Last week, MAN OF STEEL debuted in theatres and four members of the Lounge team saw the film: myself, Rachel, Chris and Mike. Only 1 of the 4 of us really enjoyed the movie, and I am not the one who did.
Note: Spoilers may be found in the review below so be warned if you have yet to see the film and still plan to.
Personally, I have a hard time accepting Man of Steel as a true Superman film — it’s a pretty good science fiction movie about a dying planet and how a battle between two strong individuals with differing political philosophies has carried over decades to our world. A fascist Zod working for the glory of preserving Krypton vs. Jor-El, who wants to preserve Krypton so that aspects of it will endure beyond it’s natural death. On that level the film works, but in order to get to the third act, a series of really silly coincidences lead to Jor’s son Kal activating a ship that gets the attention to the surviving Kryptonians who managed to escape the Phantom Zone years before. When Earth is threatened to surrender Kal-El, Kal takes up the fight against the surviving fascist Kryptonians and battles them for the survival of his race as well as humanity.
It just so happens that Kal-El is Superman, and Superman is a beloved character of strong ideals that has endured 75 years — but very few of those ideals are represented in Man of Steel, so we end up with a Miracleman-esque battle between super-powered aliens similar to other Miracleman inspired films of recent vintage like Chronicle and Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. Unborn Kryptonians are slaughtered by Superman without much regret, and dozens of buildings crumble and millions clearly would have died in the carnage that destroyed huge areas of downtown Metropolis and Kal-El does little to move the battle away from these heavily populated areas.
Superman’s solution to defeating Zod is right out of Moore’s Miracleman, as he feels Zod cannot be redeemed. He is “forced to eliminate” his enemy by doing the same thing to Zod that Miracleman did to young Bates — and it reinforces my opinion that this not Superman, as Superman’s strength as a character is that he always finds a way to do the right thing, Zod wants him to kill him – Superman’s strength would be to find a way not to give in to his enemy’s death wish… so in a sense, Zod wins the fight by getting the death he wanted. That’s hardly a victory for Superman.
While the previous film, Superman Returns is a failure on many levels, it still understood just exactly who Superman was and what he was capable of and it had the one thing that Man of Steel sorely lacks: HEART.
The film ends with the traditional status quo established hurriedly, albeit one change is that one character knows that Clark is also Superman, so the dynamic will be confused in the next outing. Since somehow the Planet building escaped the devastation unharmed, and no one seems particularly phased by it – it’s business as usual. Would have been nice if there had been at least a memorial service and perhaps Superman could have addressed the world to explain himself and apologize for failing so miserably to protect the people of Earth and committed to being a helping hand and protector. Instead he’s back to hiding among us.
Superman movies worth watching are:
Supeman the Motion Picture
Superman II (and/or the Donner Cut)
Superman cartoons by Max and Dave Fleisher
On the flip side of things Scott Snyder and Jim Lee did a pretty solid job on SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1, the third monthly New 52 Superman title. With Grant Morrison’s departure, the messup with Andy Diggle and the confusion over the direction of Superman itself, it’s actually nice to see a Superman book with some cohesion. Aside from Lee’s popular visuals, the story has great character moments and insight into Superman himself. I particularly enjoyed the scene with Lex Luthor.
I won’t recommend skipping Man of Steel the movie — you have to make your own minds up — but if you want to read a solid Superman comic, Superman Unchained is worth checking out. Although there probably isn’t a need for a third Superman title, Superman Unchained quickly establishes itself as the one Superman title you should be reading.
Other Superman books worth reading:
Superman – Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? by Alan Moore, Curt Swan and Dave Gibbons
Superman: Earth One books 1 and 2 by JMS and Shane Davis
Superman: The Man of Steel Volumes 1-7 by John Byrne, Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest by Karl Kesel and Steve Rude
Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
We’ve also got some great compilation trades on sale:
Superman vs. Brainiac
Superman vs. Lex Luthor
Superman vs. Shazam!
Superman vs. Zod
The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olson
Superman: 3-2-1 Action!