By Robert “Rob Base” Greenwood
Welcome to my new article series where I talk popular culture and its love/hate relationship with its ravenous fan base.
Today I want to talk about DC Comic’s blockbuster hit, Man of Steel, Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer’s retooled/rebooted take on the bastard son of Krypton Superman. It’s loved by many and hated by purists. Many comic book pros have bashed this film. Icons like Mark Waid, who nearly walked out of the film (according to him) and wrote a huge post on what he hated about the film.
First and foremost, I must say that I thought I was going to hate this film being that I am not a diehard fan of Superman nor am I the biggest supporter of DC. So it’s no surprise that I instantly started nitpicking points right from the start.
This film isn’t your traditional take on the Red and Blue immigrant from space. This is a film about family and dealing with life’s many struggles. And it tackles how we, as humans, would actually react to a near god-like being. It also addresses the burden he must bear.
Just like any film, there are some negative parts, mainly with the crap-tastic, wooden acting of the birth mom of Superman, Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer). She gives such a horrible performance that we (my wife and I) rooted for her violent end. And even then, she was so lethargic that it didn’t give the satisfaction that her death truly deserved.
Then you have Russell Crow, a damn fine actor, who made you believe in Jor-El. He was a true hero and leader unlike the purists’ “ideal” Jor-El, Marlon Brando, who couldn’t pronounce Krypton and kept calling it “Kryptin”.
General Zod is evil incarnate and is a completely different animal than the role created by Terrence Stamp. The new General Zod (Michael Shannon) is portrayed not as a megalomaniac hungry for world domination but as a real wartime general, desperate to preserve his race from extinction.
Jor-El and Zod’s relationship is one of brotherhood and love of their home world. The different paths these two men take are both understandable and regrettable. This alone could have been its own film.
Kevin Costner’s performance as Pa Kent is downright the best role of this once respected actor. This also holds true for the rest of the cast.
The path Clark takes is the search of inner peace and, at times, seems almost as a sacrifice. He is not a man of this world but a bridge between the world of tomorrow, Earth, and the world of the past, Krypton.
Once in a while, there are things that could have used a better explanation. Things like the Genesis chamber, how old was Kal-El when he came to Earth and the omission of downright dumb things such as Jonathan Kent’s death.
No, this is not your update to what Richard Donner did 35 years ago. This is a new film just like what Nolan did with Batman.
Also, since I cannot avoid the subject, let’s talk about the end of the film and the one thing that angered Superman purists around the world.
“Superman the Killer” snapping the neck of Zod.
I will sidetrack slightly but only to prove a point. My father brought up a really good fact: in Superman 2, Zod and his crew were stripped of their powers and dumped into a bottomless pit. Basically, Superman killed Zod, Lois killed Ursa and Non killed himself. Granted, it wasn’t a neck snap, but they most certainly did not survive.
Now, in the Man of Steel, even after Zod told Superman (and basically the whole darn audience) “one of us has to die,” Superman did everything he could to stop Zod without killing him. Right up to the end, Zod led Supe’s hand to kill. However, the one crucial factor that Waid and fans seem to forget is Superman didn’t kill Zod without regret. This is clearly visible on Henry Cavill’s face. Superman’s look of shame and sadness tells a million words.
No matter how much I defend this film, I know in my heart the ones who hate the film will always hate it! Yes, it is not Superman 1978 anymore and no one will ever replace the memories you had watching Superman fly for the first time.
Yes it was groundbreaking and yes it was iconic, but, in the end, you can never “go home again.” Superman is more than a superhero in long johns, he is an established pop culture demigod. So people’s convictions about him will never change.
This is a good and bad thing. Because no matter how good a new film will be, it will never live up to people’s memories.
For me, my ideal Superman has always been in the animated form from Fleischer studios. The “able to leap tall buildings and faster than a locomotive” is what I want and need Superman to be.
This film does make him like how most people know Superman to be, but it never feels stale or boring. Superman learning that he can fly is almost magical and downright comical! (Think greatest American hero)
This is only my take so please feel free to disagree and comment.
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