The Man of Steel is the first non-Nolan fiscally successful DC movie in decades. That makes me happy. If only for the reason that we’ll hopefully get more DC characters that are brought to the big screen. Hopefully they will be treated with more grace and finesse than Superman.
The Man of Steel is an interesting conundrum. It, from the get-go, jettisons everything that I hold dear about the character. It is deadset on making him ‘relevant’ in 2013. I discards the theatricality of personal restraint, the emphasis on following an internal moral compass, and… well, the red underwear. Man of Steel is steeped in cynicism, societal ambiguity, internal conflict and the gray morass that is moral relativism.
Superman has fundamentally altered my existence. I would not be the person I am today without Siegel and Shuster. I will forever be in their debt. Superman is about responsibility. He’s about finding your internal voice and following it. Superman is an outsider on Earth. He is capable of evaluating our customs, morals, and decisions and discerning which ones are just and moral and which ones aren’t. Superman is cerebral. He may ask for advice from time to time but in Man of Steel all he does is literally do what other people tell him to do. Every time he has a large decision to make he asks someone what he should do and, without exception, he does what they tell him to do. It’s very disappointing. Every major decision that Clark/superman is faced with isn’t resolved by his decisions. They’re resolved by his actions which are prompted by other people’s decisions.
There is so much wrong with Man of Steel it’s difficult to surmise in a quick article that isn’t extremely long and verbose. The big points for me are as follows. Superman doesn’t actually make any decisions, Lois Lane falls in love with him because the Plot-God demands it, Superman drinks beer, there’s no red underwear, and last but not least…..
We’re lectured about how Superman is here to inspire hope, about how he can show us the way, about how he’s basically Jesus. And then the way he resolves this is by slaughtering Zod. This is not responsible storytelling. It’s breaking the character. I understand that Snyder and Goyer are attempting to make Superman palatable for 2013 and in a post 9/11, torture approved America I understand the desires behind the decision. I get it. They’re trying to make people in the mid-west get superman. Ok. But, y’know what? That’s why it’s even more important the keep Superman anti-death penalty.
The most frustrating element of the Zod kill is that there are numerous ways that you could fix that without even really re-writing the movie. Lois Lane, for all really purposes, as been given the ultimate Deus Ex Machina. She had an undefined conversation with Jor-El. How amazing would it have been if Clark was about to snap Zod’s neck and then Lois stops him and says Jor-El told me how to build a phantom Zone Projector. You don’t have to kill him. That’s Superman struggling with his abilities. It’s well within his capabilities to end Zod but cruelty only begets cruelty. Therefore, he knocks Zod out and they put him back into the Phantom Zone with all the other Krytonian criminals. I could over look the massive Christ allegories, the directionless Clark, the drinking, the consulting a catholic priest, and the Plot-God demanded romance. But the killing of Zod is a plebian, pedestrian, and ultimately pedantic solution to a situation.
Superman expected more of you Goyer and Snyder. He deserved better.