A Few Thoughts on Man of Steel

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So I saw the Man of Steel for the second time yesterday night and figured that since it’s been out a couple weeks I could finally write down my spoiler-laden thoughts without ruining it for people.  Unless you didn’t see it yet, in which case what are you doing with your life?  Seriously get out of your house and go see it.  I think it’s a travesty that a movie like this has a 57 on Rotten Tomatoes accompanied by a bunch of mixed reviews so I figured why not put my ink on the page, or web, or however this internet thing works. This isn’t so much of a synopsis or movie review in the traditional sense as much as it’s a few of my thoughts on the movie.  Well I guess that kind of makes it a review now doesn’t it? Shut up.

To know a little bit about where I’m coming from (so you know whether you can dismiss my opinion before reading or not) I’ll let you know that I approached this movie as a pretty huge lifelong Superman fan.  This means that I not only went into the film wanting to enjoy it but also that I had extremely high expectations for the movie, both based on what I know Superman can be as well as what I had seen in the extensive MoS marketing campaign.  That being said I thought the movie was awesome and was pretty blown away, maybe more-so after the second viewing as I was really able to watch the movie an appreciate it for all that it was.

First off, whether or not you love, hate, or don’t know a damn thing about Superman you can still enjoy this movie because at the end of the day it’s a really great Sci-fi/first contact film. You should be able to appreciate MoS even if you’re one of those people who thinks Superman is boring because he is too strong, has too many powers, isn’t as cool as Batman, or whatever (I could go on and on about why this is wrong, but I digress).  I think the sci-fi aspects were some of the best, including Krypton as a setting and the various Kryptonian technology that was used, including the Genesis Chamber, World Engine, and the like.  It all felt very alien, which is something that I think most people aren’t used to and forget when dealing with Superman and his extra-terrestrial heritage.

More on that point, I believe that is where the movie did some of its best work.  This is the first movie since maybe the Richard Donner film that really reminded you that first and foremost Clark Kent is an alien.  He isn’t human and although raised by humans he is still fundamentally and biologically different from you and I.  The film does a really great job of capturing the isolation, confusion, anger, and sadness of being alone and having to hide who you are from the world in fear of being rejected.  On top of it all Clark is able to do all of these fantastic things that he has to keep a secret out of fear that the people that he’s lived among his whole life aren’t ready to find out that they’re not alone in the universe.  I think this is pretty heavy stuff, so when critics said that “Superman was too dark”, or “he wasn’t humorous enough” or he was “too brooding” I say that I’m surprised he wasn’t even darker and downer in the dumps.  He didn’t exactly lead that traditional mid-western life.  The various flashbacks were a great way to show us Clark’s struggles in key moments as he was growing up and really laid the ground work for the psychology of Superman.

I thought the reveal was handled in a perfectly realistic way.  In every other incarnation of Superman it’s pretty cut and dry.  Superman is done with his Fortress training or whatever, decides he’s ready to save the day, catches a plane to start out, and the world touts him as a hero.  Yay! Superman is here to save us all, this is great!  No, shit wouldn’t go down like that.  People would be afraid.  No, terrified.  So you’re telling me a benevolent god-alien has been living here for years and wants to take care of us? Needless to say I don’t think everyone would be on board.  People are livid about Mexicans in our country illegally, you’re telling me that harboring an all-powerful Kryptonian is going to be cheered by all?  That’s why I think this falls under the category of an awesome first contact film and I think they can go even further with this idea in the future.  It makes sense that the military would approach Clark with at least some skepticism.  24 hours before Zod’s ship appeared Earth had no clue there was any life beyond our planet and then smack, dude’s here from another planet claiming one of his own has been harbored on Earth.  Kind of a mind fuck right there.  This tied in nicely to Clark’s internal struggles about his heritage, destiny, and whether the time would ever be right to reveal himself to the human race.

Now there’s a lot of talk going on about the damage that was caused during MoS.  Yeah it was pretty extensive but there’s kind of no way it couldn’t be.  So you have this hyper-advanced maniac alien and his minions come to our planet in search of the only device (artifact? half-skull thing? whatever, it’s the Codex) that will bring his people back after they’ve been exploded to shit out of their own stubbornness, decides he wants to make our planet into a different planet for his people to live, and on top of it all you have multiple god-like beings fighting in furtherance of their respective goals and you want to talk to me about damage? Damage? Damage?!! Zod wanted to destroy the human race and remake Earth into Krypton.  The planet was literally at stake so I’m sorry if a bunch of buildings crumbled and a lot of people died.  It would have been a lot worse if Superman didn’t care or decided “you know what, it would be pretty great to see the motherland.”  Oh and don’t talk to me about September 11 and all of that kind of imagery it evoked, I’ll immediately dismiss that opinion.  It’s a convenient trope to reference whenever buildings are seen falling in  film; it’s tired and adds nothing to the discussion.

Anyway, yeah damage.  Yeah, I’m sure a ton of people died and the damage was extensive, but what was Clark supposed to do. “Oh, take Zod to an empty field somewhere like they do in Dragon Ball Z, “yeah he was trying to do that during the fight in Smallville and couldn’t because he was being ganged up on.  When he was fighting in Metropolis he didn’t have much of a choice either.  When the other Kryptonians were sent back to the phantom zone Zod’s purpose in life went along with them, so all he was going to do now was kill more humans.  The only damage Clark intentionally caused was when he flew Zod through the gas station after he had hurt Clark’s mother.  What would you do if you were a super-being and someone tried to hurt your mom? Probably fly them through a field while pummeling them, a silo and then through a gas station. Oh and by the way this was Clark’s first day on the job. He literally outed himself as an alien to the world then had to fight a super baddie soldier from his home world. It’s surprising he was even able to do as well as he was. Remember that time you worked at Olive Garden and dropped that tray full of shit in your first week? Yeah, give Supes some slack.

Here’s a quick rundown of things I loved:

The visuals were great, from Krypton through the flying, the whole movie was visually fantastic. I really appreciated the little movements and effects that made Superman more Superman like, such as his hover over to Zod before the final battle (which he always does in cartoons) floating when the floor is knocked out from under him, and using heat vision to try to avoid being smacked by a steel beam. All make sense, but I’m glad those kinds of things were included.

Lois and Clark’s relationship- I’m so glad they didn’t pussyfoot with the whole Superman-Clark-Lois triangle because let’s face it, it doesn’t make much sense. She sees this dude every day at work and is supposed to be the best reporter but doesn’t figure it out? I’m really excited to see their relationship in the future, since I’ve always thought Superman was the most fun when he and Lois are in on the whole thing together. It’ll be fun if he becomes bumbling mild mannered Clark and they get in on the silly things that he’s going to have to do to keep his cover.

Faora- she was ruthless, hot, and kicked ass. When she was fighting the soldiers and essentially “blinking” between them DBZ style was some of the coolest action.

Kryptonite without needing the rock- I thought it was awesome how they were weakened from the Kryptonian atmosphere. It makes sense according to Superman lore and I was glad they fleshed that out. I’m curious how they’re going to bring kryptonite into the mix, since they had to come through wormholes to get here. But yeah I thought they did a great job of making the Kryptonians uber powerful yet cleverly vulnerable. They could take most of what the military dished but also got a little poned when they were hit with something like a rocket. It was really well done.

Henry Cavill- he’s a good looking dude and epitomizes Superman. He kicked some serious ass (like I said, the action was outstanding) and really sold the performance, from dealing with his mysterious alien past to pulling off great super feats. I loved that even though he’s freakin Superman he was still shaky and not yet confident in his abilities.

Sorry I forgot to bottom line this yesterday. Is it the best movie ever made? No, I obviously know that but it was an excellent sci-fi movie and the Superman movie we both deserved and needed. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
9/10

I could keep talking about this but I’ll stop now. Let me know what you think.

Corey Aaron

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5 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on Man of Steel

    • Honestly I wanted to talk about that symbolism but in the interest of brevity I didn’t want to go into too many topics that I wouldn’t be able to discuss extensively. Based on the question I gather that you weren’t a fan of the religious symbolism but in my opinion it wasn’t over the top. Yes there were definitely Jesus comparisons but I didn’t think it was excessive. Clark is pretty much alien Jesus and honestly I’m at peace with that, so I’m okay with the Jesus pose while floating out of the ship, the stained glass behind him while in the church, etc. Like I said, I thought there were some Jesus comparisons but it wasn’t too bad. Personally, I was more interested in the use of Plato in the one flashback scene. . .

  1. I am ok with a little, but to me this was too much-
    Dad says he will be a god to them
    His mother is the only one to survive to his present age (Admittedly his step dad’s death scene was the best in the move)
    The constant cross position
    The fact that his is a fisherman (crabber) and what does he fish for – Men off an oil rig = fisher of men
    He is thirty three when he is revealed
    He accepts that he is turned in / betrayed
    His area rulers (Herod/Pilot) wash their hands of him and turn him over to his own kind to have him killed
    His enemy states he is non moral
    He has to go down under the world (the southern hemisphere) and appears dead before he can rise up and defeat Zod
    and I only tapped the big ones here
    But the Plato is interesting – I saw it as him trying to understand humanity. Is there more that is not sucked up in the Christ routine of turn the other cheek as they beat him. I could see a moment of emergence from the cave after just watching shadows in the frozen ship, but in general I saw more Christian symbols than philosophical.

    • All great observations and connections. I’ll admit that I did catch most of these but missed a few like the fisherman connection but I’m still not really bothered by these allusions.

      Superman is and pretty much always has been the savior of mankind, a messiah if you will so these connections and symbols don’t really get to me. Religious symbolism is common in movies and can definitely detract from the film if it’s too excessive or seems forced. When you’re dealing with a character like Superman it’s hard to separate the symbolism from the character based on all of the history he’s accumulated throughout the years. It’s clear from Superman’s story that he’s been influenced by many characters that have come before him, including those in religious texts.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that Superman’s character and story is so laden with religious symbolism that it’s difficult to do a proper retelling without including those references. For example, you bring up the fact that Clark’s mother was the only one to reach his present age as a symbol but to me that makes sense based on Clark’s story, since in almost every incarnation of Superman his father didn’t live to see Clark’s adult life (and it wasn’t until the post-Crisis comics that DC played with the idea of Clark having both parents into adulthood). Clark reveals himself at 33 years of age which can definitely be seen as a Jesus comparison but it’s also true that in Superman lore he originally spent his youth in relative obscurity, only to reveal himself well into adulthood after learning for some time under his biological father in the Fortress of Solitude.

      I suppose the crux of my argument is that given the nature and history of the character it’s hard to produce an accurate retelling without some to a lot of religious symbolism, especially since the whole point of the character is to be the savior of man. With that kind of pressure and the feats Clark is capable of it’s kind of difficult to not compare him to and make connections with the figures that are part of our own stories and ideas of god.

      Was there a lot? Sure I suppose so, but I guess they did a good enough job with it that it didn’t bother me. I’m also not sure how you could have a Superman that wouldn’t have religious symbolism. Like I said before, Clark is and pretty much always has been alien Jesus, so I can’t complain about it.

  2. Pingback: Bale Back as Batman? Not Yet, but $50 Million Might Change That | Kram Comedy Speaks

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