I’m kind of a Superman girl, so naturally I had to run out and see this opening day. I took my dad along, which as it turns out was nice, since the theme of this film seems to be “fatherhood.” I had a lot of conflicting thoughts about it, though, so… read on.
Planet Krypton is due for implosion. Jor-El defies the authorities and General Zod to send his son, Kal-El, to earth, where he will be seen as a “symbol of hope and a god.” Thirty-three years later, Clark Kent discovers his origins and starts on his path to becoming Superman… when Zod turns up to take him captive and remake Earth into Krypton II.
Superman movies are ripe with symbolism. Smallville did it. Superman Returns did it. And Man of Steel does it.
The opening sequence shows a struggle between a father, Jor-El (God), and a loyal commander of Krypton who turns rogue and becomes its destroyer, Zod (Lucifer). The hopes of all Krypton rest in the infant Jor-El (Jesus), who is sent to live among human strangers and be raised by surrogate parents. Clark manifests his powers early but isn’t encouraged to begin his “mission” until his 30’s (sound familiar). He even loses his father because it isn’t yet “time” to reveal himself (as Jesus lost Joseph at some point along the way, and because it wasn’t “time” to start his mission, had to let him die).
Zod’s threat to all humanity forces Clark to surrender (sacrifice himself for human-kind), leads to an epic showdown between good and evil, and eventually causes the imprisonment of Zod’s armies in the Phantom Zone (demons cast into hell) and Zod’s death (Christ defeating Satan).
Even Lois has a bit of symbolism attatched to her – she’s visited by an echo / memory of Jor-El to guide her to the answers and solution to the problems Zod presents, just as Mary was visited by an angel.
Am I stretching here? Uh… do you think so?
There’s a LOT of references to Superman canon (check out the oil tanker chucked at Clark with the LexCorp logo on it), the DC universe in general (Zod and Clark take out a Wane Enterprises Satellite – Bruce won’t be pleased), and Smallville in particular (not only does it share cast members, it also shares names and references).
Symbolism aside and apart from the expanded father roles of Jor-El and Jonathan Kent, I really didn’t like this movie much. There are some great things about it. The intro on Krypton and our chance to get to know Jor-El, Lara, and something about their society was terrific (even if it did include a subtle greenie message – gee, we’ve overused our resources and the planet is going to implode). The flashback scenes are really well done and establish Martha and Jonathan as significant, wonderful people in Clark’s young life. And for once, the villain isn’t Lex Luthor (even if I did “miss” him).
But… the critics were right on this one: it’s lacking a soul. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like reboots to at least give us some familiar territory to hold on to. I missed the dorky reporter shoving up his classes, crashing into desks, spilling coffee, and tearing off his suit to reveal a Superman costume. I missed the witty banter with Lois, her looking on him as a fool, and him playing the doe-eyed reporter. I missed Perry White actually having some personality and impact.
Here, Lois is a plot point – she is wherever she is not because she’s an important character but the plot needs her to be there. (Zod needed her… why?) Moreover, other than her first five minutes on screen, she’s forgettable, bland, and for the most part unimportant. When exactly did attraction start between her and Clark? I never saw it, so the kiss at the end was a bit of a “huh?” moment. The actress tries to work with it, but there’s not much to go on. The same can be said of Clark – good actor, looks the part, but he has about twelve lines of dialogue so… the only characters really fleshed out are Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. It’s somewhat eerie this film comes out so close to Father’s Day, since if nothing else, Man of Steel is about fathers training up their son in the way he should go.
My main problem with the movie is… I got bored thirty minutes in and it never recovered. The flashbacks are strangely placed and the script hops around a lot. I wasn’t impressed with all the “artsy” shots of clippers in cans and raindrops (nor am I a fan of extreme close-ups or shaky cams… if you’re filming a 250 million dollar movie, having it not be blurry would be nice). And the ending action scenes are not only soulless and present some real moral issues, they’re also too long.
Since when is Clark unconcerned with pedestrians? He often flies into the bad guys, propelling them backward… not into open fields where the worst damage will be ruined corn stalks, but into buildings, trains, and I-Hops. Instead of luring the villains away from Smallville, they fight in the street! He rushes off to stop a monstrous alien ship on the other side of the planet, while Metropolis is crashing to the ground all around them. Sure, he stops Zod from frying a family alive, but what about all those office buildings they crashed through? That’s a lot of collateral damage, Clark.
Many people are going to LOVE THIS MOVIE. That’s how the wind shifts. I didn’t, but no one cares, so go see it and make up your own mind. It’s 6am on a Saturday morning… I’m going back to bed.
Other Superman symbolism posts: here.