Superman Broke my Childhood’s Neck: A Man of Steel Editorial

Superman on couch

[Beware: This article may contain small spoilers]

By now you have seen Man of Steel or at least gathered enough information to realize that this film has generated some measure of controversy amongst the unwashed masses. This is a particularly strange phenomenon because, as exemplified by the 56% RT rating, there seem to be two opposing sides to whether this film achieved its purposes or not.

It’s strange to me because no one seems to be discussing the greater issue behind this whole fiasco; the fact that David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan have basically assassinated Superman as we know him. That, and they demolished pretty much everything that was noble and admirable about the character much in the same fashion as the latter half of the film will obliterate Metropolis, Smallville, and mostly your vision and hearing (courtesy of Hollywood’s foremost aural rapist, Hans Zimmer). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hi, my name is Jason and I’m the man behind The Reverse Angle. I don’t typically post film reviews/rants on this blog, but sometimes on the highway of life a man has to pull his ’67 Mustang over, get out, and scream his head off until his voice breaks. In short, this is about finding closure more than anything. You have my sincerest apologies.

The entire experience of seeing Man of Steel was rather unpleasant, now that I look back on it. With the exception of the excellent company I was in, I should have smelled trouble when, in what could be described as the most heinous piece of mindless commercialism, the film previews included a shameless Gillette tie-in commercial that started showing bits of MoS footage with only seconds to go before the actual film was slated to begin. I could rant and word-stab for several hours on this insanity alone. I mean why didn’t Gillette just send in an army of mimes with merchandise cannons and shower the unsuspecting audience members with Mach 5 razor blasts to the face? That would have been original.

Generally when a film’s integrity is compromised I immediately try to pinpoint the exact moment when the record needle slid off the LP. In MoS’ case, I had trouble putting my finger squarely on the culprit. There were the incredibly blatant product placements that would violently pull you right out of suspended disbelief, the strange cadence to the whole thing where it seemed as though Snyder and Nolan had shot a 17-hour film and then panicked in the editing room only to bring it back to 143 mins by cutting out all the bridge scenes that actually gave this movie any conceivable coherence.

The whole experience of MoS is like watching a crime scene re-enactment of a murdered film. One scene follows the next, and the next one after that, then another, and another, but there seems really little-to-no pulse to any of it. Oh sure, the events are thrown out of sequence in a Memento-like fashion (more on this later), but in the end you simply do not experience a single real emotion about any event or character. There is never any doubt or mystery as to how MoS will play out. The only surprise it that Kal-El has now apparently become a sad super-hobo (or as IMDB describes him, a “A young itinerant worker“) who lives in hiding but makes no effort to actually veil his incredible abilities when the next convenient disaster falls in his path. That needs to happen, btw. Disasters have to drop in his lap because this Superman is too busy feeling sorry for himself to actually go out and seek out emergencies. The only person Superman is interested in at all is a woman he never gets to know beyond a handful of brief, superficial conversations, and the hologram of his long-dead father (issues much?).

I understand and agree that there are several interpretations of Superman and his whole origin story (by simple virtue of the hundreds of writers and artists that have tackled the Big Guy), but let’s be honest, there is only ONE Superman that we all know and love, and the recipe to that character can be recited by a five-year-old child. Superman is Samson, he’s Hercules, Thor, and yes Mr. Snyder, he is also Jesus, and what does that mean? That means he is an outsider, a god-figure with extraordinary abilities who represents a basic noble human ideal; that those who posses incredible power should use it to defend the weak and unite humanity against all odds.

MoS’ Superman is a whiny impetuous child that, like the many kids of my generation were told from birth that they were destined to rule the universe and dazzle the world with their inherent brilliance, but that never realized as they grew older that being talented or well-born is only part of the equation. Being good, noble, heroic takes work and demands a discipline, especially when you can push planets. This Superman not only seems generally indifferent to becoming such a man, he in fact spends the majority of the film dodging his responsibilities and moping only to hop into his suit and be anointed world-saviour in a matter of minutes once the filmmakers needed to unleash his powers.

Where is the Superman that is painfully aware of his supremacy? The careful unassuming hero who knows to stay covert and help people in any way he can until extreme situations demand that he reveal his mythical persona? Where is the Superman that prizes all human life (to a fault) instead of only those of his relatives and the five other characters who’s names we were told? Why does Kal-El have to be sad clown to be relevant to our current values and interest? Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer, that’s why.

On that note I would like to say that I have tremendous respect for both men and the credibility they have brought to the superhero genre with their past work, but I feel that the time has unfortunately now come where making things complicated and epic has become their main focus instead of staying true to the material. Nolan in particular seems to be taking himself way too seriously. Superman did not require a Shakespearian journey into the soul of man and the cosmos, we just wanted him to make us believe in unity and compassion by re-telling the story of the greatest of all the champions.

Some have suggested that filmmakers like Snyder and Nolan are not to blame for Superman’s incompatibility with modern-day concerns; that maybe Kal-El is a post-industrial relic and that his character simply does not speak to the Twilight-Beiber generation. I respectfully disagree. Now more than ever, especially in America, we need to find ourselves again. We need to go back to a simpler time when we actually believed that we could overcome our petty differences and rise above greed, anger, intolerance. Superman was conceived originally to help restore hope to a war-torn and economically devastated planet. For some inexplicable reason, hope, that crucial concept that’s supposedly symbolized by the Man of Steel’s insignia is missing almost entirely from this film.

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