Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Ideal To Strive For - Review of "Man of Steel"

Just came from seeing Man of Steel. Initial thoughts (and spoilers) -

- A lot of what makes Superman the way he is is the whole "All-American-Boy-Scout" persona.  Nowadays, I guess that makes Supes the butt of many jokes because our society's become so much more cynical.  But after this movie, I'm glad that Kal-El was adopted by such good, decent, salt-of-the-earth people like Jonathan and Martha Kent.  If he'd been raised by a world-weary hipster couple - man, that would make for such a different character (and such a different story.  Hipster!Superman would probably jump up and be Zod's right-hand man.  Because humans are sooo mainstream).  This movie, however, made his upbringing a vital part of the story and not at all something to be parodied or laughed-at.  I appreciated that aspect of the character.  It makes Clark a hero you can respect and admire because he doesn't ask for respect or admiration.  But he ends up getting it because of the kind of person he is.

- The way Superman learned how to fly was really cool.  It reminded me of the scenes in John Carter when John first arrives on Mars and he's learning how to deal with the lighter gravity on that planet (remember - Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs' short stories when they created Superman).  It reinforces the idea that while Superman is an alien with different abilities and what-have-you, he is also the product of his practice and experiences.

- When I was a kid, "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" was the big TV show on Sunday nights.  Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why my parents let me watch it, but it was enjoyable. Because of this, I knew full well who Lex Luthor was and for a long time, I thought that was Superman's only real nemesis (well, the only recurring one anyway).  But General Zod - now that is a supervillain.  He matches Superman strength for strength and presents a true challenge (I mean - what chance does a crazy genius really stand against the Man of Steel?)

   - Though I couldn't help but wonder - why not just terraform Mars or Venus or some other planet that doesn't have anything living on it?  Why take out Earth? Does his vendetta against Jor-El have to extend to Kal-El and his adopted home planet?  I mean - if his m.o. is to defend and protect Krypton, shouldn't he make that his priority instead of destroying an entire species for the sake of revenge? (then again - he is a supervillain in a superhero movie. Disbelief is gladly suspended).

- I loved how they wove Clark's formative years throughout the action - make his childhood and adolescence a part of how he fights against General Zod and his minions.  Hammered home the theme of Kal-El being part of Earth just as much as he's part of Krypton.  It was very nicely done and made for a believable story.

- I really liked what they did with Lois Lane's character.  She's neither a wilting damsel, nor a hardcore badass. She's a real person. She does her job and she does it well. She follows the story and gets the truth.  But she also knows when to hold back on a story when it's necessary.  It speaks volumes to her character that she actually found out about Clark Kent, but decided to back off because it might have negative repercussions on Clark's life.  Honestly, I think Lois was the first real friend Clark ever had and the first person (besides his human parents) who came to understand - at least in part - what growing up as a Kryptonian on Earth really meant.  Lois got her moment of badass awesome, just by being a decent human being - and by doing so, she got to be in the middle of the action and play a vital role in saving the world, even if she wasn't out fighting the bad guys directly. She proved that she deserves to be Superman's love interest and be on equal footing with him (plus, Jor-El seems to approve - so that's both sets of in-laws sorted ^_^)

- Speaking of Jor-El - I think I can forgive Russell Crowe for Les Mis with his performance in this movie.

- I FINALLY get some decent story for Krypton!  I've said before that I'm not a real big comic book reader (too many issues, too many storylines, too much to keep track of) even though I enjoy superhero movies.  I just remember seeing the Christopher Reeve films and wondering when I'd get more backstory about Krypton because it seemed like such a cool place with a lot of history.  The way they handled it in Man of Steel made me think of a blend between Asgard from Thor and Coruscant from Star Wars.  It felt like it was a real place with a society, civilization, culture and a rich heritage that would be awesome to explore further if there was ever a reason to do so.  As it is, I'm good with what I got, but the feeling that there could be more is enough.

- The Army captain at the end (and I forgot her name.  Forgot the other guy's name too, so whatever) - "Sir, I think he's kind of hot."  Yes. Yes they went there (hey, we were all thinking it. She just said it).
       - Also - "I grew up in Kansas. You don't get any more American than that." That was a nice note to end on.  Kept the general feel of the movie light.  This isn't The Dark Knight, after all.

Man of Steel is the movie that a legendary superhero such as Superman deserves and he finally got.  The character was treated with respect and honor and he was given an origin story fitting for his character.  It feels like something our pessimistic and cynical society can look to with hope and positivity.

Now, when can we get Christopher Nolan to do something awesome for Wonder Woman?

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