So I just wrote this review for one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I said a lot of really glowing things, waxed poetic about the virtues of film and, dare I say, spoke really eloquently on the merits of Mad Max: Fury Road.
However, I’m not known for any of those things, am I? I’m known for masochistically sitting through movies that many generally regard as shit for your amusement and although I do have moments of eloquence, it’s mostly me just bashing my head against the keyboard in a desperate attempt to forget what piece of crap I just sat through.
Today, I sit through a movie that many of talked about before, but I thought I’d give my own take on it as a huge Superman fan. That movie is, of course, Man of Steel.
So, a little brief history on how Man of Steel happened. Warner Brothers had been trying to reboot the Superman franchise ever since Bryan Singer’s (really pretty good) Superman Returns was deemed a flop. Christopher Nolan’s success with Batman made him the perfect candidate to bring DCs other iconic hero into a financial and critical success. Only, Nolan wanted to go on to direct his own films, so he agreed to executive produce and handpicked Zack Snyder as his director and…. ugh… David S. Goyer to write the screen play.
Disaster was inevitable, really. But was Man of Steel really that bad?
OF COURSE IT WAS!
I’m going to cut right to it, I HATE David S. Goyer. I freaking hate him. He is one of the worst writers in Hollywood right now and how he keeps getting work is beyond me. I think Zack Snyder is a perfectly fine visual storyteller, but he is only as good as the script he is given. So when Warner Brothers OKed the steaming pie of garbage that is the Man of Steel without any additional re-writes and drafts, the movie didn’t really have a chance.
This script is full of Goyer’s weaknesses. Characters have conversations where they are talking about two completely different things, plot points and characterizations are illogical at best. He forces lines that he think are “cool” rather than have them come in naturally. Also, as soon as Jor-El pops back up half way through the movie, he recaps the first fifteen minutes of the movie. We just saw it all, Goyer! You don’t need to recap it for us! First rule of film making, show don’t tell!
Then there is the completely ridiculous Johnathan Kent subplot. The crimes Goyer commits to one of the most important characters in Superman’s life are tragic and completely misguided. Now, I’m all for trying new things and exploring new territory with characters, but sucking all the heart and soul out of Johnathan Kent is simply a tragedy. Pa Kent is how Clark learns to be a hero. It’s Pa Kent that injects strength and humility into Clark, keeping him grounded with old timey values and wisdom. Goyer’s Johnathan Kent uses fear to keep Clark in line. FEAR. Fear that the world will reject and rise against Clark if he shows himself and even “sacrifices” himself to show Clark that he needs to keep being afraid. He even suggests that maybe it would have been a better idea to let a whole bus full of children die to keep himself a secret. What the hell? How did this even get past the first draft? Or is this the first draft, Goyer?!
I’m gonna bitch about Zod a little bit, but this really has more to do with the quality of Goyer’s writing still. Zod had an opportunity to be on of the most complex and interesting villains since The Joker in The Dark Knight. All he wanted to do is save his people from extinction. A fairly noble cause, right? Except he goes directly for the most preposterously evil route. He’s supposedly friends with Jor-El before the movie starts, but that’s hard to believe because the first thing Zod does is kill him because EVIL. He could, more than likely, go and colonize any other planet in the galaxy but instead he chooses Earth because EVIL.
Even when he’s trying to convince Clark/Superman/Kal-El/Cannot-Emote to help him in his endeavor to save the Kryptonian species, Zod shows him an image of his childhood home being destroyed and then sinks into a mountain of human skulls… Wait, you’re trying to get Superman’s help and you do that by showing the horrible death of everyone he knows and loves? Man, you graduated from Adolf Hitler School of Evil there, didn’t you, Zoddy? And once Superman thwarts your EVIL plot, you then threaten to kill everyone he’s ever known and loved. Uh, General Zod, Sir, you were going to do that anyway!
So close. They were so close to having Zod be a great movie villain. I just can’t comprehend how no one took a look at the script and thought “ya know, if we change this guy just a little bit, and all his minions, we might have a better movie.” Maybe Zod tries to work with Supes and humanity for a little while, but he keeps coming to the same conclusion that only invading Earth will work. And during this time, he befriends Kal and tell him about how great a man his father was (because Zod never kills him in the beginning. In fact, Zod’s attempted coup is brought on by Jor-El’s conclusions, and he thought that was the only way he could help Jor-El save Krypton) and they become friends. Zod becomes the Kryptonian father Kal never knew. It’s only when Kal-El’s family is threatened with extinction that he changes his mind and decides to fight Zod.
There ya go, made you a better movie in five minutes. Hey assholes at Warner’s, you can get my number from the editor in chief! I’d be more than happy to help you out!
YOU… SAVED US?
Ok… Now I have to address the 5 ton elephant in the room wearing a red cape and a S on his shirt. Superman is meant to be the savior of humanity, our modern day Christ figure written by a couple of Jewish fellas that got royally screwed and never made any money off of it. But the only part of the movie he spends actually saving anyone is that little bit in the movie where he’s on Deadliest Catch for… reasons. For the rest of the movie, from the moment he puts his suit on, he’s all about not saving people. In fact, he kinda goes out of his way to blow as much stuff up as possible.
There is this great moment in Superman II, the superior of all Superman films. After fighting Zod and his henchmen, Superman gets up from some rubble and sees the destruction he is causing, and is visibly distraught. He flees from Metropolis and the fight, being called a coward by Zod and the public at large. He does this so he can take the fight to Zod in a place where civilians can’t get hurt. He’s desperate to get out of harms way before he causes any more damage to the people he’s sworn to protect. In Superman Returns, even though Lois is in trouble (because of course she is) and all he wants to do is save her from Luthor; he stops, turns around, and makes sure Metropolis is safe before going back about his business of rescuing the damsel in distress. They really need to stop doing that, by the way.
Man of Steel does none of that. None. He never tries to get away from populated areas, never tries to keep buildings from falling over or help people get out of harms way. He spends almost no time being a hero to the people. In fact, he often throws people directly into the path of buildings and people, because he seems to give none of the fucks. Holy shit, maybe Pa Kent was right! The world isn’t ready for you, Clark! Go back to school! Can we get Brandon Routh back in here please?
There are lots of other little problems with this movie. I have to mention that the score by Hans Zimmer is easily his worst. It is horrifically repetitive and trite. It sounds like they use the same cue for literally every scene. And I mean literally in the literal sense (what has happened to the English language that I feel I have to make that distinction?). The Color Grading in this film makes a bleak mess of a film about a character that is supposed to fill us with hope even bleaker, something that Batman V. Superman doesn’t seem like it’s going to fix at all.
So yes, this movie is crap. But you knew it was crap. Everyone knows this movie was crap. Even though Goyer was quietly removed from BvS, it doesn’t seem like Snyder has learned any lessons from it. I certainly don’t feel a whole lotta hope about DCs cinematic universe. What’s a guy to do?
Well, go watch Mad Max: Fury Road a thousand more times, that’s what!
Kyle Johannessen thinks because it’s a new site, he doesn’t have to write a bio. He does. He’s a writer and a filmmaker and stuff.