The Official Blog of Author Tristan Vick
Man of Steel: A Super Duper Superman Movie (Part 1)
I think that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is the best Superman film made to date. Some might find this a controversial claim, maybe even a misguided one, as seemingly many fans of Man of Steel are split with regard to their reception of the film. Whereas it seems the general movie going audiences, more or less, unanimously approve of it, there is a core group of die-hard Superman fans who feel that the film is an utter disappointment.
I will briefly address the top five criticisms I have heard regarding Man of Steel here in part 1, and in part 2 I’ll explain why I think the Man of Steel is the BEST Superman film to date.
Addressing the Main Criticisms of Man of Steel
Spoilers from here on out (FYI)
I’m going to address these comments with (semi)short and to the point responses, because they really miss the point of the film, and quite frankly, they’re more griping than genuine objections.
1. “We really didn’t need a Nolanesque Superman movie like we really don’t new a Nolanesque Power Puff Girls movie,” laments one online critic.
As for the first complaint, this is demonstrably wrong. In actuality, yes, we did need a Nolanesque Superman because the next movie is going to merge Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight with Superman—which is why Nolan played such a big role in this Man of Steel movie, including being the story supervisor and co-producing it along with Warner Bros. through his production company Syncopy.
So you see, the complaint is completely without merit, because the parent company Warner Bros. wants to create a Nolanesque universe. You cannot have a cartoony, comic book camp Supes running around with Nolan’s Dark Knight. Such a contrast would be too much and it would translate horribly to film. Matching tones to capture that Nolanesque realism was what this movie’s darker tone was meant for. Also, this film was done as a sci-fi rather than a superhero film, which explains a lot of the difference in tone. So the complaint that they didn’t need to do the Superman reboot in the Nolan universe is moot. They did. Get over it.
2. “Man of Steel is just over the top destruction porn,” another critic complains.
The second most common complaint I hear is that Man of Steel (MoS) was just destruction porn.
Okay, I’ll give them this. The Zod fight ran about eight minutes too long (that’s the entire length of the fight, by the way) and it felt rather redundant coming off the heels of the amazing Faora-Ul fight in Smallville.
I found it funny that so many people complained about Smallville getting smashed up, because of all the assumed collateral damage and innocent deaths, but in the first three seasons of the WB series Smallville (or The Young Adventures of Superman, as it is known internationally) has at least as many people die and nobody ever bats an eye at the strange skyrocketing death toll that seems to plague the unsuspecting town. But I digress.
The thing is, if you just imagine the Zod fight in MoS not being in the film, it instantly becomes the best Superman movie ever. So it ran eight minutes too long in my opinion, but so what?
It’s strange that so many people complain about it, because watching the fight alone, on Bluray DVD, it seems rather short. Shorter than the gratuitous Neo vs. Agent Smith fight in the Matrix (both of them; in Reloaded and Revolutions). So it’s really just a matter of taste, and I don’t think it ruined the quality of the film, it just caused a pacing issue at the end, but other films have had major pacing issues at the end. Have you ever hear of a little film called Lord of the Rings: Return of the King? Seriously, how many false endings were there? Four? Five? If people are leaving the theater because they think the credits are about to roll, and then the film starts up again, and then does this, again, and again, well, that’s what I'd call a pacing problem.
Luckily, MoS is pretty solid film making through and through. So destruction porn it is. Wheeeeee!
3. “Superman doesn’t kill!” a nerd (somewhere) cries out.
Superman not killing was a huge criticism, and I heard it nearly everywhere online and in person. I feel this hypsensitivity to Superman’s killing Zod in MoS stems from the fact that, traditionally, in television and the movies, as well as past DC comics with the comics code, he rarely kills. Although, that isn't to say Superman has never killed anyone.
The point is, Superman does and has, killed. It’s only rare because, well, D.C. comics was under the comics code for so long that there’s a historical reason he (traditionally) didn’t kill.
And if I’m not mistaken, Superman did away with some nasty Nazi’s in the old propaganda comics of the 40s (but the deaths were all implied). So, after all this, and after having already killed Zod, not once but twice, people are going to complain he’s killed Zod, yet again? Give me a break. Superman has killed, and probably will again, now deal with it.
4. “Why didn’t Superman take the fight out of the city? Then that way he wouldn’t have destroyed so many buildings and harmed so many innocent lives. And he wouldn’t have been put in the position of having to kill Zod.”
Another frequent criticism is that Superman could have flown Zod out of Metropolis city and battled him on an ice-glacier in Antarctica, right? That way all that senseless destruction, and half of Metropolis, would have been spared, right? I mean, he’s Superman! Just fly away! Right?!
I have to wonder, did these people actually watch the film? Because if I recall, Zod said he wouldn’t stop, ever, and taking him at his word, all that means is that…while Superman was off duking it out no-holds-barred style with Zod outside of the city, he would have never been put into a position to stop Zod. They would have just fought for all eternity if necessary.
Meanwhile, Metropolis is already a partially smoldering crater, thanks to the World Engine, which smashed up most of the city before the Supes vs. Zod fight ever began, so while Superman is off fighting forever and a day in Antarctica (or wherever), innocent people are suffering and dying regardless of whether or not the fight happened in Metropolis or not.
The city was nearly decimated before the fight with Zod. But he could have just saved one more life, right? That would have made him Superman? How about stopping the World Engine and saving everyone on the planet instead? Yeah. So this complaint is without teeth.
Some might argue it’s not how many lives he ultimately saves, it’s whether or not he even attempts to make the gesture. But I keep thinking back to that line that Pa “Kevin Costner” Kent said to the young Clark about sometimes letting people die, and having to make the hard choices. I chocked it up to a hard choice. Zod was superior in strategy and experience, if not strength. It was only Superman’s second major battle, ever, and in the same day as his first major battle, ever, and really—when you’re in that situation, do you react or do you stop and think about it?
I agree, a veteran Superman would have attempted to take the fight out of the city. That’s not the Superman we have in this story. This Superman only learned how to fly a few days prior to his first super-powered battle of titan-like proportions. The problem I have is people are not judging the movie according to the story contained in the film, but according to the decades of Superman mythos already built up.
5. Superman doesn’t save enough people and isn’t heroic. He’s not the true Superman.
Superman wasn’t super enough for some, apparently. He wasn’t heroic, like in the comics. At least those times he’s not killing so many people (see criticism #3 above). Many have said that Superman simply didn’t try to save enough people. He allowed too much destruction and let too many people die, the critics say. This isn’t a criticism so much as a bit of fan-boy bellyaching. Either that or they were watching a different movie than I was. Superman saves so many people in MoS that he probably saves more on-screen humans than in all the other Superman movies combined.
But yeah, some people won’t be satisfied, because Superman didn’t save everybody at the last minute like in the cartoon series they grew up watching. He didn't swoop down and pick the girl up off the tracks and whisk her away before the train ran her over. And well, that’s the difference I suppose. I went to an adult Superman movie for grownups. Some people apparently went to an adult Superman movie for grownups expecting it to be for children.
So do any of these criticisms hold any water? Not really. The “destruction porn” objection is most pertinent, but I’d argue it’s not any worse than the fights in the Matrix movies or numerous other senseless action block-busters with non-stop destruction in them, like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers Dark Side of the Moon (and most likely Transformers: Age of Extinction—but let’s just call it a wild guess), Battle for Los Agneles, or that horrible 2012 film called 2012 with John Cusack (seriously, what was that film even about? It was like Noah’s Ark retold for idiots).
Do I think Man of Steel is a perfect movie? No, of course not. It has some big plot holes and some cheesy dialog, but nothing can take the “cheese factor” away from Bane’s dialog in Dark Knight Rises. Moreover, DKR was pretty much a film that made you stupider for having seen it. In fact, DKR is so nonsensical that watching it simply pisses me off. Everyone in the film are idiots and the plot holes are so obvious, and the dialog so horrendous, that it’s hard to believe the same people who made Dark Knight made it. But I only bring this up because my point is that at least Man of Steel didn’t make me feel any stupider having seen it and the characters didn’t act so unrealistically that I was forced to throw popcorn at the screen like with the Dark Knight Rises.
In part two I’ll explain why I think Man of Steel is the best Superman movie to date.
Man of Steel: A Super Duper Superman Movie (Part 2)
I think that Man of Steel is the best Superman made to date. Many might find this a controversial topic, as many Superman fans are seemingly split on this sensitive subject. But with general movie audiences more or less unanimously approving, it seems only a die-hard Superman fan base is contesting the film. In part one, I addressed the top five criticisms and found that most of them didn’t hold any water. Here, in part 2, I’ll explain why I think the Man of Steel is the BEST Superman film to date.
Of course, if you haven’t seen the movie, then there’s probably no reason to read an in-depth spoiler-ridden defense of the movie. Needless to say, you should watch MoS before reading this.
A Bittersweet Story About Sons and Fathers
I’m going to do this review as a summary of what I feel is the best Superman film to date ever put to the silver screen. I’ll add my own perspective along the way. In order to start, however, we have to re-arrange the story of events into a chronological order, as the film tells the story partially in scrambled flashbacks. As for the use of flashbacks, I didn’t mind so much. I thought they were necessary and I felt it was in these snapshots of memories past where the real meat of the story lay.
Krypton is dying, Jor El saves his son Kal El. But new to this film adaptation is a codex, that contains all the genetic information of every living thing on Krypton. Jor El bonds the information into the cells of his son before sending him to Earth.
A few years later we find a young Clark Kent dealing with bullies. We find out that he wants to get even with the bullies, but Jonathan Kent commends him on his self-restraint. Kent tells his son that the world isn’t ready to learn about him, and that the choices Clark makes will ultimately define him. Kent is proud his son didn’t hurt the bullies, even though he easily could have, as is evidence of the bent steel that young Clark was gripping in pent up anger.
Our young Clark asks his father why he’s different than everyone else, and Jonathan Kent decides to show him the spaceship he arrived in. In a touching moment Clark, eyes flooding with tears, asks if he can keep pretending to be Jonathan Kent’s son. Voice wavering, and some excellent acting by Costner, Mr. Kent embraces the young Clark and informs, “You are my son.”
Jumping a few years later, a junior high school aged Clark is taking the bus home when suddenly the bus driver loses control and the bus crashes through the guard rail, careens over a bridge, and crashes into the river. The kids are trapped and the bus is sinking fast. Young Clark reacts, almost instinctively and saves all his classmates. He becomes the talk of the town, drawing unnecessary attention to his abilities. Jonathan Kent talks to him about having to make hard choices. When Clark asks if he should have let his friends die, Jonathan Kent says, “I don’t know. Maybe.” This foreshadowing deals with the idea that Clark will not always be able to save everyone, and more difficult still, he might be placed in a situation where he must make the choice not to.
Sometime in the near future, a more obstinate Clark, perhaps a moody teenager, is riding in the car with his parents. Clark feels he’s ready to take on the world and prove himself, but his father still has his reservations and still doesn’t think the world is ready for him. It’s a father trying to protect his son at all costs, and just as Clark realizes he’s been rude and starts to apologize, Jonathan Kent abruptly cuts him off. The road is backed up, and up ahead is a massive twister forming. Jonathan has Clark usher Martha to safety, but as they are heading to an underpass, they realize they have forgotten the dog. Clark offers to go back but his father tells him to get his mom and others to safety.
Suddenly the twister is upon them, and although Jonathan Kent manages to free the dog, he’s pinned in the truck. After another car knocks Jonathan free, he takes a step toward Clark, but his ankle is shattered and he collapses. Using the car to push himself back up, Johnathan Kent looks up in time to see his son taking a step toward him. Jonathan raises his hand to stop him, and mouths the words, “It’s all right.”
Clark, eyes streaming tears, let’s his father die. Instantly we cannot help but be taken back to the scene of Jonathan and the young Clark sitting in the bed of the pickup truck discussing the fact that sometimes you have to make the hard choices. Sometimes you will have to choose who lives and who doesn’t.
But more importantly, this is a story about a father sacrificing himself to save his son, to ensure his son has a future of his own worth living, free from the probing scrutiny and dangers of an outside world that would fear and probably reject him. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a father which is why Jonathan Kent’s sacrifice resonates so strongly with me. Maybe it’s the fact that I lost my own father to suicide just weeks before Man of Steel's release. But whatever it was, Man of Steel hit my heart strings, hard.
Flash forward several years later, and we find Clark has exiled himself into the world. Wrought with guilt for not having saved his father's life, Clark is floating through the world as a ghost, a vagabond without a reason or purpose. He’s not searching for anything in particular, he’s simply punishing himself for his failures. At least, that's the sense I got from the brooding young Clark. So he stays on the move--never hanging around anyplace for too long--keeping a low profile and keeping people at an arms length. Never making any friends. But at the same time, it seems that he has still been saving people--a mysterious angel.
After taking a gig on a fishing trawler, the ship intercepts an SOS form an oil rig which has gone up in flames. The ship arrives just in time for Clark to leap out and prevent the steel platform from crushing the rescue helicopter. Then he disappears again. A while later he reappears as a bartender in a Canadian pub, and overhears some men talking about a military excavation in one of the glaciers, rumors of UFOs and what not, and of course he decides to investigate. But not before he has to confront a bully who is sexually harassing the waitress. At this moment we think back to Clark’s lesson with the bullies when he was a boy. And instead of taking out his aggression on the drunken oaf in the bar, Clark goes outside and destroys the guys eighteen wheeler (this scene reminded me of the trucker bully scenes in Superman II, and felt like it was a nice homage).
Lois Lane is on a mission to get to the bottom of a mystery and figure out what the military is digging up. Clark seems to have gotten in as some additional hired help, and one evening when Lois is taking pictures of the glacier, she sees Clark sneaking off toward the excavation site. Following him she comes across a recently drilled tunnel, except that it hasn’t been formed by any drill, but rather melted. Walking through the ice-tunnel Lois emerges at the entrance of a ship of alien origin. Kryptonian origin. Inside the ship Clark meets his real father (or at least a sentient hologram thereof), Jor El, and they get reacquainted. Meanwhile, Lois stumbles upon an automated robot patrolling the empty vessel and snaps a photo of it. The startling camera flash triggers the robot’s defense system and it attacks her. Clark appears in the nick of time and saves her, and then he takes the ship and disappears.
Lois becomes obsessed with finding the young man who saved her life and finally tracks him down, figuring out his identity and all. Admittedly, I really loved this concept of Lois being smart enough to figure it out before anyone else, as if a pair of eyeglasses was going to fool a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist.
Meeting the young Clark face to face, Lois questions why he continues to remain so elusive, and Clark informs her about his troubled past, how he let his father die, and how the world isn’t ready for him. It seems Clark still may not fully agree with that sentiment, but he’s respecting the wishes of his father—in honor of his memory.
That’s when the whole world goes to red alert as an alien spacecraft descends, and demands that the hidden Kal El reveal himself and hand himself over to none other than the alien warlord named General Zod.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with Superman mythos, this is a wonderful twist. Let the alien invasion film begin! But really, it’s loads of action, meta-humans fighting, and big explosions. But all this is simply frivolous bonus content. By the time the action picks up, the best Superman story, about a father’s love and sacrifice for his adopted son, and the journey the son must go through to realize what the sacrifice of his father meant has already been told.
Like I said, it’s a bittersweet story, and the best Superman story ever made into a film. The whole alien invasion, Zod terraforming the earth, and superhuman battles all come after what I consider to be the main story here. So really, it’s two stories. The second story isn’t as great. But it doesn’t suck either. Zod basically just wants to rebuild Krypton. The key resides in the DNA of Clark, and so Zod is going to rip it out of him. The humans are helpless, but Clark puts on the costume, becomes Superman, and after lots of “destruction porn” ultimately saves the day.
A solid action story tagged onto a great Superman story.
The movie closes with the most beautiful scene I’ve seen in a long time. A young Clark plays with his dog, wearing a red cape, and his father, Johnathan Kent, watches on—catching a glimpse of the man his son will one day become.
I nearly cried at this scene. It was so beautifully executed.
So I feel that I must confess, I really don’t get the vitriol surrounding this movie. I think it’s entirely misplaced. At its core, this film encapsulates a beautiful Superman story, albeit meshed together with a clunky Superman story, but for what it is, it works.
I think maybe what confuses people most is that there are two stories overlaid on top of each other; and then they are spliced together and told out of order. There is the Jor El vs. Zod story-line, and there is the Clark and Jonathan Kent story-line. They intersect at where Clark puts on the suit and becomes Superman.
The resolution of the second story is to fight it out to the death—but it’s the Clark and Jonathan Kent story-line that is bittersweet and beautifully done. The other story, the Zod story, that’s just the frame which adds contrast to the inner story about the rise of a hero (although it is debatable if Clark really became a hero or just made his first step toward becoming one--which is why people don't get why this Superman isn't as heroic as the icon figure they love so well, perhaps they need to be reminded that this is also an origin sotry).
The framing a subtler story with a loud obnoxious action story works for me here. Much like a nicely framed painting can help bring out an elegant painting more, this loud obnoxious alien invasion/battle helps make the father and son story that much more sublime. I felt that's how this film was designed. Some might just see it as slapdash editing or the overuse of flashbacks, but I felt it worked in spades.
Man of Steel works better than most superhero films (and is far superior to that Dark Knight Rises piece of garbage I wasted money on thinking I’d see a true sequel to the greatest Batman movie ever made, The Dark Knight, but instead got inane, cheese stuffed, butterball of a film).
MoS works even better than the Superman home wrecker story Brian Singer gave us with Superman Returns. I know a lot of people didn’t like that movie either, and can you blame them? Superman knocks up Lois, apparently without her knowing it, then ditching her so as to let her raise the bastard child on her own, only to return and threaten to break up her upcoming marriage with lingering feelings that he can’t seem to shake even though he has no goddamn business hanging around--what a dick. Besides that, she didn't even know Superman was the father until part way into the movie. I agree with Kevin Smith that the film should have been subtitled "The Rape of Lois Lane." If you want a Superman that’s out of character, you'll love Superman Returns. At least with Man of Steel the incarnation of Superman given to us works within the confines of the story.
In my opinion there’s really no other Superman film that can compete with this with maybe the exception of Richard Donner’s first Superman movie, which is wonderful in its own right. But I have to give MoS the edge here, because nothing about Donner’s Superman story moved me like the scenes between Clark and Jonathan Kent moved me in MoS. Not even close. Of course, this is just personal preference. Many will place Donner’s Superman in the top spot, as I’m tempted to do the same. But the difference for me is that after watching Donner’s film I always feel like, “Well, that was a fun movie.” When I finished watching Man of Steel I was on the verge of tears from the lovely story about fathers and their sons. I had a real tangible experience. It may not be your experience. But it was mine. Which is why I place it at the top as my all-time favorite Superman film.
Man of Steel is a story about sons and fathers and the love they share for one another; and I, for one, loved every moment of it.
A generous reader gave my book on Ignosticism a wonderful review and sent me this screen-cap to let me know about it. Very much appreciated! I am always humbled by such praise.
Bitten, my debut zombie novel, has received some extremely mixed reviews. I thought I'd explain a few things so as nobody jumps to any conclusions as to the quality of the book.
Bitten is a character driven story--and there are over 52 characters in the story--with a main cast of around a dozen or so characters.
The story follows various people from various backgrounds, who eventually come together as their lives and destinies weave together. The one thing that might be said here is that there is no one protagonist. No one in particular is the hero. Meanwhile, everyone makes a lot of mistakes. Everyone is, at the least, their own worst enemy. It was meant to be this way. And I know a lot of people want a hero to root for, They want it so bad that when you don't give it to them they are left scratching their heads.
But I wanted the reader to despair. Nobody is altogether perfect in my decaying world, and nobody has the answer, and everyone is out for themselves. Even the sweet young Alissa Briggs, who is the closest to an actual protagonist as you're gonna get (but she's merely the thread that weaves all the other threads together).
More than one person has called the book a "teenager's sex fantasy" and totally revealed they hadn't read all the way to the end of the book.
It's no lie, there's definitely a ton of sex in the book. Is it overly graphic? Not XXX Jenna Jameson pornographic, but there are more than a few rated R scenes throughout. Coupled with the violence the book would definitely be in the hard NC-17 area if it were ever made into a movie--because editing out the sex is not an option. Let me explain why.
The reason there is so much sex in my version of the zombie apocalypse is because one of the main characters uses sex as a manipulative tool and a weapon. She has the men eating out of the palm of her hand, and the jealousy she stirs up along with the over-protectiveness of her it generates among the men who want to be with her works in her favor.
Sex fantasy indeed. I chose to write it this way because most zombie stories which have sex do devolve into sex fantasies with zombies. The sex in my story plays an integral role to the plot.
I really wish people would read the whole book before writing a review.
Although I don't want this to turn into a gripe, although it kinda is, I've noticed another type of comment I get a lot. Some people feel the characters weren't realistic enough for their taste. Well, they'd be right.
I wasn't aiming to write realistic characters in the dramatic sense. I was aiming to play in the sub-genre of pulp fiction horror, not super hyper realistic post apocalyptic fiction, which is hard science fiction, more or less, and not pulp.
So although the characters behave realistically, and talk realistically, if our veterinarian character can pick up a shotgun and use it--well then, by god, she's gonna just know how to use it. It's adventure! Not reality.
People take their zombies way to seriously, and it sometimes seems they forget one important fact... ZOMBIES AREN'T REAL!!!
Every time someone says that my characters aren't realistic, I wanna shout ZOMBIES AREN'T REAL!!! Repeatedly. Until they realize that complaining about the realism of my characters in a story as outlandish as a zombie story is a stupid criticism.
It's certainly a comment about personal taste, but that's all it is.
Speaking of which, there's a really popular character, the one I get the most comments on, who is obviously NOT at all realistic. He's the gunslinger, and seems to have stepped out of an old Western. Which is totally not realistic, but nobody seems to complain about him, because as one reader put it, "The cowboy is sooo cool!"
I have super soldiers. Mad scientists. A cowboy. A nymphomaniac. And many more.
Who said anything about realism? Why assume a fantasy, horror, with science fiction elements is going to be at all real?
My novel is violent, over the top, and unbelievable for a reason. I wasn't intending it to be a realistic "what if" zombies were real kinda story. I was intending it to read and feel like the 1950's pulp literature. If you want zombie realism, watch the Walking Dead.
The fact that people don't seem to get pulp fiction astounds me.
I blame television.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.