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  • Man Of Steel

    I should just say I liked it. Instead I’m going to write down some of my thoughts about Man Of Steel so I hopefully won’t be tempted to argue with friends online about it, as this is a divisive movie among the comics internet. Which I wasn’t expecting, I thought we’d all just be happy to forget Superman Creepily Returns.

    Too many spoilers herein. If you haven’t seen it, do not read this. Nothing anyone else says should figure into your opinion, get your own.

    This will probably come off as apologist, but it shouldn’t. There are plenty of things I would have done differently. It needed some more pure character moments to connect better with the main cast. What few there are you grab onto really hard because you want them so much. I think there’s always room for lightness and humor even in a heavy story. Avengers used humor to great effect, and while MOS’ tone wouldn’t have accommodated as much, there could easily have been more.

    The Krypton opening wasn’t that engaging to me though it was nicely conceived. Russell Crowe seems fairly nonplussed about the end of his world and also like he’s done all these things before. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that the whole environment is cg. I like their communication system. One of the things Crowe usually does best is be a charming tough guy and he doesn’t have much chance to do that. By the way, this movie has a LOT of Jor-El in it, House of El Fans.

    Pretty tired of blue color grading in movies of recent years, I really hope now that the angsty part of his story is done, so is that. I suspect that besides signifying ‘serious’ it helps unify the cg with the live action and that’s why we see so much.

    I liked the fact that the military and civilian people have some weight in the movie other than being poker chips for super people. As much as I enjoyed Avengers it irked me that the US military rolls over for alien invaders and are willing to nuke New York as a sacrifice. We pay a lot of taxes for that military, I like to think they’ll get busy at the proof of a global takeover. Here the military at least seemed to be a force, the scientist gets to help with the solution, Lois gets to do quite a bit- everyone isn’t useless without Superman, they work with him. I never like “a big machine is doing something to something and we need to stop it before stuff” plot points, but again, at least the supporting cast figured into that. They quell the idea that Superman and the Government are total bros, undoing some damage tagged onto the character by Frank Miller years ago.

    I see lots of people complaining about the rampant city destruction, and I thought it was a bit much too, but I didn’t see it as thousands being killed. It’s a pretty stock convention of superhero stories that buildings get leveled, at least in the past decades I’ve been reading. Typically if they want you to think a lot of people died, you see footage of dead people. During their fights Superman and Zod blasted through some buildings that were clearly empty, I took that as a cue that this area is largely evacuated. If you don’t notice the emptiness (and come on, post 9-11 they are not going to dare show people falling out of windows just to amp things up) it’s probably because they do overdo it on the destruction.

    So the biggest thing that I can tell from my Twitter stream that people who hate it hate most is that he kills. Well, once, and it’s not like Superman folds his arms and says “Welcome to the REAL Phantom Zone,” he’s clearly anguished about it. And the climax is that Zod is forcing him to kill him or a family will fry from heat vision. The criticism is that the writer/director put Superman in that position when they could have had him come up with another solution. Well, sure, the story does put him in a horrible position, having to make a hard choice, a no-win situation. So… what kind of character is he if he can’t be put in that scenario? That argues whether it’s appropriate or not; sure you wouldn’t put Mickey Mouse in the position, but why not Superman?

    If he can always find a way to keep everyone safe and and prevent casualties, etc, he is not a man, he is a god. If that’s what you want from the character, then we’ll never agree on that. I think the man in his name means limitations as well as all the good things it can imply. You can say it’s part of his character, but really it’s a Writing Rule at that point, an Absolute. And those things stifle character. MOS uses the moment to establish that life is important to him and this is a step too far, otherwise you just have to take his word for it. When it happens in Superman 78 with Lois, he literally destroys all story logic to undo it by turning back time (which I used to justify as him time traveling, but he never does anything to change the outcome, it’s just changed by turning back the world). All consequences in that case are moot now because we know Superman can yell really loud and tough out a sky-lecture from Jor-El to go change history. The Death of Zod does the opposite, and my guess is that it will be left in to haunt Superman and justify why he wouldn’t eventually say, throw Lex Luthor into the sun later to protect the world. Yes, I know it’s also put there to be controversial and fuel talk, which worked. Also, Antje Traue as Faora is a way better menace than Zod.

    I also keep seeing people who rail on the idea of Superman punching fools. He’s not Doctor Who, he’s a superhero, the prime one, that’s kind of built into his dna (or his Codex, if you will). The first image ever seen of Supes by the public is him smashing up a gang’s car and them running for their lives. When he hears that hot tip on a wife-beating at work, he does not head out to gently counsel a husband on anger management.

    To me the biggest change in the formula is Lois Lane. The movie addresses the eternal question ‘if Lois is such a hot-shit journalist, why can’t she figure out Superman is Clark Kent’ and runs at it with the logical development; she does. And it discards an old trope for a dynamic that can work better. The comics for years had Pete Ross being the worthy holder of that secret knowledge, (he still does here, but he manages an iHop and thus has no one under 70 to tell it to) but close-quarters Lois now knows. That will likely leave a future Jimmy Olsen to look stupid, which no one will mind.

    Was it a good movie for kids? I think it could have had more for them, but my 8 year old went with me and enjoyed himself. Man Of Steel made some choices I think it needed to to bring people on board and purge the taste of the abysmal meandering bore that was Superman Returns. Superman is way more out of character in that considering it connects to the previous movies, and the only thing worth watching is the passenger jet rescue we can thank artist Gabriel Hardman for working out.

    Ultimately, Superman as a character runs the risk that everyone projects something different into their idea of him. I don’t need all my childhood buttons pushed, I don’t need the S-curl in his hair to be there, I just need the story to work on its own merits. The audience I saw it with seemed satisfied, though I think a few cheer-out-loud moments could have been created with a little more thinking.

    UPDATE: This review by Max Robinson articulates some things I liked even better.

    Comments

    Comment from Scott
    Time: June 16, 2013, 11:44 pm

    Superman doesn’t need to be a God, but he needs to at least TRY to be a man. And the writers of this movie never got what Jonathan was supposed to teach Clark. And therefore, an adult Clark didn’t have anything to be except what his father taught him to be, which is scared.

    Scared to reveal himself. Scared to help. Scared to do anything. The only time we see him happy to be who himself is when he’s teaching himself to fly. But that lasts 30 seconds because then Zod finds earth and the bullshit starts.

    Superman punches Zod into the most populated area of his hometown. Keep in mind that this fight originates at his house. And it’s on a farm. He’s surrounded by nothing but empty fields. Not only does he not take his mom to safety and leaves her there with three other kryptonians. He punches Zod TOWARDS people. then tells them to go inside cause it’s not safe outside. Is it safe inside? No, because he needs to crash into 7-11 and Sears and IHOP so they can get that product placement money.

    I’m surprised that someone in IHOP didn’t say “I’ll have whatever HE ordered.” *wink*

    Buildings do fall down in superhero fights. But post 9/11 we know what that actually means. And we don’t need to see ash-covered victims buried under rebar to wonder “where the fuck is Superman? Why isn’t he saving these people?”

    I dunno. there’s not much to like in this movie. And all of it stems to poor writing and dumb choices.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: June 16, 2013, 11:47 pm

    How did you write that so fast, Scott? I personally think he’s trying to take out Pete Ross with the iHop maneuver!

    Comment from Mr. Spartin
    Time: June 16, 2013, 11:59 pm

    First i would like to say,MOS really felt like a sci fi movie more than anything. It really didn’t have that superhero movie charm with the light heated and awkward moments. Also this movie gave me what I always wanted to see in superman movie, him punching stuff!
    I really enjoyed the movie felt that it did unexpected things with superman.

    Comment from Ryan
    Time: June 17, 2013, 12:05 am

    Watching numerous planes crash into buildings was a little much for me. I am not saying you can’t show this post 9-11, but it’s hard watching it and not think, did thousands of people just die? I had the same problem with the end of the new Star Trek.

    Another thing (additional spoiler), I was pretty unimpressed with the death of Pa Kent. You leave your wife a widow and your kid without a father to save the dog? I love my pets, but man, it seemed like fatherhood was being defined by dramatic exits in this movie.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: June 17, 2013, 12:13 am

    I almost expected Pa’s ghost to rise up before Superman meets the Kryptonians and say “Nope, too soon still”

    Comment from Ryan
    Time: June 17, 2013, 12:18 am

    “It was reckless to save those kids from a bus, now I got to go die saving the world’s oldest dog.”

    Comment from Brett
    Time: June 17, 2013, 3:11 am

    I did not love it, but I did not hate it either. I liked Avengers much better, but I did grew up more on the Marvel side of the fence so that plays into it. I think some of that comes down to the Superman you grow up with. I grew up with the mid-seventies Superman, the one that fights Spider-Man and Muhammad Ali. He was quite a bit lighter than the Superman of the past thirty years and I think this Superman is a better fit for those who grew up with the post-Donner Superman.

    I loved that they did not spare the action, the last Superman movie was so restrained on action it was dull. That said, I did feel fighting in the middle of Smallville and Metropolis without even a token effort to move the fight was very odd. Even my boy commented on that.

    Overall I give a mild thumbs up to the movie.

    Comment from Keith
    Time: June 17, 2013, 8:26 am

    I wanted a Superman who punched his problems away and I got what I wished for. What I didn’t expect was to be skeeved out by the intense 9/11 imagery that came with it. Character-wise, I thought it would be better if Superman instead kept trying to move the fight away from people and the Kryptonians kept bringing the fight back to where it is more exciting. Instead it seems like Superman didn’t give a hoot about who gets in harm’s way as long as he’s punching.

    Comment from A.C.K.
    Time: June 17, 2013, 10:55 am

    I agree that there were some MUCH needed changes which happened here, to bring Superman into a more modern era. Overall I liked the movie, but I didn’t love it.

    One thing I did like though, was that we didn’t spend overlong growing up with Clark. This is a guy who realized his non-humanity early enough to feel the separation, but at an age old enough to understand the significance. I actually respected his struggle to know if he loved the people of Earth or even felt they deserved saving. The fact that we aren’t presented with a warm and cuddly Clark but instead get a resentful and weird one whom no one seems to know, and who doesn’t even get on with his Dad all that well a lot of the time… I liked that. It’s not the easy sweetness of the Reeves Superman, and I found it a little more thought-provoking for it.

    I didn’t like the overt Christ imagery. A more subtle writer could have included it for those inclined without clubbing us over the head. I also never felt the Lois and Supes chemistry. I wish people weren’t determined that there’s a One True Love for characters that are organically storytold for 75+ years. It’s so limiting.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: June 17, 2013, 11:08 am

    Yeah, I would be cool with Lois and him trying to keep a romantic distance (though often failing) so that relationship isn’t just locked down.

    Comment from Jason
    Time: June 17, 2013, 12:27 pm

    I thought this movie was absolutely horrible and incredibly disrespectful of the character and his history. The idiotic logic (“stay in your store/office building and don’t leave Smallville/Metropolis while I fight these crazy mofos”), crappy story (what the hell was with the skull?) and insane plot points (not ony will Supes snap Zod’s neck, he play abortion doctor by destroying all the embryos in the chamber in the ship he discovered early in the film – a fact I’ve not seen any review bring up at all!) made this one of the worse movies I’ve seen this year. Comics Alliance had a good review that I think you should check out:

    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2013/06/17/man-of-steel-on-my-planet-the-s-is-for-sucks-spoilers-review/

    I didn’t expect much going into this since I wasn’t crazy about the trailer. I just didn’t expect this to be the mess it was. Were there moments I liked? Some but they were so outweighed by the foolish decisions the writer and director made that I couldn’t help but hope Zod would kill Superman just so there wouldn’t be any sequels.

    If anything would have made Christopher Reeve walk it would have been this movie as he would have said, “Fuck this!” and walked out.

    What’s worse is the amount of comic creators who enjoyed it that I thought would have felt the same way I did. I guess there’s no accounting for taste in this day and age.

    Comment from Odessasteps
    Time: June 17, 2013, 3:04 pm

    Did people of Japan get PTSD after WWII watching Tokyo get repeatedly destroyed? Or did they think “its just a movie with a guy in a rubber suit?”

    Comment from Jason
    Time: June 18, 2013, 6:07 am

    Odessasteps, You’re comparing two incredibly divergent cultures that view things very differently. Japanese, in my opinion, are pretty weird. Where in the US will you see vending machines selling used panties to customers? They do in Japan & cetainly not here! Who in the US kills themselves because they “disgraced” the company they work for? Certainly not here (here if an employee gets angry enough they take it out on those around them BEFORE they kill themselves or are killed by cops). Japanese actually don’t know about the bombings because most survivors have died. They don’t do any kind of rememberance (saw an interesting HBO documentary on this). We remember Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City and 9/11. I won’t even bring up their anime since it speaks for itself. Excuse me if I don’t use the Japanese point of view as a barometer for good taste & perseverance.

    Comment from franzferdinand2
    Time: June 18, 2013, 7:48 pm

    You’re a ra-cist! *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap* You’re a ra-cist! *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*

    Comment from shell
    Time: June 18, 2013, 8:40 pm

    Jeff -

    Been on your side since I read your thoughts on both the bad and the good in this. I can’t wait to see where they take him next.

    Comment from Truth
    Time: June 19, 2013, 7:20 am

    This movie should have been aborted… Like the hundreds (thousands?) of Kryptonian babies Superman murdered when crashing that big, stupid, ship.

    This movie sucked.

    Comment from James Schee
    Time: June 19, 2013, 9:00 pm

    I liked it, others didn’t. Shrug

    At the end of the day it was just a movie.

    Comment from Matthew Allison
    Time: June 20, 2013, 5:15 am

    I have not seen this film. I’ve only seen one clip. This comment is about this one scene…

    Zod threatens Ma Kent which sends Superman into a blind rage. He picks Zod up and flies him into a field, a silo…then a gas station. The place where people gather to fill their cars with flammable liquid.

    Now, I’ve heard that prior to this scene Clark/Superman had yet to utilize his punching abilities. He saves people (sort of his thing), but holds back on the fist work and this bit is meant to be his big release so I guess its “okay” that our hero would be so angry that he’d ignore the potential to hurt innocent people. It might even be a good lesson for him. However, immediately after the 7-Eleven explodes (and, no…no humans are seen getting burned, maimed or killed) Superman browbeats Zod by telling him he lacks focus. He says that Ma Kent taught him how to fine tune his powerful senses while Zod does not have this skill nailed down. I’m assuming he knew enough then not to blow up the gas station while folks were inside buying their Red Bull or lottery tickets or whatever.

    Based on what I’m reading about what follows in this movie, Superman doesn’t quite exhibit this “focus” he mentions here. I would hope that once I’ve seen the entire flick this bit that I’ve witnessed won’t be so bothersome…but I kind of doubt it. We’ll see.

    Comment from Matt Wieringo
    Time: June 25, 2013, 8:42 am

    I didn’t have a problem with Superman killing Zod. As written, he had no choice. (Though, why he didn’t just fly him out through the roof, I don’t know.) I’m not seeing anyone complaining that, in Superman 2, Reeve’s version of the character killed Zod coldbloodedly when Zod was de-powered and no longer a threat to anyone.

    The problem I had was that he crushed the potential future of his entire race with a glib “Krypton had its chance.” The Superman I grew up with would never have done that. He would have at least tried to save the chamber.

    I enjoyed watching the film but it do have its problems, don’t it?

    Comment from James Schee
    Time: June 26, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Just saw the movie again, and noticed that along with, the best part of the movie, Faora there is also another female Kryptonian on Zod’s ship. Nadira played by Apollonia Vanova, who played Silhoutte in Watchmen.

    Nadira is another old DC character from the Phantom Zone who had mental powers. Which might be how Zod got into Kal’s mind. Neat thing to learn.