So Man of Steel eh…hmmm. I didn’t outright hate it like Mr. Morrison over at The Rhetorical Gamer, it was kind of…hmm..okay, maybe. I am usually pretty tolerant of any kind of superhero movie on account of, well you know being a super fucking turbo nerd. I just love superheroes doing superpowery things. To give you an example I was okay with the Green Lantern movie, despite Ryan Reynolds acting more like Walley West than Hal Jordan. Mostly because he made cool stuff with his ring and flew around. The same could be said about Man of Steel in terms of his flying and heat vision and stuff. However, with that being said I had a lot of problems with this flick and just like a Festivus “airing of grievances” I am going to tell Zack Snyder and David Goyer how they have disappointed me.
I can’t stand that they approached the film with that earnest realism that was the backdrop for Nolan’s Batman universe. It works with Batman because he is an ordinary dude like you and I, except better and cooler in every conceivable way. The problem is that it just falls flat with Superman as a character, and by flat I mean devoid of any joy, something that is almost antithetical to Superman as character. I am not saying Superman needs to be portrayed as some kind of douche boy scout but this gritty, bleak, washed out tone that has him for a good chunk of the movie come off as an emo, angsty hobo with anger issues is awful. To much of my knowledge from the comics, Clark is generally well liked by his peers growing up, living a fairly idyllic Rockweillian existence. He is not overly bullied, abused or treated like a freak, which seems to be used in the movie to fuel his emo-existential crisis or “hero’s journey”. Now I have heard the argument that this gritty joylessness is what sells this days and the younger generation wouldn’t buy anything else. I would point to the Avengers to refute that, but furthermore I just can’t accept that sentiment as is. I have to have more faith in humanity that we can all still get off on a superman that is bright, playful, and inspiring in his goodness, while still smashing evil in its face. I would recommend Mark Waid’s Superman: Birthright for those of you who would like to see an origin story that depicts Clark, smiling, laughing, and finding joy in his powers and in using them to help people while trying to find his place and purpose in this world.
Now let’s talk about Superman Killing Zod. Like really what the fuck was that? That was totally unnecessary. I am not even going to object on the grounds that Superman doesn’t kill, that it is completely counter to his moral being (even though it is and he has done it before). Is this really what you need to lead with? I‘ll tell you how this movie should have ended. Superman needs to have the Zod fight at the same time the military is shooting his penis spaceship at Zod’s forces to suck them into the phantom zone, not after. So during the fight Zod grabs Superman in a full nelson, screams in his ear that he will kneel before him and show obedience to the cause. At which point Superman smashes the back of his head into Zod’s face, turns around and punches him in his turkey neck, sending him flying into the phantom zone just as it blinks out…..credits….plus maybe you know him helping save some of the people caught in the collateral damage of the fight. I heard Snyder mentioned on a podcast that the reason they had him kill Zod was to show where his code against killing came from, because it hadn’t really been explored before. I find this statement to be absolutely ridiculous and makes me question how much he really knows about subject manor he is portraying. Do you really want to know why Superman doesn’t kill Mr. Snyder? Its’ because he was raised by those salt of the earth people in Kansas who taught him about morality and what it means to be a good human being. It is the ultimate example of nurture trumping nature. It borders on stupidity to say that someone has to feel the awful implication of taking a life before they decide that it’s not for them, let alone Superman.
This brings me to my final bone of contention, namely the relationship between Clark and his parents, or more specifically him and his father as I do get a real sense of love and nurturance from his mom. You have to understand that everything Clark/Superman is as a person in terms of his goodness, compassion, and selflessness he gets from these people. Jonathan Kent is typically portrayed as a strong caring father with the stoic pragmatism of someone who grew up farming the land, not a fear riddled immigrant paranoia spouting dude that would ever voice the thought that Clark should have let people die or never leave the farm. I won’t even go into his death scene as that was also super-ridiculous and so unnecessary. I saw glimpses in their interactions that spoke of more depth but it was never really hashed out or perhaps was left on the cutting room floor, which is a shame. I would again recommend Waid’s Superman: Birthright and Loeb and Sale’s Superman for All Seasons as good examples of the relationship between Clark and his parents and how his upbringing leads him to be the hero he becomes.
I have heard the argument that this is only an origin film like Batman Begins and the next film will have him more fully in his “Superman Role”, but I think that is just bull-shit and weak story-telling. I am not even going to go in to the collateral damage/destruction issues or the Lois and Clark relationship because like whatever…..so that’s my 2 cents. I am still hopeful that they will correct the course a little for the sequel…so there’s that I guess…oh and the heat vision was pretty cool, did I mention that already?