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Old June 15 2013, 03:36 AM   #153
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Re: MAN OF STEEL - Grading & Discussion

It's been a few hours since I've seen the movie and I gave it an "A-". My thoughts are all over the place on it, I feel that if you took most of the posts from this thread, plus Mark Waid's review and threw them in a blender, you'd get my thoughts.

First thing first, I was shocked that Superman killed Zod. It flies in the face of "Superman doesn't kill." The problem with that is, that Superman has killed before. I watched part II of Dark Knight Returns a few days ago and kept thinking that plenty of Corto-Mateseans were likely dead based on Superman's actions. Of course, it's not entirely fair to judge Superman based on Frank Miller.

The clear comparison is to Byrne's Pocket-Earth story, in which Pocket-Earth is destroyed by Zod and his associates. In that story, Superman is brought to Pocket-Earth to save it from the three mad-Kryptonians. Superman eventually captures them and exposes them to Gold Kryptonite, which strips them of their powers (but not Superman, since he's from a different Krypton). Zod threatens that he'll find a way to restore his powers and come to Superman's Earth to destroy it. Superman responds to this threat by exposing the de-powered Kryptonian criminals to green kryptonite, which kills them.

So, in the instant before it happened, I saw it coming. Again, Superman realized that Zod would not stop, ever. I'm on the fence over which act is less like Superman, the pre-meditated murder in the comics, or the split-second decision in the movie. Ultimately, prompt the question, "what about the next time?" What will happen the next time a seemingly un-stoppable villain threatens Earth?

This is something that bothered me, but it doesn't ruin the movie. To be honest, part of my issue with Tim burton's Batman was that it made Batman, in my opinion, complicit in the Joker's death (which is why I was happy when Batman did not kill Joker in The Dark Knight). It's easy to say this about fictional characters though and praise when the heroes leave the villains alive.

It's interesting, reading Mark Waid's review that he used the term "disaster porn," because that's the same term that rattled around in my head while watching the last act. Like Waid, I assumed Metropolis was totally destroyed, until Zod popped up and they brought the fight to more areas of Metropolis. At that point I thought to myself, "Oh good, they are destroying more of the city. I was afraid that they'd leave at least one building standing."

Speaking of that, even close to 12 years later, I have to admit, seeing buildings fall like that brings 9/11 to mind (and I have to assume that's not un-intentional).

It does set the bar for the Justice League Movie (if we truly are getting one). I assume that the other heroes will have their origins occur post-Man of Steel to avoid the whole "Where was Flash/Wonder Woman/J'onn/etc." while Metropolis was being destroyed. And if this much damage occurred, will Earth survive a Justice League?

As for the issue of the changes, I'm for most of them. I was never a huge fan of Lois and Clark, because I want super-heroics, not Moonlighting, when I watch Superman. Having Lois track down who Kal is, before he reveals himself to the world is a great take on the old trope. It addresses the whole "How good of a reporter could she be if she can't tell that Clark is Superman?" issue. There's only so much hand-waving you can do with that (They hand-wove Lex spending tons of money on figuring it out, by having him deny that Superman would even waste time pretending to be human. If I remember correctly, during "Hush," Superman realized that Perry and Jim know his and Batman's identities, respectively, but out of respect, keep it quiet and cover for them. Then there's the whole, "Lois romanticizes Superman and down-plays Clark, so she doesn't choose to make the connection," excuse). It does set up an interesting dynamic for the sequel, as does the fact that they kissed. Hopefully, they will do away with the love-triangle aspect. Actually, I'd be fine with seeing only a little bit of Clark as reporter. It just never does much for the story, in my opinion. The comics have made good use of it, but it just slows a movie or TV show down.

And that's where I break with Mark Waid's analysis. He says there's very little Clark in it, and I disagree. He doesn't put on the costume and he's suddenly different. He's Clark through and through. This isn't a movie without Clark Kent in it. Yes, it is a movie without "Mild-Mannered Reporter for a Great Metropolitan Newspaper" Clark, but even in costume, even facing the Kryptonians, he's Clark through and through.

As for Jonathan, I grew up with "Salt-of-the-Earth," always there with an inspiring word, nurturing Pa Kent. Anytime Superman faced a crisis, he headed home, where Ma would give him a kind word and some pie, and Clark would head out to start at the fields and sky of Kansas as Pa would give him some "Farming as a metaphor for life" advice. This Johnathan avoided the farming metaphors and stuck on the "you will change the world" message. So much so, he was afraid of Clark revealing himself to the world to the point that having children die to avoid questions was not out of bounds. The problem with that is, ultimately, everyone in that bus should have died, so wouldn't Clark surviving raise just as many issues as him doing what he did?

Jonathan's death scene was a new take and showed the extent to which he wanted to protect his son, by literally dying rather than allowing Clark to reveal his secret.

I was raised on Byrne's Man of Steel and I view Superman through that lens. But informing my opinions on him as much is perhaps my second favorite Superman story (second only to All-Star Superman), A Superman for All Seasons. In that story, Clark fights a tornado threatening Smallville. It does raise questions, but most agree to chalk it up to an Act of God, like Pete Ross' mother is willing to do. Which bothered me, since Martha tries to downplay that, when it would serve to turn the attention away from her son.

I know I seem critical of the movie and like [b]Trekker[/i], I find myself having to defend my "A-" grade in the face of my thoughts on the movie. While there is a certain joy to trashing a bad movie/TV show/etc., the greatest sin for a movie/TV show/etc. would be for me to say, "Eh," to it and not focus on the things that made me think (I avoid saying "things that bothered me," because I don't know that "bother" is the correct word). I felt "Eh," about Iron Man 3. It really hasn't given me any reason to think much of it after I saw it. I couldn't work up enough interest to discuss that movie after I saw it, either good or bad. That's not how I feel about Man of Steel. Maybe my post comes off as a list of gripes, but really, it's thinks that moved me to comment, which again, to me, is a sign of how much the movie meant to me.
"When I reach for the edge of the universe, I do it knowing that along some paths of cosmic discovery, there are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves." --Neil deGrasse Tyson
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