I walked into Man of Steel not knowing what to expect – except that it was a “Superman movie”. I know it’s been out in theaters for a few weeks at this point, but with the holiday weekend approaching, if you’re like me, you might wind up catching a movie or two when you have the time. So I thought it was appropriate I make this post now.
I know that many “official” movie reviewers weren’t too fond of this flick, but I make it a point to never, ever go by official reviewers’ advice. More than half of the time my opinion is not the same as theirs. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking for different things in a feature – a backstory and not necessarily the special effects; or the big screen names that carry the blockbusters don’t always mean I’ll be mesmerized and think it’s a hit.
I hadn’t seen any trailers for Man of Steel, and only heard the movie mentioned in conversation. I’ve always liked Superman movies – well, the classic 80’s Superman I and II, at least. This movie, made me think. It made me think about how it could be improved; it made me think about how on earth they would produce a sequel that’s just as good without getting cheesy (because you just know that most action/superhero movie producers dream of making a sequel); and it made me think about alternative actions the characters could have logically taken during the course of the movie, to alter the outcome. The movie also caused me to ask myself some questions, and it made me reflect on some issues that it subtly brought up in terms of our own reality and the ramifications on our planet right now if we don’t change course.
I think everyone will find parts of Man of Steel, that they like – even if it’s the explanation that the “S” on his chest isn’t really an “S” or how it’s Earth’s proximity to the sun that supercharged him with extraordinary powers. I also think what you like and don’t like about this movie, depends on the kind of movie-goer you are, too. If you are into pure typical superhero special effects (read: Transformers movies), and a sexy siren (read: Megan Fox) - and could care less about the backstory, then you won’t like it as much as I think you will. However, if you’ve seen the 1980s versions of Superman I and II, and appreciate the superhero’s story for what it is worth, with a bit of twenty-first century embellishment, it will be fun comparing the plot lines of movies past to this as you watch Man of Steel. Finally we get the detail we deserve!
And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you are now well-warned that the rest of this blog post contains spoilers, so read it at your own risk!
Pretty much everyone knows the story of Superman – the little boy born on the planet Krypton, who his parents ship to Earth upon that planet’s destruction – who grows up with superhuman strength and uses it for the greater good. We’ve heard about his school age love interest Lana, and later, his attraction to the reporter Lois Lane who tries to uncover his true identity and origin. There was only so much the producers of Man of Steel could do with that basic plot line; however, they really could take the backstory, the story of what happened prior to Krypton’s destruction, and run with it. That’s exactly what they did.
I loved how they exploited the treason of General Zod against the Kryptonian government – seemingly for the greater good, because Kryptonites (Kryptonians?) had drained the planet’s core to produce energy and had exhausted its natural resources. All Zod wanted to do was save the already doomed planet and his people, by forming a coup to take over the existing government, overriding their decision to use all of the remaining planetarial energy sealing the detrimental fate for all. Jor-El, Kal-El’s (Superman’s) father, was a prominent person on Krypton who foresaw the planet’s fate, but didn’t feel that joining Zod’s team was the right way to go. This event creates the rift between the “Superman” klan, and General Zod’s team, which is finally explained and wasn’t touched on in Superman I, decades ago. Jor-El wasn’t exactly an innocent, though; he defied Kryptonian “laws” in his own way and conceived a child with his wife naturally. This was a no-no in their society. Jor-El and his wife, Lara, hid the birth of their baby, and planned to ship him off to safety before their planetarial doomsday came to be.
You see, through genetic engineering and science, Kryptonites had been reproducing their species by growing new beings outside of the womb. They were able to hone them with the qualities they wanted in their people and “grew” each of them for a specific purpose. Each new life was predestined to fill a role in society and was not given the choice to decide what they wanted to be when they grew up. Zod’s predetermined biologically programmed purpose was to preserve the Kryptonian race at all costs – which, he was doing, by trying to save his planet, but in a monstrous way by overthrowing the government.
Right before the planet explodes, Jor-El sends Kal-El (Superman) off into outer space as a baby, to Earth, knowing that its environment could sustain and nurture his son’s life; because the alternative was for him to stay and perish with the rest of his people on Krypton. Also, that’s when Zod and his henchmen were arrested and sentenced to 300 cycles of isolation for their treason. Upon the planet’s abrupt explosion, Zod and his army break free and make it their mission to search the galaxies and find Kal-El and destroy him, since he is the offspring of their enemy, Jor-El – since Jor-El did not side with them.
What struck me as most interesting about the beginning backstory is that we, on Earth, are on the edge of engineering life. We’ve done it already with animals. We can already create life from human cells without needing a womb until those cells need to be sustained and grown into a being. How much longer before our society eliminates the need for a gestation host? It’s a slippery slope. If we have the ability to alter DNA so we can produce humans that are not predisposed to diseases – all fine and good at first. But there is something to be said for natural selection versus producing a homogeneous population which becomes less resistant to new disease and viruses. If these genetically engineered future humans are too much of a carbon copy of each other, then all you need is one new big bad disease to come along and the entire population is decimated. There is no innate differentiation in the future genetic makeup of these individuals to provide a percentage of the population with the ability to have immunity to something new, destructive, and unanticipated.
Not to mention, there is the potential to genetically engineer individuality right out of the door, where those with the means and access to this kind of science will be able to afford blue-eyed, blonde-haired, smart, tall, dark, and handsome offspring, made-to-order. Want to make a million? Pay a million to make a model! I’m sure that the government would think of it as a cost savings to tweak the DNA of these scientifically altered beings so there’s not a bad bone in their bodies (literally), so crimes are never committed. Oh, and need an army? Let’s order up 200,000 well-built, highly trainable, non-emotional babies with a predestined purpose in life similar to those on Krypton. My response: !!!!!
Hollywood certainly hit home with this point when the movie accentuated the pitfalls of using science for good, sometimes backfires in big ways; including the Kryptonians’ decision to abandon outposts on other planets in search of alternative energy sources, and then finally exhaust the planet’s energy supply at the ultimate expense of their existence. It’s the rob Peter to pay Paul syndrome. Why invest billions in finding new energy on Earth now? It’s easier to spend the money to battle over oil and use what we know in terms of technology and resources. No current generation ever worries that something will go so wrong in their own lifetimes; but what about future generations – what about them when they can’t undo the past and turn back time?
Then there were the less-deep facets of the movie that I equally enjoyed for a different type of brain engagement. I loved how FINALLY, finally, a movie maker wove the storylines of Lana and Lois into a tale of cohesive continuity in chronological order! Lana came first; Lois came second. Yay! Who ever cared about Lana anyway? She was portrayed in the 80’s as a mediocre high school girlfriend to Clark Kent. No biggie. In this movie, she was downgraded to a grammar school acquaintance at best. That’s pretty much the placement I would give her too. She was never life-altering in my mind.
Now Lois – she’s cool. She’s intriguing. Maybe it’s the journalist in me that relates to her. Inquisitive and adventurous! I’m glad that they introduced her to the movie as an investigative reporter and “Clark Kent” wasn’t already working at The Daily Planet inexplicably. There wasn’t one single phone booth used for a Superman costume change in this movie, and it wasn’t necessary. The shot of realism introduced into the character of the “superhero” was done perfectly, exemplifying that if anyone had some skills not common to the general population, (i.e. super strength, x-ray vision, the ability to fly, etc.) most likely, because of human nature, they would be treated as an outcast and that would develop someone’s character in of itself.
Now to pick and poke: Towards the end of the movie, when Zod and Superman battle it out, I kept wondering why they thought it was best to go head to head. Both were equally matched in terms of strength and stamina. Zod definitely had the advantage, as he knew Superman cared for Lois and had a soft spot to save his mother. All Zod would have had to do was kidnap either one of them, or both, and it would have been more powerful than any punch he could have thrown. Superman would have surrendered to save them. But – then, if that kind of logic prevailed, there wouldn’t have been the special effects battle scenes that the general audience craves and expects. That said – I think that the battle scene was just too long.
I know that Lois Lane was supposed to be this “serious journalist”… but come on! The styling crew could have sexed her up a bit! I mean, at least give the girl a good pair of shoes! Amy Adams is a pretty woman; but you don’t have to be buttoned up-to-there to show you are career-minded. The attraction factor between Superman and Lois could have been amplified if the producers allowed the stylists to make-over Lois into a twenty-first century version of someone who is fashion forward yet Superman savvy. They certainly didn’t hold back on the muscle-enhancement costume that Henry Cavill wore to accentuate his build! If you give eye-candy to certain movie-viewers, I say give it to all.
As for a sequel – the only way I think one could be justified is if the producers deviated from the original Superman story and came up with some kind of believable, never-told tale. Then again, I think they should just leave it alone and not go for a second session. The problem with most sequels is that they just can’t surpass the first movie, or even match it for that matter. What would be more interesting is to do a prequel - - I would love to know more about Krypton and its people and powers.