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Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Review - Man of Steel

What a movie! Okay, Geek Confession Time. I'm not a huge fan of Superman. Never have been. I'm not even, really, a huge fan of DC. Like, at all. I liked the Batman movies Nolan just finished, and I thought they were pretty amazing, even with the weird time issues and strangely happy ending. I've seen all the Superman movies since I was a kid. I even watched Green Lantern. And I loved the old Batman Animated. But even so, I prefer Marvel stories. Given the choice, I'll pick X-Men or Avengers over Superman any day.

So I went into this movie just hoping that Superman wouldn't come off as another dull, overly-good god pretending to be human. I never really bought that he was emotionally invested in humanity. I never really thought that he had much going on inside his head, what with being nearly invincible and all. And I hated how through a lot of the incarnations, Lois was either dumb or constantly in danger, or both.

But this movie did something about that.

It's not a perfect movie. There was no way it was going to be with this particular hero, and the fact that this is meant to be the start of a franchise to answer to Marvel's, so it had to establish not only Superman and the principal players in his life, but also the world as a whole that they're all going to exist in, and that's a big job for one movie. I think they did it smart, though. For the most part, they kept it grounded in a sort of semi-grim dirt-under-the-fingernails reality of a small-town farm life, even when they weren't in a small-town farm life, and that means that when they were in crazy alien spaceships and flashing back to Krypton, you get a nice contrast of what Clark has to get through. And they started at the beginning, which is smart--this isn't really a Superman movie so much as it's a movie about how Superman happened. This is Clark, lost and confused and trying to reconcile the fact that he knows he can do good and wants to do good with the weight of fear and doubt his dad has layered onto him, even meaning for it to be for his own good. He comes into his own. He crushes the last vestiges of his homeworld with his own hands and (sort of horribly) chooses his own path and his allegiance to the Earth.

Which is what he needed to do to be Superman.

The movie is gorgeous. The machines and the battles are awesome, though toward the end I was just sort of horrified about how violent and destructive everything was. I mean, superheroes cause vast amounts of damage anyway, but this was above and beyond. And I'm really hoping that this is also part of the learning process--Superman has to learn, after this, that he needs to protect the world better and the innocent bystanders need less collateral damage. He killed a guy with his bare hands, after a lifetime of avoiding conflict and helping people--that has got to be a "never again" moment, if they want to keep me interested in this character. He's got to learn that that was beyond his limits and deal with the guilt of that.

I think the movie's real triumph, though, was Lois. She was smart, sassy, and strong in a way where you really can believe that she'd be happily walking into a war zone to get her story. She tracked down Clark when he'd been spending his whole life trying not to be noticed, and hung out with his mom. She got the story out there because she believed in it, and still refused to give up her sources, even when the FBI came and held guns to her head. She did manage to get caught up in rescue-type situations, but she also managed to use them to get the info Clark needed to defeat Zod, and then to carry it out. And all of this without being a bitch or a harpy or overly sexy to the point where it's unrealistic and kills the character development. And you know, despite the lack of real development of the Lois-Clark relationship, I can buy that someone that invested in excitement would be attracted to the amazing god-man who just saved her and the world from certain doom. I mean, that kiss isn't a declaration of love or undying loyalty; it's just a kiss after a really stressful and terrifying time. He doesn't actually settle into a life where they can get to know each other until the end of the movie, and I think the decision to let her know who he is from the beginning is brilliant--it removes the dumbest part of her character's history, and it puts them on a more equal and honest footing for starting a friendship, a professional partnership, and a love affair.

In fact, all the women were strong and kept their clothes on. It was awesome! Well, maybe not Jenny, exactly, but I felt like she had the capacity to learn from Lois, and enough sassiness to become strong and self-possessed.

I do think the parts on Krypton were too talky. Apparently, explaining things is a general Kryptonian trait, since they all do it. I loved the designs of the world, but I hated the penis-prisons they wrapped up Zod and his mostly-nameless crew in, though. And I never understood why he was attempting a coup as the planet was falling apart and not, say, much earlier. They made it clear that they knew it was coming, and the council* didn't want to do anything about it, but why didn't the people take off themselves? Did they cut the part where they said that when they abandoned their space colonies, they also abandoned all space travel, and therefore no one had a ship to get to safety on? Are we just supposed to take it as fact that they were so very well designed for their cultural roles that they'd go all Amidala and lose the will to live when faced with giant fountains of lava and a planet cracking in two?

You know, if that's the way Krypton was, I'm pretty okay with Clark choosing Earth and busting up the tech that Zod brought back. I'm sad that busting it up meant that he lost his dad's holo-soul and the baby-pod-kelp and the key-thing, but maybe they can salvage something of that from the wreckage.

I loved the nonlinear storytelling. It got the point across that what Clark is going through right now, he's been going through a long time. It showed the hard emotional situations he had to go through to get where he is today. It explains his reticence and his reluctance without having to have more talking. And it raises the construction of the plot a little above the typical old-fashioned version of the super-hero movie. It takes the whole thing a little more seriously, a little more literarily. It got a lot of information across without having to start even closer to the beginning, and have a whole movie showing us the hero's childhood (cough-Episode One-cough) needlessly.

So we're left with a very exciting and very good-looking movie. I think it does the job of establishing a world where superheroes could exist, but they're received realistically. We got glimpses of Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises, so we know Superman's greatest enemy and at least one of the other Justice Leaguers are around somewhere in this world, even if they haven't happened yet. The cute military girl who thinks superman is hot could be connected, by name, to Green Lantern's girlfriend (or could actually be her). We know now that there are aliens that can contact this world, so any of the other Justice Leaguers from other worlds could show up, too. So seeds have been sewn.

And if there's more Superman movies, they won't have to be so talky, because all of this has now been established. First movies are almost always talky--look at the first X-Men movie vs X2; look at Batman Begins vs The Dark Knight. It's required to establish a world. This probably wasn't the best way to go about it, but now the world is set, and they don't need to talk about it so much.

I really enjoyed it. I'll watch it again. And however the hardcore fans feel about it, it accomplished this: it made me care about Superman for the first time since I was too young to be thoughtful about what I liked. And that's a big deal.

How about you? How did you like it?

- Gifs from http://ooonedaymore.tumblr.com/post/52927295114/i-went-to-an-early-showing-for-man-of-steel-last and http://goodlifemafia.tumblr.com/post/52891884767/takingofflikeabaww-1-superman-manofsteel and http://goodlifemafia.tumblr.com/post/52892671152/takingofflikeabaawww-3-superman

*The problem was that the Council was headed by the guy who played Death on Supernatural. There was no way they could avoid being DOOOOOOOMED under the leadership of Death.


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