“Keep an open mind.” That’s the thing I kept repeating to myself for days leading up to the day I watched Man of Steel. I carefully avoided all the spoilers, and from whatever comments made by other people, I tried not to let it affect my own judgment.
There was a lot to be excited about in this movie. I loved Batman Begins. I liked 300 and Watchmen. So to bring Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder together for one movie, a SUPERMAN movie no less, nearly drove me out of my mind. I was slightly put off by the trailers that showed a darker costume and the absence of the trademark red briefs. I wasn’t sure I liked the hint of where this movie was going. In my mind you could change costumes of any other hero. Change Batman’s costume, no problem. Change Wolverine and the X-men’s costumes, no problem. Change the Avengers’ costumes, no problem. But Superman was a completely different thing. He was more than just a “superhero”. He was an icon, a flag, a symbol. You don’t go around changing flags just to be “cooler”. You don’t change the color of the flag to make it more “realistic”.
But I was ready to forgive that if I felt the story was good. I was ready to forgive a lot of things.
So I watched the movie and I enjoyed a large part of it. The Krypton scenes were amazing. Russell Crowe as Jor-El was an inspired casting choice. He was terrific in the role. I really liked this Lois Lane. (I didn’t like the one from Superman Returns). I had no problem with Lawrence Fishburne as Perry, although he had painfully little to do. Jimmy Olsen was Jenny Olsen? Also no problem. And wow, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent? How time flies! I used to have such a big crush on Diane Lane when she was at Lonesome Dove. The whole thing about Clark roaming the world trying to find himself was very interesting. I liked it. I also really liked the fact that this was no stupid Lois Lane and that she was able to figure out just who Clark was early on.
When fights started I started to get a little disturbed. They were spectacular fights of course. Amazingly spectacular fights. I’m sure the filmmakers thought that us fanboys would go insane, specially those who complained that Superman didn’t punch anything in Superman Returns. I’m sure these punch freaks enjoyed a spectacularly orgasmic time as Superman punched things left and right.
When things started to blow up in Metropolis, the destruction was just punched into turbo. It was spectacle after spectacle of buildings falling all over themselves. The filmmakers probably thought it would be so cool. The problem I have with it is, recent history has taught us that when buildings fall down, there would be usually people in them. People that DIE. I know this is just a film, but nevertheless, it’s impossible not to think just how many people got trapped and crushed inside those buildings.
Remember Superman II? 2013 fans may look at that film and perhaps snicker at the cheesy effects of Superman and Zod fighting. But what that movie had that this movie didn’t is a genuine concern on Superman’s part as to the danger that the regular human beings were being exposed to. Christopher Reeve as Superman implored Zod about the danger their fight is putting the people. This Superman had nothing like that. He had no thought to bring the fight somewhere else, somewhere less populated where there would be minimal danger to people. No, he stayed to fight Zod in the city, and by the end of the movie, there’s a big flat crater surrounded by blocks and blocks of destroyed and pulverized buildings. How many died? Millions perhaps.
One can argue that Superman made the choice to saved the world and that the “few” who died achieving that would be acceptable.
See? Superman as I know him would never have played the numbers game. He would always choose to save everybody. That’s why he’s Superman. He does not make decisions like us. He makes the incredibly difficult decision to always do the right thing. He would have found another way.
That scene towards the end, it was the one that really broke my heart. I felt betrayed, and I felt genuinely hurt. I wanted to leave the cinema right then and there. To me, it was over. They brought Superman down to the gutter. They made him human. They made him make flawed decisions like us. They made him take the easy way out. Superman, the one I grew up loving and respecting, would never kill another being. He just would never. It doesn’t matter if it was on film or in the comics. He just would never do that. That’s the humans’ way. That’s our way. That’s what we do because our limited, flawed and morally damaged selves would always make us choose the easy, more convenient way out.
Superman is supposed to be so much more than that. He was someone who can show us a better way, someone who can show us how to be better human beings. This Superman betrayed all that and it felt like I was stabbed in the heart.
I walked away from the cinema angry, sad, and just deeply disappointed.
I wrote my blog entry before I read Mark Waid’s commentary. It’s so weird we feel the same way about a few things.