MAN OF STEEL

Man-of-Steel-Henry-Cavill

Overall Impression – Spectacle without anything spectacular.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Superman

What’s he trying to accomplish?Physical: Protect the Earth from General Zod. Emotional: Sort of make a connection with Lois Lane, but it’s very tepid. Spiritual: Learn his place in the world.

Who’s trying to stop him? – General Zod.

What happens if he fails? – Earth is destroyed.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Superman is blasted away from his dying home world of Krypton and spends his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood running from being discovered for who he really is.

Wanderer – Superman is discovered by Lois Lane and he finally comes to understand exactly who he is and what his destiny might be; to be a bridge between worlds.  Zod arrives and wants Superman brought to him.  Superman allows this to happen to save Earth.

Warrior – Superman escapes from Zod and now fights Zod and his soldiers, trying to stop them from destroying Earth by turning it into Krypton 2 .

Martyr – Superman is willing to battle a machine that might kill him in order to save Earth.

AND, IN THE END…

In his review of the 2006 Superman Returns, Roger Ebert point out rather eloquently the main problem with Superman as a hero; his  power is that, basically, he lifts heavy things.  That wasn’t intriguing in 2006, and it doesn’t get any more interesting in 2013.

It’d be hard to find a superhero movie being released today with a better pedigree: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer collaborated on the Batman trilogy, the defining superhero movies of the past decade, and Zack Snyder made superheroes of humans in 300, and then tried to make humans out of superheroes in The Watchmen.  This time around, in Snyder’s attempt to give Superman a steely dose of gravitas,  he also should have give us Gravol (Canada’s leading anti-motion sickness medicine.).   This movie was loud, the loudest movie I ever remember seeing.  And with audiences now used to split-second editing techniques (think most Michael Bay movies) Superman is shown moving verrrry quickly, so quickly that whoever was filming him had trouble panning, zooming, and focusing fast enough to catch Superman in flight.  You know the type of shot I mean?  Something’s moving fast so you create the illusion that your fake camera person (seeing how it’s all computer generated) can barely capture the object in his or her viewfinder.   It’s become a standard shot  ever since Battlestar Gallactica previewed.  That shot needs to be retired.

But enough grousing about the decibels and visuals when there is so much story to grouse about.  At the end of any of the Batman movies we had a profound sense of who our characters were.  Not so here.  I honestly felt that I knew less about Lois and Clark after the film was over than I did going into it.  I even missed…MISSED!…the interplay between Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder from 1978’s Superman.    I can only think  how wonderfully interesting and complex the characters were in Batman Begins.  Our Lois and Clark are emotional lightweights.  It even made me long for the emotional complexity and nuance of Superman Returns.

Plot holes and plot conveniences abound, and thematically the story never finds its footing.  Zod represents the ruthless love for one’s own people.  Superman represents the beneficent love for one’s own people, even if they’re your adopted people.   How is Superman in danger of becoming just like Zod if Superman were to lose his moral centre?   I’m not sure he ever could.  And for the record, don’t we want Superman to love us so much that he’d ruthlessly defend us to the point of self-sacrifice?  That’s what Superman does for a living, all obvious Messianic  parallels intact.

Ultimately, Man of Steel is making respectable money $125M its opening weekend, but that’s the hype machine talking.  I’m not sure people are in love with this movie, but I am fairly certain a sequel is already in the works.  Let’s just hope that it’s a sequel that adds to the characters and their stories the way The Dark Knight did.  It certainly doesn’t need to be any louder than Man of Steel.  Seriously.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter

11 Responses to “MAN OF STEEL”

  1. Joe Calugay July 3, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    ****** SPOILER ALERT **********SPOILER ALERT ************ SPOILER ALERT ********

    Hello Jeffrey. Love your book. It’s helping me in my script revisions and gives me hope for my future projects. As for your review of Man of Steel, couldn’t you argue that the fact that Supes killed Zod point to the danger of him becoming his enemy? I mean it shows he loves us so much that he would kill one of his own people, perhaps the last of his kind that he’ll ever see (in his mind). So, conceivably, if Kal-El was backed against the wall and all of earth was about to be destroyed and the only solution is a few assassinations and a coup, he’d actually go through with it. Anyway, my thoughts.

    • Jeffrey Alan Schechter July 21, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      So glad you like the book!

      That would be fine if there was any time spent showing how desperate Superman was to find another member of his race, and then if he spent time wanting Zod live up to the noble goals that Superman wanted. Think of the relationship between Raz Al Goul and Bruce Wayne. It would have been far more rewarding for Superman to meet Zod and feel that here is someone who could help define his mission in life, only to realize that Zod needed destroying and that Superman was now a child of earth.

      • Brian M August 16, 2013 at 12:29 am #

        Jeff you just nailed it. If they had set up Zod as an ally or mentor early on that would have been brilliant. Especially if Zod’s identity was kept hidden. Of course, that would be re-treading the script for Batman Begins, which I’m sure Nolan and Goyer weren’t keen to do. The biggest disappointment comes from seeing Nolan’s name attached to this film. I expected his involvement to be a guarantee of sorts that it would be something special. But truthfully he’s the last person that should be involved in superhero films. He’s a master of film noir and spy films. And that’s exactly why his Batman films are so remarkable.

        • Gerald H April 24, 2014 at 10:54 am #

          Okay, maybe I’m missing something. Early on in the film, they did setup Jor-El and Zod as having some deep mutual respect for each other…it was very briefly alluded to but there. With that said, Zod was bent only on revenge so Superman had no other choice. He was Zod’s enemy from birth. Brian’s suggestion is interesting. The only way in my mind what Brian is suggesting is for Zod to come to Earth with a sense of feigned benevolence, become a mentor, then take of his sheep’s clothing. Would that make sense or work.

      • Joe October 13, 2013 at 4:09 am #

        Amen!

  2. Amy DeLuca August 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Hi! Just saw this review– I read your book recently, and I’m using it to help revise my completed novel and write my new one.

    I couldn’t agree more about Superman. I WANTED to love it– I’m a big fan of the newer superhero movies. But I just couldn’t. It said nothing and went nowhere and was just unsatisfying. I didn’t care about anyone in it. And it was loud. 🙂
    Not sure what happened– they clearly didn’t read your book!

  3. Todd R September 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    This Superman was a hahribble version (I spell it the way I say it!). I really wanted to get up and leave but when I yelled to the usher if I could get a refund, he yelled back, “No, and shut up.” That was the only good drama during the two hours in that theater. It was a poor rehash masked in fun sets and colorfully, dynamic costumes. I had more fun watching George Reeves when he guest starred on I Love Lucy.

  4. yinjindan February 26, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Hello Jeffrey. Love your book. It’s helping me in my script revisions and gives me hope for my future projects.

  5. Gerald H April 24, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    By the way, I’ve just picked up your book…and I’m through the second chapter. This is great stuff…what’s amazing to me is that some of these things I’ve seen before ….it’s just that the presentation is so much more digestible and straight to the point….and explores areas of getting what you need on the page so much more efficiently. Your book will make a big difference in my writing. Looking for to finishing it.

  6. andrevanharen@gmail.com May 7, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    I just re-watched the movie and was actually surprised that Zod and his friends didn’t age a bit even when they reached earth 30 years after Superman did. Or did I miss something here?

  7. ashley turner June 13, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    Comparison of every version of Superman seems unavoidable. The only thing twisting in this version is that Lane gets to ride an enemy spaceships.

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