Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Man of Steel - an 'analysis'

I waited years for a fantastic and inspiring Superman movie.  I almost got it. 


Henry Cavill was great in the role.

The action sequences were great.

The ‘ties that bind’…didn’t quite do so (but here, the problem is probably me – I sometimes over-think/overanalyse things…).

I admit, I did have certain expectations going in to this movie and a lot of them were reasonably well met.  The aspects that weren’t met, however, really made me feel let down.

Intertwined with this, for all their talk of this being ‘a realistic take’, there was a lot of suspension of disbelief required of the (aware) viewer.  The death and destruction that resulted from this being residing on our planet and only being known of for (pretty much) less than a day, yet Jenny proclaims ‘he saved us’ while standing in the miles wide rubble that used to be downtown Metropolis…the ‘realistic take’ would be that people are scared spitless of what happened.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see that.

When Perry asks Lois, ‘Can you imagine how our world would react if they came face to face with this…?’ it’s a valid question, but it’s completely ignored.  We don’t see the reaction of the world, or even the reaction of Metropolis. (Yes, we see the ‘standard’ fear of the unknown common to alien invasion movies, but the range of reactions afterwards – the grieving, the solidarity, the rejection, the claims that it was an international government conspiracy, etc – are completely absent)

Anyway, this ‘analysis’ will be quite mixed and some parts may be repetitive, but I hope you’ll bear with me.  I’m going to try to do this in as balanced a way as I can – hope it works…

Issues (some) non-comic book readers/general viewers had:

The ‘general viewers’ are, overall, the ‘target audience’.  Although Superman is a massive international pop culture icon, there still have to be certain ‘tweaks’ incorporated into the portrayal in order to bring more people in.  Purists may not like it, but it is the way it is and, from the box office takings to date (over US$ 580 million), it looks like it worked.

There were, however, a few areas which even these viewers had some issues with.  Mainly:

Collateral damage – having spoken to people in London, on the flight from London to Miami, then from Miami to Cayman, and, finally, in Cayman, the collapsing buildings were a major area of discontent among these folk.  They’re not Superman fans but know what he stands for, generally, and didn’t like the ruin that Metropolis became.

Snap – the ‘why’ is understood but for many it was the ‘how’ coupled with the discomfort of Superman killing (again, they understood the necessity but that didn’t make it easy to accept so readily).  The issue a lot of them had with the ‘how’ is based on how durable Zod was shown to be.  ‘Superman was punching him around and knocking him through buildings and there was not a scratch on him, but then he snaps the guy’s neck like he was killing a chicken,’ is how one person put it…

Lois – the main complaint about her was that she was ‘everywhere’ and ‘too convenient’ and…‘annoying’ (that latter one may be because of the…affection some viewers have for Cavill…)

Issues (some) comic book readers had:

Collateral damage – as with the general viewers, the destruction of Metropolis was ‘too much’ for some readers.

Snap – ‘Superman doesn’t kill’

The costume – this was always going to be an issue for some, and there’s probably no need to go into it right here.  I had my own issue with it, which I’ll discuss later.

Powers – how were they able to match him when he had been here for so many years more than them?  (Others, of course, had no issue with their powers, while yet others were confused about the existence of the powers when they were breathing ‘Kryptonian air’)

He barely saved anyone – for many ‘purist’ fans, Superman ‘does the impossible’.  It’s just the way he is.  Here, with him allowing buildings to tumble around him and even taking the fight to Smallville in the first place, they felt betrayed and that this wasn’t ‘their’ Superman.

‘Justifications’ and examinations

The Collateral Damage

This movie showed, to a certain (strong) degree, ‘Superman unleashed’.  Sure, there was only one flaming streak as he burned the air with his speed (no, not the satellite fragments, they don’t count) (more of that can come in a later movie), but this also wasn’t a ‘we cannot see Superman punch anything, even though he is fighting’ movie, either.  That’s the important part for a lot of audience members – seeing Superman physically engage with his opponents.  It’s not as if it had never been seen before – he tangled with ‘himself’ in the third Reeve movie, and with ‘Nuclear Man’ in the fourth – rather, it had never been seen this way, in live-action, before.  (The second Superman movie doesn’t count as, in that one, we don’t actually see him punch anyone)  When we’ve been exposed to movies like The Matrix trilogy, and when we’ve seen battles in the animated movies and shows (like the ‘Clash’ episode in Justice League Unlimited, for example), to have anything less would have been a waste.

But the collateral damage, and the fact that it caused an issue for many across the spectrum of viewers, that does warrant considering.

For some, it was a case of ‘what did you expect when he’s fighting people like that?’; for others, it was ‘he should have taken the fight to safer ground’.  Personally, within the context of the movie, I’m in the middle of these two ‘extremes’.  His lack of experience of such situations allows for him being relatively unsuccessful with regards to containing the fight, but, frankly, more should have been done to show him trying.  His speed, flight, and heat vision enable him to buy himself time to shore up buildings and so forth, but he didn’t even try.  Yes, he probably would have been overwhelmed but just him trying to do it would have made a big difference.

There are a few ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ moments in the Smallville fight where he tried to take the fight to safer ground (such as when he grabbed Faora and tried to fly off with her but was then tackled by Nam-Ek) but, for me, they weren’t enough.  He should have kept trying rather than, for example, knocking Nam-Ek into a train depot.

Or shown him scanning an area.

Just a couple of seconds of his using his enhanced vision to ascertain that an area was empty before hitting one of the Kryptonians in that direction, and this whole analysis would have been a page shorter.  They only needed to do it once for the viewer to know that it’s something he does and, after that, it’s reasonably safe to assume that whatever he’s hitting his opponents in to is safe to do so.  The aforementioned train depot incident, for example, would have been completely acceptable then, in my opinion.

In Superman II, there was a lot of collateral damage – nothing on the scale depicted in MoS, sure, but still a lot.  Chunks of concrete fell on and hit people; we saw a woman holding her shoulder in pain; Non was knocked through a building and there were people inside…but we also saw Superman pull away from the fight and save people and, for many, that was the difference.  That was what was missing in Man of Steel.

The costume

As I said earlier, this was always going to be one of the divisive points of the movie – and it has been since before the first clear shot of the costume was revealed.

When the image of Superman pushing himself off the dented safe was revealed, some were very pleased, some were dismayed, some were ecstatic, some were depressed…and so on.  The armoured/chainmail look, overall, had a mixed reception (much like the movie, overall) – as with the current costume in the comic books, people wondered why Superman would even need armour.  That ‘criticism’ has always amused me.  The ‘purists’ want it to be his baby blankets turned into a costume – that’s fine, but that completely ignores the fact that, for a good 40 years of his history, up to the reboot in 1986, Superman’s suit was invulnerable (or, rather, indestructible).  In essence, the guy was almost always wearing ‘armour’ (until Byrne changed the approach), it just looked like cloth… (I love the mythic imagery of the costume being woven (not sown, there’s a difference), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with different approaches, so long as they make sense)

Yet there was one area of the image that was argued over quite a bit – was he or wasn’t he wearing trunks?  That area was in shadow and there were dozens of analyses of the image, with some folks cleaning the area or zooming in or using colour filters…all to determine whether or not the iconic red trunks (they’re not underwear (seriously, who wear’s a belt on their underwear?)).  When further images were released, some people put forward the idea that the trunks would be cgi’d in – and there are still photoshopped images like that around. 

I don’t think any other character will have so much debate over their clothing as Superman has had.

Anyway, with this costume, there were a number of criticisms tossed around:

-         too dark
-         not enough of a colour break
-         no need for the bits on his wrists and around the sides of his torso
-         can’t hide it under his civilian clothes
-         cape’s too long
-         no shield on the cape
-         lack of trunks made the crotch area more apparent

Up on the big screen, though, in the opinion of many, it worked.

For me, there were a number of moments where it looked great, with a vibrant red cape and Cavill oozing power – sometimes apprehensive and anxious power – and when Kal and Lois are on the small Kryptonian ship, the suit does stand out.  Other times, it was ‘meh’.  I did shake my head a little as he ascended the stairs of the small Kryptonian ship – the bottom of his cape was dirtied with dust – but it was only a momentary shake as I also found that image a little amusing.

He barely saved anyone

This was quite the biggie for a lot of people.  Superman saves people – it’s just what he does – but here, as far as many were concerned, he just didn’t.

We (generally speaking) will ignore the bus full of school children that he saved as a boy.

We’ll ignore the hints of him saving others as a late teen (it seemed to be a source of contention in the truck).

We’ll ignore the rescue of the oil rig workers.

We’ll ignore Lois’ voiceover about how he was a guardian angel to some.

We’ll ignore the soldier he caught as he fell from the damaged helicopter.

We’ll ignore that, overall, his actions saved billions.

We’ll start with the Smallville battle and the petrol (sorry, ‘gas’) station.  As a Superman fan, as someone who, generally, knows how he would behave, that aspect of destruction was a little disturbing.  I understand he was enraged at Zod threatening his mother and, for once, he was able to lash out on a bully directly but, as Christopher Reeve shouted it out in Superman II: ‘the people!’

Over and over again, that shout played in my head, as that main street in Smallville became a war zone; as the people in the IHOP cowered in fear; as flames erupted and engulfed shop fronts; as buildings were punctured; as the military opened fire and bullets tore through cars and buildings.

‘The people!’

But what was this guy supposed to do?  He’s 33 and inexperienced.  He’s not aware enough to draw the fight away from civilians; to head to the fields that are mere leaps away…

He brought the fight here.

He left his mother unprotected.

He’s in over his head.

But he’s trying.

He tells people to get to safety.

He notices Pete in the IHOP.

He saves a soldier, and then gets sucker punched.

He keeps trying, though, but he’s basically fighting on three fronts – two Kryptonians and the US military.  Actions speak louder than words, and his actions speak to Faora (hence what she says) and to the military (hence them lowering their weapons on him).

Perhaps some would have found it better if he had evacuated Smallville before engaging Faora and Nam-Ek?  Personally, I would have preferred it if he had gotten Martha to safety (maybe after smacking Zod and a couple of the others away with a speed blitz attack), but at least he made sure the streets were (relatively) clear before engaging Nam-Ek and Faora.  (Still, it’s a shame about that ‘gas’ station…)

But what about Metropolis?

Most of the destruction of Metropolis happened before he arrived – while he was dealing with the world engine on the other side of the planet – so it’s unfair to place that on his shoulders.  Some might argue that he should have taken down Zod’s ship instead of the world engine, but that ignores that Jor probably advised Lois otherwise, and that the pulses actually started from the world engine, so disabling Zod’s ship didn’t guarantee the engine would stop…it may have even made things worse…

After the gravity altering beam was disabled (the images of people rising in to the air and then getting slammed into the ground…well, if you noticed them…) there was a pause in destruction (hence Jenny being able to be freed), but then there was further destruction as the Zod-controlled scout ship was taken down by Kal, and the Zod Crew’s ship began to collapse in on itself.  The scout ship was directed towards ‘ground zero’, effectively minimising further collateral damage.  The Zod Crew’s ship was at ‘ground zero’.

Ah, but what about the fight between Zod and Kal?  There were people still out in the streets – quite clearly – fleeing as the fight rumbled around them, as asphalt tore, explosions occurred, windows shattered, concrete fell…

Zod spinning Kal around and tossing him through a series of buildings;

Kal’s the one who brought the fight down into the station…but Zod’s the one who didn’t want to stop.

Personally, a few scenes of Kal trying to directly help those caught in the crossfire would have been great – but, really, that would only have been possible if the three Kryptonians he did engage directly weren’t at power levels comparable to his.  I wish there had been a scene of him trying to help someone but with a few of the citizens of Metropolis telling him to go stop Zod and they would help the person(s) he was trying to.  A ‘Go!  We’ve got this’ type of moment, where the leap of faith is rewarded.  (That could even have been before the final confrontation)

Regardless, as chaotic as the Metropolis battle is, Kal starts the encounter by drawing Zod away from those he knows have definitely survived.  From that, one can (I hope reasonably) surmise, that by taking the fight in the direction he initially did, he had determined it was safe to do so.  That the fight began to be drawn to areas where there were civilians didn’t, I would argue, happen because of Kal’s choosing but because of Zod’s, and Zod’s intention to kill as many people as he could.

Unwittingly (or perhaps not, we don’t know), Zod was going to make Faora’s threat a reality. 

There’s a general rule – if you don’t see a body, there wasn’t a death.  At this point in the movie, after seeing a pilot get vapourised, and after seeing dozens of people get slammed into the ground, it’s, frankly, reasonable to conclude that if there were people in the buildings Zod and Kal crashed through, we would have seen them.

Yes, there were people in the streets and, yes, there were people in the station but, relative to the buildings, those were pretty safe places.  I’m not saying the station was a good place for Kal to have brought the fight, but, overall, it was probably one of the closest things he had to a ‘controlled environment’ – that that family didn’t run straight away isn’t his fault…

The powers

Even in the comic books, the rules for the powers Kryptonians possess and how long it takes for them to manifest varies.  For a long time, the general portrayal has been that Clark’s powers develop slowly as he arrives here as a baby, whereas mature Kryptonians develop their abilities either immediately or within a matter or hours or days.  Here, there was a mix, with Zod being around long enough to show most of the abilities Kal had; Faora sometimes being faster than Kal; both Faora and Zod’s senses being affected immediately when exposed to Earth’s atmosphere; and those on the command ship and not exposed to Sol directly not showing any abilities at all (Lois shot down a couple and was able to kick one off her, too).

Personally, I prefer a ‘when Kryptonians arrive they have power levels at the Action Comics issue 1 level, and then gradually increase over months and years’ approach rather than they have powers immediately or within hours (the latter being what they used here).

Lois Lane

One of my brothers didn’t like her in this movie.  A lot of people didn’t seem to like her, either.  According to many, she was too directly involved, and too conveniently placed.  Her turning up just before ‘the snap’ was too much for quite a few people, too.  Making it from the edge of ‘ground zero’ over to that train station…well, it pulled me out of the movie for a moment, too.

There were other moments – such as her following Clark up the snow reefs somehow; her making her way along the cliff face; her somehow not being sliced in two by that drone ;) – so it’s not really as if the criticisms of her are unwarranted…

But she was important.  She was the bridge Clark needed – the one who showed him the trust and faith he needed (in this regard, the Kents don’t count).

Some had issue with her knowing – personally, I didn’t.  It’s an interesting take on the relationship and partnership, my issue was in her tracking him down so bloomin’ quickly.  As I mention elsewhere, the line about ‘how do you find someone’ and the way it was incorporated into the movie was disappointing – I don’t know, I just felt it would have been better at the end but that would have required her not knowing but recognising when Perry introduces them (that, basically, she doesn’t track him down to the Kent farm (no slight on her as an investigator) but does recognise him when she finally meets Clark Kent at the Daily Planet).

Oh, and another bit people didn’t like, including myself, her shouting out ‘Clark, Clark!’ when he’s in the suit and at the Kent farm and there’s a police officer right behind her.  However, I thought about it afterwards and, well, since the guy’s probably from Smallville…he probably already knew about ‘The Secret of Clark Kent’ ;)

The Snap

When they landed in the train station and Kal got him in the hold, I kept whispering ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’ along with the s-word repeated rapid-fire.  I’m pretty sure I was on the edge of my seat, before slumping back when the snap occurred.  My brothers were shocked, I think I just shook my head.

Since that viewing, I think the three of us have to come to terms with it.  We understood why he did it, of course, but I haven’t really discussed it with them since.

‘Superman doesn’t kill’ – a point made quite clear in the old  Lois & Clark series – but is it that absolute?  Some argue that he killed Zod and Co in Superman II, so there’s a precedent for it – the first version I remember seeing, however, had them being led away by the Arctic Police.  They also point to him killing the evil version of himself in Superman III and the disposal of Nuclear Man in Superman IV.  The snap is what Goyer and Snyder wanted, so they created a situation where it would have to happen.  Their reasoning (similar to the trunks, to a small degree) is that Superman’s ‘no killing’ rule needed to have a basis.  I, and millions of others, have a ‘no killing’ rule, but none of us needed to kill someone first in order to know it wasn’t right.

In the comics, Byrne had a similar approach to the ‘no killing’ rule…and had Superman kill an alternate universe (and powerless) Zod Crew.  However, perhaps the MoS situation is more like Superman’s encounter with Doomsday – just as Doomsday was a relentless killing machine that couldn’t be stopped (ignoring things like teleportation through magic (in the comics)) so, too, was Zod in this movie.  Zod had lost everything, and was going to make Kal pay.

Zod, in my opinion, was looking for a way out, too.  After 33 years of wandering space and finding only death and desolation, he now had no people at all; and the one person who was a direct link to his heritage…was heresy made flesh, and an abomination.

Zod, basically, committed suicide and used Kal to do it.

He could have fried that family with ease instead of ‘teasing’ slowly with his heat vision.  He wanted Kal to end him, and if Kal didn’t, well, that family would be first, then another, then another, then another…

In the context of the movie, what choice did Kal have?  Anything else would have been a deus ex machina situation.  If the film had been structured slightly differently, Lex could have been brought in as the saviour of mankind.

But it wasn’t.

If the film had been structured slightly differently, Kara could have helped.

But it wasn’t.

If they hadn’t had Zod be at the same power level as Kal, things could have been different.

But that’s not what they chose to do.

They wrote him in to this situation – I would argue it was, overall, contrived as a result of him not doing certain things and certain forced events and pieces they incorporated in to the story, but this is what we were given.

Kal had to stop a genocidal maniac who had powers and abilities equal to his; who had absolutely zero consideration for human life; who had nothing to live for; who, potentially, had no weaknesses (other than, as durable as he was, still had a vulnerable neck…)

I don’t like that he did it – I think that’s pretty clear – but, all things considered, it was the ‘right’ thing to do.  

What were my issues?

(Note: there will be a lot of brackets used – yes, more than before :o )

I’m not going to do this in any particular order but one thing you’ll have to bear in mind is that there were, for me, issues as a Superman fan, a viewer, and issues as a reader of the prequel comic (and I can separate the three, even with the overlap…I think):

The chronology and sequence of events.

I know some will excuse it as ‘non-linear’ storytelling, but, frankly, that just doesn’t work for me here…:

-         After the oil rig incident, Clark goes off to work at a truck stop diner (basically).  He works there for a few months (we know this from Lois’ investigation as the woman who was groped tells her he worked there for a few months) before he overhears the talk about the Ellesmere situation (it may not be an issue for many, and it’s likely most viewers didn’t even notice it, but, for me, Clark being so ‘lost’ is something I really cannot get to grips with.  Frankly, a ‘Littlest Hobo’ approach would have been better, and would have worked in the context of this movie)

-         Somehow, Clark gets clearance to work with ‘Arctic Cargo’ on a restricted site (I’ll ignore that and chalk it up to him being ‘good’ at falsifying credentials, etc) within days of the find, and within the period of a quick court battle with regards to the injunction stopping Lois (in other words, more time has passed) (apparently, ‘Joe’ was a great worker…guess he made an impression (um…and Lois starts her investigation again? :s ))

-         When Clark leaves with the scout ship and heads to the North Pole, Lois makes her way back to Metropolis to file the story.  (Here’s where I ‘read too much into it’)  There’s no ‘tenderness’ on her part so one could reasonably conclude that she has had time to heal (at least a little) from her injury (Clark cauterizing the wound will only do so much), so at least a few days have passed.  (What kind of reasoning did the Pentagon give for Lois’ injury, I wonder (self-inflicted, perhaps?)) Perry refuses to print the story so Lois gets ‘Woodburn’ to do it for her

-         Meanwhile, Clark has a one-to-one with ‘El’ (I prefer calling it the ‘Jor-conscience’ but I’m just playing with a word here at the moment).  ‘El’ tells him about certain things, and chooses to omit, apparently, certain things (we can come back to that later). (Also need to ignore that they, for some reason, couldn’t track the scout ship and ascertain where it was, but could track other ships, including the two small ships that went to Kansas, with ease)

-         Lois begins an investigation into who/what her rescuer is.  The line I was quite fond of when I heard it in the trailers (‘how do you find someone who has spent his lifetime covering his tracks’) falls apart here when Lois shows how easy it was for her to find him

-         Clark learns to fly and does a quick exploration of the world (it’s daylight throughout, but that’s by the by)

-         Lois tracks Clark to Smallville and visits Jonathan’s grave.  Clark has caught wind of her investigation and confronts her

-         Lois goes back to the Daily Planet where she finds out, from Perry, that the publishers are after her for having Woodburn put the aforementioned article online (note, they know it’s her article (and, according to Lombard, Perry made it known that he knows that she was the ‘anonymous source’)).  He then tells her she has two weeks unpaid leave as penance (increases it to three when she so readily accepts, but we’ll leave it at two for now).  She has dropped the story and claims her leads didn’t pan out (so, clearly, some time has passed since the incident in Ellesmere and her following up the initial leads and further leads and tracking Clark down).  Why is this an issue?  The pacing – it just makes it seem like everything is happening within days…but knowing it takes weeks at least actually makes a certain aspect worse…

-         Clark goes back to the Kent farm (the guy can now fly (and made it to the cemetery easily) but he hitches a ride in (I know, I know, he’s ‘keeping his cover’…)) and Martha tells him a reporter (Lois) had been by – so Clark, apparently, didn’t find out about Lois’ investigation from Martha…so who, or how..?  (Maybe it was Pete?  Perhaps he and Clark have some kind of communication method (no signal watch ;)) which Clark hasn’t shared with his Mum…)

-         The Zod Crew’s ship is discovered in lunar synchronous orbit and, as amateur footage is released and broadcast, we find Lois at the Daily Planet…which means at least 2 weeks have passed (sure, some can excuse it with ‘Perry bluffed’ or something, but the publishers were clearly after ‘blood’ so she had to have done some form of ‘penance’)

-         Clark hasn’t revealed anything to Martha about what he found out, apparently, but he is staying on the farm…

-         Woodburn reveals that Lois Lane knows who the alien is because she’s the one who wrote the article (which begs the question: how did the publishers know it was her article prior to Woodburn revealing it to be so?  Did Perry blag on her (unlikely…or is it?  (Maybe one of the publishers is Lex!  Ooooh…))?)

-         So, basically, a few weeks have passed since Clark learned to fly, etc, yet he has done nothing to inspire hope and, as we learn after the Smallville battle, hasn’t even shown Martha the suit…

Age – I didn’t like him being 33 (I had similar issues with Bruce being almost 30 when he starts out as Batman in Begins).  Sure, the Reeve movie had him at around 30 when he first dons the suit, but even that, to me, is ‘too old’ for his debut (and him not doing anything heroic until he was 30 was jarring, even when I was a kid – at least in MoS we know he has been helping people where he can, even though he’s so ‘lost’).  Somewhere from 24 to 27 seems about right, to me, for a debut (and ‘inexperienced’ Superman).

Jesus overtones – I’m tired of them, and there’s no need for them. (For those of you who missed them, here’s a few: The ‘Spirit’ anointing and guiding the Son; Kal’s age; sacrificing himself to ‘save’ mankind

The costume – generally, I like it, but what annoyed me was the ‘justification’ and ‘reasoning’ behind it.  We have the Snyders call the trunks ‘underwear’ and yet what we’re presented with overall is underwear – the Kryptonians were wearing these body suits under their robes and armour.  Geez…(if that ‘reasoning’ can be used for this, then why couldn’t it have been used for the more traditional outfit (or is that too much like Birthright and the Silver Age in general)?).  Apart from that, though, just what the heck was that costume doing in a ship that arrived here more than 18,000 years ago?  (If the Jor-conscience put it together as he talked to Clark, then that needed to be indicated)  And why the colours?  Jor’s one had dark colours, so why does Kal’s one have a red cape and a coloured House of El shield?

Kryptonians having powers comparable with his within days of being near Sol, whereas it took him years to get to that level.  Also, Jax-Ur knowing about the effects of Sol and the presence of powers: Clark had done nothing from after getting the suit to turning himself in to the military that would have given the Kryptonians any idea that they had strength and speed, etc, that they otherwise didn’t have on Krypton.  There was nothing that would have given Faora the idea that she could leap into the barn or force the chamber on the rocket open; there was nothing that would have given Zod the idea that he could toss the truck into the house.  Basically, despite Jax-Ur’s claim to the contrary, none of them knew they would have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

Lois telling Perry she’s a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist.  It shouldn’t have come from her; it should have come from him.  It should have been him saying something like, ‘I don’t care of you’re a Pulitzer prize-winner, I’m not running this.’  (Heck, I would have liked it if he had called her the youngest winner, but so long as it came from him and not from her).  Also, the news anchor calling her that later in the movie didn’t help, either, especially with the sarcastic tone he used.

The Key – why on Earth didn’t Jonathan and Clark try to use the key on the rocket?  It’s not as if it fell out and Jonathan didn’t know where it was supposed to go?  Jor put it there for a reason – and he didn’t know that there was already a scout ship on the planet.  (Here, I need to refer to the prequel comic, where it was made clear that systems like Sol weren’t part of the scouting criteria, and that Dev-Em had changed the ship’s course) 

That Earth was, basically, randomly chosen and there was an internal retcon to make it out to be otherwise.  Earth (and Sol) fit certain criteria Jor was looking for, but he knew nothing of the people of Earth, yet, 33 years later, the Jor-conscience makes it out to be otherwise.

Why the heck did that metallurgist never tell anyone that someone had shown him an object made of something that didn’t even exist on the periodic table?  How did Jonathan convince him to keep that quiet?  Eek!

The lack of international travel – it sure would have made it harder for Lois to track him down.  Overall, he seemed to have only wandered around parts of North America.  That was such a waste.

Leaving the Metropolis events aside, the mess made in Smallville initially started because of Kal.  Granted, he was raging at Zod threatening Martha…but what was going to stop any of the others who were there from just snapping her neck as he’s tangoing with Zod?

Why they didn’t give a reason as to why they didn’t try to use the world engine on another planet.  If the planet they retrieved the world engine from wasn’t suitable, why did those scouting Kryptonians land there in the first place?

Why didn’t they retrieve a genesis chamber from one of the outposts?  (Here, again, I need to bring in the prequel comic: in the comic there was no mention of a codex.  The genesis chambers were there and ready to be used, and didn’t need a codex.  Seriously, if the codex necessary for the embryos to be encoded was on Krypton, how were the genesis chambers on all the scout ships supposed to be triggered?)

That we only had snippets of what Jor told him (‘I have so many questions…how do I shave?’ ;) ).  Granted, we didn’t need to be privy to everything (and he didn’t need 12 years of education) but I feel a lot more, overall, could have been done.  Also, some of what we were told was, to me, a cop-out – for example, Jor doesn’t explain why the expansion programme was abandoned, he just goes on to say that artificial birth control was initiated.  There’s no reasoning.  That was such a cop-out.

Further to that, that it seemed to be put forward that harvesting Krypton’s core was a relatively recent thing.  Jor, according to Zod, was Krypton’s foremost scientist and, yes, the ‘lawmakers with their endless debates’ did hamper things, but them not believing him (in time) was a tad awkward.  Here’s the thing, though, the way that scene was played out, it’s likely the coup would have been unnecessary (however, since Zod wanted to get rid of certain bloodlines, he probably still would have gone ahead with it).

That Jor uploaded his conscience but not Lara’s (I figure he did it as he was encoding the codex into baby Kal’s cellular structure, as otherwise there is no way the Jor-conscience would know that Zod had attempted a coup).  Sure, it would have been a little too similar to the Donner-verse, but…ah, the conversations the Lara-conscience could have had with Martha (‘Mother, I’d like you to meet my Mother’ ;) )(they could have worked together to design the suit ;) )

That Swanwick knew they were from Krypton – are we to assume Kal told them about Krypton offscreen?  The reason I wonder is because it wasn’t mentioned in Zod’s broadcast, and Kal didn’t mention it when he was in the interview room, Faora didn’t mention it when she came to take Kal…

That they didn’t at least have the ships talk in Kryptonian.  Personally, I would have liked all the Krypton scenes to have been in Kryptonian, but when we had the conversation between Jor and Lara being shown in the trailers, I knew it wasn’t to be.  It’s a real shame and, I feel, a lost opportunity. 

That, for some reason, Clark wasn’t affected on the scout ship.  Initially, the environmental systems were down, but when the ship was up and running it should have established a Kryptonian environment…but it didn’t.  There’s absolutely no reason for it not to have (boy, would the movie have gone a different way if they thought that bit through properly…).  Now, one could argue that the Jor-conscience was aware of the effect the Kryptonian environment would have and had done to the scout ship what it later did on Zod’s ship, but this is something which, I feel, should have been addressed directly

That it turned out to be a land grabbing scheme ;)

Things I liked

There were a lot of aspects that I did like about the movie – contrary to any negativity, questions, and nit-picks you may have gleaned from above.  Some of these catered to the Superman-geek in me (the broken moon being a nod to Jax-Ur’s activities in the comics, for example), whereas others just came across well (like the shove).

So, briefly (and in no particular order):

-         Jor’s telling of Kryptonian history (with the standard of the House of El being planted on another world, setting a basis for the symbol to be recognized on an intergalactic level!)

-         Jor being able to hold his breath for a long time – a regular Kryptonian on Krypton…so an enhanced Kryptonian should be able to do more ;)

-         Jonathan, overall.  Although I didn’t like some of the dialogue and the ‘sacrifice’/suicide, Jonathan was quite multi-faceted.  His fear wasn’t just that Clark would be taken away and experimented on; it was also a ‘bigger picture’ view: how would we react if we found out that aliens really do exist.  It’s an area I had hoped they would at least open up to somewhat in this movie, but they didn’t, and that’s a real shame.  Also, with the bullying scene, he pretty much told Clark that he understood Clark wanting to fight back (who wouldn’t?) and that part of him even wanted him to, but, really, what would it accomplish?  We saw the bent fence, that could easily have been someone’s jaw.  Also, the distance between them in that scene – now, I could be reading too much in to it but I felt that Jonathan wanted to comfort and assure Clark more directly, but was hanging back in order to not embarrass him in case those bullies were watching.

-         ‘What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended?  What if a child aspired to something greater?’

-         Lois, overall.  As with Jonathan, there were dialogue issues (the flak-jacket comment was unnecessary, as was the Pulitzer one).  As in previous continuities/versions, Lois got herself into dangerous situations long before she ever came across the Man from Krypton, so it was good to have that here.  Her taking down a couple of Kryptonians was an amusing touch.  Her ready acceptance is a little jarring to some people, but she knows first hand that this alien being means well.  He could have let her die instead of cauterising the wound; he could have let so many others die over the years…but he didn’t.  The rest of the world doesn’t know that yet (apart from those who know they were saved by him), but they will.

-         Zod’s grief, both times he kills Jor.  His affection for Jor overrides his ‘programming’ for a few brief moments, both times.  The first as he turns away as Lara rushes to Jor’s body; the second when, haunted for 33 years, he’s compelled to kill his old friend once again, and he turns his head again.  Beautifully done by Mr Shannon.

-         Clark stepping in to help the waitress – here, as I’m sure we can all agree, Clark was doing the right thing

-         The shove – the look on the groper’s face was classic

-         I liked the imagery of the pierced truck (internally I visualised it as a jab at Bay’s Transformers, but that’s my mind having a little more fun ;) ) but, initially, I didn’t like that it came across as a lashing out.  However, considering the fact that Clark has been working there for a few months, it could be argued that this was really a case of ‘enough is enough’, and that ties in directly to him giving up his job there and then, too (in order to head to Ellesmere) (I don’t know if that was intentional on Mr Goyer’s part, though).

-         That Kryptonian tech could hurt Clark (I really hoped they would carry that forward but, alas…).  When the drone’s attack cut him and made him bleed, well, I was drawn in a little bit more.  I really felt that this would be where they could make things a little more interesting.

-         The irony of Jonathan’s fear of Clark being a lab rat for humans actually manifesting as him being a lab rat for Kryptonians

-         Relatively interactive hologram Jor (although hearing his steps was a little silly).  The scenes with Lois were fun and tense – I took the initial pause before he began communicating with Lois to indicate that the Jor-conscience had sifted through some updates and ascertained her identity

-         The tease of Clark making handgrips as he made his way up the support column of the oil rig

-         Clark Kent: man on fire!  (Perhaps ‘hunk of burning love’ would be more apt – cue Elvis!)

-         Holding back the collapsing rig long enough for the rescue copter to get away (we needed this kind of thing when he was in costume, too!!)

-         Clark reassuring Lois as he tended to her injury

-         The gulp from the priest who bullied Clark when they were younger

-         Young Clark and the clothes-pinned cape – yes, within the narrative of the movie there was no justification for it, no inspiration for it (unlike for us in our world where Superman is the inspiration for it), but it was a nice image.  (If things were a little different in the movie, then it could have worked to show how his presence was inspiring others, but that’s by the by)

-         The picture of Clark (with Jonathan) winning the school science prize

-         Zod spinning Kal around a tossing him into a building – a great turnaround of the famous scene from Superman II that involved the Coca Cola sign ;)

-         Faora checking Kal out when she first meets him – although it’s a bit creepy since she’s probably pushing at least 60 at that point…

-         Speaking of, Zod looks good for someone who’s probably hitting 80…

-         Learning to fly – I grinned as he did the ‘leaping tall buildings’ (even though there were no buildings)

-         The prominent display of his durability as he crashed through the top of the mountain

-         Telescopic vision

-         The scene of the Kryptonians sealed and heading up to the awaiting ship…that it turned out to be from Lara’s view and her tears begin to blur what we see

-         The tackle and slide recovery when he stopped Faora from killing Colonel Hardy

-         ‘Welcome to the Planet’ – I love playing with words, and that one worked well

-         Young Clark knowing he has to do the right thing

-         Kal’s head getting knocked back a little when he was hit by one of the rounds

-         Faora smacking Kal around with ease

-         Faora speedblitzing the soldiers

-         ‘You will not win.  For every human you save, we will kill a million more.’ – and she meant it

-         The casual use of x-ray vision and his matter-of-fact description of what they were doing behind the walls

-         Face to face with General Swanwick, through one-way glass

-         That he was able to track and locate Lois with ease

-         ‘Don’t play games with me, General.’

-         The matter of fact way he says ‘You won’t.’ towards the end of the movie.

-         The colour shift in the closing scenes – there’s a bluish tint throughout most of the movie (to my eye) but this is gone (to my eye) at the end of the movie from when he tells Martha his plan onwards.

-         The fight scenes were great – the energy, the movement, the choreography….one of the things I didn’t like about Nolan’s Batman movies were the fights – the choreography and framing just didn’t work for me – the fights in MoS, though, were quite ‘wow’

-         Taking on Nam-Ek and Faora at the same time

-         Using Faora as a weapon to knock Nam-Ek back for a moment

-         The brief use of slow-mo when Nam-Ek grabbed the van and tossed it at the copters

-         Catching the soldier (although I didn’t like him getting sucker-punched and then not being able to catch the copter)

-         The respect Faora had for Colonel Hardy

-         The train toss – it was a nice image but I also had an additional (perhaps unintentional) interpretation: he survived getting squished by the (screaming) locomotive, ergo ‘more powerful than a…’ ;)

-         Tying in to that, a little earlier he dodges some gun fire (heavy duty rounds) but gets tagged by at least one.  Generally, though, he’s shown to be ‘faster than a speeding bullet’.  (He also, really, has no reason at this point to believe he’s not going to be hurt by that kind of gunfire (these aren’t bullets for pistols or rifles, they’re on a whole other level), even if he was able to go through a mountain unscathed)

-         Faora relying on speed (and dodging the bullets in the initial military attack)

-         Nam-Ek (seemingly) relying on his armour

-         Nam-Ek rolling his shoulders back before doing a hop, skip, and ‘ohmyfraggin’’… Hulk, who? (I didn’t like that the pilot got vapourised, but it happens so quickly that odds are most people didn’t notice it)

-         That a blast from the small ship’s energy weapon was able to knock Kal down

-         That there’s Kryptonite in another part of the universe (away from Krypton) and, possibly, within the Sol system

-         When the car landed on him as he was about to punch Zod, and he shrugged it off

-         The chase through Metropolis being akin to the one in Superman II

-         That he tried to catch the (Wayne) satellite that Zod tossed at him

-         Martha’s sadness at Clark’s discovery.  Sure, there’s an element of selfishness there, but it’s also such a motherly thing, I think.  She’s happy he has found the answers he was looking for, but she’s sad in that she feels it creates distance between them and that he might not love her the way he used to

-         Kal’s protectiveness of his mother (yes, he was stupid for leaving her with a bunch of Kryptonians while he tackled Zod (and then Nam-Ek and Faora) but his rage as he flew in was understandable.  His realisation that he almost lost her and that she can’t be ‘replaced’ was a good part, too

-         Clark’s grin at the end.

-         Jonathan’s faith that Clark will be able to find his place in the world, when he’s ready

Alternative suggestions/approaches on my part

(Again, no particular order)

Super-breath.  Although an ability that is often mocked, in this movie, coupled with his flight, it would have given him a huge tactical advantage.  Certain parts of the fight in Smallville, for example, would have been quite different:

-         he could have used a quick blast of it to keep the falling copter aloft a little longer;
-         he could have frozen Nam-Ek and/or Faora, buying himself some time (yes, they could have broken free, but all he needed were a few moments here and there, and neither of them had (active) heat vision at the time, either)

Kryptonian technology being what evens the battlefield, somewhat, between Kal and the others.  We saw that a Kryptonian drone could hurt him – cut him and make him bleed – so their body armour could easily have been shown to have parallel enhancements which were able to counter Kal’s physical abilities, rather than them having comparable power levels to him.  It would also explain why Faora did the leap and Zod knew he could toss the truck, especially since, as mentioned earlier, they had no reason (and we had been shown no reason) for them to believe they had any ‘naturally enhanced’ abilities on Earth.  (When Lois was trying to escape in the pod one of the female Kryptonians punched and damaged the pod, and Lois was able to kick her off.  So, to me, that indicates that she wasn’t enhanced strength-wise but her armour gave her a bit of a boost).

In the weeks from Clark donning the suit to the arrival of the Zod Crew, Clark should have been international and helping people out.  Rumours of a caped flying man doing astonishing things – heck, there could even have been an assassination attempt at an international summit which he then foils, but in such a way that there is uncertainty as to just what happened – should have been all over the place.  Merely having the ‘Lois Lane knows who he is’ deflection by Woodburn wasn’t enough, and that only being prompted by Zod’s announcement, too.

A scene of the Zod Crew seeing Clark in action before they revealed their presence.  Their shock at what he could do; Jax-Ur stepping up to discover how; and them being at Action Comics issue 1 level of power.

More involvement from the Zod Crew – there were a dozen or so of them…the battles would have been epic…even if they were all at the power level described (maybe with some being faster (like Faora) and some being stronger (like Nam-Ek), they would have been a massive threat and difficult for this inexperienced Superman to handle.  Or, rather, much more difficult.

Clark should have been younger – 27 at most – and Lois’ hunt for him should have taken her across the world (and as Lois hunted him down, rumours of a caped ‘angel’ begin to spread, muddying the trail and, perhaps, annoying ‘aliens walk among us is a story I’m not going to print’ (paraphrase) Perry White).

Use of languages – in those ‘in my fantasy Superman movie’ scenarios of international escapades, having Superman speaking, even briefly, in the native tongues of the people he is helping…would have been awesome (in my opinion).

With regards to languages (and in addition to what I said earlier about being disappointed that they didn’t have any Kryptonian being spoken), having Zod try to talk to Kal in Kryptonian and Kal being unable to reply could have cemented Zod’s belief that Kal’s existence was an abomination.  On the flipside, having Kal try to reply in Kryptonian could have had an influence on the other Kryptonians – that this person they had been searching for for 33 years could be one of them…and when Jax-Ur reveals that the codex is in Kal’s cellular structure, it could have influenced more of them (when they showed Faora as Jax-Ur announced his discovery, I had hoped that it would have led to her stepping away from Zod – having a team-up between her and Colonel Hardy would have been classic!)

The tornado incident – although I can appreciate the ‘visual’ of people gathered under the overpass, that really shouldn’t have been done.  I’m not from the Tornado Country but even I know that the overpass is one of the worst places to seek refuge.  Clark and Jonathan (and others) should have been guiding people in to the ditch (it was right there!) and, rather than Jonathan basically committing suicide, if he had been ‘lost’ while helping someone, with Clark momentarily distracted while helping someone else, I think there would have been a lot more there to work with.  Instead, we have Clark telling Lois how Jonathan had sacrificed himself because he felt the world wasn’t ready for someone like Clark, yet Clark has, for 16 or so years, been helping people in various (and sometimes extreme) situations here and there…putting that sacrifice in the meaningless pile L

(I have an image of Clark holding on to and shielding three kids (and they are clinging on to him for dear life), as he looks up to see Jonathan help someone in to the ditch…and get pulled away)

Also, with regards to Jonathan, the ‘maybe’ line needed a little more.  Perhaps something along the lines of ‘Maybe...no...no...you did the right thing, Clark...but...you have to be careful...I can't protect you...’ followed by his explaining or referring to ‘the bigger picture’ and so forth.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel Mr Costner did a great job in conveying how torn Jonathan was, and how that word wasn’t ‘natural’ for him to say, but just a little more in the dialogue would have made things that much better overall.  I kept thinking he could have made a suggestion as to how Clark could have used his abilities but made it look ‘normal’ – for example, he could have suggested that Clark could have led the (drowning) students out through the back of the bus as it began to submerge, while accepting that Clark had acted in the heat of the moment.  The key thing being that he give Clark a little guidance – that, I feel, would have helped temper the fear he and Clark were going through at that point.

Kal revealing himself to the United Nations rather than ‘just’ to part of the American military – within the story we’re given, what they put forward works because they have taken Lois into custody but, generally speaking, it should have been him surrendering himself to the world.  (As an aside, it’s a shame they didn’t show spies, etc from other countries trying to make a grab for Lois ;) )

A geek reference, I know, but Perry mentioning George Taylor as he introduces Clark would have been a nice touch.  He could have been mentored by him a few years ago when Clark was still trying to find himself.

There was no need for the kiss.  Kal should have landed, perhaps given her a reassuring smile or some words of reassurance, and then moved to the rubble and started helping people trapped around the area.  There were over a dozen people in that immediate area, including Perry and Steve, and rescue efforts should have been initiated.  Zod’s reappearance then would have worked better, I feel, as an ‘uh oh’ moment, rather than a ‘oh, there he is’ that it ended up being.

As I said earlier, at this point, before the final confrontation, as he was rescuing people and removing layers of rubble, it could have become a scene of a few of the citizens of Metropolis telling him to go stop Zod (even if Zod had announced his presence with a cliché shout of ‘Kal-El!’) and they would help the person(s) he was trying to.  A ‘Go!  We’ve got this’ type of moment, where the leap of faith is rewarded. 

With regards to Zod, I still feel that Kal should have grabbed him and tried to toss him in to the singularity (or, rather, at and into Zod’s ship) as the scout ship was going down.  He knew the plan was to get all of the Kryptonians in there, so he should have tried to make sure Zod was headed in there.

Another approach (playing with the idea I put forward earlier about some of his crew turning on him), having some of them seek him out (and taking down those siding with him) and then willingly going in to the singularity would have turned some of the themes Goyer was going for on their head.  Jor and Lara had already chosen to act (sort of) contrary to their ‘genetic programming’, and to have some of the Zod Crew turn against their ‘programming’ could really have been something.  It would have further cemented Zod’s rage – that Kal took everything from him – while underscoring what the Jor-conscience said – that Kal is twice the man Zod is.

Jor should have told him more about why he was being sent to Earth, even if it had been off screen.  When the ‘mindscape’ interview was going on and Zod says to Kal that Jor’s intention was always to have Kryptonians take over Earth, Kal should have been in a position to smile and tell him that he’s lying.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the imagery of him being sucked in to the mountain of skulls, but I think something other, something more directly linked to Kal’s emotional state/vulnerability, would have been better suited for that part.  Perhaps tying it in to aspects of guilt over letting Jonathan die…perhaps a montage of failures over the years, but one he overcomes when he realises his successes, as anonymous as they have been…

I’ve rambled a lot (if you’ve made it this far without skipping, thanks J ), so should probably sum it up now (even though, honestly, there’s so much more I could say (and I’m such a quiet person, really)):

After I saw the movie the first time my brother asked me what I would give it out of 10.  I told him ‘7 and a half’.  I stand by that and hope the sequel will at least be an 8.5.

(With regards to a sequel (which is apparently green lit), I’m hoping that they will address the fears of the world, but balance it out with hope.  If, for example, they open with a review of the destruction and the reaction of the people – their loss, grief, fears, and anger – and then move to show what Superman has been doing to counter this – rescue efforts, rebuilding and so on – then the sequel could be an interesting one, with some form of grounding.)

There is no pleasing everyone, and even with all the naysayers dismissing the movie it’s clear that it is popular.  Those who are saying it won’t make Iron Man 3 or Avengers’ revenues and, therefore, is a failure, really need a reality check.  Iron Man 3 had two movies preceding it, so the point of comparison here should be the first Iron Man movie.  Avengers had two Iron Man movies, a Thor movie, and a Captain America movie preceding it – so we’ll just have to wait for a Wonder Woman movie, a new Batman movie, another Superman movie and then, when the JLA movie is out, we’ll have a point of comparison ;)

So, overall, I’m ‘okay’ with what we got…

(Maybe one day I’ll get that 4 hour Superman movie… ;) )


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