Seeing the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, I am struck by a couple of things, not the least of which is how inured we’ve become to mass destruction. I know much has been made of the 9/11 imagery in the film, and I agree, it’s excessive and, for me, serves no purpose other than to show how short a distance we’ve really come in the last 12 years.
Another thing which strikes me about this film is how lazy the screenwriters are, knowing the iconic nature of the characters involved, they figure we already know all we need to know so if they’re not going to mess with the canon, they don’t give us anything to go on. We know nothing about Lois Lane, The Kents are stereotypical salt of the earth farmers and Perry White has been reduced to a figurehead with bark but no real bite. On the other hand, though, General Zod does get a nice back story which goes a little way to explaining his villainy… except not really. We do get more of his story, but we’re also told he was genetically engineered to be who he is, so nothing he does is surprising. For me, he’s like Judas. If he didn’t do what he did, there’d be no story, and according to the film, he really had no choice in the matter – he was just doing what he was programmed to do.
At the end of the overly long film (seriously, by the end of that battle, buildings were knocking themselves down to get it over), I could see the point of what they were trying to do, I think. I think the idea was to teach Clark Kent to be Superman. To show how his human nature allowed him to be super. And I’m all for that. I think that’s part of what makes Supes such a cool character, is that he doesn’t have to do what he does, he chooses to do it. And for the most part he deals with it well (for the flip-side of this, see Megamind). For me, though, those moments actually happened long before he put on the costume (and seriously, where did that costume come from? It was in a scout ship 18,000 years old). I would love to see a Lois Lane centered Superman story, where the entirety of Clark’s character is revealed by her investigative journalism – which we saw a bit of in this, but then it devolved into a sub-standard action film, complete with shaky cameras and a verité technique stolen from Joss Whedon‘s Firefly.
As for performances, Amy Adams was wasted, as was Laurence Fishburne. Henry Cavill was good (and is in the running with Stephen Amell for the “oh my god are those abs real” award) and the less said about Russel Crowe and Kevin Costner the better (although, according to the tombstone, Pa Kent was 46 when he died and it’s been a long time since Costner looked anything even in the same neighborhood as 46). Breakout performance for me, however, goes to Dylan Sprayberry, who plays Clark at 13. Great job showing what it must be like to be growing up with that kind of pressure and still remain a good kid.