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Friday, August 30, 2013

EDITORIAL: Man of Steel - Why Not to Hate

Man of Steel was a great movie. There, I said it, it is! In fact, I love the film so much that the DAY it comes out I will be at my local Target to buy the 3D Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Combo-Pack and I will rush home to watch it immediately. That is how much I loved the film. Now, if you did not love the film, then this is probably the article for you. No, don’t worry, you did not read that wrong, I did NOT include a not in there on purpose. Like I mentioned in my last Editorial (and my first one on SMN… Check it out!) I work on the Superman Homepage as a Staff Writer reviewing the Batman/Superman and Smallville Season 11 Special books, so I do have a bit of an obsession with Superman. But please don’t stop yet, keep reading and find out why you should NOT hate Man of Steel and why Superman fans should love it as I do…

First of all, most people were disappointed with Superman Returns, and for the longest time I actually hated the film. But that was because I did not understand what Brian Singer was trying to do with his film. He was not trying to hold onto the past, but he was trying to show his audience how much he loves and appreciates what came before. I think most if not all Superman fans can admit that Superman: The Movie and Superman II are fantastic films and that Christopher Reeve is definitely one of the best to put on the cape and tights. Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace aren't nearly as good (in fact they’re pretty bad), although still entertaining. But Superman Returns is the one Superman film that the majority of Superman fans disagreed on, at least until Man of Steel. I personally have learned to love and appreciate Superman Returns for what it is, not what it should have been. That is what I hope to teach you all to do with Man of Steel, today.

Man of Steel was a groundbreaking film, and a groundbreaking Superman film, in many respect for various reasons. It showed flight in a way that had never been done before (things similar have happened before, but not quite like in MOS). It had the most brutal battle scenes than any other Superman film. The stakes were raised higher than they were in The Avengers. There was more death and destruction in this film than any other superhero film. And, for the first time on screen where the audience saw it as it was, Superman killed Zod.

For most, this final scene was a turn off, for me it was as well. For a lot of people it tarnished the entire film, and I left the theater that first night a little disappointed. Now, I’m sure there are people reading who feel the same way I do and are probably wondering why I’m writing this after that sentence, but it didn't end for me there. The next day I convinced a buddy of mine to go with me to see the film once more, I knew that there was something I missed, I knew that the film was not all that bad. Now, my friend is very critical of movies and he did not enjoy Iron Man 3 at all (neither do I quite frankly), but he watched all ten seasons of Smallville and felt like he needed to see Man of Steel. It blew him away, and unlike me, he was happy when Superman snapped General Zod’s neck. I still didn't feel completely okay with the whole thing, but this time around I enjoyed it much more. I continued to see the film again and again until I was fully satisfied with it, and then I was ready to take it all in as a whole.

Superman does not kill. I have said this before and I will say it again, he doesn't… UNLESS it’s absolutely necessary! You see, Superman did kill A General Zod in John Byrne’s Superman #22 back when the book was rebooted after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. After killing Zod, he also was very upset (if you could not tell that Superman was upset that he killed Zod in MOS, then there’s really no use of trying to convince you to enjoy the film, that said you can stop reading now) and in the actual Superman comics, Superman had a mental breakdown due to the fact that he executed a Pocket Universe version of General Zod and two other Kryptonians. Not to mention when Superman killed Doomsday in order to save Metropolis (Superman #75 aka The Death of Superman).

I am not condoning violence and I am not condoning killing, but people need to realize that this is a Superman who literally just because Superman yesterday. Not only that, but he is also not a God, he is NOT perfect. He is a man, a man (or Kryptonian…) who can fly, but a man nonetheless. He’s human for lack of a better word. Human. He makes mistakes, and if I know anything at all about the World’s Finest film that is being made, besides that Ben Affleck will play Batman, then I know that just like in John Byrne’s The Man of Steel #3, Batman WILL confront Superman and tell him that if he went out of control, he would have to stop him. I do not agree with Superman’s decision and neither do a lot of people, but I can tell you for a fact that it will have long-term consequences on him at an emotional and psychological level. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Shannon made a cameo appearance in the Superman/Batman film in Clark’s nightmares to taunt him, in fact I think that’d be cool!

But Superman killing Zod is not the only problem that people have with Man of Steel, people also do not like that he let Jonathan Kent die. I saw an article by Mark Waid, writer of Superman: Birthright (a book in which MOS was largely based), and what’s interesting is that he also did not enjoy the film all that much. However, he did defend this scene between Clark and Jonathan saying that he thinks that Clark did the right thing as he obeyed his father’s final wishes and proved to him that he was finally a man by letting go of the past. Now, those are NOT Mr. Waid’s exact words, but that was the point of them. I think what he is trying to say is that Clark ultimately did the right thing because like I said above, he did what his father wanted him to do. In fact, what Clark did here was no different than what Batman did to Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins when he didn't save him from the train crash, only here in Man of Steel Clark was upset about it!

Lois Lane has also been a big topic among Superman fans in regard to her portrayal by Amy Adams in Man of Steel. I myself was not sure about Amy Adams playing Lois Lane, but now I could see no one else being the character in this film (outside of Erica Durance from Smallville, possibly). From what I hear, there were a good amount of people upset with the fact that Lois knew Clark’s identity in the film and to them I say, “They did it much better than Smallville!” Now, Smallville is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, it is actually responsible for me getting into Superman hardcore, but its 10th season fell a little short in terms of Clois when Lois found out Clark was “the Blur”, something I would have saved for the finale… But nevertheless, it happened and Man of Steel just happened to do it better.

I actually enjoyed the Clark/Lois romance/friendship in this film. All the other Superman films portrayed it as so lovey-dovey and “can you read my mind?” and quite frankly that doesn't work anymore. I mean, one of the major things missing from Superman Returns was the fact that there was really no Superman/Lois Lane romance going on, only tension and an illegitimate child. Here it worked well because she tracked him down, she searched, but he was the one to confess his actions to her, to share his secrets with her, to save her, and to keep an eye on her later. There’s really not all that much I can say about this whole romance in this film other than I just really enjoyed it and I loved the chemistry between Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.

This next point I’ll only touch on briefly and then we’ll just leave it at that, there was no Jimmy Olsen in Man of Steel. I had people campaigning for me to play Jimmy in the film, but unfortunately my acting career never saw the light of day (thank Zod!). The character of Jenny (who is NOT an Olsen by the way) was used in the film instead, and I hated it when I heard about it but once I saw it I was fine. I thought her few scenes with Perry White were fantastic.

As for the amount of people killed in the film, Superman cannot save everybody, but ultimately he saved the entire planet (with some major casualties in Metropolis, which again will affect him when we see him again in 2015), just like the Avengers did in their film. I understand the fuss about this but at the same time I believe it to be a bit childish. Superman is not perfect, this film made that clear, but he will always do what he can to save as many as possible. This is clearly shown when he snaps Zod’s neck to save the family of four in the train station. If you can’t get over the fact that Superman can’t save everybody then you’re missing the whole point. If he could, then he would take over the police’s job and police the Earth as he did in Justice League (the animated series) as a part of the Justice Lords and as he did in the Injustice: Gods Among Us videogame. That’s what happens when Superman tries to save EVERYONE, something goes horribly wrong.

Plus, how can you hate on a film with such a phenomenal score!?!?!

Finally, for those who are still not convinced there is only one more thing I can try and entice you with to enjoy the film. Krypton. That 10-15 minute opener with Jor-El, Lara Lor-Van, General Zod, and Faora-Hu, along with a ton of other Kryptonians, beasts, and robot servants alike, was absolutely fantastic! I mean, I could easily watch a Last Days of Krypton prequel film starring Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon, because the chemistry between Jor-El and Zod was flawless! Not to mention the AI Jor-El’s conversation with Zod near the end of the film; that was also fantastic! Zack Snyder’s vision of Krypton takes from Superman: Birthright, John Byrne’s Krypton, Geoff John’s Krypton, and of course Golden and Silver Age as well and just molds them all together creating this amazing new world that we have never seen or imagined before. When I think of Krypton, I usually think of Richard Donner’s version (this film had elements of that too!) of Krypton from Superman: The Movie and his version of Superman II, but now it’s hard for me NOT to see the Man of Steel version in its fully-glory.

Again, if you have not yet seen Man of Steel or just didn't like it the first time, I urge you to try and find out why you don’t like it and then examine the film once more and try again. It’s a great film, it’s a great superhero/comic book film, and it’s one of the best (dare I say best?) Superman films there ever was. I gave the film a 4.5/5 in all my reviews so far, and that’s where it’s staying! Please do give this film another chance if you haven't already, have a good day guys. Cheers!

Michael J. Petty

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Senior Editorial Editor on SMN, I also work as an Administrator on Across the Airwaves Productions and as a Staff Writer on the Superman Homepage. I enjoy movies, comics, television, music, and long walks on the beach. Just because he's on the side of the angels, don't think for one second that he's one of them.