The Moan of Steel

by , Monday August 7, 2017
The Moan of Steel

One person's opinion on a four year old film.

 

Is It a Bird, Is It a Plane, No... it's...

 

Play this while reading this blog. It is in my opinion great piece of music.

It's called Flight, its from the Man of Steel film score by Hans Zimmer, I think it might make reading this more enjoyable.

 

I think I've read enough comics, seen enough of the TV shows, live action and cartoons as well as the movie's and brought enough Superman related stuff over the years to be able to call myself a Superman fan and not get torn to shreds by the internet rage machine.

 

Yet if I posted it on many sites, I'm sure it would still happen which is why I'm posting this here rather than on YouTube for example.

 

I want to start by saying that means I think I should honestly LOVE this film absolutely Love it, I think I should be one of those people who are diehard defenders of it who seem to exist solely in YouTube comments sections.

 

Considering I can find the disliked Superman 3, somewhat enjoyable having seen it again recently. Also having rewatched it not that long ago, I can find things I like about Superman 4 the Quest for Peace and yes I know that is a fairly terrible movie.

 

Just to be clear I'm not saying they are better films than Man of Steel, just to show that I can sometimes see the good things in a not very good film.

 

I should say I don't hate Man of Steel either, I just think its ok.

 

The best way I can think to describe it is as a good movie just not a good Superman movie. Well that right there is the whole ball game I just gave my opinion before I'd even properly got started, thanks for reading goodbye.

 

Oh, you're still here, you scrolled down expecting there was more to it, right then I guess I had better carry on. Don't worry this isn't a scene by scene breakdown as that would be one long ass blog.

 

No this just a few words about the things I did or didn't like.

 

It begins on a re-imagined Krypton no longer the ice crystal fortress of the 1978 Superman film. The white robes worn by Jor-El, Lara and other Kryptonians in that film have been replaced in MoS by some sort of armour based outfits over one piece suit.

 

Those are just minimal changes, taking inspiration from some comics as is the brief look we get at Kryptonian society.

 

Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor Van - (this film is as far as I can recall the only time his mother is given a surname) - as she gives birth to their son Kal-El.

 

Which is more structured and as is explained later in the film is a rigid hierarchy of everyone's place in society being than I can remember seeing on screen or reading about.

 

This Krypton looks cool in parts, like flying space dragons were nice, a little bit too much like the ones in the movie Avatar. The colour scheme is to me a bit monotonous.

 

It seems there is very little colour variation; there are just a whole lot of brownish and greyish metallic tones.

 

It begins with Jor-El assisting Lara as she gives birth to their son Kal-El, who knew women on Krypton give birth the same way women Earth do.

 

Violating the basic laws of society, where babies are bred through genetic engineering via a mugguffin Codex imprinting what a person's place in life will be politician, scientist, military, etc.

 

Moving swiftly to Jor-El informing the leaders of the accelerated destruction of the planet and warning them they should evacuate.

 

Not them, but the codex containing the DNA of all future Kryptonians.

 

At that point General Zod wonders in to declare he is overthrowing the council to declare himself ruler and he'll decide who gets to live and leave to start again on a new world.

 

He and Jor-El have a disagreement and Jor El is escorted out. It seems to be imprisoned.

 

Luckily he escapes overcoming two of Zods army, despite as the script says later he is a scientist and probably shouldn't have those fighting skills, let alone the ability to go toe to toe with Zod even for a little while.

 

As they are breaking the rules having Kal, surely a line in the script they secretly taught themselves how to fight would have gone some way to explain his fighting skills.

 

Still wouldn't explain why he would do it as it doesn't seem he was aware of Zods planned coup so he would seemingly have no need to fight back against it.

 

Back to the plot, things go downhill from there Jor-El dies Kal is launched to Earth, a planet Lara finds which Jor-El agrees is the perfect place.

 

This is a problem for me, despite the line from Jor-El that they are freeing him from the archaic overly structured ways of their civilisation.

 

Which is true, only they're forcing their own kind of structure on him, even worse as much as Jor-El talks of their son being free to chose his own way in life, he won't be as they have realistically sent him to Earth as a substitute Jesus.

 

The script has Jor-El trade one set of rigid rules for different ones of their own making and where he will have no choice but to live out the path they put him on.

 

Because it has them knowingly send him somewhere he won't fit in, where they know he will develop powers to make him in the scripts words stronger, faster, invulnerable and possess powers that will make him, as Jor-El says, like a God to the people of Earth.

 

That he will lead them and they will follow and a load of nonsense about they will stumble then one day they will join him in the light. Words I'm sure the script writer felt sounded deep and meaningful.

 

As I stated above to me it just sounds hollow and meaningless. Plus I don't really like this idea of a there being predetermined spot they're sending him to.

 

They went one step further in the tv series Smallville having Jor-El came to Earth and meet Jonathan's parents like he was scouting for good people to send his son to.

 

That is taking it too far, I feel its better if his ship crashland here and be lucky to be discovered by the Kents thereby making him more appreciative of the good parents who find him take him in and raise him to become the good moral man who becomes Superman.

 

Well that is how it's meant to go.

 

Well back into the story and from launch of the Pod carrying Kal we have no idea how much time has passed between the birth of Kal to the destruction of Krypton.

 

Similarly once the pod crashes on Earth, rather than see him being taken in by Jonathan and Martha, (why did you say that name). Oh sorry wrong movie, ignore that.

 

We skip ahead to adult Clark now seemingly travelling for no reason other than it copies a successful part of Batman Begins and borrows slightly from Birthright a popular Superman graphic novel by writer Mark Waid.

 

Clark is seen working on a fishing vessel having to be saved from a falling fishing cage.

 

Not sure what the point of that bit is, sadly it seems neither did the writer's mainly David Goyer, but Christopher Nolan also had a part to play in this script.

 

Anyway after that near miss the captain of this random fishing vessel gets a call about a fire on a oil rig.

 

Does that happen a fishing vessel in real life, just because its close by would get the call to go to the scene of an oil rig fire.

 

Sure enough Clark goes to the rescue a dramatic scene to show him using his abilities, well kind of.

 

He gets on the rig by climbing up it, apparently he doesn't know how to fly yet and then he gets to the trapped workers through a fire filled corridor and he is actually on fire.

 

Ok problem one, is Superman really flammable I can't recall any other incidents of him being on fire.

 

His bare torso that had just been in the ocean so should surely still be a little wet or at the very least slightly damp is on fire.

 

Problem two, does he not know he has super breath to have blown out the fire or ice breath to freeze the flames or have the ability to suck the oxygen out suffocating the fire.

 

Regardless it's all suitably dramatic as he gets the rig workers to the helicopter, stopping a massive part of the platform falling on the chopper before it can fly away to safety.

 

Leaving him unconscious sinking into the water, the sound of Dolphins are heard nearby.

 

A scene which led to a popular internet theory, sea creatures saved him from drowning thanks to the unseen hand of Aquaman.

 

I don't buy it, I didn't think Warner Brothers executives had enough faith Man of Steel would be the gateway to a shared universe for their superhero's, nor do I believe they put enough thought into the script to make it possible.

 

Yet I hope I am wrong, it would be a nice touch if they do it now that the two characters will meet up in live action for the first time in the Justice League film.

 

Floating below the ocean surface Clark has a flashback to childhood and the moment he first manifested X-Ray vision and super-hearing. Scared by what he saw Clark ran and locked himself in a closet.

 

His adopted mom Martha comes to the school, and manages to coax him out, helping him to focus his powers, quelling the myriad sounds he hears.

 

This is a rare moment which feels like it could have come from the pages of a Superman comic and the best Martha scene in MoS or BvS played well by Diane Lane and the kid playing young Clark.

 

It is in my opinion the only time in either Man of Steel or Batman v Superman she truly feels like the character she's meant to be portraying.

 

Her obvious love for her son shines through making it hard to reconcile this with the "you don't owe the world a thing," line Martha says in Batman v Superman.

 

It doesn't feel to me like scenes featuring the same character, it's inconsistent from one film to the next not just the origin of the character.

 

Having made it to dry land he steals some clothes which luckily fit him where the sight of a school bus leads to another flashback, this time to a heroic moment saving a bus load of his schoolfriends.

 

Well kids he goes to school with, none of them seem friendly with Clark neither Lana Lang a childhood girlfriend in the comics, Smallville and Superman 3 nor Pete Ross who is often portrayed as a childhood friend of his; again in the comics and in Smallville.

 

Here he's a bully wanting an opinion from Clark about a football game when the bus crashes off a bridge into a river.

 

Clark rescues them while trying to avoid being seen, but is spotted by Pete, Lana Lang and the Fordham boy (one of many Smallville references).

 

This leads to Pete's mom thinking what Clark did is an act of God and Martha and Jonathan down playing it.

 

This leads to one of the best and worst exchanges in this movie, the best being Jonathan without hesitation declaring you are my son, after telling Clark the truth of his extraterrestrial origins.

 

The worst part comes as Jonathan tries to have a go at Clark for risking his secret being uncovered.

 

He answers "maybe" in response to Clark asking should he have let the kids on the bus die.

 

To me it's not a new interpretation of the relationship between father and son, it's bad writing and a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jonathan Kent is as a character.

 

Seriously the comics, animated show and the movie, Smallville had some variation of this chat between them and none of them had Jonathan Kent be quite such a callous bastard.

 

He and Martha are meant to be the ones who instill in Clark the knowledge of right and wrong and how to be a good person he will later use as his moral compass when he becomes Superman.

 

How can he become that if Jonathan fails to teach him it because he has no such compassion in him for the lives of other children?

 

Well if I and other Superman fans didn't like that, imagine how annoyed we were when the writers double down on that character failure in Batman v Superman.

 

Having Martha be even more cold hearted than her husband telling Clark he doesn't owe this world a thing in effect telling him she'd rather he let everyone on Earth die than risk his own life.

 

Which could've seriously backfired on her later in that movie, still that's a topic for another blog.

 

The scene returns to the present day, where Clark has a job at a truck stop in Canada. As he works, he hears some military men talking about an object found in the ice north of the stop.

 

When a trucker starts harassing a waitress, Clark attempts to stop him, only to stand there and takes the trucker's taunts fearful of unleashing his powers.

 

Clark quits rather than have to put up with anymore. Later, the trucker leaves, and finds his rig impaled on tree logs he was hauling.

 

Oh this whole scene, it is pretty terrible starting off with the fact that Clark happens to have a job in the right place at exactly the right time to hear about the spaceship from Krypton being uncovered by two gossiping soldiers careless enough to discuss this in public.

 

It isn't just a coincidence it's a coincidence on top of a coincidence atop a giant cherry of a coincidence.

 

Then the confrontation, how about the fact the actor playing the aggressor is about 4ft shorter than Henry Cavill, ok I sort of like that he attempts to turn the other cheek even if it is a rip off of a scene from Superman 2.

 

Only he could hit this lowlife without using full Superman strength, besides there's no way that guy is going to pick a fight with someone who looks and is the size of Clark.

 

Then what Clark does to the guys truck is stupid, it makes him look spiteful and petty.

 

It also undermines his intelligence if he is then going to turn around and do something that makes it clear who did it and why. An asshat of that magnitude he most definitely is not. Nor is he so stupid given he is trying to maintain a low profile as he travels.

 

Anyway the being a jerk to a guy at the diner is similar to when a powerless Clark gets beaten up by a jerk in Superman 2 only to return at the end when he has his powers back to get his own back.

 

That film got Superman's character wrong in that scene, maybe even more so than this bit in Man of Steel, still if it is indeed copied from there where it feels out of place its doubly stupid doing something similar as once again it doesn't work at all its just another example of the writer not doing justice to the character.

 

Look I apologise this is going on a bit long, longer than I planned so here's an interlude, and I'll show you a few of the previous onscreen versions of the Superman Costume.

 

From This

It has been coloured in as it was from a black and white serial in the 1940's

Kirk Allyn

To This...

George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman

To This...

Christopher Reeve in his four Superman movies

To This...

Dean Cain in Lois and Clark The New Adventures of Superman

To This... my personal favourite version of the costume.

The one worn by Brandon Routh in Superman Returns, yes the red of the cape, boots and around the emblem on his chest could have done with being a bit brighter, as could the yellow inside the emblem and his belt, but I like the style and the simplicity of it.

To This...

My least favourite version, the one worn Henry Cavill in MoS, Batman v Superman and Justice League.

Bonus Round 

Tyler Hoechlin as Superman on Supergirl season 2

This one is inspired by the Injustice: Gods Among Us videogame version, I like it slightly more than the MoS version, it's still not what I think it should look like.

 

Looks like I'm just going to say it #BringBackTheRedPants.

 

Watch this, it is pretty cool.

Let's get back into it and delve into the next scene which introduces Lois Lane.

 

She arrives at the base where Clark carries her bags having somehow got a job at a military installation.

 

This feels like Lois in her first interactions with Colonel Hardy who isn't happy about having a reporter there. She is unconcerned with treading on the toes of overly sensitive men while she chases the story.

 

In truth it doesn't bother me that Amy Adams kept her Red hair where Lois is traditionally brunette.

 

The fact the film changes the traditional way Lois and Clark meet and the nature of their relationship now I'm not sure what to make of that.

 

In one way yes it's ok to try and bring something new to the story and I guess it is a more grounded take, a more modern interpretation.

 

Yet at the same time it feels like they're skipping past a lot of potentially good funny and flirting relationship building as well as emotional resonance as the romance between Lois and Clark grows into a full blown love story.

 

In that way the audience is being deprived of either seeing for the first time or reliving that. Seeing first hand what kind of onscreen chemistry Henry and Amy have.

 

I'm honestly still unsure how I feel about this version.

 

Anyhoo as Lois pursuit of the man who she followed on to the ship and who she discovers has unnatural abilities when he has to use his heat vision to cauterize a wound she sustained.

 

Ok, so ignoring the fact he then leaves her far from the base overnight where she would likely have frozen to death is a bit of bad script writing.

 

Still it sets off her pursuit of his identity so by halfway through the film Lois knows Clark is Superman, or rather the alien she would go on to name Superman.

 

Lois returns to Metropolis and writes an article about what she experienced. Only her editor at the Daily Planet, Perry White on very reasonable grounds refuses to publish it as it is basically all about aliens and spaceships.

 

Here is a problem her pushing to publish it makes Lois look stupid, unprofessional even, she says she is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

 

Yet she still seems to think you can publish anything in a respected Newspaper without corroboration, no sources nothing to back up her version of events. Even after a denial from the Pentagon.

 

Also there is no loyalty from her to the Planet or to Perry, which is a thing from the comics and in almost every other adaption, there is professional respect if not an almost father daughter dynamic. I'm particularly thinking of the 90's tv show Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

 

In MoS and BvS there is none of that, it is just a boss employee relationship, its worse in Batman v Superman regarding the portrayal of Perry but I'll leave that for my blog about that film.

 

Here Lois threatens to quit if he doesn't which is hardly the behaviour of an adult just because she didn't get her own way.

 

She only does so because they won't let her out of her contract.

 

Again not casting the character in a good light nor what should be her joy at working for the Daily Planet.

 

Lois goes against Perry's orders leaking it a conspiracy blogger, even though she thinks he is a crackpot.

 

Then as the blogger Glen Woodburn cautioned Lois does get in trouble for leaking the story getting suspended without pay for first two and then upped to three weeks for backchat to Perry.

 

Still after she has done it, Lois almost becomes almost surplus to requirements, with only the Superman interrogation scene where it's important to have her in.

 

Lois is an important character so they keep her around even if it means she is simply in the right place at the right time for the sake of the plot.

 

That disciplinary scene between Lois and Perry it feels to me like Perry should have gone to bat for her a bit more with whoever owns the Daily Planet, rather than just slapping the suspension on her.

 

In any other version he would, it seems a shame to throw that all away because the writers didn't think it worth investing time in writing for the supporting cast.

 

It seems they've dispensed with most of the interpersonal relationships between the supporting characters Lombard who is based on a comic book character and a new one, sadly neither are very interesting as they don't have much in way of personality.

 

Lombard will hit on any woman he works with. While Jenny is pretty much a blank slate we're never entirely sure what her job is, she could have been something more if the rumours were true and she was in fact Jenny Olsen, a gender swapped Jimmy Olsen the photographer and Superman's friends.

 

Given what they did do with Jimmy in BvS I wish they had done that as it would have been a damn sight more interesting and a lot less disrespectful to a character who'd existed since before director Zack Snyder or scriptwriter David Goyer were born. 

 

Given the lack of personality given to Jenny, Perry and Lombard the scene in the climax with Jenny trapped under rubble terrified she's about to die she begs Perry to stay with her and Lombard who looks for a tool to try and get her free.

 

Many people say this scene is worthless because there isn't much reason to care about these three.

 

I disagree, I think the performances shed some humanity on what is a lot of occasionally soulless mostly CGI destruction happening all around them.

 

Rebecca Beuller really sells Jenny's terror at the prospect of being left to die alone.

 

Laurence Fishburne is so good an actor in spite of an underwritten role, he is able with a look sell me on the idea Perry is knowingly going to risk his life to stay with Jenny. Even if they've never sold us on the idea she has ever felt much more than an employee to him.

 

Michael Kelly shows a heroic side after being little more than the office letch when he decides against running to save his own life to stay and help save Jenny.

 

To Be Continued...

In my Moan of Steel Blog Part 2

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