So it’s been a few hours, and now I feel I can talk about Man of Steel without simply writing the word “Fuck” one thousand times.
After my initial sense that the movie may not be spectacular, but would certainly be, y’know, Superman-esque, in a way that, say, letting another man raise his wheezing bastard child might not, I have to admit…this one may be worse.
Because as much as I can complain about how wrong-headed Superman Returns was, at the end of that movie, at least Smallville and Metropolis aren’t largely smoking, death-filled craters. Man of Steel can boast no such claims.
I’m going to start asking a lot of questions very shortly – which means I am going to tell you a lot of spoilers but that is because I GENUINELY THINK YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE, so trust me, I am ol’ Public Service Holland from here on out.
But first I suppose I should tell you all about the things I didn’t hate about this movie, in a brief list format:
- The casting – Honestly, everyone here does a bang-up job with what they’ve got, starting with Henry Cavill, whom I look forward to seeing in a good Superman movie, should one ever come about. Looking the part’s one thing, but he has that calm, assured voice when speaking to authority that sounds just right, and there’s that little smile he gives every now and again, works great. Amy Adams as Lois Lane was more plucky than flinty, but still, it worked. Laurence Fishburne, nice stuff. The Kents, okey-doke. Even all the secondaries are filled out with dependable character actors.
- Pa Kent – This was one of the more controversial choices called out early in the trailers, Jonathan Kent advising his son against saving people if it means revealing himself. And, in fact, allowing himself to die rather than have his son save him in front of a crowd. It’s hardly the inspirational Pa Kent we’ve come to expect, but it’s an interesting idea. Jonathan Kent as a guy who is himself totally upended by what Clark might mean to the world, and is just trying to get the kid to adulthood so he can figure that out, without scaring the shit out of everyone first. I can appreciate that interpretation. Not my PREFERRED idea of Pa Kent (in that this version is more like Uncle Ben, and Superman is not Spider-Man), but…sure, let’s try something new.
- The…action? In that I appreciate that there was some action, after that last movie was mostly about a guy who lifted heavy things? There’s punching, and I do like a Superman who punches and flies fast. So…hooray.
- Faora – OK, that woman was pretty rad. Not a lot to her, but of all the Kryptonian Murder People in this movie, I think I liked her most.
- The costume, I guess, works okay. At the end of the day, you don’t really give a shit about the trunks not being there, is what I’m saying.
- OK, that last line. “Welcome to The Planet, Clark.” That’s pretty good, even though it screams of “Line of dialogue David Goyer’s been sitting on for a dozen years now.”
AND NOW, SOME QUESTIONS:
1. Who the hell was in charge of this thing? I mean honestly?
2. Whose decision was it to open with an End of Krypton sequence that had dialogue out of a fucking Flash Gordon serial?
3. What, um…what is the standard Kryptonian accent? Because Jor-El’s going with King’s English, Lara is…I dunno, Russian? And Zod is standard midwestern news-broadcaster American English. Faora…does not talk enough to suss that out.
4. Who was in charge of the Krypton designs? Follow-up, why were the Kryptonian High Council wearing hats that made them look like they all won the “Imagine What An Alien Drag Queen Might Wear” contest? Further follow-up, why was it that the prison-pods containing Zod and the others looked so exactly like a bunch of vibrators being shot into space?
5. Why does Jor-El have some kind of Falcor-esque winged lizard-horse that he calls to him by name? And why then does he also not appear to give a shit when he crashes his wounded, winged steed straight into a landing platform? THE THING HAD A NAME, JOR-EL.
6. If Kryptonian eugenics has basically pre-determined the role for everyone on the planet, what was Jor-El’s designation? Scientist/Viking? Doctor/Batman?
7. Why do you suppose Perry White wears a little diamond-stud earring? Is he dating a younger woman who has a teenaged kid he’s trying to appear “hip” for? Does he front a weekend bar-band with other Daily Planet staffers?
OH FUCK THIS – NO! Must…carry on!
8. Costume-designers: Henry Cavill’s chest-hair is popping out over his scooped Superman collar. Do…do we have a problem with that? Don’t care, even though it’s kind of distracting in close-ups? Okay!
9. Between Krypton dying because it had overused its natural resources, and Superman’s constant comparisons to Jesus Christ up to and including the specific mention of his age as 33, does David Goyer give even one single shit about subtlety?
10. Why would you put a doomsday machine into your script, have one end of it be blowing the living shit out of Metropolis, have the other part working at the opposite end of the Earth somewhere in the Indian Ocean, and then think the most dramatically satisfying place for Superman to go would be the Indian Ocean part, rather than the part of the Earth where buildings are collapsing and hundreds of thousands of people are dying and the entire audience is having traumatic 9/11 flashbacks?
I mean seriously, why? Wouldn’t it be more effective to cast Superman as the aspirational figure both Pa Kent and Jor-El hope he’ll be, if Superman is seen, by the millions of people living in Metropolis, as fighting off the giant machine that’s hurting them, thereby being Metropolis’s literal savior – rather than a guy who did a thing somewhere else on Earth that, they’ll hopefully later learn, eventually turned off the doomsday machine after it had killed only a few hundred thousand people and leveled whole square blocks to dust?
11. So I watched enough behind-the-scenes stuff to know that Snyder and Goyer wanted Smallville to seem like more of a “real” place, hence the Sears and the IHOP and the 7-11. But did they not realize that when those are literally the ONLY chain-stores in a town otherwise entirely populated by Main Street USA signs like “Bob’s Hardware” and “Buzz’s Haircuts” or whatever, it’s actually incredibly distracting?
(Also, Ma Kent really takes in stride that her job at the Sears is surely gone, and I hope she knows someone who can get that pickup truck out of her living room. That woman sure can roll with the punches.)
12. David Goyer knows that Superman is generally associated with saving people, and not destroying the shit out of small towns, right? I ask only because there are a lot of moments in that Smallville fight scene where he COULD avoid careening through trains and silos and other things that make up his townsfolks’ livelihoods, and he COULD get them out of the way when Faora decides to throw down with him in that IHOP, but very noticeably doesn’t even make an attempt to.
13. Why would the script assume that we in the audience would be relieved that Perry and Steve Lombard managed to rescue Jenny The Intern Who Isn’t Jimmy Olsen from the rubble, when mere feet away off camera, we know there are THOUSANDS of dead people?
14. Humor! It’s a thing that sometimes shows up in movies, but never at the right time in this one. For instance, at the point in time where Zod is starting to get the hang of his own super-abilities, and slams Superman into an under-construction building, he bangs into the “Accident-free workplace for XX days” sign, and knocks it back down to zero. HAHAHA BECAUSE OF ALL SUPERMAN’S “ACCIDENTS,” THE DEATHTOLL IN METROPOLIS CONTINUES TO RISE. (See also, the guy who threw himself in front of Faora to protect Lois Lane, falling out of the plane and getting the ol’ Wilhelm Scream sound effect for his trouble.)
15. Again, I have to ask, why exactly does the Kal-El’s baby rocket look so very, very dildo-esque? WHAT IS WITH YOUR DESIGN SENSIBILITY, PLANET KRYPTON?
16. And did nobody notice they’d just turned the metaphor of Moses’s crib into a bomb? DID THAT BOTHER NOBODY?
17. And when Lois used the Kryptonian flashdrive to power up that crib and it didn’t do anything, and Emil Hamilton asked what it’s supposed to do, and she said “It’s supposed to go all the way in,” how many takes do you think were ruined by various crew members shouting “That’s what she said!”?
18. Was it really in the best taste for a Superman movie to prove The Incredibles‘ Edna Mode’s point by having Zod grab Superman’s cape and swing him around in mid-air like he’s some kind of asshole?
19. Jor-El’s overall plan was to write the DNA-coding of the entire Kryptonian (caste-system) race onto Kal-El’s cells, and then once Kal-El discovered the let’s-call-it-the-Fortress-of-Solitude, with its…look, that there is a fetus-chamber so that’s what I’m gonna call it…and he was hoping that Kal-El would live among the humans for long enough that when he DID decide to bring the Kryptonian race back to life, he’d act as some kind of liaison between the two races, helping them ooohhhhhh jesus I’m typing it out and it’s just getting worse.
Jor-El KNOWS that Earth’s yellow sunlight will make Kal-El powerful, then charges him with bringing back a Kryptonian race on a planet where they will basically be born and raised as super-powered gods JOR-EL, I AM NO SCIENTIST/VIKING, BUT HAVE YOU THOUGHT THIS THROUGH AT ALL?
20. Similarly, Zod, your terraforming Earth to be more like Krypton means none of your people would have superpowers…are you dumb or something? And you know that when you decide you want to kill Superman, you still basically have to keep his body completely intact, otherwise you’re probably gonna fuck up the DNA coding that Jor-El implanted into Kal-El, right? Or, yeah, just keep slamming him through buildings, whatever. YOU’RE THE MASTER TACTICIAN HERE, ZOD.
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK NO! Stop that. You’re almost to the end of the movie.
21. So when, right after they kiss, Lois jokes that it’s “all downhill after the first kiss,” and Superman says, “I think that only applies to humans,”…David Goyer, you were drunk when you wrote that, admit it. THAT’S FUCKED UP, BRO.
(Also, David Goyer, you know that’s kind of how Speed ended, are you just taking a crack at Joss Whedon for filming a different movie where New York City is devastated by a superhero battle but it doesn’t come off quite as apocalyptic?)
22. When Goyer/Snyder penned that line where Superman says, “Krypton had its chance!” and then destroyed the fetus-chamber, did they intend it to sound quite so much like “Superman to Krypton: FUCK YOU!”? Wouldn’t a line more like, “Krypton’s been dead a long time, Zod!” be a little gentler? About this place he’s spent his whole life wondering about?
23. If Clark only started having powers around age 10, as the first half painfully shows us over and over – meaning, after Clark has been drinking in solar radiation for a straight decade – then how is it Zod hits full power in a matter of, really, minutes? Oh, because there needed to be a flying fight scene at the end? Nevermind then.
24. I actually don’t blame Superman for snapping Zod’s neck, even though Superman’s WHOLE THING is not killing and Goyer and Snyder’s explanation (“Well, where did he get his no-killing rule? We should explore that”), as though everyone gets one kill in, just to make sure they don’t like it, makes them sound like goddamn idiots.
No, I blame the script for bringing them to this point. For starters, if you’re rebooting a Superman franchise, maybe START by introducing your character, his abilities and his relationship with the world, and have him come up against a problem he can’t just punch his way through (like, say, a Luthor plot). THEN, once he’s established and confident in his abilities, up the stakes with a similarly-powered guy.
HERE ARE A FEW SUPERMAN BAD GUYS HE HISTORICALLY HAS BEEN GOOD AT PUNCHING AND DISMANTLING WITHOUT MORAL RAMIFICATIONS:
Don’t START WITH ZOD. Don’t start with an equally-powered zealot who gives the guy who always finds a way around killing, no choice but to kill him! And jesus, even if you do, maybe Superman kills him to prevent further bloodshed, after, say, a couple people have died. Not after hundreds of thousands of people have died. THAT’S DUMB.
(Zod is the “escalation point” in the same way that The Joker is in The Dark Knight. It seems weird I’d have to explain this to the people who MADE The Dark Knight, but here we are.)
25. So basically the movie made sure Superman would have to kill Zod by wrecking basic storytelling. And even Chris Nolan was like, “No, we already have a good out, it’s called the Phantom Zone, it’s where we’re sticking all the other bad guys, remember?” Gaaah.
26. And just to go back to the whole “Multiple skyscrapers crumbling into dust” thing again…I mean, I guess it was just a difference of filming, but while I know New York took a pretty rough hit in Avengers, I was never as completely aware of the utter devastation of the conflict as I was in Man of Steel. That might be because at the end of the main battle, Superman, Lois, Perry, Lombard and Not-Jimmy are standing in the completely flattened dust that used to be a sizable chunk of the city, and it looks like they are the Only People Left Alive.
It’s honestly a bit traumatic. For the audience! Not the characters. What seems like only a few days later, the gang’s back at the Daily Planet office, and Lombard’s trying to get a date by offering tickets to some sports thing. Bad news, Lombard! The stadium is rubble and the entire team is dead.
27. That little flashback where young Clark is wearing a cape and playing hero: Who is he playing at being, if Superman’s the first superhero? Or is little Clark just a huge 300 fan, and as such, well that’s super-creepy.
28. Was NOBODY paying attention in the editing bay, that Superman’s soul-crushing anguish at killing Zod in no way matches up with his jovial, “You want to know where I hang my cape?” joshing at the military the very next scene?
29. Does Goyer know you can’t just show up and “be” a reporter, the same way Clark took odd jobs on a fishing boat and as a busboy, right? Like, you need actual credentials – clippings, references, that kind of thing. But no, despite never, ever seeing Clark write a single word, he manages to snag a job as a stringer for the Daily Planet.
30. Last question: Is the reason Perry’s hiring new reporters only days after a catastrophe because half the Planet staff is dead now? In which case, man, those Daily Planet reporters are a stone cold bunch.
So in conclusion, fuck this fucking movie. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck it.
(Dear potential future employers who have googled this page: If you look at my other works, you’ll see I rarely indulge in quite so much base language, but on the other hand, you guys saw this movie too right? I mean, fuck this movie, am I right? I look forward to your call.)