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Old June 15 2013, 05:43 AM   #160
Lapis Exilis
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Re: MAN OF STEEL - Grading & Discussion

Just read Mark Waid's review. Hmmm - I've been having a hard time with everyone's upset over the "collateral damage" issue and I think I just figured out why. I mean I get it from a perspective of an iconic character having certain basic characteristics and one of Superman's is that he always protects, even in the midst of a big fight. But, given from what a different point this particular version of Superman begins, I'm just not sure it's a valid in-story criticism.

I'm a little undecided on this, but here goes: the crux of this story is that Clark is deeply alienated from humanity. Mostly people are shown being shitty to him. He's not really bitter, but he's in a place of extreme caution. He helps where he can - but always with one eye toward staying as incognito as possible. He's been raised to consider that letting people die to protect his secret may be a valid choice. He's not sure that humans are his people.

So into this comes a challenge far greater than any he's ever imagined. He's an inexperienced fighter - and a good deal is made of this, both in the fight scenes and in the midst of Zod's monologing at the end. He's basically barely holding his own to keep the Kryptonians from killing him. I think this combination of factors makes it hard to imagine how he'd even be able to physically protect others, and he seems so unsure of his position with humanity that he just hasn't developed the instincts yet to think about how to try to save a bunch of humans in the middle of these fights. I think the whole point of the climactic end of his fight with Zod may have been intended to show that these things are coming to form the core of him. He is finally identifying with humans and with his role as their protector.

On the other hand, the film does proceed as if everyone, including Clark, are able to move blithely on after the massive destruction of Metropolis, without a moments mourning, or even acknowledgement of what had to be massive loss of life. I can sort of write it off as movie logic (name a superhero movie where there is significant screen time spent on regret after the massive destruction of the final fight), though the scale of it in this movie makes that a little harder than usual.

I guess it comes down to whether it's important to you that Superman be a character with such a strong inborn personality trait that protecting people always comes first. I can appreciate the idealism in that, but it feels very... na´ve to me. And it kinda makes him a less interesting character because that character has a moral compass stuck on Always Unattainably Good and Self-Sacrificing. He's got nothing to strive for, no part of himself to triumph over. That guy can't ever surprise you and a story about him would have a hard time surprising you too.
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