Saw Man of Steel. For the record, I wanted to see This Is the End. I was outvoted by a combination of spouse and housemate interest, and the fact that I have an early morning ride tomorrow and the time was more convenient.
Gotta say, I wish I’d just stuck with it for This Is the End.
Light spoilers follow, I suppose, if you consider the revelation of how much real estate gets blown up and where a significant spoiler.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of Superman as a character. In the droves of comic book movies and their respective main characters, I think the only one I ever cared even less about was the Hulk, and for very similar reasons. They’re both a bit too stupidly powerful for me to really find them interesting. But then Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo used their amazing wondertwin powers to get me to admit yeah, okay, maybe I could give a crap about the Hulk now.
So I was kind of hoping that Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan and generic strong-jawed white guy Henry Cavill could work the same magic. I’m sorry to say that was not the case, and all I feel I really got out of my evening was an excellent pizza at the Alamo Drafthouse and a new movie soundtrack I want to buy. Because all the bitching I’m about to do about this movie aside, the score for Man of Steel is excellent.
My biggest general complaint about Man of Steel is that it feels like it was trying to be about too many things and go too many places at once. We get to see bits of Clark’s past peeking through during the entire movie, but a lot of time without the full significance ever actually being explained. The movie never feels quite coherent, the major scenes never quite connected.
And the exposition. There is a lot more exposition in this movie than I’m normally prepared to take, I think because there is such a lack of development in the plotlines. It has to be verbally explained away, which is never a good thing. There is one character, I will call him General McDimpleChin, who seemed to only exist for the purpose of providing exposition or asking kind of dumb questions to enable other characters to do exposition.
The disconnection between the narrative threads also turned into a disconnection between characters. The only characters I ever felt any real chemistry or emotional connection between were basically young Clark and his parents and… Faora and Colonel Hardy, who had the most giant battle hateboners for each other that it kind of took my breath away. Lois and Clark didn’t have much going on, probably because any relationship development time was abandoned in favor of destroying a few more blocks of New York City Metropolis. (By the way, I’m pretty sure Superman personally destroyed more acreage than Loki did in Avengers, which I find quite hilarious.) The only other time a movie has ever made me wish for less destruction and fewer explosions was in Transformers 2. Well, I guess this movie at least didn’t involve a lot of slow motion shots of people running away, but it’s probably not a good thing when Man of Steel gets compared in my mind to a Michael Bay film. But for goodness sake, I would have rather a few more buildings got to stand and we had more character development. Plus Superman’s apparent lack of concern for flattening an entire town while he had his fight felt very, very weird from what I know of the character.
(For another point on this and the reason I didn’t care for the ending, please see the review in Locus. It’s more coherent and thoughtful than I could manage, and also lets me keep this basically spoiler free.)
And since I’ve mentioned the Marvel franchise, I’ll note yet another problem I had with Man of Steel: this movie wasn’t having any fun, and therefore it was difficult to sit in the audience and have fun with it. The Marvel movies have always been incredibly playful; I think DC could have done with stealing a bit of that. They’ve already got one hideously serious superhero franchise (Batman). They didn’t need another. And come on. Superman wars red underpants over his tights. How serious can he be? There’s about two minutes of Clark having a good time when he figures out how to fly, and the only real verbal playfulness in the movie ended up in the trailer, when Lois asks him about the S.
Now, it was a visually beautiful movie. Though in the field of pretty, it honestly had nothing on Oblivion. However, unlike Oblivion, Man of Steel did not actively piss me off. It just annoyed me and occasionally made me slap my palm to my forehead. And while it’s not saying much, a couple of the women in this movie got some actual agency, unlike in Oblivion. Lois Lane sure does some stuff in between screaming uselessly and needing to be rescued, even if we never have any idea why. And then there’s Faora. She had agency, and decided to use that agency to be a giant BAMF and punch missiles in the face (no, really). Which was a very nice change from the sighing over Superman’s chiseled jawline and needing to be caught up in his manly arms.
Though I will note one thing I found interesting. Even if the female characters were what I’ve come to expect from a comic book movie for the most part, they generally weren’t visually objectified. Take Faora, over there on the right.
I mean holy shit. They dressed her in armor that actually looks like, you know, armor. There’s not even a boob window! And there was at least one other female Kryptonian, who had the same sort of armor. Also, in the scenes that involved the US military, there were actually visibly women in uniform, combat ready. That impressed me a lot.
I’d guess it’s fun if you like that sort of movie. If you’re really in to Superman. I have it on good authority from my housemate that this one is immeasurably better than the previous Superman movie, though that apparently also isn’t hard to do. And it is, of course, Zack Snyder pretty. But if you’re like me and have never been that excited about the concept or the character, you might want to just to see something else or risk spending close to two hours of your life picking at nagging plot threads that never seem to quite connect. Now, I can’t say if This Is the End is any better yet, but I intend to find out soon.