Superman. Superman I feel is suppose to be the epitome of superheroes. The kind of superhero that other superheroes look up to, to become better than themselves and become an example for others to follow. With Zack Synder's recent film Man of Steel, I feel that Superman loses that idealism of that legendary hero. Yes, the action is packed, the effects are special, but the pacing and the characters, especially Superman, feel like they themselves have been affected by Kryptonite; stalled, fallen, and leaving them to suffer.
I must have to say that the ending is what change my opinion of the movie from a relatively okay, action movie with little substance to just poorly constructed overall. And it wasn't just the ending but the conflict and climax that led to the crudely decided resolution.
I feel that the monstrosity began with the conflict with Zod in his spaceship traveling to the world machine devised to change the Earth into Krypton. Also traveling along with him in his alien spacecraft are the Kryptonian babies in the Matrix sacks being prepared to be birthed. Zod's flying over Metropolis which is quickly being demolished, preparing to shoot at a military flying thing that is aimed to destroy the Kryptonian world machine when, bap-bada-da, Superman flies in to stop him. Superman slices through Zod's command chair and is about to decimate the entire ship until Zod chimes in and says "If you destroy this ship, you destroy Krypton." Now, I understand that it is Zod's intention is human genocide and the reign of a new Krypton but I would say that this is the beginning of Superman's ill-suited and perhaps unjust acts. Instead of finding a possibly harmonious solution to this situation, he states that "Krypton had its chance" and lasers through the ship that smashes into several buildings, sending Zod to the ground, and disrupting permanently the birthing process of the unborn, matrix Kryptonians.
With this, I'd like to quote back to Mr. Jor-El at the beginning of the film stating to Zod, "And who will decide which bloodlines survive, Zod? You?"..."You've taken up the sword against your own people. I will honour the man you once were, Zod. Not this monster you've become." In an odd sense, Superman unknowingly disregards this concept in the movie initially directed at Zod, THE VILLAIN, and commits an unusual form of genocide towards his own people; the Kryptonians. It's also a dastardly act towards Superman fans where Zack Synder in a way took up a sword to his own people and just sliced away their hopes of a good Superman movie.This is the first of a certain number of stages where I feel Superman slowly transforms into something he shouldn't: a villain and not just any villain either: ZOD. Zod having strong intentions of annihilating the human race is later replaced with Superman's unlawful actions of destroying the Kryptonians and sending them to die in the ruins of his adopted planet.
After the reaction of the phantom-drives colliding as a result of the military's help, Zod is left without purpose. It is established that he is a warrior class Kryptonian with ever intention to sustain and keep Krypton alive. Superman destroyed his ideals and initiative and Zod, hitting rock-bottom, sets out to destroy Superman and the human races he holds so dear. To be honest, in these moments where Zod loses pretty much everything, I can feel for him; his depression, his confusion, and especially his anger. It comes to me as understandable for a character like Zod and perhaps even human. It is possibly the most intriguing moment and gives a great opportunity for real development for this character...but is later disregarded through Superman's cliche line "You're a monster Zod, and I'm going to stop you" and the fight between the two last sons of Krypton commences; the moment simply lost.
I would like to take a sidenote for a moment to talk about the characters. Before the fight we have Superman and Lois engage in a sweet, romantic kiss; however, it seemed forced. That's when I realized that these characters: Perry, Martha Kent, Lois, even Superman, aren't really characters but rather homages to the original source material simply placed into the DC universe to make a subtle nod to the comic fanatics; attempting to show that "Hey, we read comics, too. *Wink Wink" but not really. It just seems that the simply look at the comic panels rather than actually READING the comic books. The characters are also used to properly move the main character any help with whatever plot is happening. For instance, Zod has Lois aboard his ship with Superman. Why? BLAH, that's why. The real reason she's on there is so that she can use the Kryptonian USB, talk to Jor-El, and tell Superman how to destroy the world machine. There's no greater purpose. Any other instance would be when she's on the military aircraft on route to the world machine. Why is she on there? PFFT. She's only there because when the aircraft crashes, Superman has a reason to come and rescue her. And do any of these militaristic actions of finding the enemies weak points spark any romance in your hearts? Of course not. Superman isn't Aladdin showing her a whole new world; he's destroying it before her very eyes like some mongrel you adopted from the pen that destroyed your backyard and trashed about a squirrel. We don't properly understand why the characters are in the movie aside from bringing in simple conflicts to make the main conflict more tense, to move the main character along through the story, or remind audience that, "Hey, there are humans in this, too." Anyways, I digress. Back to the fighting!
The fight as an action scene is very much entertaining and I'll admit that when watching these two marvels duke it out through Metropolis, my man-brain was pumping with adrenaline and thirsty for more; picturing my own personal jabs to the maniacal Zod. I don't think that there's any kind of objection to that this was possibly the most entertaining fight scenes with live-action Superman ever regardless of its repetition. But with this, there is a blatantly ironic problem that I see important in mentioning.
First, that before the story acknowledges that Zod is alive from his fall to Earth, a Jenny chimes in to say that Superman saved them. Who's Jenny? She was that girl trapped in the rubble that no one really cared about. Anyways in a way, I would totally agree with female Jimmy Olson replacement. If it were not for Superman destroying part of the "World Machine" that Metropolis and the entire world would be doomed. Fair enough. My problem is that a now partially decimated Metropolis with what I could imagine to be several casualties with many wounded civilians and a plethora of destroyed buildings that, I felt, reminded us of the treacherous acts of 9/11, is being trounced further into the dirt and the dust caused by the conflict between these two Kryptonian titans. At no point does Superman think about the civilians or the city during his confrontation with Zod presenting this type of disregard or lack of an obligation to protect the citizens of Metropolis once again. Instead he smashes through building after building potentially harming more humans; those who he has committed genocide to protect. Maybe this disregard and destruction of human property was foreshadowed from when Superman drove the large logs through the grab-assing hick's truck near the beginning of the film. Also, perhaps instead of simply saying "He saved us" it would be better suited to say, "He saved the rest of us...oh wait, maybe not, hang on."
Part way through the destruction of Metropolis, Zod announced a particular statement to the man of steel. "Either you die, or I do." Words of a classic villain blinded by anger and revenge. Words that resonate the cold, black and white perspective of Zod. It was at this moment that I believed that Superman would prove Zod wrong, showing that not all things have to result in such violent acts and resolving the conflict with Zod in a way that proves harmonious and hopeful for the future like most would believe Superman would do. Or perhaps, show that Zod has much more to live for and find his own purpose only for Zod to arrogantly reject and fall under his on actions. Superman would show that it doesn't always go for the way of the monster. I was proven wrong. Regardless of Christopher Nolan's thoughts on the matter, it was decided that Superman would enforce his own justice and brutality. After much smashing and bashing that one would think would be better suited for another Hulk reboot, the two Kryptonians crash into what looks like a large train station that closely resembles that of Grand Central Station in New York City.
Superman has Zod in a kind of "Sleeper hold" that incapacitates that unfortunate general; however, this would not stop the monster completely. Zod begins to force Superman's hand (puns all intended) but setting his heat vision on a trapped and defenseless family. This apparently leaves Superman to do what audience members believed, and hoped, Superman would never do: he killed Zod. Before Zod could toast the adorable, nuclear family, Superman grabs hold of Zod's head and neck and twists to snap his head leaving him limp and dead on the ruined floor of this once-was building. I don't think anyone saw this coming and I think it was because it was never hinted, foreshadowed, or followed any of the themes or concepts established throughout the film. Not only that, he proves Zod right; he gave into the polarity of the situation that Zod proposed that would inevitably result in someone's death. And further more, showing little remorse for his violent and life-changing action. The idea of "a good death is its own reward" seemed to be a subtle theme adopted late into the film but this is not a good or honourable death and there certainly is no reward.
After he twists the neck of Zod and is on the floor described as if written by Natalie Imbrulia, Superman screams and cries and later comforted by Lois Lane for no more than a minute on screen until it is abruptly cut to a different scene all together where he shows no sadness, no depression, nothing. Instead, we are invited to a scene where Superman has a chat with General Swanwick (who? UGH, that's who. Who are these characters even?) about his whereabouts to which addresses a bucket of another set of problems I feel fitting to make another sidenote. General Swanwick is asking Superman a rather pressing question about whether or not the United States can trust him. To counter this argument Superman replies by saying, "I grew up in Kansas, General. I'm about as American as it gets. Look, I'm here to help but it has to be on my own terms." What. The. HELL?! Not only is this argument not sound but he implies that you just have to trust that whatever he does is to help. I think I can rattle off a couple of Americans that didn't have America's best interest at heart. Like, really?! After he just committed genocide to an alien race and partly demolished a heavily populated city. That doesn't exactly exude confidence in the superman. Not only that, but we have to simply obey him, his will be done if you will. Goddamn, if I were the general there, some big red flags would be waving furiously in my head. Isn't this also the type of tyrannical thinking General Zod would have come up with to control the masses.? We have a god amongst us and now we have to deal with the consequences.
With the inevitable sequel, I see no reason that Lex Luthor denounce Superman and want him gone. Of course, all of these issues are forgotten after the attractive female soldier says how Superman is "kinda hot" making the cheap seats chuckle and the rest have feelings of nausea. We end the film with Lois meeting with Clarke, disguised, at the Daily Planet and Lois saying "Welcome to the planet." Appropriate to the alien being from a distant planet; however, it's seems apparent that not all humans are happy to have the new man in blue on the silver screen. Superman doesn't come off as some guardian angel at all to this as he should or some space messiah from way on high but rather a harbinger of death or a horsemen of the apocalypse. Now that's some biblical action I can get behind...just not for Superman. And that brings me to my last sidenote.
For a character that had a strong Christ-like motif throughout the film, I found it unusual that he would commit such an act. Coming from a "miracle birth" that I'm still having some trouble understanding, traveling around the world, performing his own "miracles," and making a trip to church clearly establish this prominent resemblance with the saviour of the Christian religion. This is also clearly shown when Lois is in danger and Superman leaves space from a spaceship, arms stretched, legs together, clearly resembling a crucified christ-like figure. I just don't really remember the gospel story of when Jesus went out to Jerusalem, thrashed about a couple of temples, and choked out Pontius Pilate only to skip away after and have make-out sessions with Mary Magdalene from my days as a boy going to church on Sundays. To get to the point, it's just out of character and out of sync with the rest of the film.
To attempt to make a long story short, Superman destroys the villain's family, duty, and "soul" and then later kills Zod with his bare hands. It was at this moment where I thought that Zod won in a weird sense of the idea. No, Earth is not Krypton but his ideals and actions are repeated through the man of steel. Perhaps that's why Zod was smiling just before his demise; he knew Superman was done and become the new threat: General Kal, the last being of the destroyed planet of Krypton.
Just for fun, to possibly prevent Superman's rise of rank, I will now purpose my solution to the Zod calamity:
When Zod's about to zap away the picture-perfect screaming family, have Superman fly up into the sky (a typical move for Superman), choke Zod out (the movie made it apparent that his vision was reliant on Earth's atmosphere), and take him back to your fortress of solitude where that open Kryptonian capsule is that is likely to be a Easter Egg for a Supergirl appearance...or maybe Krypto the superdog. Who knows. That or before all that nonsense have the Kryptonians make another Krypton on Venus, Mercury, or any other planet aside from Earth. Traveling to Earth wasn't so hard; what's another couple miles?
The idea of Superman he that he is a super man; a man that is super. Superman is suppose to be more than a man, better than a man, but through this murder he shows that he's no better than an animal. For the superhero that is to be a personification of good, it's just so disappointing and saddening to see such an optimistic character fall to the temptation he's been raised to deny try and solve the conflict using his mind rather than his muscles and aggression like your typical douchebag who didn't get any pussy on Friday night. I don't mean to sound like an old man but what kind of example does this show to kids? I know I held Superman in a certain light; trying to be rational and making the best resolution without having to resort to violence. But now we have another simple alpha male flexing and punching (and snapping necks) to remove his problems. To quote Jor-El again, "You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards." I understand that it is important to fight for what you believe and love but an ideal that involves genocide, destruction, and cold-blooded murder don't come off as some sort of wonders I would hope to accomplish.
For a simple action movie with special effects and cool, alien costuming, it does what it set out to do. But when it comes to the story, the characters, and the morality and justice and is related so closely with Superman, it falls short as if smashed to the ground by the Kryptonian world machine. The film comes off as a series of quick winks to the comic fans, quickly thought out conflicts, and a controversial ending that was not properly thought out. When Jor-El said, "They'll race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall, but in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal" that it was more in a literal sense of the idea that, when we join Superman in the sun, you feel burned, hurt, and regret about why you followed him in the first place.