Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Man of Steel

The handcuffs are for show.
I went on the opening night of Man of Steel, the reboot of the Superman franchise done by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer and Zach Snyder. I won't educate you on those men. There are other sites for that.

I was stunned at how far they took the Superman mythos and how well-executed the villains were. How it touched on many open nerves of our culture, from the illegal immigration controversy, to birth identity, and hiding to fit in socially, to the very things we fear the misuse of, but still desire: an uncensored media and a strong military. I credit Christopher Nolan for all that.

For the great emotional bylines and other characterizations, I credit David S. Goyer. I am probably wrong, but this film has JUST enough DC comics easter eggs to make a fanboy grin in the movie theater, and I think he brought them in.

Zach Snyder brought us the lowered palette, and powerful, scary action sequences. There is spectacle and loads of it. You will fear this General Zod and his crew, I guarantee it.

I was expecting a pretty good critical review for the film. Say somewhere north of 85%. With its smart writing, daring re-interpretations and excellent use of the science fiction basis of Superman, it made me see Superman in a different light—and how dark Krypton was to end in a self-imposed genocide from short-sightedness and what kind of beings they must have been—and the contrast with the fears of Pa and Ma Kent who found this alien boy.

The critics came back with barely a 57% approval. I was so shocked, it silenced me.

Did we see the same film? If we did, what did they hate?

The director for one. It did not matter what Snyder did, they already had decided he was unworthy. I will admit, I too feared greatly because I do NOT like his vision, though it has some good elements. Watchman was watchable, and 300 was iconic, but Sucker Punch, which I have not even seen was panned by all.

But his energy is tamed and directed by the demands of a great script and a world-class producer-director-writer—and the result is creative, powerful, eye-popping super sci-fi heroism with a soundtrack that sounds like Jimi Hendrix does Brahms. It is chocolate-covered bacon for your ears, sinfully fattening and woefully addictive.




What They Hated
But I think the biggest hate was for Snyder and Crew, who, with DC's permission and foreknowledge, allowed Superman to do something that he has never done before.

He kills.

"Superman is supposed to be better than a normal man; he's not supposed to do that!" is the refrain.

Here's how it happened: in the climactic end battle, General Zod says Superman took from him his soul and REASON to live by stopping him from re-making Krypton on Earth and sending all the remaining Kryptonians to the Phantom Zone. A huge brawl ensues that causes billions of dollars in collateral damage and endangers thousands of lives. Finally, Kal-El wrestles him to his knees in a train station. Zod then begins using his heat vision at full power, about to vengefully incinerate a trapped family unit in his sight.

Kal-El grabs him in a headlock and begs him to stop. Zod refuses, and continues to try to burn said family unit. With little other recourse available, Kal-El gives a sharp twist, snapping Zod's neck. Having killed the last standing Kryptonian, Kal-El lays down Zod's lifeless body and wails in true grief. Lois steps over to comfort him, acknowledging his pain at having to do something horrible to save lives.

But like the Roman Catholics who want to perpetrate the eternal virginity of Mary, an unbelieving outcry has arisen from certain fanboys against a Superman who kills. It cannot be conscienced.

They believe it makes him a lesser man morally. That it was an unnecessary action, rammed into the character to make him "more dark and appealing" to the new generation.

I've seen that in cheap upgrades of other heroes, so I sympathize.

That is not the case, here.

Here's why:

1) Zod has been struggling to turn Earth into Krypton. This would kill everyone on Earth. We call this act "attempted genocide." Of 6 billion sentient beings.

2) To even defeat all the other Kryptonians a wormhole had to be opened over Metropolis leading to the Phantom Zone - hey, that sounds familiar, doesn't it? - but it cost good men their lives as they eliminated a vastly superior force. NO OTHER METHOD COULD STOP THESE INVADERS. They are superfast, superstrong and bulletproof. Steel is like tissue to them. They were invincible—invulnerable to all our weapons.

3) There are now two Kryptonians left—one who loves his adopted world, and one who is still trying to murder humans out of a sense of heartless grief. If he is victorious, city after city will fall under his might. There is no cage, no material, no appeal that will stop him. If Superman/Kal-El fails to end his threat—say he gets knocked out—hundreds, if not thousands, will die. Zod has no mercy. He will gladly kill Kal-El to restore Kryptonians to life and dominance.

4) So as The Last Answer to the Kryptonian Killing Machine, Kal-El snaps General Zod's neck. For this, Mark Waid, a writer I usually appreciate, began screaming in the theater. And so did thousands of fans.

Not to be too callous, but I think they are nuts.

And frankly, they want Peter Pan, not Superman. They wanted a children's story, not a heroic fantasy.

They wanted a nice large cup of hot chocolate and got finely ground coffee instead.

Superman did not lose his moral code or cast it aside like so many shallow thinkers believe.

He applied it—and in so doing, demonstrated that his love for humanity is as absolute as his hatred for evil.

Doesn't that sound familiar?

It should.

If not, try reading that last book in the Bible. It clarifies things.



hlwn469 said...

totally agree with your review/comment.....I'm a lifelong Superman fan and I loved every aspect of this movie!.....Kal-El did what he had to, not because he wanted wasn't like Kal-El was channeling Deathstroke or the Punisher, General Zod was going to kill not just that family, but humanity.....I applaud Snyder, Goyer and Nolan, they've given us the best Superman movie since "Superman: the Movie"......

Justice said...

Thank you for seeing that difference!

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