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June 18, 2013

Man of Steel: Kneel Before Clods (Part 1)

I don’t know a thing about Superman.

I know his origin story, sure, but if you asked me about his particulars, and his defining moments in the DC Comics canon, I’d turn into a stuttering mess.  I can guess what he stands for, but there’s still a lot I’m missing.  A whole lot.  What I know about Superman comes from the myriad cartoons that have aired.  I think that my earliest exposure to Superman came from a VHS I watched at my grandma’s house when I was a kid, which happened to have a minutes-long slice of one of the really old Superman cartoons (which apparently came from 1941.  Damn, that’s old.)  And there’s the other stuff that aired, up to and including Justice League Unlimited…if only because of that badass theme song.  Even beyond that, I have a newfound appreciation for Superman thanks to Injustice: Gods Among Us.

My understanding of Superman was that he was the hero of heroes.  His power was only a fraction of his character.  He was -- he is -- goodness and justice incarnate.  He’s a stand-up guy that (unless pushed) will always do the right thing, regardless of the sacrifices he has to make.  He’s something worth aspiring towards, even if mere mortals can never reach that plateau.  He can come off as boring, but I would think that those internal struggles and societal interactions make for dozens, if not hundreds, of interesting stories.  If handled properly, Superman could dominate anything he appears in, infusing stories with a spirit even mightier than the last son of Krypton.  Also, this happened.

I don’t know a thing about Superman.  But then again, I don’t need to.  I have my own ideas of what he stands for.  I know the intent behind both the characters and the writers.  I know that no matter how many people say “Batman’s the best!” I’ll gladly jump into the Superman camp -- because I know that’s the hero who’s more likely to capture my heart and mind.

And that just makes Man of Steel even more disappointing.

WARNING: You’d best prepare yourself for some spoilers as big as Darkseid’s wading boots, so if you haven’t seen the movie -- and still intend to do so -- come back once you have.  Otherwise, go spend some time in the Phantom Zone.  Or Bismarck, North Dakota. 

All right.  Let’s get the brachiosaurus out of the room.

You know me by now, I hope.  I’ve gone on and on about (if you’ll let me use the catch-all term) “gritty stories.”  I’ve made my stand on them, and defended their polar opposite on more than one occasion.  And at one point, I -- however rashly -- pointed to the Dark Knight Trilogy as one of the key sources and inspirations for this “Age of Grit” we’re waist-deep in.  It’s not fair to blame Batman and those three movies, and it’s not fair to blame Christopher Nolan and his crew either.  I recognize that Nolan and the rest (and the movies) have all made a lot of people happy.  And by extension, I recognize that the movies are really good…well, two out of three’s not that bad.

But you’ll forgive me, I hope, for not being too excited when I heard that Nolan and others (David S. Goyer, who apparently worked on Blade and The Dark Knight Rises, along with 300/Watchmen/Sucker Punch mastermind Zack Snyder) were attached to the movie…and with trailers pointing to Man of Steel being a darker, grimmer, more serious take on Supes’ origin story.  I figured I’d just have to grin and bear it, but I was ready to welcome their interpretation into my heart so long as the quality was up to par.  Then again, considering the pedigree, the hype, and the fact that they had control over THE most famous superhero around, I assumed I’d be in good hands.

It didn’t pan out.

Am I…am I missing something here?  I mean, I thought Nolan -- and Goyer, now that I know he exists -- put out incredible movies.  I thought that their names meant something.  And even though Snyder’s had some misfires -- Sucker Punch is the most obvious example, I’d say -- I would have thought that he and the others would be able to put out a satisfying product with the hopes of Warner Bros., DC Comics, and the very concept (and cultural significance) of Superman riding on their shoulders.  So why is it that, as of this writing, the movie sits at 57% on the Tomatometer?  Why is a thoughtful, serious take on the character by virtue of their vision and design sitting a good twenty points below a movie featuring explosive flame men and star-spangled cyber-armor?

Don’t answer that.  That was rhetorical.

…Okay, go ahead and answer it.  I know I did.

Is the pressure starting to get to these guys?  Is the workload too much?  That’d be my guess, at least; I don’t know the exact time frames for working on movies, but I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that TDKR and MoS came out within a year of each other, and are both notably-flawed movies.  It’s entirely possible that adding in Snyder to the mix made for some added problems -- from what I can tell, a LOT of problems -- and Nolan himself probably isn’t to blame for everything (I believe he was the movie’s producer), but there have been some issues here that do serious harm to the final product.  Some of them are just gaps in logic, as you’d expect.  But even the most grievous logical flaws in any work are forgivable if the rest of it manages to offer something worthwhile.  Tales of the Abyss is a prime example; sure, it’s got some huge problems -- like an entire third act that didn’t need to happen, and sure as hell SHOULDN’T have happened -- but overall it’s still a strong, solid game because of all its other elements.  As always, it’s all about the net worth.  The good stuff will distract audiences from the bad stuff, or at least make them more likely to forgive it.

In my eyes, that’s not the case with MoS.  The grittiness -- that sense of realism, that harshness, that penchant for exploring darker roads with aplomb -- doesn’t work here.  In fact, it’s downright detrimental; it’s a strange day indeed when The Dark Knight manages to be a brighter story than a Superman movie.  And for the Dark Knight Trilogy’s flaws (which, mind you, are independent of the grit), there’s more going on than just aesthetic and tonal choices.  There’s something that its creators felt they had to try and say under the pretense of Batman punching bad dudes in the face.  The key difference is that those movies did what they did naturally.  They didn’t try to be like something else, or try to appeal to someone else.  That grit was genuine.

In contrast…well, I’m hesitant to even use “grit” to describe MoS.  It’s not a one-to-one comparison, for one thing.  For another, I think “cold” is a better descriptor than “gritty”.  Yes, cold.  Rather fitting for a movie entitled Man of Steel.  There’s an unmistakable coldness throughout the entire movie; it starts at the sensory level, with colors -- from Superman’s suit to the world itself -- washed-out and faded for whatever reason (it looks cool, I guess?).  I just couldn’t shake this sense of detachment -- from the characters as well as the movie itself -- that persisted almost nonstop from start to finish.  There’s a certain, almost mechanical motion to what’s on display in the movie; barring some oddly-sorted and inserted flashbacks, there are only two modes in this movie.  One: pontification.  Two: bombast.  It’s a humorless tale -- which in spite of my tastes I’ll readily admit isn’t a bad thing -- but there’s not much offered in return.  For a movie to be colorless literally and figuratively defies belief -- and yet, here we are.

A lot of complaints that I’ve heard about the movie revolve around the fact that it’s “a joyless tale.”  And I can agree with that, to some extent at least.  Both Krypton and Earth feel alien, not just because of aesthetic and tonal choices, but because of the injection of lifelessness into the proceedings.  They, and all the characters within, don’t feel like worlds or people.  They feel more like ideas.  Roles.  A protagonist, an antagonist, a damsel in distress, multiple do-no-wrong parental figures…the gang’s all here.  Don’t get me wrong, though, there’s nothing wrong with a character being tied to an idea, but said ideas shouldn’t consume them as much as they do in MoS

That freedom, life, and spirit are missing from Superman -- and as a result, it’s missing from virtually the entire movie.  Because of that, the pontificating   ends up being for naught.  Because of that, the bombast ends up becoming noise that borders on being painful.  Because of that, what could have been a dynamic reimagining of the character and mythos that transformed the cultural zeitgeist ends up as one of the most problematic movies I’ve seen in years.  Not the worst, mind you (that honor still goes to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief, which I’m thankful I only saw on TV).  But very, very, very problematic.  And as is my standard, I’ll explain why…in as many words as possible.

But before I get on with the show, there’s one thing that I have to start off with.  And I will.  And as always, I’ll take this step by step.

0) The best scene in the movie is when Superman first starts flying.  Hands down.
“You will believe a man can fly.”

That’s an important tagline, because it ties in with an important concept.  My understanding of Superman -- and from what I can gather from the words of others -- is that he’s supposed to be a symbol of truth, justice, and the American way.  Among other things, obviously; hope, virtue, courage, dedication, all those qualities and more.  Superman is supposed to be a good guy…BUT he’s not a flawless guy.  He has his struggles.  He has his fears.  He has his issues.  But he’s not controlled by them.  He’s able to move past them, because he’s got work to do.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

That’s made abundantly clear when Supes decides to “push his limits”, at the suggestion of Jor-El.  He gives it a shot, and after a bit of stumbling -- and crashing into a mountain -- the big blue Boy Scout manages to pull it off.  It is, by far, the most awe-inspiring scene in the entire movie.  It is bursting with energy, meaning, and impact for both the audience and the character; shackle after shackle end up getting cast off as Supes realizes what he can do, and what he should do.  It’s one of the first times that he ends up smiling in the entire movie -- at that point, maybe a good hour in -- and one of the most potent in the sense that you understand, without a word spoken, you know this is a major turning point in the Man of Steel’s life.  He’s happy.  You’re happy.  And you can’t wait to see what he does next.

If there were more scenes like that in the movie, then maybe the Tomatometer would be a lot higher.  But there aren’t.  Instead, we just get problem after problem after problem.  Some of them are tiny things, yes, but combined with the larger stuff, they’re things that -- regardless of size -- pile up really damn fast.  As a wise man once said, “You may not have noticed it, but your brain did.”

So let’s have a go, then.  Starting with…

1) Krypton is a pretty terrible place to live…and a dumb one, too.
I don’t know about you guys, but if you ask me, Krypton is a pretty terrible place to live.

The Holographic Ghost of Jor-El (yep) explains later in the movie to Clark that Krypton isn’t nearly as hospitable as Earth.  In fact, the reason for Supes’ strength is because, since he grew up and developed on Earth, the better environment allowed him to gain the superpowers we know and love…although that doesn’t really explain the heat vision.  Or the super/freezing breath (which to be fair doesn’t appear in the movie, but that’s the least of the story’s problems).  In any case, the takeaway from this is that Krypton is flat-out explained to be a world that’s inadequate for life at best.  Low-quality air, higher gravity, fewer natural resources, and that unfortunate “everyone is born into specific roles via genetic engineering” bit -- with all of that in mind, on top of the fact that Krypton’s a pretty dingy looking place, I have a hard time believing anyone would want to live there.

Let’s be real here.  There are some other logistical problems with Krypton.  For example, I was under the impression that society has managed to come as far as it has because of the advent of free time and the ability to explore the possibilities they afford; that is, the moment we stopped devoting all our time to hunting, gathering, and preparing food -- and the home by extension -- we became freer to explore arts, sciences, languages, music, technology, religion, and more.  Organizing everyone into specific jobs doesn’t exactly seem like the wisest idea…though I guess if it works, it works.  (That just brings up the issue of not seeing enough of Krypton -- outside of a sudden and long burst of action -- to make any judgments about what kind of place it is, but let’s just pretend that’s not a problem right now.) 

That aside, I can’t help but wonder what kind of government organization and the armada of scientists working for them would gleefully ignore the fact that they’re sucking their planet dry to the point where they’re facing a complete planetary cataclysm.  That seems like the kind of thing you’d notice long before they’ve only got a short time before the big boom.  Come to think of it, how much time did they have before the big boom?  I seem to recall Jor-El saying they’ve only got a few weeks left, but a few screen cuts later his wife is getting vaporized by a column of flame.  Did I miss something here?

I guess the bigger problem is that overall, the government -- as it is wont to do in fiction -- is woefully inadequate and outright obstructive.  Jor-El may have come in to their council room as little more than a doomsayer -- quite literally, considering he didn’t bother bringing any proof, like a hologram or a PowerPoint presentation -- but the council pretty much acts like the man’s just harshin’ their buzz.  And shortly after General Zod’s coup is brought to an end (with casualties lost amongst the council), they decide to subject him to something called “somatic reconfiguration”, which I took to mean brainwashing him so he’d be a good boy.  And they freeze him in something like ice and…banish him to the Phantom Zone?  Off the planet?  The planet that they know is about to explode?  Why?  Why not just execute him?  Why send him and his cohorts into space and off the planet that’s about to explode, if not to show off some million dollar visuals?  Why not try to escape on your own?  Why not look into the planet-exploding issue for yourselves?  Why not even try to escape, given that you have access to spaceships?  What is the timeframe for all this?

I know all of that sounds like nitpicking -- and on some level it is -- but these are issues that shouldn’t be ignored.  All the Krypton stuff takes place within the first fifteen minutes of the movie, if that, and we’re supposed to be given an impression of what the movie’s got in stow for us.  We’re supposed to have basis and background for the events to come.  Even if Superman isn’t in the thick of what’s going on at the moment, we need to know why this is going to be his movie by virtue of some intrinsic connective tissue.  You can’t just have Jor-El jump onto a fucking dragon and fly through some laser beams and assume that the audience will be satisfied.  Explain something.  Show something.  Get us invested.  Get us to marvel.  Action scenes and dreary visuals aren’t going to cut it.  Not in a Superman movie.  Not in any movie.  If you can’t, then that’ll just make the flaws all the more apparent. 

I...I don't know why I added that picture. 

You’d think that trying to characterize a doomed planet would be a pointless endeavor, but it isn’t.  Not for me.  This is something that can and will feed into problems with the rest of the movie.  But even with that said, it’s still bothersome in its own right.  My thoughts when Krypton exploded and the story started in earnest?

“This is gonna be a long movie.”

2) Zod’s plan makes no sense.
Let me get this out of the way quickly: I don’t have anything against the acting in this movie.  On the contrary; I don’t know much about acting, but I know when I’m being entertained and impressed -- and the cast here did a bang-up job with what they had.  Top honors go to Michael Shannon, who absolutely dominates as Zod.  Subtlety is not Zod’s forte; when he’s mad, he’s devouring the set.  And it is glorious.  I’d even go so far as to say that Zod is the best character in the movie…but I’ll come back to that later.

Zod is an interesting character, but unfortunately he makes some massive blunders…including one that sends the entire story down a particularly dumb avenue within the first ten minutes.  Here’s the thrust of the movie: see, on Krypton giving birth to children is handled entirely by biomechanical means.  With the use of a device called the Codex -- a humanoid skull when first seen, but capable of being transformed into handier MacGuffins -- the Kryptonians can use the data stored within to produce children immediately locked into certain societal roles.  (The only exception in centuries is Kal-El, AKA Superman, which I suppose is part of what makes him “special”.)  Zod decides to storm the capital and confront the council for the sake of taking the Codex for himself; he wants Krypton to be reborn unimpeded somewhere else, presumably under his watchful eye and noble hand.

Now, here’s the problem I have.  If Zod wanted the Codex so badly, why didn’t he just take it?  Apparently the Kryptonians keep it lying almost right out in the open for anybody to just go and take it; in fact, that’s exactly what Jor-El does when it hits the fan; he just dives into some pool of water and snags it right out of a massive breeding chamber without fuss.  So why didn’t Zod?  He sets a coup into motion and starts blasting apart anyone who even thinks about offering up resistance.  Why doesn’t he go after the Codex himself?  Did he not know where it was?  Why wouldn’t he learn that beforehand, given that it’s the one thing he needs most in the universe?  Couldn’t someone of his caliber and prestige use some subterfuge to have one of his cohorts learn the location of the Codex, and then have one of them steal it away, and then Jor-El could steal it back from him in the prologue?  What if Zod found out that there’s another Codex out there, which is entirely possible given that it’d be stupid for there to be one baby-breeding plant across the entirety of a whole planet? Why wouldn’t he go after one of those? Wouldn’t that make more sense than randomly carpet-bombing the landscape and potentially destroying the one thing he needs most in the universe

Zod and his crew end up getting locked away in the Phantom Zone, but -- as these things tend to go -- they manage to escape, and spend the next thirty years searching the cosmos for the ejected Kal-El and the Codex stored alongside him.  Fair enough.  But there’s a problem, and it ties in with point number one, as well as the rest of the movie in general: all these little problems start piling up, and piling up, and piling up, and before long what could have passed as an obsessive nitpick ends up becoming a massive wall that separates the viewer from the movie. 

Keeping in mind what I said about Krypton -- or rather, what Jor-El said about Krypton, and what we know of Krypton -- think carefully about what I say next.  The ultimate goal of Zod’s plan, well before movie’s end, is that Zod wants to turn Earth into Krypton.  He wants to change the weight, the environment, and the atmosphere into an exact duplicate of Krypton.  The human race is more or less doomed, to be replaced by a new generation of Codex-manufactured Kryptonians. 

Can you see the problems here?

Earth is a better planet than Krypton.  That’s not opinion; we know this because Jor-El told us, and visual data has told us.  Zod has a chance to nestle in his new world order on a planet that’ll turn formerly-average Kryptonians into out-and-out supermen, AND do so on a world that’ll support a population far better than a world that had its people resort to mining the core of their planet to apocalyptic levels.  Why would he whip out his doomsday machine to turn a perfectly-normal planet into a wasteland?  Did he just want to use the World Machine to kill everyone in one fell swoop?  That I could buy, I suppose, but it seems like a Pyrrhic victory to kill everyone at the expense of turning a potentially-perfect planet into something straight out of Gears of War.

I also have to wonder about the logistics of Zod’s plan.  It’s explained that Zod and his crew have been harvesting the long-abandoned ships used for Kryptonian colonization…but that just opens up its own set of problems.  The ship that landed on Earth (and alerted Da Boom Crew to Kal-El’s presence…somehow) is supposed to be about twenty thousand years old.  And by that logic, the rest of the Kryptonian ships they sent out are roughly the same age, considering that Jor-El explains that Krypton abandoned colonization efforts centuries ago (because reasons).  Now, here’s my question: how is Zod -- a Phantom Zone escapee, and survivor of a planetary cataclysm -- able to put together the World Engine?  Centuries-old technology should not be in perfect working order, and I’m DAMN sure they can’t just put together all the parts they need with the limited resources on hand AND a handicap of working with technology that’s tens of thousands of years old. 

And remember, Kryptonian society demands that its people are born immediately into specific, non-negotiable roles -- so therefore, unless Zod had some historians or scientists or engineers on hand, everything they built shouldn’t exist.  Even if they used holograms like The Holographic Ghost of Jor-El, they’re still working with age-old technology, and finite resources from the outset.  Phantom Zone escapees shouldn’t be capable of interstellar travel for five minutes, let alone the thirty-three years that Zod and Da Runnin’ Crew take.  So how did they make it to Earth?  How did they make it to Earth in the days -- if that -- of Superman somehow activating a downed ship’s distress beacon?  If we follow the movie’s logic, it would be like me trying to build an SUV out of rocks I dug up in the hopes of trying to go to Germany.  IT JUST.  DOESN’T.  HAPPEN.

But you know what?  I get it.  I actually get it.  I’m not defending Zod’s plan, or any part of it, in the least -- I hope you understand that much, if nothing else.  All this stupidity is actually in-character for the guy, logical contradictions aside.  Zod’s fatal flaw, and what makes him the villain of the movie, is his rigidity.  He lucked out in the sense that he was born to be a warrior, he lived on a world that -- outside of Jor-El -- had no problem with his way of life until he went for a coup, and all he’s ever known is violence and tradition.  Is it any wonder that he wanted to make a new (or new-ish) Krypton?  I mean, sure, you could make the argument that he shouldn’t have any loyalty to the world that tried to condemn him to eternal damnation, but I can buy him recreating the only thing he’s ever known.  Besides, he’s the bad guy.  Having a foolish and destructive goal is understandable.  Not a requirement, and not always defensible, and it’d help if his plan was actually…you know, smart…but understandable. 

With all that said, the good guys have it worse.  Much worse.

3) Jor-El’s plan is even worse.
Oh boy.  This character.

As the father of Superman, this character plays a role in shaping the Man of Steel -- both the hero and the movie at large.  Too much, arguably.  I’ll have to get into that during another point, but for now let me start by saying this: they pretty much club you in the head with the “Superman = Jesus” symbolism, to the point where in one scene Supes’ head takes up half of the screen…and the other half is taken up by a stained-glass window with Jesus on it.  Subtle.  So if Supes is Jesus, then that makes Jor-El God…with all the negative connotations that result.  Chief among them, the fact that his ideas and plans are out-and-out absurd.

It’s pretty much a given that Jor-El has to die for Supes to become “the man who has everything”, and of course Superdaddy ends up biting it before the fifteen-minute mark.  But he spends a good two thirds of the movie still establishing his presence as The Holographic Ghost of Christmas Past -- which is, without question, a detriment to the movie, and Superman to a similar extent.  Again, that’s a topic for another point, but the point is that Jor-El is dead, but not really dead.  (In fact, one could argue that becoming a hologram has made him effectively immortal, but that’s neither here nor there.)  So on top of having to die twice -- neither of which really has a direct effect on Supes -- his first and actual death is...odd, to say the least.

Well, let me rephrase that.  His death is fine -- he gets killed by Zod in a heated punch-up -- but the hopes he left for a better future don’t really line up with…well, anything sensible.  This being an origin story, Supes has to get shipped off to earth on his own as a baby.  That much is certain and understandable.  But in lieu of this movie, and in light of Jor-El knowing beforehand that the planet’s going to go boom, he doesn’t try to save a single person that isn’t his son.  Sure, Kal-El may be their new hope by way of being born naturally, but given what Jor-El knew and how much time he had, couldn’t he have asked for a decent-sized ship?  Enough to bring a few like-minded individuals with him?  Barring that, couldn’t he have at least saved his wife?  I could understand if there was no time, but he DID have time; even if he didn’t know the planet was going to explode in a week or two (which he should have known, considering that sucking the planet dry isn’t something that just happens overnight), you would think that he’d at least try to save the woman who held his son in her body for a good nine months. 

Come to think of it, how did she hide her pregnancy from the public?  Did she just never go outside?  Did she just disappear from the world?  Did anybody raise a stink about the first -- and presumably highly-illegal -- natural birth in centuries?  Tangent aside, why couldn’t Jor-El save his wife and his son, and keep his child from becoming isolated on Earth?  The obvious answer is “because of the origin story,” I know, but the fact that he didn’t even try just bothers me.  From a writing perspective, I just feel like it would have made more sense for Jor-El to plan to save more people, but then Zod busts in after hearing about Superbaby and kills everyone -- Supermama included -- dashing Jor-El’s hopes of having his son watched over, but still giving him a slight opening to escape.  Wouldn’t that make him look like much less of an asshole?

No, I guess not.  See, the problem with giving Jor-El more time in the limelight is that he gets more chances to prove that, no, he really didn’t think his plan through.  Apparently, Jor-El’s ultimate goal was to have his son use the Codex he left alongside him to introduce the Kryptonian race to the human race; that is, he wanted the two races to begin coexisting.  Uh…hey, guy?  That’s not a very good idea.  For starters, it’s a contradiction to the current of thought throughout the movie.  I was under the impression that Superman was supposed to be a leader to the human race.  That much is self-evident, considering that it’s pretty much Jor-El who helps lend to that idea.  Prior to his death, he says that Krypton’s time is over, and in more ways than one.  And in hologram form, he says that his son can do true good for the people if he steps out of the shadows.  So with that in mind, why would he not only leave the Codex with his son, but also push his son to recreate a species whose idiocy led to their extinction?

But that’s not the worst of it.  The implication is that Superman is supposed to use the Codex to start recreating Kryptonians…so if that’s the case, how does that make him -- Kal-El or Jor-El -- any different from Zod, or the rest of the Kryptonian council?  Is there an option to turn off predestination with the Codex?  Even if there was, wasn’t natural birth the key to giving Kal-El the freedom to choose his own way in life?  Wasn’t that what made him special?  And now you want him to use the Codex to do…what exactly?  Create a million new-age Kryptonian babies?  Who’s going to take care of them, and why?  Who would agree to let their planet get swarmed by aliens?  And what’s the plan if -- IF -- they reach adult ages?  Let millions of supermen start running around and mucking up life for the species that the planet rightfully belongs to? 

Also, I was under the impression that the Earth’s resources are hardly adequate for the population we have now.  How is a sudden influx of Kryptonians going to make the situation any better?  All they’ll have would be superpowers, not the scientific know-how OR the technology OR the resources to do anything Jor-El aims for.  Even beyond all that, there’s still a fundamental flaw in Jor-El’s plan: if at any point Supes -- or Clark Kent -- had said “What?  No, fuck off, that’s a stupid idea!” then Jor-El wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about it…and that wouldn’t have changed a damn thing by movie’s end.  Pro tip: when Smallville makes a better relationship than your multi-million dollar movie, it’s time to pack up and go home.

It’s just a shame, then, that the only character who ever genuinely calls Jor-El out for his dumbass plan is Zod -- and he’s stripped of his credibility by way of being the roaring baddie, even if he brings up some legitimate points.  But alas, Jor-El is put in a brighter light than even Superman, and effectively becomes God as a hologram.  Wave of his hand?  Boom, new suit for Clark (which I’m going to assume was created on the spot, because being able to predict the exact height and build of a son he never saw grow up is too silly for words).  Wave of his hand?  Boom, he can rejigger Zod’s ship and slam down walls.  Not waving his hand?  No problem, he’s got clairvoyance!  Everything is under control!  That is, as long as you believe in Jor-El.  Also, if you’re on a ship…and decided not to create a system to alert your only son and the hope of your species about your existence and his duty until he was in his thirties, dooming him to a crippling identity crisis.  Also, why would you rejigger the Codex so that it’s inside Superman all along?  No, realy, why?  What were you thinking on that one, Jor-El?  How is the Codex supposed to be extracted or even used if the data is inside Clark’s body, and woven into Clark’s body?  Kryptonian technology is designed to work on Kryptonian bodies, not superhuman bodies; try to take a blood sample, and you’re just going to break your instruments -- and there’s no way you could have prepared for that, right?  You know, as a ghost?  Or did you plan for this?  But that’s impossible, considering that --

You know what?  Forget it.  

This movie falls apart -- and fast -- if you think about it for even a second.  How is it that Iron Man 3 managed to be the smarter movie in spite of being inherently dumber?  How is it that so much of Man of Steel could be built on unexplained circumstances and gaps in logic the size of Olympus Mons? 

Don’t answer that.  That was rhetorical.

…Okay, go ahead and answer it.  But I’m about to anyway.

This should have been a simple movie, but it isn’t.  Not in the slightest.  What should have been a movie about Superman being a hero, learning how to be a hero, and having punch-ups with baddies is in fact a movie about the sins of the past between two ghosts (who are more or less advocating the same thing), a battle between eugenics and natural evolution (that doesn’t really go anywhere), and the response of humanity to emerging changes to their world (which is pretty much decided by forces beyond their control in spite of the high hopes heaped on them).  So basically, these thematic elements don’t go anywhere.  At all.  They’re introduced and brushed upon, but in terms of making a statement?  Nothing, really.  Which is a shame; people really need to learn a difference that there’s a difference between putting a topic into a work and actually saying something about it.

But that’s how this movie works.  That’s not how it had to be, or how it should be, but that’s how it is.  But the takeaway from this post is this: virtually everything I’ve said so far?  Nitpicking.  There’s no two ways about it; pretty much all my complaints up to this point revolve around plot points that point out holes in the movie’s framework.  That means that, if you’ve read this far, you’ve just read roughly four thousand words’ worth of nitpickingAnd that’s still not the worst part of this movie.

Plot holes and gaps in logic are inevitable in any story.  That much is obvious.  But you can shrink or fill plot holes with A) inherent simplicity, which this movie lacks; B) fully exploring the ideas and mechanics set up throughout, and taking consistent stances on them, which this movie fails to do; C) offering up something to distract an audience from those plot holes, which this movie butchers completely.  This is supposed to be a movie that makes us fall in love with Superman.  This is supposed to reintroduce the character to a new age.  This is supposed to make us believe a man a can fly.  And it fails.  Hard.

We are only three points into this little breakdown.  Three points.  And the worst is yet to come.

This movie is going to turn me into a chain smoker.


  1. ~I came on blogger just to see if you did a review on Superman! And this post says it all!! God, I was trying to explain to my cousin(who watched MoS three times in the theater....) WHY I disliked the movie!(now all I have to do is link him here, bless this post) I actually spaced out through most of the fighting scenes, which rarely ever happens when I go to the cinemas to watch a movie (should have just waited for the HBO version) I went with my parents and I think they felt disappointed as well(huge fans of Superman) and now that Ive read your post, wow THE FLAWS!!!! (lol the suit size) Im a huge fan of the Batman trilogy though (Joker yay! Okay maybe im just a fan of Joker)


  2. Yeah, I hear that a LOT of people are getting defensive about this movie...for one reason or another. I guess people are just so eager for a new Superman movie, they'll take whatever they can get. Either that, or they seriously love the fight scenes. Can't say I'm one of them, but who am I to get in the way of someone's enjoyment of a good superhuman slug-fest?

    I don't blame you for spacing out, though; I did the same long before the actual fighting even started. I expected more out of the movie; I was willing to wait for the wall-to-wall action (literally, in this case), but I didn't get anything for my time investment. And by the sound of things, a lot of people feel the same way.

    It's just a shame that MoS came out the way it did. There's just so much wasted potential.

  3. Yo. I had to watch Percy Jackson at the theater. You've got no right to complain. T-T

    So many problems and we haven't passed the fifteen minute mark. This movie must have been really freaking long. I remember Spoony commenting that he thought the film went on for four or five hours. It was that boring, apparently. That's a big failing right there.

    You didn't go on much with the "dark", "gritty", and "cold" points (other posts may have highlighted them), but I do agree that if a story has these elements, they must be genuine. So maybe my irrational hatred for Nolan and his films is unfounded. Maybe I just don't like his subgenre of "SERIOUS BUSINESS" at all. But what you described in this post made me realize my fears for 'Man of Steel' were dead on. And you're the guy who prefers more lighthearted and fun stories (in moderation.)

    Man of Steel might just have a problem with balance. Its trying too hard to go on one direction, but ends up reaching the point that people are fatigued from the serious, "uber-realistic" tone. Then it starts coming off as a comedy. Only your laughing while holding a gun at your head.

    I dunno. I can't really judge unless I see the film. Which I won't. I'd prefer rewatching my Blue-ray copy 'Sucker Punch'. It's... so bad it's fun. ...Don't face palm. >.<

    Anyway, thinking too much into a summer flick that's supposed to be fun, but comes off as a complex tale of SERIOUS BUSINESS with plotholes up the ass is depressing. This ain't 'Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII', so don't use up all your strength nitpicking this piece.

  4. "Yo. I had to watch Percy Jackson at the theater. You've got no right to complain."

    Ahh...ahhhh...ahahh-ahahhhahgh... *drops to knees*

    My saw it in theaters? Oh my Go...are you okay? Did you actually -- are you a ghost? I saw it on TV, and I barely survived. Barely. But to see it in must have the constitution of a saint. Or some manner of archdemon, perhaps.

    You know, I'm honestly trying NOT to just zero in on the whole "gritty McGrit Grit" complaint when it comes to the stories flying my way. It feels like that's becoming a major -- and unfair -- complaint of mine, and I'd prefer not to zero in on that whenever something gritty wafts past my nose. There's preference, and there's just being biased, after all.

    So I'll probably blast something for being gritty within the next week.

    Whatever the case,it's hard NOT to think about the particulars of a movie -- "fun" summer blockbuster or not -- when it takes itself so seriously. It's trying to engage with viewers on a higher level, so I feel like I have to engage right back. If it can offer up something meaningful due to (or because of) its seriousness and grit, then that's what I'd call a good story. If it can't, then it comes off as even worse than if it went 100% silly -- and it makes me even MORE likely to point out holes the movie didn't bother to fill.

    So yeah, you've got the right idea when you say it's got a problem with balance. Thing is, I'm having a hard time thinking of what Man of Steel is TRYING to balance. I can only assume that (plot silliness aside) everything that happened in/went into this movie was purposeful. Everything. Which means that the scales were purposefully weighed down with SERIOUS BUSINESS, the style contributed to it, and the order of the scenes was intentional. It didn't work at all, but if nothing else, I've got to appreciate the effort.

    I'll still torch the hell out of the end product, but the effort is nice.

  5. You should make a post about that Percy Jackson movie. I would love to see you dissect what may be the worst movie in your opinion.

    I never watched the Man of Steel and I never will. I have never been a movie person either whether it is going to the movies or watching movies in general, so I don't mind being spoiled. The most exposure I had with Superman was Smallville and even then I wasn't committed to it at all.

    But it was fun reading your thoughts about this movie, though I am losing faith in people's ability to differentiate what is passable and what is utter garbage - not that I'm saying Man of Steel is garbage. What happened with Sonic '06 in the video game dimension may start to happen in the movie dimension with all the reviews I have been seeing.

    Just a thought.

  6. Hmmm. Maybe I'll do a post on the Percy Jackson movie. Two problems, though: first, it's been a while since I've seen the movie, and in order to go in detail about why it's just...just so terrible...I'd need to see it again. And there's the second problem: I'd have to see it again.

    I don't think my heart (or my brain) can take it.

    In any case, that "thought" you had? As much as I hate to admit it, that's a legitimate concern. I can accept differences in opinion -- as long as the opinions are justified, hopefully -- but part of being able to decide if the quality of a product is high or low depends on how defensible it is. People CAN defend Man of Steel, but blindly turning their back on any criticisms does the movie fewer favors than the people themselves. And if people aren't willing to take a close look at the quality of something...well...we're going to be seeing more Sonic '06 shenanigans pretty soon.

    Raising standards is -- and always will be -- more important than just arguing about whether or not a movie is bad. If consumers let the par in "par for the course" sink lower and lower, then we're all going to be in trouble. That is, if we aren't already.

    ...Well, that's enough doom-saying for now. Let's end this comment on a positive note.