Sunday, June 16, 2013

UNCLEAR WHETHER STRONGER THAN IRON: I wanted to talk a little about Man of Steel and give folks a place to talk about it.  I think there are a few parts that it nails, and a big one that it doesn't.  First, I think the film's take on Lois Lane is interesting and smart--for the first time in recent memory, Lois isn't a helpless love interest, not do we get told that she's a great journalist while all we see is her as a borderline incompetent--she's two steps ahead of Superman the entire time, which is a great refreshment in a genre that generally hasn't been all that great for women.

Second, I think a big piece of the film's reconception of Superman really works--the idea that Clark/Kal-El is an outsider coming to grips with who and what he is rather than simply springing fully formed is an interesting one, as is how Jonathan Kent is used--without spoiling anything, there are notes of (of all things) Dexter in this conception of Superman, with an adoptive father trying to steer his "different" child to live according to a code and to hide his "talents" from the general public.  Indeed, I would have happily watched a two hour movie that ended with Superman "revealing himself" to the general public, and let the sequels explore what happens next.

The problem is, that's not the movie we get.  We get a supervillain, and given the breadth and scope of Superman's powers, it's very hard to come up with a villain that challenges him.  Either you have to go with a Kryptonite-based plot (which isn't mentioned at all in this version of the mythos, and may not even play a role) or you have to go with an alien threat of some sort.  We opt for the latter here, and as much fun as it is to watch Michael Shannon bellow as General Zod (who does what he can with the material), it ultimately degrades into two guys punching each other, which isn't terribly exciting to watch, particularly when preceded by cosmic action nonsense (I am skeptical that opening a black hole in the middle of Metropolis would not have done more damage).

Much debate in the film revolves around the final resolution of the Superman/Zod conflict, which drew applause (though not from me) in the theatre I saw it in this afternoon.  I'm not sure it's in keeping with the ideals of Superman as established in the comic mythos, but it does establish some things about Superman in this universe going forward, and I'll be interesting to see where they take things, particularly given that they may finally find a problem that Superman can't address just by punching it really hard.


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  2. Gene Hackman6:03 PM

    (Spoiler Alert)

    What a disappointing movie! Many of the movie's ideas are promising - Zod as a somewhat sympathetic bad guy obsessed with protecting the Kryptonion civilization; Superman learning to deal with the isolation and other challenges associated with having unique superpowers; etc. If you told someone the general outlines of the movie it would sound pretty good.

    Unfortunately, the ideas are executed with little intelligence or creativity. The fight scenes at the end of the movie were repetitive and boring. How Superman defeats Zod was a total cop out. Jonathon Kent's death was pretty lame. The dialogue was not at all enjoyable.

    The movie felt like Transformers, and that is not meant as a compliment.

  3. jhedman8:25 PM

    (spoilers abound) I thought this was a solid B movie. I loved the character work, and even Zod as a character was interesting to me because, as a product of a genetically-engineered society, who was literally bred to protect Krypton and its people, he was trapped by his destiny and was therefore impervious to reason. This was why Superman's defeat of Zod resonated with me: Clark is not a murderer, but he was left with no choice, because there was no way to make Zod submit that did not involve immediate loss of human life at Zod's hands (so to speak; eyes if you want to be technical about it.)

    I liked the military's immediate response of lumping Supes in with Zod & co as "alien", and the "This man is not our enemy" line worked well for me.

    I loved Cavill in the role, he has the look and the posture of both Superman and a man raised honorably in the heartland; his guilt over his (step)father's death and his struggle to deal with his true identity were handled well, I thought.

    Loved Amy Adams -- best written Lois Lane since the old black-and-white tv series, where Lois was sharp as anything and completely not a romantic (IIRC).

    All that said, I was bored by the fight scenes, and the "gravity engine" was laughably bad science. My offspring and I all laughed at "adding mass", etc. That was all a bit too much hand-waving mumbo-jumbo.

    However -- you had to pay close attention to get how well the plot hung together. Zod came to Earth because Clark tripped a beacon in that colony ship he re-activated. Zod's job was to protect Krypton, and the colony ship gave him the means to re-create Krypton on Earth. Which brings us to the idea of kryptonite. Of course it was covered. On Zod's ship, Superman practically died because he couldn't breathe, and once his lungs acclimated, he was as weak as a human. All of the Kryptonians had to wear breathing masks and freaked out when they were broken. This version of "kryptonite" makes more sense than any other I've seen.

    I appreciated the time we spent on Krypton. I wonder how many people actually caught that Superman was the first naturally conceived child born on Krypton in hundreds of years. Their society was decaying because it was completely genetic engineered, and because they were stupid and mined their core to the point where it became unstable, in spite of Jor-El's warnings.

    But this makes Clark/Kal-El a true wild card. For every other Kryptonian -- except Jor-El -- you could look at him and know what he was *for*, because he was born into the role. Even Jor-El fulfilled his role in the only way he could, given the circumstances around him (especially the time constraints.) Jor-El just took an especially creative (ha) turn in fulfilling his role. In true Kryptonian form, though, his hologram is putting Kal-El into a role, too, not-so-coincidentally the same role that the Kents envisioned for him. The trick is, can he find a way to be a force for good without letting the world destroy him? As for that: I loved the ending.

  4. I haven't seen "Man of Steel" yet, but two related thoughts:

    1) "This Is The End" was really enjoyable. They could have been really lazy with it, but I thought it was smart and everyone was at the top of their game.

    2) The Teri Hatcher Lois from the ABC series was a very competent journalist as well, although her confidence in her abilities sometimes led her into damsel-in-distress situations.

  5. Watts1:11 PM

    Maybe it's hopeless old-fashioned of me, but I wanted more fun in my Superman movie. And more, "America, F*** yeah". I've got Nolan's Batman for angst and Favreau's "Iron Man" for cynicism about the American war machine.

    It's hard for me to judge this movie fairly, when it was just not at all what I want a Superman to be.

  6. Jenn.1:33 PM

    I completely agree. My husband and I also thought that the second half of the movie was way too heavy on the fight scenes. Don't get me wrong---I like a summer popcorn flick with boom. But this was just repetitive.

  7. Gene Hackman1:33 PM

    I agree Zod's character was interesting, and I also thought Michael Shannon's performance was perhaps the best part of the movie. In fact, I thought all of the performances were great.

  8. I'm reminded of the character Tempus, from the future, who reflects on Lois's stupidity: (takes off glasses) "Look, I'm Superman!" (puts on glasses) "No, I'm Clark Kent! I mean, everyone wants to know, HOW DUMB WAS SHE?"

  9. seriously?12:16 AM

    There is not a *single* thing to recommend about this movie. I threw my hands up in defeat several times. It's one of the stupider movies I've seen -- and I'm saying that in a world where Pauly Shore, Adam Sandler, and Nicolas Cage get to make movies. Why would Nolan think Snyder was a good directorial choice? He missed every basic, foundational characteristic of Supes. Ugh. This was not an *origin* story of how Kal-El/Clark Kent becomes Superman; it was a backstory on Krypton and showcased the most extensive, destructive, and unnecessary fight sequence ever.