As far as summer blockbusters go, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the relaunching of the Superman movie franchise by the Zack Snyder directed and Christopher Nolan produced Man of Steel. Among the movies of the summer it falls only slightly behind Iron Man 3, but leaps with a single bound over the bloated and soulless Star Trek: Enter Darkness.
For a 75-year old hero, Henry Cavill’s Superman doesn’t quite charm the way Christopher Reeve did when he slipped on the red-and-blue uniform, but Cavill will definitely get a second and probably more chances to slip on the suit (sans the red undies) in future sequels. Warner Brothers and DC Comics desperately needed a big hit to get them back in the game against the multitude of Marvel movies and with Nolan done with his Batman trilogy, Man of Steel gets them back in the game. The trick will be to have as much luck in getting other DC comic book heroes onto the screen, but with the big box office grosses of Man of Steel it should be up, up and away for future franchises.
Between the men of steel and iron, once again comic book movies dominate at the box office. There are a lot of things I love about Man of Steel, but boy does it take itself seriously. That’s the Nolan touch at work because the Dark Knight flicks didn’t have much of a sense of humor either. If Superman Returns was ripped for being boring as hell, Man of Steel goes for jaw-dropping spectacle and an extended showdown between Superman and his nemesis, General Zod (a glowering Michael Shannon) that ups the ante for sheer devastation that The Avengers‘ trashing of New York City can’t begin to touch. That’s where my big problem with Man of Steel begins and be warned that there are major SPOILERS from this point on, so if you haven’t seen the movie, bail out here.
Even fantasy flicks have to follow logic, if not necessarily realism and logic says if two superhumans go to war in the heart of a city and wreak massive devastation and destruction in the process, there will be a body count and you would run out of toe tags and body bags once you pulling them out of the ruins of Metropolis.
Merely because we are discussing/debating a fantasy character in a summer popcorn flick, it doesn’t mean we can totally suspend disbelief. Tom Clancy said it true when he observed, “The difference between truth and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.” The bloodless catastrophe that befalls Metropolis in Man of Steel makes no damn sense.
Rather than referencing Man of Steel a much more relevant comparison would be Superman II when Zod gets ready to throw down in the middle of Metropolis, Superman retreats rather than tear up the city.
That’s Superman making the smart move instead of being a dickhead with blood in his eyes and dead bodies everywhere. I am not the target demographic for this film. It was made for teenage boys who either do not know of Superman’s moral code against killing or could care less about it. Youth must be served and because technology has come so far in 33 years when the tagline for Superman was “you will believe a man can fly.” There are all new ways to make shit blow up real good and maybe that’s good enough for those with no sense of history. Yet even these movies are designed not only to attract kids, but the parents of the kids as well and they are the ones most likely to be familiar with the original source material and still respect it.
Stuff blowing up real good is not enough for me. Superman not only does not kill, he does not willingly permit innocents to die, but this one does both. Zod is the one who considers massive expenditures of human life to be “collateral damage,” not Kal-El. If neither of them care then there are no good guys and bad guys here. It’s just bad guy and worse guy.
This is supposed to be a more “realistic” Superman who has no choice but to kill in the absence of any better option, but that’s because Snyder and David Goyer’s screenplay didn’t give him any.
After he snaps Zod’s neck, Supes lets out a “NOOOOOO!!!” but he gets over it real quick. There’s no consequences to trashing a major city and no remorse for killing his enemy. Batman tells Ra’s Al Ghul, “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you” in Batman Begins. Superman says, “Guess I have to kill you since I can’t figure out any way to stop you.”
Superman’s philosophy used to be “truth, justice and the American way” when it was Christopher Reeve with the “S” on his chest. When did it become “I had to destroy Metropolis to save it?”
Superman is a super hero and super heroes find another way. He can do what takes some imagination or say “ain’t nobody got time for that” and just snap the bastard’s neck. Problem solved, right?
Except I don’t want Superman killing Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Bizarro, Brainiac or anybody else that decides to mess with the “S” because it’s the quick and easy fix and Superman just really digs snapping necks. Wolverine and The Punisher already exist to put bad guys to sleep permanently, but neither are “heroes” in the classic sense. Superman is and he is a hero who does what others can not do or will not do, not just what is expedient.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child and I read comic books that appealed to me as a child. When I became a young man I put away childish things including Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and superheroes like that because it stopped making sense to me why someone like Batman would do this endless, repetitive dance with The Joker where the guy escapes from Arkham Asylum (again), kills a ton of innocent people (again), Batman beats him up and throws his ass back into Arkham (again) and six months later we start the whole damn thing all over again.
It was an endless cycle of stupid that made no sense. Garth Ennis’ character of Tommy Monaghan, the Hitman took on a contract to kill the Joker and blamed Batman for enabling the Joker’s murderous sprees because he wouldn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime saying, “A sensible man would have done it years ago.”.
Superman is blessed with enough powers and abilities that he doesn’t have to kill his enemies. He finds another way because that’s what he does.
That has worked for 75 years. One movie with a revisionist streak doesn’t mean what always worked before doesn’t work anymore.
- Man of Steel? More Like Man of Sad Feels, Am I Right? (bigbaddie.com)
- No, Man of Steel’s Superman is Not Your Superman. And That’s Okay. (tor.com)
- In Defense of MAN OF STEEL: Response to Critic and Fanboy Complaints (geektyrant.com)
- Man of Style (Not Substance) (paranomomia.wordpress.com)