Guest Review by Jason F. Smith: Man of Steel

One of my friends wasn’t impressed with Man of Steel, so I asked him to give me a review based on his perspectives. All of the pictures are mine and hopefully they don’t distract you from the review.

Superman Man of Steel Review

Guest Review of Man of Steel by Jason F. Smith
Jason F. Smith, guest reviewer

My wife looked at me the other day and said: “You ruin movies for people.”  What? Me?  “You analyze them, find the holes, and then make people realize how terrible the movie really was.”

My recent destructions include the Tom Cruise led Oblivion and the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness.  But don’t worry, she has forgiven me because she now enjoys well told stories on a much higher level.

I like to say, in my defense, that I don’t go after bad story telling.  If you just don’t have the talent to do a good job, there is no one to blame except the Maker.   But what we don’t like is LAZY story telling.  Hollywood is currently suffering from a plague of lazy story telling that might have something to do the big budget special effects.  And my reviews are not self-indulgent diatribes. They have a purpose: To aid the world by pointing out bad storytelling so people can avoid it in the future.

Consider this… the effects in Superman Man of Steel are jaw dropping…. BUT… they aren’t really.  Why?  Because everyone who has a toy camera and a big budget loves to destroy cities like New York and we’ve seen it all before!  The Japanese were onto something years ago when they had Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo!  It took America and Michael Bay a while to catch up.

Speaking of Michaeal Bay we have the Transformers meet Godzilla mash up Pacific Rim coming July 12th.  It’s hard to imagine this movie being good… but there is a part of me hoping it is!  Review forthcoming?  Perhaps…

But we were talking about Superman: Man of Steel:  What went wrong?

The whole first part of the movie fell flat for me.  The visuals of Krypton were fantastic.  But… it seemed to spend a lot of time there when I didn’t really know anyone, and I didn’t much care.  The planet was going to die because the people had over used its resources… hm… that’s original.  We only hear that from leftists Hollywood types every other minute.  Can we come up with something original?  Oh wait, and one man realizes the impending doom… but everyone else is blind to it.  Hm… Okay… heard that one before too…

But here comes the stupid part.  As part of this lumbersome backstory the writers want you to realize that this advanced Krypton society doesn’t have live births anymore.  In a Matrix like goo pod parody they just grow people, and they grow them for ‘specific’ purposes.  Communism done right!  And Jor-El and his wife have a child… the old fashion way.  A real live birth. Welcome to the world Kal-El!  And with the planet about to implode… they decided to imprint him with the genetic code of his race to preserve them.  To preserve what? The ability to create ‘Krytponians’ in goo pods like before?  While Jor El is having a live son, he’s also trying to preserve the old method of manufacturing his people?

Before I go further, however, I have a few questions:  Question #1: Why do these Kryptonians look like Humans?  Doesn’t anyone ever wonder that? Later when Zod arrives on earth and steps out of his UFO… not one single person shown in the movie says: WTF???  Aliens look like humans?  On some level you have to explain how Kryptonians and Humans look exactly alike.

Next, you have an advanced star faring race… the Kryptonians.  They can travel the stars… they can terraform planets and make them livable.  Wow!  These guys are kind of like the Federation in Star Trek.  They have outposts, the whole nine yards.

And so… if their planet goes… why don’t they go somewhere else?  They have outposts.  They can terraform planets.  Why this big ‘our race is over’ story?  That doesn’t make sense.  Here is another question:  Jor-El and Lara decide to send their baby boy away to some other planet to preserve him and their entire race…

Why in the hell didn’t they just go with him?

Jor-El from Man of Steel
Hey, Lara. It just occurred to me; maybe we should have gone with Kal-El. D’oh!

Seriously.  Why didn’t a LOT of people just go with him?

The whole planet is being destroyed because we overuse the resources idea is so trite… mostly because the writers don’t even believe in it themselves.  If that was something they deeply believed in and wanted to tell a story about, it would be a valid exploration and something that would show up again.  It doesn’t.  It’s just a trite idea they throw out to explain Krypton going boom.

Which further elaborates the entire problem the movie and the character.  Superman was created in a time when America was not the big boy on the block, but was suffering some serious worries and needed a hero to build our self-esteem.

But what does Superman provide for us today in a meta sense?  Christopher Nolan had good luck with Batman, and in large part due to his movies being topical to what we are all going through today.  A world (city) in decline with more and more corruption.  How to fight that corruption while remaining clean?  Hell that’s the story of our time.  How can we stop this decline in America while not turning into a savage? His enemies are people who want to clean the world up (Ra’s al Ghul) or are products of its savage decline (the Joker).

General Zod on the other hand is programed to preserve his race as a warrior.  He’s just doing what his little Matrix programming tells him to do.  And for what it’s worth, he just doesn’t resonate very well to me as a relevant bad guy.  He wants to preserve his people… but he does it in stupid ways.  That doesn’t work for me.

The entire character of Superman is suspect. Yes Nolan and Snyder tried to give you a window into some of the angst he suffered growing up, but what should have been the core of the story was instead a few bits of additional fluff so we could fast forward to the big fist fighting city destroying Michael Bay wanna-be action scenes.

How did movies devolve into this?

Superman is broken on two main levels:

1.    He’s too powerful.  No one relates to having that kind of power.

2.    He’s too good.  No one relates to his ‘perfect’ character.

In this movie, they dealt with #1 problem by having him battle another equally powered Superman from his homeworld.  Okay… but that’s kind of weak to me.  I would love to see a human battle Superman and somehow using his wits and intelligence put the hurt on him.  Anyone seen Lex Luthor around?

They dealt with #2 by deciding he wasn’t so good after all, he’s a neck breaking murderer.  Not sure if that’s a satisfying way to go… but at least it deals with the problem somewhat.

Megamind move character
Did I just get an endorsement? O-lo!

Anyone here seen the fantastic movie MegaMind?  I’m not a big fan of Will Ferrel, but I want you to overlook his involvement in this movie as it relates to Superman.  (And to be fair, I think his voice work was great).  MegaMind is basically the story of Superman told in a new way, where TWO children are sent from the dying planet.  One powerful and perfect, the other weak and dumb and picked on.

So who is the main character in MegaMind?

The weak dumb character.

Yep, because the makers of MegaMind realized right out of the gate that the Superman character is NOT a main character because you and I, dear readers, can’t relate to him.  We can relate to the dumb, weaker, foolish guy who gets picked on and wishes he got the girl. The guy who eventually defines himself as a villain in order to gain a modicum of self-esteem.

MegaMind is the solution to Superman.

Okay, back to Superman.  For me, the whole growing up bit was the best part. It felt the most human, and the most relatable.  But it was just filler…

Nolan opened Batman Begins with a long and deliberate training session with Bruce Wayne and Ra’s al Ghul that was just incredibly interesting.  The theme of the decline of America was richly woven in, and when Bruce returned and donned the cape after refusing to kill someone… the stage was set for the battle for Gotham (America’s?) soul.

Superman didn’t have any of that.  It was just backstory until the big Zod arrives.

Speaking of Zod, so the guy arrives with an admirable idea: He wants to preserve his people.  So he finds Superman, who has the information necessary to do so.

In any logical encounter, Zod and Superman would have sat down and had a talk.  Both probably would have agreed that they desired to preserve the Kryptonian race.  They both were probably on the same page about that one.

General Zod character from Man of Steel
Yes, but I like genocide, Jason.

Zod’s idea was let’s destroy EARTH by terraforming it… (killing 7 billion people) and restart here.  At which point, our earstwhile Kal-El (aka Clark Kent, aka Superman) might have said something like this: Hm… I got a better idea.  Let’s not kill all these innocent people.  Let’s just take our technology elsewhere and terraform…say, Mars? Or some other planet.

That scene had to happen.  It’s logical. It’s lazy not to include it!  You have to explain why Zod would turn down such an idea.  Why his need to murder 7 billion people.

He’s programmed to defend and propagate his race.  So be it. He would fulfill that programming in the most effective and intelligent way possible.  Fighting Superman sounds like a pretty dumb idea compared to just hopping over to Mars.

And what about Zod being a super warrior trained his whole life for battle?  How in the HELL does Superman beat him?  Wouldn’t happen.  Training would win out.

And let’s not even get started on Lois Lane.  Her entire inclusion seemed superfluous to me.  It was pretty unbelievable that she snuck out into the cold and chased Superman down…

Speaking of Superman…how does he fly?  Why is really stronger? What’s going on in his cells?   Does he have a liver? Does he eat? Does he go to the bathroom?  Can he breed?  We got the brief explanation… the sun’s radiation affected him differently. Something his father Jor-El expected (which begs the question again why Jor-El didn’t head out with his son to become a GOD).  But how does this stuff work? It’s a scientific culture.  We want to know why things work the way they do, and I for one want to know how he ‘defies’ gravity and flies.  What substance is his skin made up? How does his normal human looking muscles have so much strength and them?  And lasers?  Really?  Lasers from his eyes?

Ug.

— Jason F. Smith

Comics A-Go-Go! says: Ouch. I agree with Jason’s wife, he does ruin movies for people. My perspective is that Man of Steel was a passable movie mostly because it is just summer blockbuster fodder that gives you a joy ride to escape the “getting out of school but nothing to do” doldrums. Jason’s opinions on movie story-telling are right, though. There aren’t enough good stories out there and it probably is an excuse to say superhero storytelling isn’t meant to be profound. That illusion is shattered by the Christopher Nolan Batmans, I think. Jason could probably pick those apart too, but as you can see above, he sees purpose and relatability in those films, so the possibilities really are there. I for one would like to see the Frank Miller “Born Again” storyline in Daredevil converted to film. That’s profound storytelling, unlike the terribly loose conversion of the Elektra storyline in the Ben Affleck disappointment. But that’s something to review at another time.

And as for breeding, Jason, the answer to that was found in Family Guy.

Superman finds out Lois Lane is pregnant

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