Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Man of Steel

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I blog about one of the many movies I own.  This time out, we tackled 2013's big reboot of the Superman mythology, Man of Steel.  This arises in my notes at November 17, 2013.

Man of Steel Poster

Superman.  The superhero to end all superheroes.  He pretty much was the first superhero.  The Christopher Reeve movies were long considered the gold standard for superhero movie adaptations.  So now that superhero movies are cleaning up at the box office, you'd think Superman would be leading the charge.  But no. 

The last attempt was Superman Returns in 2006, which was slavishly devoted to the Christopher Reeve films.  I've blogged it before and I'll blog it again...I think Superman Returns was a movie that needed to be made.  With the Christopher Reeve films being so revered, the first Superman movie out of the gate had to pay homage to it some how.  But then, with the Reeve films out of our system, we'd be free to do a full-on, 21st Century reboot of the film franchise...something a little more faithful to the comic books today.

But, it seems that lots of people thought Superman was passe.  He's the big blue boy scout.  In our world of dark and gritty superheroes, does Superman still have relevance?  That was Zack Snyder, the director of Man of Steel, once thought when he was first offered a Superman film.  He passed, and we got Bryan Singer and Superman Returns instead.  The guy who finally made it accessible to Zack Snyder and convinced him to come on board was Christopher Nolan, the writer and director of those Batman films known as The Dark Knight Trilogy.  As the story goes, Nolan and his Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer were tossing around ideas for their third Batman film, and Goyer said, "Too bad we're not doing Superman.  I've got a great idea for a Superman film."  Nolan asked what it is, Goyer shared his idea, and with excitement, they pitched the idea to the big brass, and the Dark Knight crew was now doing the next Superman film.  They wooed Snyder in to direct, and the rest is history.

On a side note, I think we can thank Singer for the film's title.  When it was announced that the next Batman movie was going to be called The Dark Knight, Singer said he liked the idea of naming the movie after one of the hero's most popular nicknames.  He did propose Man of Steel as the title of his now-never-produced Superman Returns sequel.  

I kind of like Man of Steel.  Yeah, following the model of the Dark Knight Trilogy, they made it dark and gritty, but they didn't go as dark as the Dark Knight.  As expected, they tried to make it more grounded and more realistic.  I remember one critic calling it the best representation as to what it would be like if Superman really did exist in the real world.  As such, some changes were made to they mythology that some really objected to.

For example, Pa Kent, who always told Clark Kent that he had to go to great lengths to conceal his powers.  Pa Kent knew that the world wouldn't be ready for this super man, yet, and told him to keep things under wraps until the world is ready.  Now, that lesson, I can appreciate.  But then, they way they kill off Pa Kent...in the Reeve films, they way Pa Kent just falls over and dies of a heart attack, it's very humbling to young Clark Kent.  He knows that, with all his power, he's not all-powerful.  But in this film, Pa Kent tells young Clark not save him, and Pa Kent lets a tornado kill him.  The reason is, if Clark saves his father, it would expose his secret.  It just didn't have the same emotional resonance with me. 

Another change that I liked that made it more realistic is Lois Lane.  Clark, not knowing his place, and still in hiding, just kind of walks the Earth, helping out wherever he can.  And of course, these stories start coming back to Lois Lane, so she goes on the hunt, investigating these reports of an invincible guardian angel.  So she tracks down and uncovers Superman's true identity, as a real life dogged reporter would.  And, as I expected, Amy Adams is just phenomenal as Lois Lane. 

Let's talk about the big change, though, that everyone objected to.  The final battle.  Between the Kryptonian WMDs and Superman and General Zod's final fight, the city of Metropolis is turned into a pile of ash.  On the one hand, I kinda liked the destruction.  I mean, this is the kind of epic, Superman, super-strength fight that we've been reading in the comics and seeing in the cartoons for years, so to finally see one on the big screen was amazing.  However, lots of emphasis was put on the large amount of the collateral damage, and how many civilians must have died in the battle.  In a recent interview, Zack Snyder pegged the death toll at around 5000.  And those many civilian deaths is something that Superman just wouldn't allow. 

And let's talk about the big change, the one that made the fans drop their jaws in horror.  Superman comes to the horrible realization that the only way he'll be able to stop General Zod and save the world from his terror is to kill him.  So he does.  It's one of those rules that's been established over the years about Superman:  he does not kill.  And to be put in the position where it's his only option, it's shocking to see.  I'm still not sure they needed to go there, but as one other critic online pointed out, maybe because Superman found it so horrific, this is where he adopts his no killing policy. 

At the end of the day, I did enjoy Man of Steel, but it does have one of the problems I've had with all the DC adaptations to date...it's so darn serious.  There's no sense of joy or fun to it.  The Marvel movies...they're fun.  The have a sense of adventure.  But in DC, it's always life or death.  Would it hurt Superman to crack a smile?  Come on. 

Well, OK.  That's one of my favourite parts of the film.  When Superman actually does crack a smile.  It's when he's learning to fly, and that it is a fun moment.  The movie needed more of that. 

But Superman has had its big screen reboot.  I would much rather we bring in Lex Luthor now, but it seems for a billionaire to battle Superman, we're going with Bruce Wayne.  And I'm very curious to see how that's going to turn out.

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