In Defense of Man of Steel: A Retrospect

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It’s funny how divided the people have been about the newest cinematic incarnation of Superman; director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Rotten Tomatoes has got it rated at an even 50% and Comic Book Girl talked about it but wouldn’t touch it herself for fear of getting harassed in the comment section for whatever side she might sway toward. Tried to put a link up to it but it looks like she even took the video down. I can only assume why.

And while this seems like something that should have come out around the time when the movie was first released, I needed to see again to make sure it was the same movie I thought it was in theaters. And it was actually better this time around.

Spoilers ahead. Of course.

I understand, as a fan of comic books myself, that to see your hero on screen puts you on edge wondering whether or not they’re going to deliver but the complaints I’m hearing aren’t even of the quality variety as much as they are that the character was poorly conceived onscreen. Well, I call shenanigans.

1. Too Much Destruction

Not a face for peace.

Not a face for peace.

Now this, I have something of a hard time understanding. Too much destruction? Really? After The Avengers and Transformers movies, how could anyone not see a Superman movie containing all the property damage that took place? Every other comic and Justice League episode had the same thing- guys getting punched through multiple buildings.

Phew, good thing no civvies were in the way. Or were they? It’s a cartoon so it’s perceivable that no humans were in the way because you’ve got to keep it PG(ish) in the things anyway. But despite no complaints for Pacific Rim’s level of destruction, which also came out in 2013, this was a major complaint among fans; that Superman didn’t seem to care about anyone and was just destroying things.

Yet complaints were also made of Bryan Singer’s adaption of 2006’s Superman Returns and the fact that nothing happened in it. I mean…nothing. Sure, he floated around spying on his illegitimate child and a bullet crumpled when facing the unflinching eye of Routh, but we really didn’t get much else other than “He’s back! Impressed?

"No. And kid, if you wanna keep your job, you'll put some pants on."

“No. And kid, if you wanna keep your job, you’ll put some pants on.”

Routh’s Superman saved a lot of people in it, sure, which is definitely a Superman thing, but for that to be written into the story felt like it was at the expense of hand to hand combat involving an insanely strong man with the ability to fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes. There’s more to Superman you say? Yeah, but what good is a tank if you’ve got no artillery?

Also, let’s keep in mind that this is a younger Superman, fighting a villain that sees himself as a god among our puny planet and wants us all dead. He’s a perfected warrior battling the inexperienced Superman who has hardly even tested his own limits, much less train against those like him. He was hardly able to save himself much less everybody else.

Let’s also not forget that the fight started in the area of Metropolis that has already been desecrated and then taken outside of those limits.

Do I like the idea of hundreds of innocent civilians dying as a byproduct of a Superman fight, even if they’re fictional? No, but I also hate Marvel’s strategy of “Keep it basic and shiny.”

"Gyaaar! I'm sorry, is that too scary? Lemme try again."

“Gyaaar! I’m sorry, is that too scary? Lemme try again.”

The Hollywood Reporter has estimated that the damage done in The Avengers would total about 160 billion dollars- more than 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Japanese Tsunami combined. You telling me nobody died in that thirty minute holocaust??

Not to mention- you’re not gonna see these two super-powered freaks fighting in a movie like this ever again- enjoy it!

2. Too Serious

"Hold on post office! My taxes WILL be mailed today!" Man of Steel, rated PG-13 due to adult situations.

“Hold on post office! My taxes WILL be mailed today!” Man of Steel, rated PG-13 due to adult situations.

I guess this is valid to a point until you realize this was made by the guy that did Watchman and the other guy that did The Dark Knight trilogy. Granted, I don’t want to see Superman in some bizarre Aronofsky-type rape dilemma but a more serious Superman? I see no problem with that.

Warner Brothers and DC knew what they wanted with this project; a more stoic tone so as to tie it in with Nolan’s take on Batman, thus creating their own Avengers-style actionpalooza.

But we’ve also gotta remember that what’s going in the movie is the “realistic” portrayal of Superman; one where he really is the only one doing what he does. In the comics, he’s a constant. He’s always been around, we all know him, and he’s just one more overpowered weirdo saving the day in his underwear. There’s nothing to explain because he knows it all and has done it all. There’s no mystery, just the fight that he carries on to make sure earth is safe from any threats.

He's resorted to small time work on occasions.

He’s resorted to small time work on occasions.

But in Man of Steel, we’re dealing with a different situation and the beginning of Superman’s superhero career. I’m not aware of Batman’s lack of humor complaints in Batman Begins, so why get all uppity because we’re not seeing Clark Kent’s teeth sparkle when he smiles as nobody in a room full of journalists knows who he is?

If you were the only one left of your race, you’d be a bit somber too. And before he found out he was the only one left of a dead race? Well, you grow up with no explanation as to why you are the way you are and see how alienated you feel.

3. Cavill as Superman was Bland

"I eat a healthy bowl of AMERICAN for breakfast every morning."

“I eat a healthy bowl of Blandios for breakfast every morning.”

I won’t fight you too much on this one; Cavill ain’t the best player in the acting game. If you’ve seen The Immortals (which I still liked) or Godhelpyou if you watched The Cold Light of Day, which acting classes should have you watch to say “See, guys? Just do the opposite” you know that his acting is limited, shall we say.

But I also don’t think he’s the problem here.

While Cavill is no Gary Oldman, Superman isn’t really known for the deep end of his personality pool. You can say what you want, but the guy is generally just thought of as a really nice guy and…that’s about it. It’s cool that the ultimate superhero is a really nice guy and all…but there’s not that much to work with. 75 years of a single character and they become more of an icon and an image than a portrait of masterfully written fiction.

"Yes, Infinite Crisis was good and all but what about the pillows? One more should do it, don't you?"

“Yes, Infinite Crisis was good and all but what about the pillows? One more should do it, don’t you?”

But because Superman is an icon, limiting him to a mere flesh-and-blood actor is going to piss some people off. The Coen Brothers’ adaption of the True Grit book had many folks of the olden days decrying it claiming “You can’t replace John Wayne!” because as some saw it, John Wayne is their hero that you just can’t beat- so why try? You’ll deal with this with any adaption or reboot of course.

Play it this way, he’s too serious…play it that way, he’s too goofy and you’re watching a children’s movie that nobody enjoys but the kids.

But what exactly was the tone he was supposed to strike? I really don’t know how else he could have played it other than how he did. Cavill played it as a nice guy with seemingly limitless powers- if the shoes fits boys and girls, you know what to do.

4. Superman doesn’t kill.

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As you know, by the end of the movie, Superman ends up having to kill Zod. Superman breaks Zod’s neck after a massive fight (where “too much” was destroyed) when Zod makes it clear that if he’s not stopped, he’ll just make Superman suffer by killing everybody that he loves.

This is a variation and a tie-in of the first complaint that there was too much destruction. One being that Superman was letting too many people die while this is Superman directly killing.

Comic writer Mark Waid, who wrote Superman: Birthright, a series that had much to do with Man of Steel’s own story, wrote in his blog about his displeasure with the writer’s choice of having Superman kill his enemy.

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He basically talks about Superman choosing to fight over protecting us weak humans to which I again argue that Zod was going for him, rather than Zod trying to get ahold of some almighty detonator to set off. It was a personal battle for him and it had come down to making the impossible choice- kill or let innocents die? It’s an intriguing moment where we see his reaction to what he’s done immediately after he’s done it; a guttural scream and watery eyes.

In the comics we can get out of this a number of ways- that Dissappearatrixeratomizer? Yeah, Superman remembers he was given that by Batman two issues earlier. He sees it just in time to zap Zod and send him back to the Phantom Zone or wherever else he can go until writers want to use him again.

"I forgot my Blandios this morning so I'm just going to EAT THESE."

“I forgot my Blandios this morning so I’m just going to EAT THESE.”

In the more toned down movie version, it’s a bit more simple and complex at the same time. Superman’s desire to save every life he can is shown to climax in this single moment when he had to kill. It actually made a guy that doesn’t care about Superman care about Superman.

But trust me, I get it. In 2003, my little highschooler heart broke when Ben Affleck was not only portraying my man Daredevil, but vindictively letting a man die by subway train after making a lame joke about the light at the end of the tunnel. All of this after a scene where he fights thugs to Nickleback.

You think you know what it’s like to have your hero butchered? Good Lord, man, nothing is sacred. Especially not a B-grader that (for some reason) kept being written off as a wannabe Spider-man. I remember telling friends afterward “Daredevil doesn’t kill! I don’t know why they did that!”

"Also, life isn't turning out like I thought it would."

“Also, life isn’t turning out like I thought it would.”

But there’s a difference between spitefully allowing someone to die and just having to say “But Supes didn’t save EVERY SINGLE PERSON!”

I’m glad we got it out of our system! I don’t want to see Superman juggle saving civilians and fighting a supposedly unbeatable villain at the same time in every single fight; let’s just see him struggle to keep his own life.

So I’m not telling you that you have to like this movie. Because ya don’t. I’m just saying that to state superfluous reasons about character changes really only go so far. How do you think Catwoman fans feel? Yeesh.

Creative liberties, huh? Okay. I see how it is.

Creative liberties, huh? Okay. I see how it is.

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3 Responses to “In Defense of Man of Steel: A Retrospect”

  1. This entry is the perfect, holistic example of why I read this blog. Son of Jor-el…KNEEL before Zod…

    • Taylor Says:

      Thanks. I really hated that more people didn’t like this movie. Not that it was some kind of inspirational Indie underdog, but when a big budget movie like this comes out and it gets touted as “destruction porn” it’s a little annoying seeing as how movies like “The Wolverine” are accepted by many over 12.

      • Randy Says:

        I agree 100%. I think people automatically take a dump on anything Superman because it’s not “cool” to get that close to moral excellence in a post-modern hero.

        On a semi-random topic, one of the terrorists trying to blow up the Eiffel Tower in Superman II resembles Mike Nesbit of The Monkees.

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