NOT another Man of Steel review! My opinion and response to some of the polarizing criticism aimed at the new Superman. *WARNING SPOILERS*
*WARNING SPOILERS* Man of Steel sensationally blasted off with a $200 million opening week, but has suddenly crashed in it's second weekend with a 71% drop in revenue, falling behind Monsters University and World War Z. I'm here to share my opinions on the more controversial aspects of the film, its polarizing effect with fans and critics, and what this portends for the future of DC-Warner superhero films.
SPOILER WARNING, DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN MAN OF STEEL AND DO NOT WANT KEY PLOT POINTS SPOILED
We've all seen, especially on this particular site, how splitting and controversial Zack Snyder, Chris Nolan and David Goyer's take on the greatest of all superheros is proving to be. Man of Steel has easily surpassed its predecessor, Superman Returns ($200m domestic) at the box office. Twitter has been absolutely aflame with commentary, negative and positive, regarding the artistic, or some might say crassly commercial, liberties taken with the world and character of the last son of Krypton.
I personally agree with Liefeld here. I was as entertained as anybody by Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, although I was starting to fear that all post-Ledger DC comics pictures were going to half to be grounded in the same dismal, ultra pessimistic reality-based setting as Nolan's Gotham. It wasn't even a pre-disappointment in the realism-ifying of the setting, with its fake-sciency explanations for the tumbler, the Batwing, and only semi-realistic, semi-functioning costumes. Everything Nolan created in the Dark Knight series was perfectly suitable for toy reproductions, comic adaptations, and could easily be adapted to animation and any other medium.
And fortunately we got to see a Green Lantern film which, while staying way more faithful to the comics in essential design areas, played fast and loose with continuity, over-compressing the life of Hal Jordan to the stage where he spends just days on Oa learning to use the ring, and then within weeks finds himself facing his greatest nemesis in the form of a horribly mis-designed Parallax. Too soon! Even the stinger at the end where Sinestro discovered the power of a yellow ring (and lets face it, this is what we truly wanted to see in the first movie) is played for laughs.
The failure of Green Lantern only appeared to reaffirm Warners in their mandate to Nolan-ify all future DC comics movie properties, as the announcement soon followed that Nolan would be essentially mentoring/monitoring Zack Snyder's work on Man of Steel; news that sent ripples through the movies' fan circles, creating both approving and skeptical opinions from the start. Nolan fans felt that this meant the film was in safe hands. Nolan critics (and many more Snyder critics) expected the sense of wonder and fantasy to be drained out of the film by Nolan's reality-based grounding of all things super.
Most of these pessimisms were put to rest with the release of the first trailer, and feverish expectations started to grow in time with the advertising budget of the film. There was no way this was going to fail, it had everything going for it.
As I've said before, opinion is drastically split on this movie. Some are saying that the non-linear structure of the narrative was confusing, and bypassed a lot of essential character development. Even more critics are upset by the over-lengthening of the film's final action set piece, and frustrated by its moral implications, deeming Superman too supreme and altruistic to kill his enemy, or stand by while several city blocks of Metropolis, and presumedly thousands of its residents, are decimated by the violent and far-ranging slugfest between Kryptonian rivals.
I will address a few of the top critics' outbursts, starting with:
"Superman’s battle with Zod cost $2 trillion, killed 129,000 people."
-Dylan Matthews, Washington Post
What? That kind of stuff is speculative at best, but it was my impression that that most of the life and property damage had already occurred via Zod's world-building technology, and nothing to do with his fight with Superman. Superman's timely arrival to smash the world-engine and face Zod head-on limited the damage that was already being done on a massive scale. Sorry, but this incident is a point in Kal-El's favor, not against.
And I saw what everyone saw, where Kal and Zod started punching each other through buildings and millions of people died in their wake. But the filmmakers addressed this by documenting the harrying escape made by the Daily Planet staff. My own deduction was that the reporters were the last people to evacuate, meaning that most of the people inhabiting downtown Metropolis had already turned tail and fled the area. Just like, and I'm not trying to be disrespectful here, but remember when after World Trade Towers came down the initial death estimates came down from 20,000+ to somewhere between 3 or 4 thousand? I'm looking at this situation in that type of magnitude: three-thousand Metropolites died at the hands of outer-planetary terrorist Zod, the escalation of which was actually prevented by Superman.
The only way I could see this being avoided is if Kal had smashed Zod to pieces on Zod's first introduction; basically an act of premeditated murder, rather than the justifiable homicide committed at the film's climax. Think about it.
"Superheroes don’t kill people, but Superman definitely doesn’t kill people. It’s a defining aspect of the character. He isn’t just good, he’s too good. It’s an insanely powerful moment. When it happens, you think to yourself: 'Geez, what a radical redefinition of the character. Classically, Superman has never taken a life, even the life of his worst, most homicidal enemy. How will this change this character going forward?'”
-Darren Franich, Popwatch.eu.com
Okay well that just shows that this guy has never read a comic or seen a Superman movie in his life. Of course Superman is supposed to preserve life in all situations, but he's actually successful in this instance. Simply, he saved a family at the expense of Zod's life; and this with Zod declaring his intent to "kill them one by one." Superman is left with no choice here, and by simple math process he saved more lives in that final climactic action than were lost.
But in the case of Superman killing Zod, I don't think fans mind the killing part of it, as much as have a distaste for the sudden, brutal manner in which it occurred. For Superman to elevate himself to his essential status as the best example of Earth-kind, he has to sacrifice himself. Examples were already made by Chris Meloni's character. A real hero throws himself in front of the danger, he doesn't snap its neck!
And anyway, Jedi kill! Luke cuts all kind of stormtroopers down with blasters, lightsabers, all kinds of stuff! Mace Windu cuts off Jango Fett's head in front of his kid, and Obi-wan thrashes a ton of those bug guys on Geonosis! And then later he cuts his best friend to pieces for the mere crime of killing a few kid Jedis. Aren't Jedi supposed to live by a code? Shouldn't Obi-wan have been the bigger man and talked Anakin out of his dark-side enforced mania?
If for once we had two Kryptonians using their eye beams on each other, the stronger of the two overpowering the weaker and causing the loser's head to suddenly combust, now that would be cinematic!
But there is an essential difference I have with the filmmakers on this point, and it's an issue I have with Superman storytelling since ever:
Superman is an omnipotent being, whose inherently altruistic nature makes him absolutely incorruptible by his enemies. That's a given, an absolutely irrevocable tenet of the character. It's unchangeable, as totally static as the fact he was born on Krypton, loves Lois Lane, and can fly.
So, don't you think the challenge as a story-teller is not to create a being that's even tougher and more badass than Superman, but to invent a villain with a plot so diabolical and ingenious, that it confounds Superman's physical talents, tempting him to abandon his altruism? I mean, what kind of dastardly plan is so frustrating that it could force Superman to steal, bully, or kill to overcome it? That is the real challenge of writing Superman.
Any hack writer can come up with the idea of an unbeatable alien that can just beat Superman to shreds. I mean come on, who's tougher than Superman? Two Supermen! That's just easy, lazy, and un-inventive.
But as soon as the movie was announced, fanboys started calling for the inclusion of Doomsday. They justifiably decreed that Lex Luthor had been overused, and mishandled, on screen, and it was high-time that Warners put forth a villain who had physical abilities to rival Superman. Lets see Superman in a fair fight: understandable enough.
But that's why the fans don't create the movies. That's also why movie studios consistently create work that appeals to the lowest common denominator. That's why there are partially-nude scenes in Star Trek Into Darkness. Studios might listen to fans, but artists should not. They should listen to the fan inside themselves.
I think Zack Snyder has a very active, influential inner child, and he loves the pro-wrestling style costume smash'em ups that superhero films have on offer. I'm all for that. But I also fear that Snyder lacks the intestinal fortitude to face the fans and critics head-on and make the movie that's really inside him. Maybe he's stinging from the backlash he suffered after Sucker Punch. This guy didn't have the balls to do the Watchmen ending as written, and that just tells me that he's afraid of what the studios and fans have to say; he's afraid to get it right, at the expense of being called a fanboy himself.
He's Nolan, in a way. Nolan abandoned everything that's fantastical about comics in an effort to reality-ize Batman. He couldn't even use the names Batman or Superman, but has to re-dub them "Dark Knight" and "Man of Steel." I hate this. Call them what they are: recognizable properties that have existed in more or less the same form for 70+ years. They don't require that level of deconstruction, and I doubt you are an artist of such enviable quality as to add anything of essence to them. The Dark Knight is basically a dolled-up remake of Nighthawks, with a generation-crowning performance by Heath Ledger elevating it.
Oh, back to the question of how it moves the franchise forward. I think it does just fine. In Marvel NOW, Tony Stark was recently put on trial by the Kree, Shi'ar, Badoon, and everyone; accused of deicide for extinguishing the Phoenix entity before it could destroy the Earth. Sound familiar?
If Superman was put on trial for wiping out the last remnants of his own species, albeit for the altruistic reason of saving the Earth, that would be interesting wouldn't it? Can you think of any great tribunals for justice in the DC Universe? Maybe the Guardians of the Universe? Maybe?
And say a nigh-omnipotent extraterrestrial entity stood to benefit from this persecution, someone who craved power over the solar system and viewed Superman as a threat to that conquest.... who would resemble that? I don't know, all I can think of are perhaps Brainiac? Darkseid? I'm short of ideas, help me out.
And if Superman was dragged across the universe to face trial, who would protect the Earth from super villains? You'd have to form some sort of society of super-powered people to become friends and enforce justice in his wake, wouldn't you? A bunch of metahumans in league with each other, for justice.....
I know it sounds crazy! But I guess this plot twist at the end of Man of Steel has quashed any possibility for DC comics movies to move forward. Damn.
: This article was submitted by a volunteer contributor who has agreed to our code of conduct
. ComicBookMovie.com is protected from liability under "safe harbor" provisions and will disable users who knowingly commit plagiarism, piracy, trademark or copyright infringement. For expeditious removal, contact us HERE