Monday, June 17, 2013

Superman: my review

The reaction has been mixed.

Every opportunity for humor, compassion or plausible responses to otherworldly phenomena is buried beneath product placements and CGI special effects.
- Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The greatest movie ever made!
-- James Olsen, Metropolis Daily Planet

The filmmakers still didn’t get it right. Even with the “genius” of Christopher Nolan and the wonders of today’s special effects.

Superman is arguably the toughest superhero to adapt to the big screen. There is the legend that goes with him, the concern that his sensibilities come off as corny, and he’s indestructible so what do you do with the big lug? What Hollywood has decided is that there are only two Superman stories – he battles Lex Luthor who has Kryptonite, or General Zod from his old planet. 75 years of comic books, but it’s one of those two plotlines. In this version we get story number two.  Yawn.

“Genius” Chris Nolan, director Zach Snyder, and screenwriter David S. Goyer asked the wrong questions. It’s not “how can we make Superman relevant to today?” It should have been “how can we do a 2 ½ hour movie that’s not boring as shit?” And maybe “how can we do a movie that’s FUN?”

“Genius” Chris Nolan went back to his dark, brooding, bleak bag of tricks – figuring I guess “it worked once, it can work again.” Or “don’t question me, I made a boat load of money for this studio.” So the end result was a joyless, tedious, exercise in excess. Endless “epic” battles, mind numbing mass destruction, and loud explosions mixed in with a convoluted story and flying prehistoric creatures for some reason (yes, that’ll make him seem more contemporary).

Perhaps I take this a little personally because Superman has always been my favorite superhero. I suppose I just identify more with him than the others. But I want to be thrilled by a Superman movie. I want to cheer when he arrives on the scene to save the day. I want to feel exhilarated when he flies. And I want my Superman to enjoy being Superman. Even for five minutes.

I want him to take delight in knowing that he has a secret. I want some humor. And yes I want to see him do amazing stunts, but more than anything I want him to ultimately triumph by using his brain. I want him to outsmart his super-foe, not just outlast him.

I can hear the story conferences. “It’s a struggle between his people and earth people.” “Oh, that’s so cool.” “So the theme is identity.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome.” “It’s the existential struggle we all face. What kind of person are we going to become?” “Oh yeah, the kids will sooo identify with that.” “He’s on a quest, a search to find the real him.”

Well, that’s all bullshit.

Superman should be fun, a thrill ride, a shot of adrenaline, a fantasy. Oh why didn’t Joss Whedon make this movie instead of “genius” Chris Nolan?

Let’s go through it, good and bad.

First, it was still way better than the last Superman reboot. But so was the TV episode where Superman flies a little girl around the world in a couple of hours and all she needs is a little sweater at 40,000 feet and her skin doesn’t get ripped off her body from the G-forces.

I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT.  There's a scene at IHOP,  and folks in Metropolis get their snacks at 7-11 and their emergency kits at Sears. 

You could lose the whole first half hour on Krypton. We know the legend. This looked like Zach Snyder had all this unused footage from 300 so he used it here. Like I said, prehistoric birds. Why? Who gives a shit? You could’ve done the whole segment in five minutes.

Now a half hour of identify crisis. Clark Kent doesn’t fit in. He’s different from the other kids. “Ooooh, our target Millennials will eat that up. That should be good for at least another $100 million worldwide.”

Finally, he puts on the suit. Thank God already. In fairness, Henry Cavill did a nice job. He wasn’t Christopher Reeve, but he didn’t have as much to play as Reeve. The last guy was essentially George Lazenby. He doesn’t count. Full disclosure: My favorite Superman is still George Reeves from the TV version. So what if the Man of Steel is 38 and has a gut? You never forget your first love.

Amy Adams had nothing much to do as Lois Lane other than be tenacious and scream. Again, the filmmakers gave her no great moments. Didn’t you love the scene in the Christopher Reeve Superman where he catches Margot Kidder, says “I’ve got you” and then she says, “Yeah, but who’s got YOU?” There was no noticeable sexual chemistry between this Superman and Lois, but there was nothing in the script to establish it. No time. We had to see those prehistoric magpies!

From this point it was just CGI overload. Like every superhero movie, there’s a long battle sequence in whatever name they use for New York. And there are always the same shots of people in the street scurrying and hiding behind cars. Note to Metropolis/Gotham/Manhattan citizens: when you see a spacecraft hover overhead or two men fighting in mid-air, RUN. Run the fuck away! Seek cover! And this goes for you guys in the Daily Planet building watching the mayhem from the 50th floor. Great Caesar’s Ghost, people!

From the time I was a kid I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there really was this alien from another planet who landed in Kansas, and was here to protect “truth, justice, and the American way?” But with this movie, seeing all the destruction that resulted, I wish he had landed in Nizhmy Tagil. Destroy Moscow for a change.

I read the weekend reports that say MAN OF STEEL received A- Cinemascores. So you may love this movie despite my objections. If so, great. But the reports also say the film did huge boxoffice numbers. And the Sunday matinees were running +18% over Saturday’s, which is highly unusual. But I saw it Sunday afternoon at the Village Theater in Westwood, one of the largest screens in the city, and there was no one there. Zero lines. The theater was three-quarters empty. Trust me, when there’s a mega hit there’s a line around the block the first weekend. This felt like a 10 PM showing on a Thursday two weeks into the run. There’s a disconnect somewhere.

The Superman suit looked great; the cape was especially effective. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma & Pa Kent cashed thier paychecks, and Russell Crowe didn’t sing. Aylet Zurer played Clark Kent’s birth mother. Since she’s Israeli then Superman must be Jewish. That at least explains the angst.

The effects themselves were top notch, but when you’ve seen Superman smash through a thousand walls you’ve seen ‘em all. And somehow the stunts aren’t thrilling because you know they’re all fake. Everything is blue-screen and later computer generated. There’s probably a $1.99 app that allows you to do the same thing on your iPad.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY devoted their entire magazine this week to Superman. Page after page after page, and then they reviewed the movie and gave it a C. I had to laugh then have to agree.

This time around the S on his chest stands for "substandard."   Lex Luthor and Kryptonite -- you're up next.  Good luck.  


Bankruptcy Attorneys Everett WA said...

For those who think we are out of touch with the source material, Mark Waid (author of Superman: Birthright, which most of the movie was based) pretty much shares much of our opinions. Check out his thrillbent(.com) blog. He calls it "disaster porn".
I have to say, some of the vitriolic anger and hatred coming from the comment section is funny considering it's in defense of one of the most benevolent heroes of all time.

rockgolf said...

In All Star Superman, both the comic mini-series and the animated adaptation, Grant Morrison boiled Superman's origin down to 8 perfect words that Frank Quitely illustrated in 4 panels in one page:

Doomed planet.
Desperate parents.
Last hope.
Kindly couple.

Anyone who thinks they need to explain more about Superman's origin than that is wasting the audiences time.

Murray said...

For the most part, I agree! I'll pick up on one thread you have there: why do we have to see the origin over and over and over again? (I feel this way about every superhero franchise being brought to the big screen) Superman is closing in on a century and he's been portrayed in every possible medium humans possess. Everyone knows his origin! It should be "Opening Scene: Daily Planet. Clark Kent at his desk..."

Your other point is very well made. Superman uses his brain. In his career, it's only been in the last 20 years that he's been a punching machine in comics. Prior to the mid-80's, Superman dealt with challenges with his brain! His ideas could only be carried out by someone capable of juggling mountains, but he used his wits. Writers tasked with a Superman script should tap into their "caper movie" and "con artist-trickster" resource, with only some "knock buildings over" for flavour.

Pete Grossman said...

With all the dinero pumped into this picture ya gotta know it must have been tested out the whazoo, and this is what scored highest? Man of Steal Two And A Half Hours Of My Life?

Richard Rothrock said...

"....a joyless, tedious, exercise in excess. Endless “epic” battles, mind numbing mass destruction, and loud explosions mixed in with a convoluted story."

This pretty much sums up all of Zach Snyder's movies for me: 300, WATCHMEN, SUCKER PUNCH. Not to mention no feel for characters, especially women characters.

I watched SUPERMAN (1978) instead. Reeve & Kidder are great together. The movie is a bit long. The 1970s fashions are dated. But it is FUN. Still.

dgwphotography said...

"Superman should be fun, a thrill ride, a shot of adrenaline, a fantasy. Oh why didn’t Joss Whedon make this movie instead of “genius” Chris Nolan? "

Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

For me, the Superman movies consist of 4 things.

1) The first movie.

2) The introduction / opening credits of the second movie.

3) The bad Superman vs Clark Kent junkyard fight from the third movie.

4) All of Richard Pryor's scenes from the third movie.

Somehow get all of that into one new rebooted Superman movie and it will be perfect.

Mr. Hollywood said...

Isn't it sad that movies used to be fun. Superheroes were fun. Now Superman movies and Batman movies and the others are dark, nihilistic pieces of shit. Sorry, will pass on this one. Let the goon moviegoers get their rocks off on this. Not me.

Scooter Schechtman said...

I'd like to hear Hank Azaria deliver his opinion of the movie using the Comic Book Guy voice.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Right on. My ears are numb from 60 minutes of deafening destruction that is all meaningless. They keep trying to up the ante on the CGI destruction no realizing it provides ZERO suspense. Nobody trusts the characters any more.

And didn't Superman NEVER kill anyone? He used to be the only un-conflicted character (those were on the Marvel side).

Plus the Christ allegory stuff was over the top. Dies or appears to with hands outstretched. Resurrected. Save humanity. He even talks to a minister with Jesus over his shoulder in stained glass. And now I read Warner Bros. is promoting the movie... to churches.

The 'prince of peace' would've been pissed at this piece of 'disaster porn.'

YEKIMI said...

Of course Entertainment Weekly is going to devote a whole issue to "Man of Steel", they're owned by Time-Warner, the same company that brought us this 2 1/2 crapfest re-boot. This thing bombed....absolutely three of the theaters the mom & pop chain I work for own. The one I manage, it was beaten one night by a two week old movie and didn't even break a hundred people for any of the shows this weekend. All I could think while watching it was "It's "The Avengers" without any humor." I'm a sucker for special effects but even I thought this was overkill and I agree about the opening, I thought Zac Snyder was just using some unused footage he had left over from "300".

Stu West said...

You forgot Hollywood's other Superman story, the one where he throws all of Earth's atomic weapons into the sun and has to fight a nuclear-powered '80s hair metal supervillain.

John said...

With Superman, you're always going to be stuck with the dilemma going back to 1938 that you immediately have to suspend a bit of believe over the idea he can hide his identity simply via a pair of glasses (the comic books got years out of having Lois kind of sort of figuring it out, but never getting complete proof, as if she was Candace on a Phineas & Ferb episode. But that also alternated with her totally spurning Clark as a borderline incompetent wimp). So they dark,brooding thing only goes so far with a character whose back story is far less dark and brooding than DC's other major super hero (yea, Krypton explodes, but it's not like Kal El knows what the heck's going on, as opposed to watching your parents get gunned down by a mugger).

So the dark, brooding, angst-ridden style that everyone wants for their heros nowadays doesn't really work with this one. And unlike some of the newer super heroes, whose origins can be rebooted every generation or so to keep up with the times, the Superman story is burned into America's pop culture brain like no other. Because of that, movie makers seem attracted to using it even though everyone knows the story, mainly it seems because everyone knows the story.

Superman II with Reeve worked better than the original because we were able to get right into the story without having to spend a third of the film explaining everything everyone knows. Based on the early box office for this one, Nolan and Snyder will get a second chance to work with the character, and hopefully they won't feel obliged to stick Luthor in there and might go another direction with a different villain.

Anonymous said...

They should have rebooted it back to the original Siegel & Shuster late '30s premise -- Superman as a New Deal reformer, fighting exploiters of the masses and working for social justice. I think the very concept of an Occupy Superman would have been brilliant, especially since it would have proverbially given the finger to our increasingly corporate society. But it probably would have tested terribly with international focus groups.

Kirk said...

Haven't seen the movie yet. Just want to say George Reeves remains my favorite Superman, too.
Actually, I liked him best on that one I LOVE LUCY episode where it's not entirely clear whether Reeves is playing Superman or playing himself playing Superman (the TV show is mentioned, leading me to think he's playing himself, but he's never actually referred to as "George Reeves" only as Superman.)

Erik L. (or Erik-El) said...

Nice review, Ken. I agree on:

The New Adventures of Jor-El, Freethinking Scientist of Krypton. Way too long there. And codex? And natural childbirth? What's the point?

The demolition porn. We get it.

I disagree on:

Lois. She's a true investigative journalist in this one. She's not played for a sap. Not only does she know Clark is Superman, she knows before the world knows there IS a Superman.

The search for self. That was fun. That could've been the whole movie for me.

Ultimately Goyer & Co. made feints in smart directions but never followed through. They tried to make it real world, then tied it up too neatly at the end.

BTW, how did Clark get the job? What J-school did he go to between fishing gigs? And doesn't he know his industry is dying?

Tom W. said...

You nailed it, Ken. In particular the part about FUN, and Superman taking delight in his secret and his own abilities. He should be like a kid in a candy store, at least until the heavy threats come his way. I put it this way: the formula for an ideally entertaining Superman movie should be something like

Superman = Bugs Bunny
Luthor = Elmer Fudd

With some world-threatening disaster thrown in for stakes, and of course, the Supes/Lois/Kent romance thrown in.

That's the kind of movie I could take a kid to, and enjoy myself at the same time, which is what I believe a Superman movie should be. An eight year old, a grandma, even your most jaded too-hip-for-it type should all be able to enjoy on some level or another. (The closest we've come in recent years in probably Avengers. And before that, the first Raimi Spiderman.) Sadly, Hollywood seems more determined to sell its grim, over-serious takes on these guys only to the same aging fanboys who still buy the comics.

Covarr said...

My favorite incarnation of the hero has always been the 1990s cartoon, Superman The Animated Series. They really ought to have looked to that for inspiration.

Although I won't blame Nolan too much for this. Between unnecessary "blue" filters and meaningless action, this has Zack Snyder written all over it. Nolan is definitely capable of better, but Snyder only barely is (I loved Watchmen, but everything it got right was lifted straight from the graphic novel).

Daniel said...

Tom W.:

I haven't seen the new movie, but as a general rule, Superman isn't Bugs Bunny. Tony Stark is Bugs Bunny. Superman is Mickey Mouse. He can't do anything shocking or inappropriate, because he's the flagship of a major company. And that's the problem. Superman can't surprise us, because the fans and stockholders will rise up in protest.

Based on what I've read about the movie, the filmmakers tried to shake that up a little bit. It's not clear that they succeeded, and it's not clear they tried all that hard, but I do give them credit for making an attempt.

Max Clarke said...

Thanks, Ken, you've written what I had suspected. Not likely to see it.

Besides, if being super is about being dark and brooding, missing a sense of humor, destined to spend most of my time fighting world threats - I'm quite happy being me.

When people are inspired by a movie, they want to be the star. They want to live in the star's movie universe. I got that feeling when I was young and watching Christopher Reeve, or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The trailers and extended previews of Man of Steel don't inspire me to live in the new universe of Superman.

But maybe with kids who've grown up never knowing peace -the neverending fight against that "ism" called terror- this Superman is exactly what they want.

A shame.

Scott Squires said...

"Everything is blue-screen and later computer generated. There’s probably a $1.99 app that allows you to do the same thing on your iPad. "

Sorry Ken. There's no iPad app nor do computers do the visual effects.

The truth is visual effects are very complex requiring hundreds of artists, craftsmen and technicians working massive overtime to accomplish. Check the credits. And that's only some of the people.

We are there to serve the filmmakers and believe me we want to work on great films with great stories as well. We enable the filmmakers and the studios to tell any story they wish to tell (see any tentpole movie, LIFE OF PI, etc). Visual effects are now used in every Hollywood film, even the buddy movie. All films up for Best Picture this last year used visual effects including ARGO, AMOUR, SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK, etc.

Great storytelling and great visual effects that support the story should be the goal.

Anonymous said...

Give Hollywood enough time and money, and they'll every movie you ever liked.

I saw the CR Superman in the theater and it was first time I'd ever heard applause in a movie. And lots of it. Even a few who stood and clapped.

It was a different time, of course, and an entirely different movie.

tb said...

Sorry, Scott - these days, the effects aren't to "help the story along", they are the main thing. What was that DiCaprio flick, Inception? it was clearly written because someone in effects said "Ooh look, we can bend a city upward", and they threw together something that would feature that. These "blockbusters" are nothing more than final class projects for special effects teams. Enough already.

Covarr said...

tb: Note that Scott said "Great storytelling and great visual effects that support the story should be the goal." This isn't always the case, just the goal. While there are plenty of movies in which the story is written to support the effects, the opposite does happen from time to time, and it usually results in a better film.

The Lord of the Rings movies did a great job with this, as did The Matrix. Both chock full of special effects, but the effects serve a purpose. Compare to something like Transformers, which gives the impression of being a special effects reel with a plot thrown in at the last minute.

If I'm understanding Scott correctly, he's not saying that special effects are always good for a film, just that the goal when done right is to support the story, not the other way around. When they actually support the story, it almost always leads to something superior to the same movie without effects.

Hank Gillette said...

I'm surprised you liked the suit, because to me that's a tell. If the makers don't respect the suit, they're probably not going to respect the rest of the Superman mythos.

I agree with the other poster than said that Superman: The Animated Series was the best incarnation of Superman. The first two Christopher Reeve movies were good also, if you throw out the parts with Marlon Brando.

Scott Squires said...

'.. it was clearly written because someone in effects '
Hah, caterers have more power that visual effects professionals.

These days film studios are focused on pure visuals because they can sell that internationally and it helps get people to leave their flat screens and come to the theater. Those are the trailer moments. They are focused on the blockbuster tentpoles and dropping any other types of films. The fact is that studios scrimp on scripts and directors go crazy for action sequences and visual effects because they come from music videos or other eye candy that studio executives love.

Story is secondary in some films now but blaming it on visual effects is like blaming light weight camera manufactures for shaky camera scenes. Studios, writers and directors make the decisions before they even speak to those in visual effects.

DBenson said...

Superman is not supposed to be dark. He's the humanitarian idealist opposite cold, cruel realists -- Lois (who gradually comes around), Luthor, and even comrade-in-arms Batman.

Jules Feiffer, in "The Great Comic Book Heroes", defined Clark Kent -- as he existed up to that time -- as a superior being's idea of a typical earthling, or maybe a parody of same. He wondered what kind of issues Superman had in wanting Lois to love him for that disguise instead of his real super-self.

On TV, George Reeves never played Kent as a coward or dufus, but just privately amused that nobody figured out he was Superman. He came across like a favorite grade school teacher, who smiled but never laughed at idiot students. He'd straighten them out in such a way that they never realized he gave them the answer ("It was the professor all along! Where were you, Mr. Kent?").

In the first movie Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent affects comic nerdiness, but he never conceals Superman's positive world view. Kent questions Lois's cynicism; Superman just challenges it more directly. It's not the wimp simpering after Lois and the god brushing her off; it's the same guy telling the same story.

"Lois and Clark" took it a step further, following the comics (which might have taken a cue from Spider-Man). Clark was the real character, an honest farmboy raised to use his gifts responsibly (and thriftily -- no airfare when knocking around the world after college). Superman was an identity Clark created. That was a great show in season one, and pretty decent in season two.

The animated series was pretty great throughout, as was its sequel "Justice League." The animated Clark was a little closer to George Reeves' assured adult, with the Lois Lane relationship evolving slowly (on the old show, Lois and Clark were like an old celibate couple). He took pride in what he could accomplish as a mild-mannered reporter. He got to meet Batman in an adventure that exploited their day vs. night personas. And animation allowed really big explosions and stuff.

Todd Vaziri said...

tb wrote: "Inception... was clearly written because someone in effects said "Ooh look, we can bend a city upward", and they threw together something that would feature that."

This is not how/why films are made.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I agree with Scott on this one. The fact that some productions prioritize visual effects over story has nothing to do with the effects themselves, or the talented people who work 24/7 to create them.

Visual effects are at their best when they serve to enhance the story.

When I saw Star Trek into Darkness, I was taken aback by some directorial choices Abrams took with the film. It was so visually flashy, it took me out of the story at times, and it actually gave me a headache.

But, nevertheless, I still appreciate the effort these artists took with the Star Trek film, just like I appreciated Scott's own efforts with the Star Wars films.

The blame lies with studio execs and their misguided decisions, as well as some of the current moviegoing public habits and preferences, not with the people who work their asses off to make the whole thing happen.

Eco Friendly Products for the Home said...

holy over the top batman!!
superman was a superturd!

maybe it's time to rerun the superboy series! haha

Richard Rothrock said...

Superman + Mickey Mouse = Mighty Mouse
"Here I come to save the day............"

I'll be curious to see what my film students think of this version. Many (not all) grew up on comic books and video games. Story is irrelevant to them. They are primarily motivated by creating visuals no one has seen before. Their student films play like video games. All action; next to no character development. There is very little sense of life experience or human emotion. And I get the impression that is what they want from movies they see as well.

bloggeral said...

ken, whilst i agree with many of your points, especially the battle with zod, compared to superman 2, it was far far inferior.
however, i did enjoy the mpovie overall, watching it in imax 3D, center of the cinema, was awesome.
great soundtrack too.

Tom Quigley said...

Once upon a time, a beautiful baby was born to an upwardly mobile couple on a planet that was doomed... Knowing they were destined to die when the planet self-destructed due to global warming, they gently placed the baby in an interstellar space capsule and sent it towards a distant star where life had been detected... Oh yeah, then there was that Superman story that Hollywood ruined...

Eric J said...

Just hand me a stack of Superman comics at the door and leave me the hell alone for 143 minutes. I'd pay for that.

Charles Jurries said...

I didn't dislike it as much as you, Ken, but I certainly did not like it as much as most people seemed to. I thought it was good, but not great.

The script had plenty of problems, and the dialogue was unnatural at times. (I semi-forgave it in "Thor," but whenever any movie character says "This is madness!" I groan, because NO ONE would say that, ever.)

But editing seemed to drag it down as well. We didn't need the scene in the church. We didn't need the last Pa Kent scene, it literally served no driving purpose, and did not seem to have any sort of impact on the characters.

Zod's goals should have been better explained (did I blink and miss when the children eggs got sent into the phantom zone with a bunch of grade-a prisoners?), and Michael Shannon should have been told to take things down a notch. Overacting is awful.

That said, Henry Cavill is only about two steps above being a male Megan Fox. He's pretty, probably went to the same plastic surgeon for chest implants, and goodness, did I mention he's pretty? But "act handsomely" must have been the only acting note he was given.
When Russel Crowe can out-act you, it's a problem. It wasn't distracting, but, it was a problem.

BigTed said...

Of course Superman is Jewish. He was created by two Jewish kids, his last name ends in -man, he has an arguably Hebrew birth name, Jerry Seinfeld is obsessed with him, he's all angst-y about how he fits into middle America, he's in love with a smart woman who argues with him all the time, he's in the media business, and his parents think he's the Savior.

D. McEwan said...

[SPOILER ALERT. I will be discussing that moment at the climax. Don't read on if you want the surprise preserved.]

Ken, we've been discussing this offline, so you already know what has my panties in a twist over this rape of Superman by Nolan, Goyer and Snyder.

I am a huge Superman fan, as anyone entering my home can tell within 30 seconds. I've got cool Superman stuff all over the place, a framed photo of myself and Christopher Reeve on one wall (a truely inspiring man whose last decade of life showed he was a genuine Superman, worthy of the role), and a framed photo of George Reeves and Noel Neill, signed by both of them (I've worked with lovely Noel, who always has shown me the respect of remembering my name) on the opposite wall, all the George Reeves shows on DVD, also all the theatrical serials, the Fliescher cartoons, The first two Christopher Reeve films (The other two are unwatchable), all of the Lois & Clark TV series, all on DVD, shelves of trade paperback reprints of Superman stories from the comics, boxes full of the comics themselves, books on the history of Superman and critical works analysing him, figurines, postage stamps, lunch boxes, I met Seagel & Shuster, for Heaven's sake, and framed on my dining room wall, a "Baldy Award" from DC comics for a letter of mine that ran in Action Comics #721, the subject of which was my admiration for the way they keep to Superman's deepest, most-basic tenant, the one that Man of Steel pisses on: that Superman never kills, never, for no reason whatever.

But Nolan, Goyer and Snyder decided to make Superman a murderer. This is beyond a violation of the character; it is rape of the character. It is unforgiveable. It is vile.

On the Entertainment Weekly website, which, as you pointed out, is owned by Time-Warner just as Superman and Man of Steel are, is an editorial roundly condmenng the film, particularly for making Superman a murderer. It concludes with this sentence: "Personally, I think you’ll need to dig deep into 75 years of Superman history to find an interpretation of the character so shallow, cynical, and just plain ugly."

Christopher Reeve's Superman outwitted Zod. The new one just murders him. He makes no attempt to move the fight out of Metropolis (as Reeve did), and he basically ignores what must be thousands of people injured and dying in the rubble.

That the movie is bascially all-blue, that Superman isn't wearing his red shorts and his uniform looks to be made of snake's scales, that there's no romance between Lois and Superman (I've always secretly felt Lois was his beard and Jimmy Olson his true love anyway), that a bespectacled reporter named Clark Kent is barely even in it, all these are annoying but superficial and unimportant. That Superman has been made a murderer, and that the film is joyless, these are major crimes against Superman and all who have loved him all our lives.

Superman is the happy, good guy. He should not just be Batman with Superpowers. And even Batman never kills. At least Nolan & Goyer didn't make Bruce Wayne kill. But their apparent need to debase Superman made them violate the character. What's next? Count Dracula as a kindly old guy who donates blood to sick people?

It's too bad. Cavill is a very good actor, and looks more like the character in the comics than anyone else who has ever played him, and good grief, that body. His shirtless scenes alone justify the Imax 3-D. I wish he'd had a good movie to be in.

Nolan, Goyer and Snyder, fuck you.

D. McEwan said...

Oh, and Murray, I have to agree with you. The very first moment I heard that they were retelling the origin story, my reaction was: "What on earth for? Everyone on earth knows his origin story. I have 5 different film & TV tellings of it on DVD (I'd have six if I collected Smallville, his origin story stretched over ten years of TV), and three different versions of it in comic book form. Nothing is needed less than Superman's origin story retold.

Oh, and of course Superman is Jewish, after all, both of his parents, Seagel & Shuster, were.

Mark said...

I still love the first two Reeve movies. Dated looking, but the story and execution is timeless. Plus, Reeve and Kidder had chemistry to spare. You had an action movie and a romance - something for everyone. The 2006 movie was not successful in part because the actors playing Clark and Lois had NO chemistry (Lois was particularly awful). And I understand that this one is a repeat from a chemistry standpoint.

Greg Ehrbar said...

One thing I always wondered about the I LOVE LUCY Superman episode; Ricky casually says, "Superman is friend of mine." My mind reels at how this came about.

Did Superman take Lois to the Tropicana? Were Fred and Ethel is that night's show (somehow they were there so often).

Did Superman save someone while Ricky was on his way to work, then the two struck up a conversation, Ricky about Lucy and Superman about Lois?

I've also read that George Reeves (along with Noel Neill) could sing and often toured when Superman wasn't filming. Maybe they could have given Fred and Ethel the night off.

Seriously, it always seemed that George Reeves' voice was so much higher in that appearance then it ever was on his own show. Maybe it was the live audience. I know that all Lucy shows required their actors to project to the back row.

Before home video, it was always a thrill when that I Love Lucy episode rolled around on TV.

Anonymous said...

D. McEwan, for someone who says he's a huge Superman fan and met the creators, you should know Jerry Siegel is the correct spelling, not Seagel, and it's Jimmy Olsen with an e not Olson.

Jake Mabe said...

And I'm still waiting to find a Perry White I like better than John Hamilton.

"Great Caesar's ghost!"

D. McEwan said...

At least I can spell my own name, Mr. "Anonymous." Apparently you can not spell yours.

Mike said...

I wish he had landed in Nizhmy Tagil.
Up in the air. It's a CIA drone. It's a cruise missile. No, it's the Crimson Comrade, fighter for truth, justice and the Socialist way.
Able to defend oil-rich Middle Eastern countries against American imperialism. Able to topple US-backed dictatorships in Central & South America. Able to make a few factories profitable in a centrally-planned economy.
And now the Crimson Comrade faces his greatest challenge: to free the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of America from the tyranny of the Corporate Fascist State.
Watch the skies, comrades.

Mike said...

Or JourneyMan:
"Sure I could stop that runaway train if there were a few less carriages on it. But what do you want me to do? Hurt myself? And I've tickets for the game tonight. Here's what I'll do: let me sell you some insurance for next time."
I see him played by Ray Romano from Everybody Loves Raymond.

Johnny Walker said...

Yep, got to pretty much agree with all of this. It was better than the last Superman movie, even though that film revered the original movies to the right degree, but it was still incredibly boring, emotionless, and lacking in charm, joy and fun.

I think Michael Shannon deserves props for making a very two-dimensional character as realistic as he did, though. He's a great actor.

I also think Henry Cavill did a great job looking humble and powerful at the same time, which is part of what made Christopher Reeve so great (still my favourite Superman).

I was especially afraid that Nolan was going to do to Superman what he did to BATMAN, but it wasn't anywhere near as gritty as that, thankfully, even though we do see him emotionally distressed and Jonathan Kent was portrayed as a bit of a dick -- Yes son, maybe you should have let those children die.

Instead we got a lot of boring scenes -- the opening on Krypton went on far too long (and then we're told the story yet again as Superman learns it for himself(!)) and the final fight scenes were incredibly dull. There was no chemistry between him and Lane, but they did a clever job of side-stepping the "how can she not know??" conceit.

Since the film went to great lengths to show a "realistic" Superman (how does he shave, anyway...?) it felt very tacked on that this non-human should align himself with one country, but I guess that was the one concession to the original strip.

I recently watched the original Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II here in London at a retrospective of Terence Stamp's work (he didn't want the Richard Lester version shown), and man -- what a movie! Everyone came out, young and old, having had a great time despite the obvious problems age has had on the film itself.

(If you haven't seen the original version of SUPERMAN II, you should track it down.)

Johnny Walker said...

Actually another thing I did like was the existential stuff. I thought it was interesting to show a hero who CHOSE to be good.

Currently everything in our cultures seems so incredibly dark and cynical. People seem to make the frequent mistake of confusing cynicism with skepticism, "realism", or even wisdom(!). With jaded butts in the cinema-seats it was nice to have a character say to them, "Yes, I understand all the darkness, I understand all my options, but I'm CHOOSING not to be a cynical asshole."

I think that's a somewhat positive message for today's audiences.

D. McEwan said...

This ad campaign of "How does he shave?" is annoying. It's been well-established for over 50 years in the comics how he shaves, and was seen on both Lois & Clark and Smallville. He uses a small handheld mirror to direct his own heart vision onto his whiskers and super-singes them off. It's old, old news. Same for haircuts. (In one comic book story from the 1950s, we're talking almost 60 years ago, after Red Kryptonite had given him a long beard and long hair, it took the combined heat-visions of himself, Supergirl and his superdog Krypto to singe his beard off and his hair back to normal.)

RockGolf said...

Supergirl, Lara, cm'ere and give yer uncle a shave, won't ye? Ah, that's nice.


Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree. While the film is flawed in major ways with "Man of Steel" Goyer and Synder made the bold decision to go in a direction the opposite of everything that has come before.

Whether or not that was appropriate for the character is too early to tell--we need to see further character development and development of the world of "Man of Steel" to pass judgment.

Having said that even with its flaws it is better than the 3rd and 4th films produced featuring Chris Reeve and the hokey TV series featuring George Reeves.

For those that didn't like the new movie it moves in line (according to what I've read) to the last couple of years reboot of Superman.

While there are certainly flaws (the film has destruction porn for the last half hour when the final conflict could and should have been boiled down to 10-15 minutes at the most).

I did find the "look" of the film i.e., the muted colors, bluish tinge, etc. to be annoying--it looks like every other "serious" science fiction/fantasy film.

The main flaw with the script was the lack of character development in the film once the action starts. As far as the prehistoric creatures--they were anything but that. These were like the eagles of Krypton and fit the "look" and "feel" of the planet.

I have to give credit that at least Goyer (who wrote the script) and Synder gave Zod's character motivation for his behavior beyond just wanting to be worshipped.

The need to recreate the origin story because of the differences here vs. Richard Donner's film was esssential as Snyder and Goyer were going for a different textured approach to the characters rather than the lighter tone of the Donner films. Dispensing with the origin story would have not allowed us to understand both the behavior of Supes and the need that Zod felt to go after him.

The rant here smacks of the "get off of my lawn" (or in this case "leave my comic book heroes alone!")attitude that boomers (and I am one myself)have regarding material from their childhood.

I suspect that much of the negativity comes from the weariness of viewers who have seen too many comic book films of later that substitute big action sequences for thoughtful character moments.

Some films have been better than others in regards to the latter but "Man of Steel" fails to do the latter substituting the former mindless destruction. The main problem with "Man of Steel" is that it isn't fun but, hopefully, with the origin story out of the way we can see some development in that direction in future films.

chudleycannonfodder said...

I am absolutely stunned by the comments here. Almost everyone here is polite and if they disagree, it's very respectable and is in the form of furthering a discussion and not insulting the other person. Every other comment section for a negative review I've seen has been vicious and nasty; you have one of the kindest/best comment sections I've ever seen!

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks, D. McEwan, not being in the US the "How does he shave?" ad campaign was something I just had to look up to see if it was a real thing -- I was genuinely wondering.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
Whether or not that was appropriate for the character is too early to tell."

It is never too early too tell that making Superman a murderer is a complete rape of the character. Superman DOES NOT KILL!

Oh yes, Johnny, "How does he Shave?" is this big tie-in Gillette ad campaign in every friggin' magazine and newspaper I've picked up this month. BIG ads. Full-page newspaper ads, double-page speads in magazines, billboards. Driving me up a wall.

Steve Dilbeck said...

This movie made me ill. Every scene that wasn't special effects overload, was shot with a hand-held camera. All that money and they can't afford a decent cameraman. I was constantly dizzy. Had to look away from the screen more than a dozen times. What a waste.

Storm said...

Now you know just how I feel about the supposed Star Trek movies. Hurts, doesn't it? Annoying, isn't it? Good.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dale said...

I think that would have been a good idea. International audiences do not equate Truth And Justice as the American way. It is more like aggressive bullying, violence towards those to be exploited and xenophobia.

A return to a more benevelant period would have been nice. I think Superman would represent those suffering American violence. And others suffering violence at the hands of other regimes.

I avoiid modern American film and TV at all times. Give me European/ French, Japanese cinema. That way I get stories that deal with people and issues. CGI does not a story make.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, Superman is American. And the people of America do have high ideals, even if it's government doesn't always go about pursuing those in the right way.