This "Super Man" Is Nothing of the Kind

So… I saw Man of Steel.

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I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I feel about it, because I came out of that movie feeling depressed, with very little hope for at least the DC Cinematic Universe.

This movie has come very close to killing any remaining desire to make any more of my own films.

Yeah. I know that’s a very hyperbolic statement to make, but there it is. I got into film because I wanted to make movies like Superman and Silverado and Lawrence of Arabia. I had hoped to one day make The Lone Ranger on such a grand scale, to rival Lawrence in terms of cinematic scope. But after so many years chasing the wraith, and after seeing Man of Steel and the huge success it’s had — and seeing JJTrek and what’s about to happen to the Lone Ranger — I’m not sure I can be part of that industry much anymore.

And I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. This editorial is going to be pretty raw. I’m writing it just to get this out of my system. Mister Harvey and I will have more proper reviews later on in the week.

The amount of devastation in Man of Steel made me sick to my stomach. At the point in the Battle of Smallville when Kal-El throws Nam-Ek into the train yard — with yet another ‘splosion! — I knew it was only going to get worse. What Mark Waid describes as “Disaster Porn” — because it’s there just to show off how far CG effects have come. To the point where we can recreate the 9/11 destruction on a city-wide scale. Look how many buildings we can bring down!! Yeah. Micheal Bay and Roland Emmerich are now sitting in a corner sucking their thumbs wondering how they can top it.

And that sucks for the rest of us.

Well. I say that. These movies keep getting made because people pay for them. Which says a lot for our taste and culture, doesn’t it?

Reading the reactions to Man of Steel — and the reactions to the reactions — has me wondering just when we got to be such a rude, inconsiderate society. So many of us hide behind screen names and spew hatred and rage and rancor at anyone who disagrees with any kind of an idea or opinion. This is not something I’m just now coming to realize. It’s just the first time I really feel like saying something about it, because it goes hand-in-hand with what Superman is supposed to represent — the ideal that humanity can be better.

Ultimately, that’s what this is about. Man of Steel has no fun in it, no hope, no optimism, no heart. Superman was raised by his parents to believe that we could be better. He was taught that you always assume the best of someone. And the Midwest family values that we attribute to the Big Blue Boy Scout are there for a reason. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the same type of character over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Captain America — didn’t get this same kind of treatment. How often have we heard people question Cap’s relevance? Not nearly as much as people questioning Superman’s.

But that’s not because the character needs to change with the times. When we bring our heroes down to our level to make them more “relatable” and “relevant”, we miss the whole point of why they’re our heroes in the first place.

As I’m contemplating just what to say about the movie, I ran across Andrew Wheeler’s piece over at Comics Alliance. It’s a well-presented examination of the lack of a moral code in Man of Steel, the lack of nobility. This Kal-El character is a paranoid alien who fails to identify with humanity, and that’s so 180 degrees counter to what Superman is. And for those pushing the “he’s learning to be Superman” tripe … No. You can’t accept terrible choices in one film because you assume it will lead to certain choices in another film that hasn’t even been made yet.

In Superman II, Zod figures out Superman’s weakness: “He cares. He actually cares for these humans.” And that’s nowhere in Man of Steel. Kal-El doesn’t care about humanity. Doesn’t identify with humanity. Instead, he hides from the world. He’s petty. He’s somber. As Wheeler says, he’s more like Wolverine. And the lack of decency and morality that every version of the Superman character has had just went out the window on this one. Kal-El is not Superman.

And he never will be, because now he’s a murderer.

Fine. Argue that in this day and age, we’ve become so jaded and so cynical that Superman is old fashioned. But you know what? I like old fashioned. I want my heroes to be bigger and better. I want Superman to save the kitten in the tree. I want James Kirk to understand the weight of history and experience. I want the Lone Ranger to ride the white horse and fight for justice. Yes, I’m the old man telling you to get off my lawn, and I’m only 43 years old. As a Christian, I grew up with the same idea that humanity can be better, needs to strive to be better, to treat each other with decency and honesty and civility and respect — even those people who didn’t agree and told you so.

Man of Steel only shows how far we’ve fallen. To the point where we have to make the first superhero, arguably the greatest superhero, into something he’s not because Goyer and Snyder didn’t believe in that character. They chose not to make a Superman movie. Because they don’t believe in Superman.

And not once in the movie did I ever believe the CG man could fly.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

3 thoughts on “This "Super Man" Is Nothing of the Kind

  • June 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm
    Permalink

    I’m glad you said this. It bothered me a great deal that there was SO much destruction in this version of Superman. And it wasn’t just me. My teenage daughter was thinking the same thing. We came out of the movie talking about it. It was so completely over the top that it was ridiculous.
    And while I get what you’re saying about he’s now he’s a murderer. Logic tells me that he was a murderer many, many times over just based on the huge amount of damage that he created.
    Why can’t a super hero movie be about a story, a small story about being heroic and saving one or more people? And not about how much life and property can be blown up or torn down? I like stories about characters, and the qualities of those characters. How about super hero movies that have some of that?

    Reply
  • June 24, 2013 at 5:31 am
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    “In Superman II, Zod figures out Superman’s weakness: “He cares. He actually cares for these humans.” And that’s nowhere in Man of Steel.” <— You nailed it right there!

    It was the lack of hope and optimism and caring that tanked this movie for me. It's why I think the Marvelverse is getting it so right. Avengers had a ton of destruction in it, but it never felt like it was for the sake of destruction. The movie had heart and soul and MoS had neither.

    Similarly, if you go back and watch Wrath of Khan and then watch Into Darkness. WoK was such an understated film in comparison. Into Darkness probably had more phaser blasts in one second than WoK had in the entire movie, and yet the battle between Reliant and Enterprise is SO MUCH MORE COMPELLING AND EXCITING. And once again, it had heart and soul. Into Darkness tried to copy that, but it got lost in the explosions and non stop camera movements.

    Anyway, great post!

    Reply
    • June 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks! In discussing it with Mr. Harvey, it’s obvious that there are moments in the film where the story almost lets the characters have some room for emotions and character development, but they’re truncated by the edit — have to move on to the next action set piece. A lot of the pace served to damage the tone of the film as well.

      Reply

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