Picoreview: Man of Steel: I may have a new favorite superhero movie. Wow. This and X2 and I don’t know, maaaaaaaaaaaybe Avengers, which I loved but didn’t hit all the grace notes the way X2 did for me, but anyway, yeah, wow.
It’s clear not everybody agrees with me, which is perfectly reasonable. I’ve seen reviews that think this is a movie without joy or delight or charm. I completely disagree, but possibly should offer up a Heretical Disclaimer along with that disagreement: As with the Star Wars movies, I didn’t see the Christopher Reeve Superman movies until I was an adult. The result is that unlike almost everyone of my generation, I think they’re nearly unwatchably bad. Yes: Reeve is absolutely wonderful. He embodies both Clark Kent and Superman. Everything surrounding him, though, is god-awful (I am Lex Luthor! I am an evil genius! How do you know? Because I’ve told you so about fifty times, although I have not done a single thing to prove it! I am Lois Lane! I am the original Girl Reporter! Everyone admires my investigative skills! I can’t figure out Clark is Superman! I am Marlon Brando Jor El! I’m a right bastard! (Well, okay, to be fair, that and Lois’s weird inability are straight out of the comics.)) and consequently instead of having painfully high expectations for Superman movies, I have painfully low ones. I did not, in other words, go in with much hope for this movie, or any nostalgia for what has come before.
And I loved it. I honestly did. I can’t wait to go see it again. I would have turned around and gone back in to watch it again immediately if it had been an option, and I can count the number of movies I’ve felt that way about in the past decade on one hand. So, yeah. I just loved it.
If they cannot give me a Wonder Woman film of this calibre before doing a Justice League movie, I will not see Justice League. It will kill me, but seriously, there is no reason that they should be unable to put together a Wonder Woman story this good, and not introducing Wonder Woman in her own film before doing a Justice League movie would be nothing but pure, absolute, sexist bullshit.
This review will be Full Of Spoilers. You are warned. I waste no time getting to the spoilers after the cut.
THANK YOU FOR LOIS LANE FIGURING IT OUT IMMEDIATELY, MOVIE GUYS.
Seriously, OMG, it’s the only time ever that Lois has been treated like an actual top-notch investigative reporter. Like five seconds in, she’s knocking on Martha Kent’s door. Okay, it’s more like 45 minutes in, because it’s a long movie, but still, Lois does what any decent reporter would, which is follows the breadcrumbs back to the Kent farm. And Martha Kent is not at all surprised that somebody finally showed up on the doorstep. I loved Teri Hatcher as Lois; she is my Lois…or she was. Because this is what Lois should have done seventy-five years ago–
–although to be fair to Lois Of Old, this movie really does focus on Clark As Alien. It’s an origin story unlike any other version we’ve seen, in that Clark Kent, Mild-Mannered Reporter, is not established at the Daily Planet when we meet him. We meet him in the wild, being an undercover hero, still trying to find his path after a lifetime of Kevin Costner telling him to be really, really careful, Clark.
No, that’s not true. There’s never any doubt about his path. The question is whether humanity will accept or reject him, and I thought they did a really good job with showing that choice being made through the course of the movie. It comes out with the military, when at first the orders are “shoot all the aliens,” and which transform into “He’s one of ours.”
But maybe the best way of seeing his acceptance is through Pete Ross, who knows from childhood that Clark is…well. Clark. And he hasn’t ever talked about it. So does Lana. In fact, it’s hard not to come away pretty certain that basically all of Smallville has chosen the “Iowa way to treat you–if we treat you, which we may not do at all / But we’ll give you our shirt and the back to go with it if your crop should happen to die” way of dealing with Clark. Yeah: everybody knows. No: nobody’s going to talk about it, because it’s not their business, especially if outsiders come poking around.
And really, given that Zod comes to the Kent farm*, it’s not really much of a secret to the military, either. Which does lead to one of the “er, what?” moments late in the film, when they’re nominally trying to discover where Clark hangs his hat…as if they could possibly not know. But a lot of the people who did know got killed, and I’m not convinced that the surviving military leader who was trying to find him isn’t being…deliberately obtuse.
On the severaleth hand, because all this happens before Clark joins the Daily Planet, and he does not, y’know, change his name once there, it’s not like the military’s going to be unable to find him. But on yet another hand, what exactly are they gonna do? He’s *Superman*, and thus far, there is no Kryptonite.
And speaking of people getting killed, I went with Kate and at one point she leaned over to me and said, “You couldn’t take it out of the city, boys?” Because wow, the destruction. It makes Avengers look like a walk in the park. And people are understandably upset about that, because wow, the destruction. The deaths.
OTOH: alien invasion. Not very many aliens, it’s true, but when they’re all Kryptonian, you don’t *need* very many to obliterate the earth.
And from a movie-maker’s point of view, well, yes, it might have been more in character for Clark to take it out over the ocean or into the mountains to protect the people and the city, but for set pieces, knocking down a city looks cooler.
So I don’t remember Kryptonian destinies being as fixed as they are. This may just be me not knowing the mythology well enough, but on this Krypton, they’re bred, genetically engineered, for their jobs, and Kal El is Jor and Lara’s blow against that system. That worked just fine for me, but it did make the very end of the film a little sadder, I thought. Zod is actually terrifically good, and his purpose, the thing he was bred for, is to protect the people of Krypton. He’s therefore going to make a New Krypton of Earth, which is pretty typically Zod-ish, but at the end, he’s lost everything: Superman has stopped him terraforming Earth.
But there is a Kryptonian left to protect. And I really expected Clark to point that out: “Then protect me.” Come to the light side of the Force, or whatever. I was actually kind of surprised that he didn’t even try that before they got into their personal Obliterate Metropolis throwdown.
(I did think, when Clark threw the first punch at Zod, that he had to be going FINALLY. SOMEBODY I CAN HIT. 33 years of pent-up frustration in that punch. :))
The bit with the priest. I loved the bit with the priest. :) And speaking of which, although there is the scene with the priest, and because people dislike the Superman As Jesus thing, I gotta say, there was a lot less noticeable Christ-on-the-cross-flight-pose in this than I noticed in Superman Returns, which seemed rife with it. And I *noticed* during this that I hadn’t, y’know, noticed that, so I think that’s good. Because Superman is not, in fact, Jesus. :)
Also, there’s a moment where Superman is walking across a wasteland, except after a few steps he just lifts up into the air and flies across. Not in flight position, but just standing upright, a couple feet above the ground, zips over to where he’s going, and after a minute lands. This is classic comic book imagery, and I’d never seen it done so successfully in a film (or possibly at all). It made me really happy.
Oh! Another nice bit was when the spaceship comes down over New York Metropolis, the air is hazy, like, polluted-looking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, either. Usually they come out of unbelievably clear skies (even if it’s thunderclouds and doom, there’s no pollution haze), and I thought it was a *really* nice little touch to what the sky over New York Metropolis looks like.
The one thing I missed from the previous iterations of Superman on the big screen and small? The trumpet. There were moments in this where even I really did want John Williams’ score to sing out with that lonely trumpet, moments where I thought it would have brought something to the film. Even just once would have been a beautiful nod. I understand why they didn’t, but it’s the one thing I’d’a kinda liked to have seen.
*okay it’s faora not zod but SHE’S HIS MINION. she is also the most bad-ass, freaking awesome minion in the history of miniondom. omg.