Let’s take a brief break from discussing NXNE and talk about the new Superman film, Man of Steel.
In 2006 Bryan Singer decided that the best way to return Superman to the big screen was to acknowledge the brilliance of the 1978 Superman film and its 1980 sequel Superman II by ignoring the remaining sequels and telling the story from that point onwards. After seeing the genesis of Superman time and time again, did the audience really need his origin story, again? Singer apparently thought not. What it did need, however, was a good film, and Superman Returns was not that. Hell, Superman III with Richard Pryor was a better film. Now seven years later, after the incredible success that was the Christopher Nolan directed Batman trilogy, it’s time to bring Supes back to the big screen.
So why did Nolan’s Batman work so well? It’s dark, but has none of the comedic charm that even Tim Burton’s dark Batman had. It was a big action film, but even through all the violence, and the ridiculousness of Christian Bale’s Batman voice, the film is about a man, his foibles and his fragility. Living in a world corrupted by man, he must save it through acts of vigilantism. This is what the audience saw, this is what the audience connected with, a man trying to save his world (Gotham).
Though his name might mislead you to believe that Superman is a man, he is, in fact, a god. And cinematically, Gods are boring to watch. Any film about a world of others needs a human for the audience to see through the eyes of. In Doctor Who his human companions allow the human audience to see into his world. In Back To The Future, the modern ’80s kids see the 1950s through the eyes of Marty McFly. In Away From Her you get to see the world of Alzheimer’s through the eyes of the healthy Grant (Gordon Pinsent) whose wife is deteriorating.
In Superman, the human interaction is through Clark Kent. While Kent might technically be an alien God, he wants to be human, he strives to fit in and live a normal, yet geeky, life amongst man. Kent wants to be a part of this world, he wants to hold onto the normality of the household he grew up in. He wants to be the small town boy from Kansas, not the immortal man of steel from Krypton. The audience connects Kent, not Superman. Man of Steel fails at this. Clark Kent is Superman in a way he’s never been before, the two are inseparable to the point that it takes 3 minutes of screen time for Lois Lane to follow Superman’s path to his Kansas home. General Zod knows Superman is Kent, Lane knows Superman is Kent, the U.S. Army knows Superman is Kent, the only ones who don’t know Superman is Clark Kent is are the billions of red shirts who barely know of Superman’s existence.
I’m calling the general human population red shirts for a reason. I’d guess hundreds of thousands, if not millions of humans die in this film with little care or sympathy. Because of Clark Kent’s identity issues, we just watch this God-like character grow his super powers and have to face others like him. In this battle between Gods, there’s no regard for humanity, no character play, and no reason for the audience to even fein interest.
The vast majority of the film was watching shit fly into other shit. Whether were watching a plane fly into another plane, a super hero fly into a super villain, a super villain fly into a super hero, a missile fly into a building, Gods flying into and out of buildings, debris being thrown at air vehicles. It was tedious. As inane and repetitive as the action was, at least there was one concession, no matter what was going on in foreground, you always had a clear and perfect shot of the corporate logo in the background. Sears, IHOP, and 7-11 will feel their money was well spent.
What did the film get right? I think they made the back story of Krypton more interesting. In previous versions, we knew that Krypton was dying, and Jor-El wanted to save his son’s life. In Man of Steel we see a dying planet due to overuse of natural resources, leading to a military coupe against a government. The planet is going to die, and Jor-El must get Kal-El off the planet. Shortly thereafter we were into Superman’s adulthood. It felt like an uncomfortable jump, but what interested me was that when we finally got to the plot of the film, I hadn’t noticed. It seemed to flow so seamlessly. They continued with flashbacks to get us the info we needed as an audience, and there’s where the seamless transition into plot failed. Once the movie was really going and we jumped back in time to see young Clark, it felt forced, and uninteresting.
Forced and uninteresting is a good point to talk about romance in the film, and by romance, I mean that Lois and Supes kissed. Yup, they snogged. Supes be all over Lane! Why did they kiss? I’ve been wondering that since. There was no romance, no relationship between the two… it just happened. Much like the rest of the film. It just happened. Shit was blown up.
This is not my Superman.