I did an explanation post for The Hobbit back in January, and I enjoyed writing it so much I thought I might do something similar for all the big movies this summer – or at least those films I’ve had to defend the most to people.
Disclaimer: These posts do NOT mean I do not appreciate and agree with a lot of the criticisms and fan-feeling towards these films. They just an attempt to understand why I liked them so much more than I expected myself to. It’s not a defence, but an explanation.
So without further ado, here is why I loved Man of Steel. There will of course be spoilers!!
I have already reviewed Man of Steel, but I want to go into a few aspects that made the movie stand out for me. And yes, some of these might be slightly “in answer” to criticisms simply because I want to explain why I enjoyed those aspects.
Point one: Plot. I have made it no secret that I actually enjoyed Superman Returns, but the idea of Lex Luthor doing it all for real estate never sat well with me (or most people, I should think), which is why Man of Steel feels like a return to form for the franchise. Here we have villains with not only clear motives, but almost sympathetic ones. General Zod does have a duty to his people, and how far that duty should go is a matter of debate. After all, in his eyes, since Krytonians are superior, should they not have every right to Earth? Even at his most villainous, his conviction makes you think about him as more than just a man who wants to destroy the planet (for us).
On Clark’s side there is clear desire for answers, then the acceptance of his role. Though a little thin, his story felt more real than any other Superman tale I have personally seen. The sheer joy on his face when he tells Martha he finally knows where he comes from is contagious. The pain he feels after the final confrontation with Zod is heartfelt and complex: he feels extreme guilt for doing it, anger at Zod for not accepting his own fate, anger at himself for not finding a different solution, anger maybe even at the people who he had to save, and of course grief at the loss of his last fellow Kryptonian.
The film balances all these moments with good, hard action. It’s not always perfect, as I mention in my review, but it keeps the momentum up for far longer than I anticipated. I didn’t want it to end to be honest. Besides, as the title of the post says, this isn’t the place to rehash criticism, but to celebrate what’s good about the film.
Point two: dialogue. Sure, with lines like “He saved us” I don’t blame people for not liking the script, but there are some absolutely brilliant moments in this film. Thanks to the perfect pitch of the actors, scenes that would have been theatrical to the point of laughter came across as pure badassery. A few of my favourites include Faora’s evolution line, and everything that came out of Russell Crowe’s mouth (I might not have been liking the actual words there). Also, those little quips from the sidelines like “A good death is its own reward” thrown back at Faora, or “He’s kind of hot.”
One particular moment that stands out is when Zod goes to take over the genesis ship and say goodbye to the hologram of Jor-El. (I haven’t seen the film since it came out, so forgive the errors) “You’re talking about genocide” Jor-El says. “Yes, and I am arguing its merits with a ghost” Zod snaps. The exchange ends with Zod’s grim threat: “I will harvest the codex from your son’s corpse and rebuild Krypton atop his bones!” Instead of being over-the-top camp, it just made me grin and go “oh snap.”
Point three: the destruction. Another criticism I’ve heard and can sympathise with. However, I just never considered it while watching the film. To me, it included just the right level of destruction considering Earth was being invaded by a military force of slightly superior technology. Clark does initiate the destruction: when Zod threatens Martha he rams him through a field, silo and gas station, hopefully not injuring anyone, but there’s no guarantee. I liked that. It showed how blinded by rage he became that he finally released his own strength. Consider it in relation to the scene at the truck stop. Here Clark stands, jaw-clenched, as he allows a man half his size to pour beer all over him. This time, however, he is free to pound away, justified in his rage considering what they just did to him and Lois, and what their plan is for Earth.
Afterwards it’s a free for all. The military don’t waste any time at all in shooting up a small town – they fire missiles and bullets a’plenty without any hesitation. At least Clark warns the populace to get inside before engaging the enemy. Afterwards our guys agree to destroy a ship right over Metropolis by smashing it together with another ship to create a singularity – without even so much as asking if parts of the city might be sucked in. This is hardly surprising. They are defending the whole Earth after all. One city is worth sacrificing. Independence Day bombed a city with a nuclear device. Yes, it had been devastated beforehand – just like Metropolis was in the process of being, actually.
So when I saw the film I saw Clark and the military fighting as hard as they could to defeat an invading army. Casualties and destruction are inevitable and make for exciting cinema.
Then there’s the killing of Zod. To me, it illustrated perfectly the choice Clark had to make – and had been struggling with for the whole film: where did he belong? All his life he had been searching for answers. Then he meets holo-dad and is told he is to be this perfect example for humanity. He seems to accept this, but that also means choosing Earth over Krypton. This is of course why he fights, but fighting Zod also means he can’t just let people die because Zod wants to prove a point and murder people.
Morality is always relative, and including that choice made Superman ten times more interesting to me. Forget “character purity” or canon, why wouldn’t you want a more nuanced character? But more than that: I believe he did the right thing, and so he is still morally right and good, able to stand for truth and justice and all that. And before you comment: there is a huge difference between smashing a brick wall where there might be people behind, because someone threw you into it, and letting someone melt a family with laser-eyes while you have the power to stop it. I really hope his choice is still haunting him during the sequel – that is how much I loved this part.
Point four: Henry Cavill. Just him, really. Every eyebrow lift and sigh just felt pure Clark Kent. More than that, I think, is that I really love movies where I feel the cast and crew are having a good time working on it. And you just get that sense in Man of Steel. Yes, it’s a darker film than the other superhero movies this year, but it had a “Oh my God, we get to make a Superman movie!” feeling to it. I can not wait to devour the extra material when I get my hands on a DVD.
That is it for now. I will be doing Star Trek Into Darkness next, hopefully. Until then I will be reviewing Hannah Arendt tomorrow, which was very fascinating.