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Man of Steel

Nothing about the previews actually made me want to see this film, so when I say I liked it more than I expected to, that's not necessarily saying a lot. I went mainly because (a) I knew my SV peeps would be talking about it, so I wanted to be able to join the conversation, and (b) to see Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

When I say I liked it, I should clarify that I really, really liked about the first 90 minutes of it, and I really disliked the last 50 or so minutes. Partly that has to do with some alterations they made to the usual Superman mythology, some of which I really thought were fantastic and some I hated.

Spoilers behind the cut, obviously.

Lois finds out Clark's identity almost instantly! That was so unexpected and I think worked really well, especially because she then becomes his protector, even when she doesn't know him well, which I thought was a cool reversal of their usual relationship. And I really liked what made her decide to protect him was the emotional connection they made and the story about Jonathan's death (though more on that below).

In general, I loved Amy Adams as Lois. She had exactly the right combination of "completely indifferent to danger in pursuit of a story" and "fierce determination to do the right thing" that I want out of Lois Lane. She leaked the story when she thought it was important, but then stood up for Kal when she needed to, and I loved that (with Jor-El's assistance) she was central to saving the world.

Speaking of Jor-El, I don't know enough about comics canon to know how much that particular version of Krypton adhered to anything, but I really loved the details of the worldbuilding--like the combination of high and low tech (especially how the aircraft mimicked the four-winged structure of the actual birds--that was a great little detail!). I also liked how they made his conflict with Zod seem organic to both of their characters, and emphasized that both of them were really trying to save Krypton in their own ways. And obviously I liked this version of Jor-El better than the SV one, but that's not saying a lot. I was authentically moved when Jor-El ad Lara had such a hard time saying goodbye to Kal.

But to continue with canon changes I enjoyed, I loved how they avoided the Kryptonite cliche by turning it at a slight angle and making it Kryptonian atmosphere/radiation that cripples Kal rather than Kryptonite itself. That really worked for me. Also, I loved that the Fortress of Solitude was really a spacecraft, and that Jor-El actually had an interesting plan to restore the Kryptonian population. (One that might not, ultimately, have been better than Zod's, which I like, because it complicates the character of Jor-El in interesting ways).

There were several things I didn't like, though, and a big one of those was related to a change in the Superman mythology.

The big one, of course, is that Superman doesn't kill. He especially doesn't kill unnecessarily! And I have a really hard time believing that he couldn't come up with a better solution to the Zod problem than killing him with his bare hands. But I feel like the whole last 50 minutes of the movie was completely ridiculous, badly plotted, and made me feel toward Kal like Lex Luthor probably does: he endangers the human race more than he helps it. (Side note: Loved the little nod to Luthor's existence--one of the trucks getting thrown around in the Metropolis battle scene is a Luthorcorp one).

Some of this I just attribute to bad writing, or a deliberate choice to darken Superman (which I know is what a lot of people feared from this director going in). There was absolutely no reason not to just send Zod off to the phantom zone again, from a writing perspective--UNLESS you were actually going to do something interesting with the Zod-Kal confrontation. And unfortunately, an interminable super fist-fight with tons of collateral damage is not something interesting. I suppose it could have even posed an authentic moral dilemma if any of the film had set up a moral dilemma about Kal killing people, but it didn't. In fact, this film was in dire need of a real moral (or even just character) center.

Clark's main dilemma, in the film, is set up as "the world isn't ready for aliens, Clark, so hide who you are"--which works, I think, for the first 90 minutes or so and leads to the tragedy of Jonathan's death. And in a way, Clark surrendering to the human authorities is a good resolution to that plotline, and a very supermanly act--but it doesn't actually lead to anything, at least not in the area of character growth. I guess a couple army guys come to trust him? But I'm not sure they should, since everything after that devolves into mindless action sequences where Kal fights the bad Kryptonians with no real concern for the ridiculous amounts of collateral damages they're all causing as they fight in the middle of Smallville and then Metropolis, and it doesn't actually appear to me that Kal learns anything in these battles, or exhibits any cleverness or strategic thinking or anything remotely Supermanly to defeat Zod's forces. I mean, to me it seems he literally wins because he's the hero of the movie. Which is all very well for a summer popcorn flick, but it's not Superman.

And while at first I approved of the fact that they gave Zod some semi-reasonable motives for pursuing Kal, more than mustache-twirling revenge for Jor-El's betrayal, on reflection I think this just makes the whole final battle ridiculous. If Zod really just wants to restore Krypton, why not make a deal with Kal that he'll go terraform one of the many, many other planets that once had Kryptonian outposts in return for Kal donating his blood (or whatever he needs to do) to restore the Kryptonian race? It's one thing to commit genocide if you're a mustache-twirling villain, but there's actually no need for Zod to do it, and there really is no reason Earth has to be the terraformed planet. Hell, I would have settled for them just making an offhand reference to them not having enough fuel to travel any more or something, just to make the genocidal solution at least a more logical one.

Anyway, this makes it sound like I hated the movie, and that's not actually true--there was a lot about it I really enjoyed. The casting was fabulous. Did everybody notice that Alessandro Juliani (who played Emil Hamilton on SV) had a small role in the military artic scenes? Though I also thought Richard Schiff was a great Emil Hamilton. And I loved Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, though I did think that whole scene where he refused to leave his colleague trapped under the rubble just seemed like "we have Lawrence Fishburne--we better give him something more to do than just barking at Lois Lane." But my favorite other than Amy Adams was Diane Lane, who has now become the Martha Kent in my personal canon. (Sorry, AOT--I love you but there was just something about Diane Lane--she was so warm and down-to-earth, and I especially loved that scene where Clark is freaking out in the closet and she talks him through it).

I also thought Ayelet Zurer (Lara) was fantastic--I teared up twice, watching her, once when she didn't want to say goodbye to Kal, and once as she watched her planet going up in flames. And I didn't expect to like Henry Cavill very much, but I thought he did a great job. (And Superman should always have a beard and wear arctic clothes. YUM.)

I thought Kevin Costner did a good job with the role, but I didn't like Jonathan Kent much. (Heh. Not a big change from my SV days). I sort of admired the courage of his convictions, that he would die to protect Clark from the world, but on the other hand, what a shitty thing to do to your kid, to make him watch you die when he could save you. I did tear up watching that scene, but it was empathy with Clark and Martha, not Jonathan. [Also, since we all now know sheltering under an overpass is the worst thing to do in a tornado, so I thought they should all be dead and Jonathan's death was pointless anyhow.]

So overall, the first 90 minutes are great, but once the interminable Kryptonian fight sequences begin, it starts sucking like a Hoover.

This entry is crossposted at http://norwich36.dreamwidth.org/256694.html, but feel free to reply at either place.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2013 02:38 am (UTC)
So I totally see where you're coming from with the Superman does not kill thing, but it didn't bother me as much as you because a) he was clearly so utterly torn up about it; and b) I wasn't clear that when all that mess with the ships exploded that they could do the Phantom Zone thing again? But then my one main beef with this movie was way too much action. I had such a hard time figuring out what was going on half the time in the action scenes because there was just too much.

I pretty much loved all the characters except Jonathan Kent, although he's better than the Smallville version. Which isn't saying much.

And I love love love that they've flipped things on the side with Lois knowing at the start instead of having a long, drawn-out thing of her figuring it out.

ETA: Edited because I left out a phrase.

Probably going to see it again tomorrow, but I will definitely be wishing for a fast-forward button for the interminable Kryptonian fight sequences, ugh.

Edited at 2013-06-15 02:39 am (UTC)
Jun. 15th, 2013 04:29 am (UTC)
I actually hate the fact that they didn't even have Kal consider other options besides killing Zod more and more the longer I think about it. this review pretty much covers my objections in more depth.

But other than that, I agree with you--the Lois knowing is the best thing ever, and might make me go see sequels because I think it will change the arc of their relationship in very interesting ways. And yeah, even though I was kind of mad at him, I still basically liked this Jonathan Kent better than the SV one. (And a fast forward button would definitely make the end of the movie a lot more tolerable!)
Jun. 15th, 2013 12:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I wasn't sure about going to the movies to see it but now I think I'm content to wait for it to come to TV. It sounds interesting but not enough for me to battle my crowd thing. :)
Jun. 15th, 2013 03:43 pm (UTC)
Some of the visual effects (such as the Krypton scenes) might not be as dramatic on a small screen, but I do think being able to fast-forward through some of the over-long battle sequences will be worth it.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 16th, 2013 06:13 am (UTC)
I've been hoping that you would post something about it, because I expected you to have strong reactions, especially to the ending.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Nora (KK glasses)
Nora Norwich

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