To celebrate Midsummer this year, my family took in the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. Overall, I thought it was a good, not great, movie. I enjoyed it, for the most part, and I didn't have any trouble with the changes made from the comics/TV/Reeve Movies/cartoons/<insert your Super-Bible here>. For what I did & didn't like, please read on. Be warned, though, I will be discussing specifics, so if you don’t want spoilers, please go read one of the wonderful blogs to the left.
Is everyone ready? OK, spoilers away!
First of all, we must discuss Krypton. Personally, I liked to look and feel of it. This is not the antiseptic Krypton of the Reeve movies or John Byrne’s “Man of Steel” comics, nor is it the ultra-advanced/urban Krypton of the original. No, this is a Krypton clearly past its prime. It’s so stuck in a rut that it has abandoned every kind of individual advancement in favor of genetic breeding people for a specific job. I like the take here, making the Kryptonians more at fault for the destruction of their world, which they are harvesting for power, than just being ignorant victims. I also like how Zod and Jor-El used to be allies to try and save the planet, but they come into conflict when their methods differ.
As for Zod, I do like this character better than the Superman 2 version, and that’s mainly due to motivation. This Zod has had his character augmented with the Eradicator for the comics. Zod is genetically programmed to be the ultimate protector of Krypton. When those in power ignore Jor-El’s findings that the planet is destroying itself, Zod attempts a coup to save the people. Unfortunately, this brings him into conflict with Jor-El, who knows that there isn’t time and that the genetic information must be gotten off planet ASAP (along with his son). When Krypton is destroyed, Zod’s prime directive becomes terraforming another planet and starting the race over. However, he needs the genetic data that was sent out with Kal-El, which sets up the conflict.
Something else I liked, which many people I’ve talked to didn’t, was how Lois Lane, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter, was able to track down Clark Kent’s real identity after she meets him in the artic. She goes out and digs for this story, which takes some doing since Clark has tried to cover his tracks, and figures it out. This is much better than the clueless portrayals of Lois up until now, which stems from her origins as a love sick “I’ll believe anything you tell me, man in tights” character. The fact that she then refuses to publish the information also speaks volumes as to the type of person she is, wanted to protect someone who obviously would have the government after him.
This also ties into Kevin Costner’s Jonathon Kent. This man, as opposed to the comics portrayals, is afraid. He’s afraid that someone will come and take his son away, pure and simple. He is able to teach Clark right from wrong, and that he shouldn’t lord his powers over people, but he also is concerned that people will be afraid of this being who can perform all of these amazing feats. This fear is born out when we see the military target Clark as well as the other Kryptonians later in the movie. As a parent, I completely understand Jonathon’s fears and I agree with what he’s done. It’s much more of a realistic way for a father to handle the situation.
Now for the stuff that I wasn’t too thrilled with. First of all, as the title suggests, the whole shaky camera phenomenon is present in this film. I understand the concept of trying to make it feel like we’re actually there, in the action, but it’s just really annoying. I am aware that there is action going on and that it is intense, and I don’t need an earthquake under the cameraman to help me along. Every time I see this all I can think of is that it’s a cover. Like a singer that does the vocal gymnastics to cover the fact that they can’t hold a note, a shaky camera tells me that the cinematographer and/or the director can’t compose a decent shot.
Something else that bugged me, and a lot of others, is why all the destruction? I can understand wanting a knockdown, drag out fight between super-powered beings, but really? This movie makes the destruction in Avengers look like all they did was knock over a hot dog cart. Couldn’t Superman have found a way to move the fight out of a populated area? At least in Smallville, a town surrounded by farms, get off of the main street to fight. And what about the rebuilding? We jump right from downtown Metropolis looking like a comet just hit it to “Oh, hi, I’m the new guy.” Couldn’t we see Superman saving people, helping repair buildings, or even just cleaning up the rubble? Would that have been too much to ask?
Along those lines, what morons stay around in their high-rise when they see it being attacked? Is Perry White really so out of it that he doesn’t want to get his people to safety at the first sign that this Kryptonian Terraformer is going to level the city? Where were the authorities in all of this? Get the people out and away from the attackers already! Sheesh.
There’s definitely more good and bad about the movie, but that’s the important bits. And now, how about a ranking? Here’s how I see the Superman movies, listed best to worst. Obviously it’s all my opinion, so your milage may vary.
2. Superman 2
3. Man of Steel
4. Superman Returns
5. Superman 3
6. Superman 4 (This would be even lower, if I could manage it.)