Friday, March 25, 2016

Man of Steel (2013)

It's a big week for superhero fans, as we finally have the giant blockbuster bringing together the two biggest superheroes in all of comics. Superman and Batman, together on screen to pretend that they totally don't have the most homoerotic relationship in the superpower set.

We all know I'm not pulling that out of my ass either. Clark and Bruce are the gayest straight men in comics.

So, before I venture out to see their lover's tiff, I figured it was time to knock out another request on this list. Oh yeah, it's no big surprise that people want to hear me really break Man of Steel down. You all know I'm a huge comic geek and that I bathe myself in the scent of bad films, so surely I would want to rub this movie that many critics loathed all over my body. Well, before I get Russel Crowe's lovely locks lodged into one of my tender crevasses, let me remind you that I'm not other critics. I'm the man who stepped forward and defended Howard the Duck as a good comic book film. And I am proud of that too, which is why I love reminding you of it so much. Why? Because that movie got a ton of hate, which I still don't really understand.

Maybe they just really don't like duck tits? Who knows.
Keeping that in mind, there is no guarantee that I will hate any movie, regardless of its reputation or of the opinion of other critics whom I happen to respect. I'm here to give you my view as both a longtime fan and as semi-reasonable human. That being said, there is no such thing as a perfect movie, so you can be certain that I will give complaints in some areas. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's cut into the meat of this rather controversial bit of superhero cinema.

I may have to borrow a kryptonite knife though.
The movie opens on Krypton as everything that could possibly go wrong has started going wrong. The planet is dying, the people face extinction, and General Zod isn't happy about it in the least. He and his soldiers try to revolt so that they can save their people's future, but it doesn't go well and they end up getting popped into the Phantom Zone for their trouble. Jor-El and Lara tried to stop all this but it goes badly, Zod ends up killing his best friend (Jor-El), and Kal-El gets shot into space with the future of his people literally locked away into his body. It is quite possibly one of the most epic openings ever in a film.

Krypton also has freaking dragons. Dragons. I want to see a Krypton Skyrim conversion stat. Make it happen, modders.
 After the literal worst first birthday ever, Kal-El ends up on Earth outside of a small town where Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum eye-fuck one another on the regular while pretending to totally be into girls. Yeah, not buying it, boys. He's adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent and named Clark. Now, the first actual complaint I have is this: the movie keeps flashing back to his childhood at various stages. Normally, that would be fine, really...if done sparingly. This movie does it a bit too often for my taste. I would've rather we'd just seen the flashback scenes first, then got to adult Clark. So, I'm just going to talk about those scenes first.

Or I could talk some more about Smallville's hottest couple. You know, if you twist my arm.
Growing up, Clark is taught clearly not to use his powers after he becomes aware of them. His dad feels that doing so will only endanger his son, which I can respect. Parents often feel very protective and, as we've actually seen in some comics, there is a segment of humanity who would track down the boy with powers so they could poke and prod him. If Supreme Power has taught me anything, it's that we're much better off with Jonathan Kent telling Clark to cut it out or he gets his pudding privileges revoked. Why do I go with that punishment? Well, because pudding is delicious and because there's not a whole lot you can really do to Clark.

He can't very well spank Clark. That ends badly.
We see Clark dealing with the overwhelming abilities of superhearing and x-ray vision and it is legitimately emotional to watch the poor kid. You can't help but feel bad for him, knowing how hard that has to be. Sure, all the perverts out there are thinking about looking through clothes, but when you're a kid and you can suddenly see through everyone? Yeah, that would fuck you up. Same with being able to hear literally everything. How do you drown out the world? It's frankly a miracle that Clark didn't grow up to become a world destroying psychopath.

Cue everyone who hates this movie sending me messages about how he literally destroys everything.
Throughout these flashback bits we see winks towards his comic history, my favourite being Pete Ross, Clark's longtime friend who often gets forgotten in almost every adaption. I like how it all plays out, as it hammers home how Jon Kent feels regarding his son's use of his powers and why Clark seems to be running from himself as the story moves forward. The main reason for that is likely because of one of the major complaints almost everyone had after seeing this movie: Jon Kent's death. Now, I grew up with the Byrne era Superman, who got to keep both his parents. Classic Supes though, yeah, they were dead. This version gets to keep his mom though, so that's not too bad.

Especially when his mom is Diane Lane. Stiffler can keep his mom, I've got my eye on Clark's.
So, here's the situation we're given: Clark is a teenager and he's having an argument with his dad, who wants him to be more careful about keeping his powers hidden. Then, because it's freaking Kansas, a tornado decides to show up. Clark wants to go rescue a dog, which would involve using his powers, but his dad goes instead. This isn't on Clark, it's on his dad. Dad rescues dog, tornado shows up too close to really run from, dad motions for Clark to not use his powers. Now, the general split here is with whether Clark respecting his father's wishes was a good idea or not. Personally, I'm not sure where I fall, as I see both sides about equally. On the one hand, Clark just watched his dad die because his dad reinforced in him a paranoid belief that the world was not ready for a man like Clark, so I can respect Clark doing as his father asks. On the other hand, Clark should know by now that he's got super-speed and could run out there without getting seen fairly easily...right?

"Don't ask me, I'm pretty damn dead."
The thing here is, we don't really know how much control Clark has developed by this point, especially when looking at the rest of the film. He's used to suppressing these powers, not using them, which might mean that things like super-speed are iffy. And make no mistake, he'd probably be using super-speed, as it's implied he hasn't flown yet at this point. So whether he could actually make it to his dad is debatable at best. Now, do I blame Clark for his dad dying? No. I blame Jon Kent for being a complete idiot who ran into a damn tornado to save a dog. Nothing against dogs, really, but he has a fucking family who need him. He has responsibilities. And guess what he doesn't have? Super powers that would allow him to survive getting sucked into a funnel of windy death. Clark could've came up with a credible excuse for his survival. He could've claimed to been shielded from inside a vehicle. He could've ran out of sight and said he crawled into ditch tunnel thing. Or they could've just let the dog die, because it's not on a stranger to run into a tornado to save a dog.

That's when our writer was mauled to death by a cyborg dog who really wanted to bang Ally Sheedy.
So, no, I'm not going to shit on Clark here, sorry. His dad was stupid and made his son incredibly paranoid about learning to use his powers, which ultimately led to death via stupidity. Him lifting his hand there? Yeah, that's him saying "sorry I was so stupid, Clark...bye" and it's not really a good depiction of the Pa Kent I grew up with. It seems that most Superman stuff has an issue with writing him or depicting him anything like he looks or acts like in the comics. But hey, at least they didn't kill him off in the prologue, right, Richard Donner? Anyway, moving forward he kinda decides to go on walkabout to figure out who he is after a life of being told "no, powers bad" then watching his dad die. He works at a diner, destroys an asshole's truck, saves some guys on an oil rig, hangs out with whales...which apparently was meant to be a hint at Aquaman, I hear.

Aquaman is cool, I swear. But he's also a little weird. Just a smidge.
All of this gallivanting leads him to the arctic where he blends in with an excavation crew are digging up what turns out to be a Kryptonian ship for the making of babies. It's a lot less sexy than it sounds, honest. Lois Lane, who happens to be there, ends up getting attacked by a defensive robot thing and he fixes her up. You know, I always thought they waited too long for her to find out Clark is Superman but...yeah, this is a record. Inside the ship he meets a AI hologram of Jor-El who tells him lots of stuff, hooks him up with his fancy tights, and helps Clark feel better about his future. Then he finally flies, and it's pretty nifty. All in all, not too bad an origin, barring the Jon Kent being an idiot thing.

Oh, that Pa Kent! He just loves leaving his wife a widow and his son traumatized.
From here, things take a decidedly darker turn with the coming of General Zod and his fellow Negative Zone prisoners. Clark has barely had time to adjust to the new suit when the Kryptonians show up and give them thar ultimatums and whatnot. Lois, who has been tracking the mystery man who saved her in the arctic, finds him in Smallville and they exchange notes. He volunteers himself to military custody so they can question him, saying that he's not there to hurt them and only wants to help, even saying he'll give himself up to the Kryptonians as per their demands. It's all very Supermanny.

Then again, it depends on your definition of Supermanny, because he was kind of a dick in the golden age.
Zod makes the hard sell to Clark: Krypton can live again, but it would mean destroying Earth. But see, this is a big plot-hole for me as Clark could easily point him towards Mars or the moon as better places to do this whole process. There doesn't really seem to be a good reason for Earth to be the New Krypton other than the fact that it puts them at odds with one another. Makes me wonder if there's an alternate reality where they moved to Mars and Zod got to redeem himself. Well, not here, because here we're going to get tons of destruction. Lois and Clark escape the Kryptonians but Jor-El gets deleted, which sucks. The Kryptonian soldiers show up at Clark's house to fuck shit up, which "surprisingly" leads to shit immediately getting fucked up.

Which is clearly Superman's fault, because he obviously can handle a military unit with the same powers as him all by himself...huh, that sounds kind of dumb now that I think about it.
See, here's the big major gripe people who dislike this film seem to have with it more than anything. The mass destruction that happens in the wake of the Kryptonians showing up on the warpath. Because we all know superhero movies that involve alien invasions should show the heroes stopping the aliens before anything is every destroyed because that's how real heroes handle things. I mean, who would ever come out in massive support of a superhero film that had that kind of wide-spread destruction?

I can taste the boos already. Yes, let me bathe in your hypocrisy. It sustains me.
Here's the facts in regards to the situation presented in this film: Clark has literally been Superman for like...a day. He's had no training, no experience in fighting pretty much anyone (let alone someone as strong or stronger than himself), and spent the majority of his life being told to not use his powers. That last one is important, as it means he's still not 100% at home with all his abilities, most likely. To expect him to go up against a group of highly trained soldiers who have all of the same abilities but years of fighting experience and it to end in his favour....yeah, that's about as stupid as Jon Kent running into a tornado. But let's talk about this some more later and get back to the plot. Clark fights off some of the soldiers, but he's not doing too well. Things get worse when Zod activates a machine that is meant to terraform the planet so that it's like Krypton. The side effect of this if the death of everything on Earth. Well, some mountain animals might live, I guess. Like goats. Also fish might be alright. Which reminds me, where's Aquaman while this is going on?

I see how it is, you smiling Aquabastard!
Long story short, the Kryptonians all mostly get sent back to the Phantom Zone with a bomb that Professor Hamilton built. Also, I think he does too. While that's going down, Superman pushes himself to his absolute limits to destroy the machine that is literally making physics its bitch. When the dust clears, Metropolis is a wreck from the machine's destructive force (please note that) and Zod is the only left, wrought with despair at the loss of his last hope to resurrect his people. Now, this is something I want to say here and now: Michael Shannon as Zod is fucking amazing. He brings so much emotion to the role, portraying am an whose single-minded desire to save his people leaves him with nothing in the end. It's here when he casts off his armour and challenges Clark himself, dragging him on a citywide battle that culminates when he uses his heat vision to seemingly attack a young family. He makes a point of telling Clark there is only one way to stop him. Please, make note of that. It's important.

"But I hate taking notes! Gawd!"
This forces Clark, who is already well past his limits, to snap the neck of Zod rather than risk him killing all the people there cowering in fear. Lois consoles him, time passes, Superman tells the government to stop trying to spy on him and Clark adopts the full-on Clark Kent reporter persona, only now Lois is clearly aware of who he is. Thus ends what has become the most controversial Superman film ever made. Now, let's talk about some of the notes. First, Metropolis was destroyed by the Kryptonian machine, not by Superman. He was busy getting his ass kicked by said machine while trying to stop it from killing the entire world. Let's not blame him for that. Again, it's also his first day doing any sort of fighting with these abilities, so the fact he doesn't get killed is rather impressive. But let's get to that other biog thing: him killing Zod. That's pissed off a lot of people.

It's not like he killed Zod in the comics or anything, right?
Yeah, that really happened in the books, so I wasn't too surprised Zod died in the movie. I was more surprised at how sympathetic Zod was. Before he'd be a straight out villain but here he was a man who felt loss and wanted to save his people. He wanted a second chance but went about it in a terrible way, which ultimately led to tragedy on a global scale. He lost his best friend, his world, his people, and his will to live. When he goaded Clark to fight him, he could've easily wiped the floor with him. Think about it: Clark had to be exhausted after all that had happened, whereas Zod had barely done anything strenuous. Zod also is a tactical minded man with military combat training and years of fighting experience. Realistically, he should've killed Clark and wiped out humanity. But he didn't. He barely put up a fight, letting Clark be put in a position of perceived power. Then he pushed him to put him down. Zod committed what is generally known as "suicide by cop".

I guess he didn't want to get tossed down a misty hole to his presumed death this time.
For that matter, it can be argued that this movie is as much Zod's tale as it is Clark's, focusing large chunks on the story of General Zod and how his struggles to save his people ultimately led to tragedy and his own desire to die. Now, do I think this is a bad movie or even a bad Superman movie? No on both counts. This is a standard superhero movie as we now know them, but by no means a bad one
 or a bad movie. The movie feels like it needs some work in parts, but it's overall a very watchable film that gives a fairly good portrayal of Superman. Why do so many people hate this movie then? Probably because it's not starring Christopher Reeve or directed by Richard Donner. Let me be frank here, the Richard Donner films are hokey. Really hokey, with head-scratching things like memory-altering kisses and time travel via turning the Earth backwards. They're not true to the Superman most comics fans know. No, they're more true to the original Superman. The one who had a mermaid girlfriend and once fat-shamed Lois.

Comics can be really weird the further back you go. Really really weird.
Most fans of the comics know and love the Byrne era Superman and he has become the iconic version, often being the way he's characterized in pretty much everything. He had living parents, imposing villains, an epic origin, and he killed Zod. That's the Superman that died fighting Doomsday. The Superman who stood up against a group of grim gritty super-powered killers who said they were the next generation of heroes, proving that killing isn't something to be applauded and should never be done lightly. The same Superman who married Lois Lane and rocked the best mullet in comics.

It's so majestic.
Man of Steel was film that was written for fans who wanted John Byrne's Superman, a character who was complex and interesting. He had flaws, struggles, desires, and sometimes selfish motivations. He was a very human version of the icon. Christopher Reeve was great as the golden age blue boy scout, but it's time to stop holding those first two films as the standard like 30 some odd years of comics never happened. Superman is a more interesting and compelling character than he was in the Donner films and Man of Steel was a step towards showing that. Hate me for my opinion, but I will stand by it. So, until you all show up to burn me at the stake for being a critic who dares to defend this movie, I will be here preparing myself for Easter by eating an inverted cross while listening to death metal. Later days, bleeders.

"Tell me, chum, have you heard the song Murmaider? It's about mermaid murder!"

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