I need to get a few of things out of the way first before I tell you Why Man of Steel is Stupid!.
- NO, Brent, you are not fired… yet. 🙂
- I LOVE the Superman character.
- I DID NOT like Man of Steel.
- There will be SPOILERS below.
- If you liked the film GREAT… it’s just not for me.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the issue. If you have listened to last weeks show, either live or the podcast, you now know that we did not like the movie. For me personally there were many things I liked but there were things that I had serious issues with.
I’m sure you are wondering why write this at all then? Well, it stems from the fact that I want to try and clear up some misconceptions about my feelings and make sure that we are all cognoscente of what I feel are the flaws and why they are flaws. A great number of people have jumped down my throat and other critics for claiming that Man of Steel is a weak film. Most of this argument stems from one or both of the following: First, that we have an undying love for Christopher Reeve and second, that Superman has killed before. I will discuss both of these points as we go further.
Before I get into the issues I want to quickly touch base on some of the things I really enjoyed while watching this eventual train wreck.
I enjoyed, as done to death as it is, the narrative flashback sequences retelling the history of Clark Kent and how those moments related to his current situation. For me, it was a better way of retelling those formative moments and still get the story moving forward. Next, I thought that Kevin Costner (contrary to what Andrew thinks) does a great job as transitioning Pa Kent into the “now”. In the past, this character has felt somewhat hokey and cliched with his constant support and understanding for Clark. That’s important to who Clark becomes but the added layer of his harsh, real world, farmer pragmatism is shown in several scenes, as he councils Clark to wait until the world is ready to show them who he really is. I thought this update to the character really worked and you can see through the flashbacks that he was someone holding Clark back for his own selfish reasons, like any father would. I know there are some who have taken issue with this portrayal but there has been precedent set in this area (see the Smallville series) over the last 20 years to move Jonathan more in line with current thinking and ideals.
Next up for what I liked is Foara UL and the fight sequences’ visual design. While Zod is set up as our villain it is actually Faora who I think is the true heavy in the movie. Unlike Zod, her cool, passionless resolve throughout the story is somewhat terrifying. She just moves around getting things done and violently. Her effectiveness is thanks to Antje Traue‘s performance and I wish that she had lived to come back again. She was that good. As were her battles sequences and many of the other “super battles” in the film. I may not always like Zach Snyder but I will say that his vision for these sequences was impressive for the most part. The Battle of Smallville was very well done. The effects of the battle impressed me but also, for the first time, I felt that a battle like this was done right.
I also thought that Perry White was well done and the Oil Rig sequence early on was a good intro to who this Clark Kent is as a hero. There was something so totally inspiring (for this brief moment) watching Clark in action that way… which leads me to what I didn’t like.
Okay, one last warning. Up to now I have only made a few minor spoilers however, I am going to be talking about the ending of this film going forward, a lot.
Okay the quick hits on the bad stuff… the colour pallet, editing and the writing were all poorly done. Now let’s talk about the big fucking elephant in the room. The entirety of the Zod storyline. I didn’t hate Michael Shannon as Zod. I actually think he did okay for what he had. My only note about him goes to Zack Snyder who I think pushed him too far down a path of an egomaniacal, cartoon villain. Seriously, could he scream and shout throughout the film any more? It was crazy. It’s actually what may have helped me like Faora so much and think of her as the true villain here. He was too much like Snidely Whiplash.
Let’s stop here and think about it. No, it’s okay, I can wait… see what I mean. Okay look, what does Zod do in this movie that makes him A) the villain or B) a military genius? No really, for this I will wait. Nope, I didn’t think so. His biggest “genius” moments are the following. He plans the coup to take over Krypton….no wait that fails and he is imprisoned. Okay let’s move on. Next time we see him he threatens all of Earth if they don’t turn over Kal EL. Okay, so he got that one right especially with the simultaneous broadcast around the world. Good imagery to scare the locals. Next, he chokes out Martha Kent before Superman comes flying in and whisks Zod away. Not exactly a shining moment for the General who during that battle gets made a chump by Superman. A Superman who just learned how to fly I might add. Also Zod loses it when Superman takes away his protective rebreather so he gets bombarded by the cacophony of sights and sounds yet he later goes right back in before he has fully adjusted. Awesome tactical thinking. Next up, he launches the World Engine to terraform earth into New Krypton. Okay not bad. But when that goes sideways and his plans are ruined by Superman, he resorts to bare knuckle brawling with the Man of Steel. In this latest battle he once again shows zero… ZERO tactical awareness or ingenuity during the fight? Genetically superior warrior class my ass. If this is the best Zod had he was never a real threat to Big Blue.
I’m going to pause on my Zod bashing to now take on the other guy. You know that mass murdering bastard Superman. WHAT? Superman is a killer. Oh really are you sure? During the film up to Metropolis we see Clark save guys on the oil rig, the kids in the bus, Martha, Lois and many of the folks in Smallville when he Battles the Kryptonians there. However all of that changes. In what seemed an odd choice for Superman the protector of Humanity, he chooses to go after the World Engine in the South Pacific, which also was a mostly abandoned region of the ocean as well. Strange but I can roll with this. Next, after defeating the engine, he comes rocketing back in time to save Lois from Zod’s attack on the bomber. So now begins the killing.
Superman and Zod begin to fight inside of the ship that he found in the Arctic earlier in the film with Lois. During this fight, Superman chooses to destroy his best chance of reviving Krypton by using his heat vision to destroy the birthing chamber, while screaming that Krypton had it’s chance? WTF? In EVERY version of the character, his longing for a place or people to belong with is always present. He has even let Brainiac live to protect Kandor, the bottle city. Brainiac, folks. Fucking Brainiac! Yet here he is, to the best of his knowledge, committing genocide. Yep, just like Superman to do something like that. Next up, Superman has to save Lois one more time as she falls. Why she was on the plane in the first place is still beyond me at this point. Obviously, her superior skill as a scientist far outweighs what Dr. Hamilton can do.
But wait, there’s more. After safely returning to earth with Lois and the survivors come crawling out of the wreckage that is Metropolis, Superman kisses Lois and rushes off after Zod? Not even a question of if they will be okay? Oh yeah, this is Superman. So off he goes, offers Zod a chance to surrender, which of course goes about as well as you expect. Then 10 minutes of the most mind numbing violent badass super fight you will ever see. But wait, “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask… on the surface, nothing until you start to think about what happened. During this melee, these two super powered combatants fight each other inside the downtown core of Metropolis. There are at least 10-15 large skyscrapers (minimum) that are not only damaged from the fight but so severely so that they collapse. Even with limited evacuation, l believe they would have still been packed full of people. There is a potential for 10’s of thousands dead and possibly even millions based innocent people on the street after getting out of those buildings. “Okay sure, but Superman saved as many as he could. Right?” Right? WRONG! Not only was he at fault for the damage but he is responsible for killing everyone of those people just as Zod is. And not once did he show any emotions toward the carnage or tried to help. Not once. Even after all that we have seen with him saving people earlier on and even 2 minutes earlier. But not now. Now it’s just about punching Zod into submission. Which I could have tolerated had he tried to save some of the people.
Which leads to my big issue with the Zod storyline. Superman should not KILL. NOT EVER!
I will get back to my feelings here in a moment but I want to address the killing issue historically. Every defender loves to point to the examples of when Superman has killed both in the filmed entertainment world and the comics. First let’s deal with Superman 2. I and others have been told we hold too closely to the Christopher Reeve films and that we need to let those go. Okay, then you lose the right to use Superman 2 as proof that Superman has killed before. But even if you want to whine and cry about how unfair of me, fine. I don’t have a problem with that because at this point Superman has over the course of two films proven that he values life and tries numerous times to reason with Zod before committing murder. This in essence helps offset the action. Giving context and understanding that it was at that point the only thing left that he could do. However, I personally don’t like the solution and they (the writers) should have come up with something else.
He has killed at least twice in the comics. Once at the pen of Alan Moore and then a couple of years later by John Byrne. Both stories have strong resonance with readers and fans alike. People have also brought up Doomsday. Please, I would care if Doomsday could actually die. Like Brainiac they keep regenerating, thus negating the final solution argument there. But as for Moore and Byrne let’s discuss.
Moore’s story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is used as an argument to prove Superman kills. Yes, in the story he uses the Phantom Projector to trap Mxyzptlk in the Phantom Zone which with him being a being of the 5th Dimension, tore him apart and killed him. First, this was done after he had helped orchestrate the events that lead to Lana Lang’s death in front of Superman and secondly, this story is what was being used to close out the pre crisis Superman mythos. It is also considered more of a “what if” story then true canon. Regardless, with his years of service and commitment to not killing, when he does in this case he realizes that he has gone too far and strips himself of the power he had as Superman. He lives out his life as a regular human. This story was used to cap off the pre crisis Superman run and make way for John Byrne’s run on the character as part of the post crisis revamp at DC. In the famously quoted issue 22 “The Price”, Superman, while in a pocket dimension Earth, faces off against Zod, Zaora and Quxel UL who have at this point killed billions and have left only a few humans remaining on this alternate earth. He faces them down and eventually kills them with Green Kryptonite. After returning to his dimensions’ Earth, he has difficulty dealing with his actions and leaves Earth for a while to process what he has done. This storyline would last for the remainder of this Volume 2 run of Superman. Two points here: first, he is in a pocket universe with a Zod who is at this point an unredeemable homicidal maniac. And secondly, he feels so much remorse and guilt, he leaves Earth to deal with it before returning to his duties.
In these stories Superman has killed, yes, but he both feels guilty and acknowledges the fact that he doesn’t have the right to do so. In the Man of Steel, I do not feel that happened. Other than one brief moment where he screams like a little child he shows no further remorse to the event. Lois, like Padme before her, goes to her man and consoles him after the killings he has committed in both Metropolis and with Zod.
This is my issue. Not that Superman kills Zod but that he shows no sense of guilt or shame in his act for more than the briefest of moments. Had this happened and had he tried to save lives in Metropolis, I may have been able to forgive the murder of untold people and Zod. But no, Goyer, Nolan and Snyder want me to forgive him and feel sympathy after some flimsy heroics and his so-called valiant efforts to save a family of 4 that Zod was going to kill. This “forced” Superman to snap his neck. There was never enough in the film to deserve this decision by the audience.
But alas, most of the audience going to see this and loving it are in no way bothered by this character issue for the man who is supposed to inspire HOPE in all mankind. Maybe that’s truly my biggest issue with the film and these story points. He is supposed to be better than us and at his core, the perfect person. Sure, he can have flaws but he is able to overcome them unlike most humans. I was never truly inspired by this character other than one moment. I was not inspired to be better. Not inspired to do right. Not inspired to be the best person I can be. That’s the real issue here. It’s a hollow victory for a hollow film.
Go ahead. Love it. Go see it many times in the theatre and watch it on Blu-Ray. But I find it hard to believe this movie will, as time moves forward, be recalled as a great example of the Superman mythos. That would require heart and hope, 2 things that are lacking here.
The last argument I have heard is this is only Superman as he learns to be Superman. That argument holds no water with me and I find it a sad attempt to justify what we saw on screen. I shouldn’t, nor anyone else, have to wait until a sequel for Superman to be dealing with the consequences of his actions. If so, that is another example of poor writing and plotting by Goyer and Nolan. But hey, why should they care? Nolan hates comic books and Goyer is making mad cash off this and his Batman money.
Can we please have Scott Snyder or Geoff Johns involved in the next film? I’m just saying. Maybe they would suck too but it can’t be worse than Meh of Steel.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
If you liked my railing against the system here check out my last post.