incarnation…but for Clark himself.
I read Superman consistently for the next five years, and only stopped reading Superman when I had to reduce my collecting habit during my college years, but by then most of the status quo had returned and I was much less interested in an omnipotent character who had seemingly no weaknesses.
With that said…I don’t need everything to be note-for-note the same as the comics. What made Batman great is that Christopher Nolan took the key components – billionaire who literally can’t escape the worst night of his life – and built upon it, adding his own mythology, and making things better. Each choice Nolan made enhanced the overall story.
Okay, nerd moment done.
There was some stuff I absolutely loved. The first 30 minutes is on Krypton, and this is a Krypton I believed was in its dying days. They had stripped the planet of its resources, they had tried to seed the stars. The society was cold and antiseptic, in the epoch of its existence. I loved it.
I liked his relationship with his parents, and the tragic moment that made Clark realize that he absolutely must use his powers to save others, and damn the consequences.
I liked the relationship between Lois and Superman, and I felt she was believable as a reporter…although I think the entire notion of a journalist is one that’s a bit antiquated and Clark getting a job with no training is nigh impossible.
So there was some good stuff. But there was so much bad. I can’t finish this without giving away spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Man of Steel, understand…this way there be dragons.
SIGH. Are you still here?
Okay, this is going to suck.
And. Here. We. Go.
Batman is the dark. Superman is the light. They are supposed to be polar opposites. There is a reason that Superman’s suit is so damn bright. In a world where they could make the damn Spider-Man suit work, which is a ridiculous thing, and where I have personally seen Cosplay Superman costumes that look spec-fricking-tacular. I’m not saying you need to make it with Spandex, but there’s no reason the costume couldn’t be bright.
Where was the joy? Where was the wonder? Spider-Man had it. Iron Man had it. Hell, even Batman had moments, knee deep in the darkness, where there was pure joy.
Why didn’t Superman smile…ever? He lived an idyllic life in Kansas, he should be the guy who is at home with who he is as soon as he puts the costume on. He should have shown visibile relief after having been repressed his entire life. Clark Kent should be pent up angst, because he has to hide who he truly is. When the costume is on, he can be truly free. We only saw about 30 seconds of that in the entire 8 hour movie.
I didn’t understand Zod’s troops. There was one Hulk Sized dude…but he was hardly referenced, and what was up with him anyway? It just looked like someone screwed up the CGI. Where the hell did they all go though? At one point there were dozens of them, but when the fighting begins there are three.
I am not a fan of disaster porn. I feel like Joss Whedon said everything we needed to say about destroying a city in The Avengers. Superman directly caused super-villain casualty levels (estimates are at 175k-250k dead in the destruction of Metropolis). In a post 9/11 world, when you see a building come down, and you see the street level abject terror that we watched twelve years ago, it has an emotional resonance that truly disturbs me.
That’s not what I’m looking for in a Super Hero movie.
I almost walked out during the destruction…twice, but the final time, the spot that lost me finally, was in the end.
Superman and Zod have killed approximately 175k people, just crashing through Grand Central Station, at least a half dozen people die when the roof collapses…but that’s okay, no, what makes Superman snap is when Zod turns his heat vision towards a family of four people (who apparently are incapable of running TO THE LEFT OF THE SCREEN!!!), Kal-El, the last son of Krypton snaps Zod’s neck and kills him.
Bullshit. Superman doesn’t kill. The only way we can actually trust an all powerful being is if his morality is rock solid. Superman is morality beyond reproach.
That’s not what I’m looking for in a Superman movie.
I just can’t believe that Superman can have a secret identity. For a few seconds I thought they were actually going to do away with the secret identity concept, and I thought it might be cool. What if Superman turned the Genesis ship into the new Fortress of Solitude, and looked down on humanity from the heavens? I mean, they’ve already changed the core concepts of the hero, why not just make him a totally different character.
In the 2006 Series “All Star Superman” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Jor El has the defining line of what Superman should be.
You have given them an ideal to aspire to. Embodied their highest aspirations. They will race, and stumble, and fall, and crawl, and curse…and finally…They will join you in the Sun Kal-El. In time, you will no longer be alone.
That, that right there is what I was looking for in a Superman movie.