If you haven't seen Man of Steel and intend to without knowing some of the plot points, stop reading NOW!
I mean it.
The only reason to continue is: a) you've seen the movie already; b) don't intend to see it anyways; c) have already seen spoilers and you really don't care; or d) you're just here to witness the delightful and creative use of the English language in written form, which is, admittedly, my calling card.
OK, here we go.
First of all, I want to take you back in your own memories. Everyone's been there. When you were a kid and you'd play a game with your friends. It might have included action figures, toy laser blasters, sticks and branches that became swords. The core element however, was imagination. You and your friends all made an unspoken agreement that you'd all imagine the same thing. You'd all pretend by the same rules. And yet somewhere along the way you'd always encounter one kid who didn't wanna do it like everyone else. This whiny baby wouldn't accept that while in this game you could all pretend fly, you couldn't talk to animals…. HE wanted to be able to talk to animals too, and it made no sense and there was no need for it…. it could even have been something that slightly spoiled the game…. but THIS kid would kick off and make so much fuss that just for a bit of peace, everyone would agree that, yes, we can talk to animals too. Eventually you and your friends would ditch that kid, because it was ALWAYS his way or he wasn't playing…. and eventually you all agreed the "he wasn't playing" part was actually a pretty good option.
The only way you didn't encounter this kid was if you WERE this kid. And since you're here now, clearly you've seen sense, changed your ways and are a stand-up kinda person…. because who else is gonna be reading my stuff ? Am I right ?
Where am I going with this?
A lot of the criticisms I saw for Man of Steel smacked of this attitude.
"It's not how I would have done it."
"It's not the one I wanted to see."
"You didn't do what I wanted you to do, so it's wrong…. and I hate it…. and I hate you…. and you smell…. and your dog's ugly…. and I'm going home now and I'm taking my ball…. and…. and…. yeah…. stinky-face!"
Costumes, casting, bits and pieces like that, I'm not even gonna address some of those complaints. But I am gonna hit a couple of the big things which are being held up as indications that the movie is really, really wrong. I wouldn't bother, but it seems that to some degree, the people espousing these problems missed something, or worse, are being disingenuous at best.
The problem here was that in Smallville and Metropolis, Superman has fights and the destruction is massive…. and Superman doesn't stop the destruction. In Smallville, he squares off against a couple of rogue Krytonians in Main Street. Now if you couldn't see that this was a clear nod to the Western Genre, the High Noon gunfight in the center of town, you should go check out some westerns. And yes, the fight DID cause some serious damage, but what about the damage the humans caused? They opened up heavy firepower in the middle of a populated civilian area. At one point, the commander on the spot orders down what sounds like a serious missile attack…. on MAIN STREET, Smallville, Kansas. But in the criticisms pointed at this, Superman is the bad guy here for not taking it out to the fields. Y'know, where all the local crops were, and the livelihood of the entire region. He was damned either way.
Which I think leads to an underscoring of how lame we are as a species…. which I understand some might want to ignore. If you live in a world where you believe your country is the biggest and bestest in the world, having a couple (and I do mean a couple) of aliens come down with VASTLY superior technology and abilities and treat you like a dog handles a tug-toy, you might get uncomfortable. But remember, it's not real. It's a movie. It's just pretend. As soon as you walk out of the cinema, you can go back to being the biggest and bestest in the world…. y'know…. your OWN pretend.
We get similar comments about what then happens in and to Metropolis. First of all, sending in the missiles and fighter jets was whose idea? And even my kids were complaining that the US Military was stupid because this thing was messing with gravity, so how are they gonna hit it with missiles? But again, the complaint is about the toll of human life in the attack, which in this movie was just completely ignored.
To which I'd say, in the same way it was ignored in Independence Day. Ah…. but there you see, humans proved to be, against all logic and even a shred of common sense, able to beat a technologically superior alien race. If aliens are wiping out thousands and thousands of people, but we can, against all reason, give them the Y2K virus, we're good with those deaths…. if we need Superman to help, why didn't he do it quicker? And with less carnage? And this mess won't clean itself up, y'know!
This lead to the next problem some people had.
What was Superman doing on the other side of the world?
First of all, it's clearly started that the device which will destroy the Earth as we know it, is the one on the other side of the planet. On Zod's ship, someone even states that the main ship is now secondary to the World Maker in the Indian Ocean. So to save the world, Superman has to stop the one NOT in Metropolis. He's also the only one who really CAN stop it. They have a plan that will deal with the Metropolis-side of things which Superman would likely as not only get in the way of. So it makes sense that Superman should go deal with the other machine. Now just on plot points alone, we've resolved that issue. However, on a deeper level, this is Superman becoming the hero as well. Lois Lane asks if being that close to something which is actively turning Earth into Krypton, will mean he loses his powers? So he's going in not knowing that he CAN defeat this thing. It could kill him. It could strip him of his powers. But he goes anyway…. because he's the only one who can.
The criticism that he's not saving Metropolis and all the people in the city, is, let's be honest, just selfish. He's not saving America…. so really, what IS he doing.
He saved us? Really? Four of us?
This is linked to the previous one. After the World Maker is defeated and the Kryptonians sent packing, a character says something to the tune of, "He did it! He saved us!"
And the complaints here are, "What? All four of you? Have you looked around you? The death! The destruction! What!?"
And again, it's that selfish thing kicking in. The person speaking is not one of the real, main, named characters. She's one of us. And by that, I mean human. I don't mean citizen of Metropolis or even an American. A human. And the "us" she's talking about is EVERYONE on the planet…. not JUST the people in the city or country. EVERYONE!
It's too cold and sci-fi.
Well, techically because there are space ships and stuff, that doesn't make it sci-fi. There's very little hard science in there, so really it's fantasy. But that niggle aside, Superman comes to this planet in a spaceship, it's kinda hard to ignore that sci-fi bit. And if you show where he comes from and you bring others of that planet to Earth, in spaceships, it pretty much is what it is. And in that respect, it's exactly like the comics.
It's devoid of hope.
To me, this movie was filled with it. Superman has no idea which side of the game he should side with. But he is concerned, a feeling that comes specifically from his Jonathan Kent, that humans will NOT accept him. And initially he's proved completely correct in that. Yet he persists. Even knowing that humanity doesn't trust him, sees him as an enemy and a threat, Superman STILL stands with them. He's not proving himself on a level playing field, he's proving himself from a starting point of fear, mistrust and hostility. He IS better than the humans he encounters and he shows them that. It's the core of the thematic element of the movie. He's leading humanity to be better than they are. Again, if you think this is as good as it gets, that is not gonna play well against your world view.
Superman doesn't kill.
This was the biggy. And the deal-breaker for some people. But if you already read my non-spoiler post about the movie, Book in a Year #043, you know the deal here. The origin of a character and the start of a story are NOT the same thing. If you buy into the conceit of the movie, you have this staggeringly powerful character who can, without even thinking about it, kill anyone he wants. But the core element of Superman is that he DOESN'T kill. But why? In previous versions, he just doesn't. No explanation, no reasoning, he just doesn't. But here, in Man of Steel, you learn why. Against Zod, who he ultimate does kill, he has no choice. Zod has made it VERY clear that while he breathes, he will destroy everything and everyone on the planet. Superman knows this isn't an empty promise and that Zod is capable (both in terms of ability and psychology). The ONLY way to save the world now is to make sure that doesn't happen. Superman again does the only thing he can and he is the only person who can. He sacrifices something in himself for the sake of the world. Why is that so hard to accept?
And if you really want to push this…. what happens to Zod and his cronies on Superman II? You don't think stripped of powers and dropped into a seemingly bottomless crevasse will kill them? Or is it OK because you don't actually have to see the death?
Ultimately, in the same way that Nolan's Batman trilogy was really about Bruce Wayne NOT Batman, Man of Steel is about the alien Kal-El becoming Clark Kent. The outsider coming in. Making a choice on where he stands, who he stands with and what he stands for.
At the end of the day, a lot of the compaints I see are from the people who would complain that people think comicbooks are for kids…. and when they get a movie that attempts to mix in a little more grown-up styling, they complain about that too.
Then tell me what I'm missing.
Screenplay: 2 Pages
Christmas Short Story Word Count: 2257
Novel Word Count: 11,934