It's been almost a week since I saw "Man of Steel" or as I nicknamed it, "We're Going to Prove to You That Hope is Dead." Well that seems a bit long for a nickname so I'll just go with "The Movie That Raped My Childhood". Yeah... that's better.
Let me start with the usual disclaimer that there are HUGE SPOILERS!!!!! I'm not repeating that or scrolling down to give you time to consider whether you want to continue or not. You were warned. Both of you had better have payed attention.
In the week since I saw this movie I've read and been a part of several interesting discussions about this rather dark take on what many would argue to be the super-hero that stands above all others. I've heard people tell me that theaters erupted in applause and shouts of enthusiasm as Superman snapped the neck of General Zod. (BTW, that was the HUGE SPOILER!!!!!) The theater I was in was deathly silent at that linch-pin moment - except for this total dork who actually whispered the word no in the darkened theater. My children will probably never let me live that down.
That reaction, however, came after nearly two hours of a film that introduced a literary character that I had never seen before, nor do I ever want to see again. Before I go any further, it was pointed out to me that many do not consider Superman to be literature. I reply with this: In a world where young, rottenly spoiled, rich daddy girls with no real redeeming morals or aptitude for anything remotely resembling real intelligence can be considered celebrities, I think an argument for Superman being a real literary figure is a moot point.
This movie showed, within fifteen minutes into it, that this Superman will not have the very foundation that it was built upon. A foundation that is put in place by Ma and Pa Kent, two mid-western Americans whose gentleness and belief in the human spirit gives Clark the love for his adopted planet and its people that he later swears to protect. No, we are shown a Clark who easily steals another persons cloths for his own needs without even a backward glance. If anywhere in the film they had shown a moment where he returns to leave money or perhaps the same cloths nicely cleaned and waiting for the victims of his larceny that moment could have been easily forgiven. I suppose this shouldn't surprise me since this Pa Kent has raised his adopted son to apparently distrust mankind and protect himself above all others. "Should I have just let them die?" Clark exclaims after saving his fellow schoolmates who were drowning in a bus accident. "Maybe..." Pa mutters with the wooden voice of Kevin Costner who shows us that after all these years he's still too amazing to really give anyone a real acting performance. I suppose we movie goers are still not ready for him to actually... you know... act.
So is it any wonder that by the time we wrap up most of his younger years which include his birth and subsequent exportation from Krypton ( which is really the absolute best vision of this part of the story that I have every seen in any Superman movie or television show) the movie goers are well prepared for a Man of Steel who will focus on his own needs and desires while rationalizing it as being the American hero that his Kansas Father (who may have been a super-hero himself since he can pretty much hold his own in an oncoming tornado) has raised him to be.
The rest of the movie then shows you what a hero of that caliber can really do.
Actually we get our first glimpse when Zod attacks Smallville and our now self absorbed Superman decides to take out most of his hometown instead of worrying about these humans he supposedly loves and wants to protect by taking the battle out of town to begin with. Lesson learned? Uhhhh.... noooooo.... note above picture of Metropolis which gets its just desserts forty five mind numbing minutes later.
By mind numbing I mean a senseless and constant visual of nothing more than mass destruction for the sake of making several billion dollars for the company. They also want to make sure we do not confuse this Superman movie with that milquetoast dud that came out a few years ago. Hey guys! No problem with that! We already figured it out when Clark let his dad die because the old man didn't believe in him that much.
I still believe that this movie fails on its most basic levels of this character. Some have reminded me that back in the eighties (when pastel sweaters tied around your shoulders was all the rage) comic writer/artist John Byrne actually wrote a Superman story where he "has to kill" and swears never to do it again. Yeah I remember that... I stopped buying the book for about five years, after that. Why? Because in no way should Superman be written into any story where he "has to kill". Where the destruction is so massive that the hundreds of thousands that have been mercilessly slaughtered in the cross-fire can in no way out weigh Superman's "win". When you do this you have stripped away the fundamental structure of why this character was created. You have stripped away the hope for mankind. You have dragged Superman down into the mud and muck that we live in on a daily basis.
Oh I hear both of you saying it at this point. "This is just a modern day reflection of Superman." (Note at this point that I've used Superman much more than Clark for one good reason.... Clark (or the humanity side of this character) is rarely acknowledged. Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps I am wrong with my thoughts on this mega-hit. So I'm joining the party. Here is my broad outline of my first screenplay I am going to write. It's called "Today's Tom Sawyer":
Act I: A young Tom Sawyer meets his buddy Huckleberry Finn behind the elementary school where they exchange cigarettes and talking crap about someday being old enough to get a hold of that hot Becky to give her a big stiff one. We also meet Aunt Polly who has just recently returned from the methadone clinic and Tom's half-brother Sid, who spends his days steeling from department stores and his evenings smoking grass and playing X-Box Live.
Act II: We find a seventeen year old Tom now disenchanted with his wonderful life and not coping so well with being a father. Really it's all Becky's fault and Tom isn't too sure he really is the father. After all there was that night that him and Becky and their friends got hyped up on ecstasy before Becky happily let everyone take their turn with her as a coked up Tom tried desperately to "get it up". (Nobody told me that would happen!!!) Add to this the fact that his good buddy and his own personal Huckleberry has finally come out of the closet and has begun a rather violent relationship with "Big Jim" has him yearning for the good ol' days of cigs and blunts behind the High School. Note that I am using the word "Big" here since in no way do I want to be fired from The Food Network. Act II ends with Tom selling his ass for money so that he can buy the one thing that all kids his age knows is the ultimate happiness.... heroin.
Act III: A now twenty-four year old Tom spends most of his days still living in Aunt Polly's home, playing Playstation with his buddy Huckleberry whose own relationship with Big Jim has finally gone south when Jim left him for an hermaphrodite transvestite. Aunt Polly, miraculously still alive, (because it really is true! Only the good die young) lays in her bed, and in her own waste, begging Tom to go buy her a pack of cigs and a bottle of Johnny Walker. Becky has fared no better, her two year old daughter wanders around the house unsupervised while she lays on the couch shoving needles between her toes and making sure she has enough money for her own cigs and Jack Daniels while wondering how long before somebody comes to take this brat away like they did Tom's punk ass son. Movie fades to black as Tom declares "Fuck the rest of the world, they're just jealous of everything we got over here!"
There you are. Another piece of literature that has been updated to reflect our times. This baby is going to sell!!!
Now I'm lost. I may have went off on a tangent. The words I use to sum up this movie for me are not my own but come from a friend Eric Palicki: "It was not the Superman movie I wanted, but I suppose it's the Superman movie we deserve, alas."