Superman wins! At least he wins the question, “Who can destroy Manhattan more, the Avengers or Superman?” (OK it's "Metropolis" in Man of Steel. Whatever.)
Spoiler Warning: I’m assuming you have seen the movie, so there are spoilers ahead, though if anyone goes into this movie not knowing the back story of Superman’s origins, and that Superman wins at the end, and that no one important dies (sorry Pa Kent), were you even born in America?
I just saw the new Superman movie and it was, well... Let me begin by making some observations. Did anyone else think the army of Zod should have been called Necromongers and led by Vin Diesel? Did anyone else think Supes’ battle with the World Engine would have been more fun if Elastigirl, Frozone, and the kids had helped? Did anyone else expect the fighter planes attacking Zod’s space ship to upload a computer virus to bring it down? Did anyone else expect Shoeless Joe Jackson to step out of that cornfield and tell young Clark to build it and they will come? Did anyone else sit through this movie for the first time feeling like they had seen it before?
Not to mention the whole, “Didn’t the Avengers just do this movie?” thing.
I mean, how many times have we seen a city demolished in the last few years? From Independence Day to the Avengers, heck, even to Inception -- but they just bent a city. Still, OK, we know, we know, CGI software can do great cities and crumbling concrete and shattered glass. Cities have been so done. I know Metropolis has a special place in the Superman universe, but couldn’t there have been a line like, “No! Not here. This is between you and me, no more of our people need to die!” Then they go off and fight in the Grand Canyon or at the South Pole (although Clark already did his romp in the arctic, so maybe the Amazon rain forest or the Gobi desert. Whatever). Anywhere but yet another crumbling, shattering, glittering, toppling, exploding city.
Because this does raise a major question about Superman’s morality. He has already destroyed Smallville, the town he grew up in. How many innocent people died in that battle? He has already semi-destroyed Metropolis. How many died? Hasn’t he just knowingly and willingly obliterated the harvesting chamber from the Matrix (I mean the Kryptonian Genesis Chamber thingie -- but seriously wasn’t it almost exactly like the Matrix baby farms, even down to plucking the gooey pink baby bubble off the vine via machine, just like in the Matrix?) thus killing unknown millions of his own Kryptonian people? Hasn’t he then continued to demolish Metropolis, killing even more unknown numbers of innocent humans, only to cry and scream when a small family of people are threatened by Zod’s heat vision, thus giving Supes “justification” for breaking Zod’s neck? And then, and only then, does he weep for having been “forced” to kill. Seriously? Wasn’t he watching the movie for the past hour?
I think this aspect of the film bothered me more than any other. The idea that, as long as Mom, Lois and Perry survive (and that girl trapped under five thousand pounds of rubble that Perry White and Steve Lombard (yeah, me too... Who? Why not just make him Jimmy Olsen?) managed to shift using a street sign as a lever), who cares how many innocent people die? Who weeps for collateral damage? It’s a problem I have been having for years with all these movies but, really, this is the first time I was kind of offended. I mean, usually the heroes (the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Batman, whoever) climb out of the rubble, have a moment, go for Shawarma or whatever, and get back to work. Sure lots of people have died, but that’s war and so on. I was offended by the fact that Superman, apparently, only cares about human life in the abstract, or when he can look into your eyes. If you get crushed under a collapsing building three blocks away, no tears for you.
I just would have liked to see the scene where Supes stands up after killing Zod, looks down sadly at the body, makes eye contact with the family who almost died, and then raises his head to gaze around him at the ruined city and weeps for the thousands who have died before their time, only to be comforted by Lois, big kissy-kissy business. Annnnnnd scene! See? Isn’t that better?
Other than the fact that the film feels like a pastiche, and that Superman has this whole bizarre ethical issue, I rather enjoyed the film. Henry Cavill does a fine job as the Man of Steel and even manages a reasonable mid-western accent (eat your heart out Hugh Laurie!). He is definitely buff enough for the role (Chris Reeve was great, but never looked “super” enough in the muscles department). It was nice to see Laurence Fishburne in a good role again (I like Fishburne, but had to stop watching CSI while he was on, it was just awful. Not his fault, really, but thank god for Ted Danson). Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is top notch. The rest of the cast is fine. Harry Lennix does his patented gruff but compassionate soldier, as does Christopher Meloni. They paid a slight homage to Superman II by giving Zod his female second in command, called Ursa originally and played by Sarah Douglas, this time called Faora-Ul and well-played by Antje Traue. And the giant Kryptonian, Non, originally played by Jack O’Halloran, returns, though in a much diminished role (we never get to see his face) played by 6’ 6” Revard Dufresne and named Dev-Em; at one point he picks up Superman and flops him around by the ankles just like the Hulk did Loki in the Avengers, but that doesn’t stop ol’ Supes! No way! (Loki is a puny god.) The evil Kryptonian scientist, Jax-Ur, played by Mackenzie Gray, is played with a German accent straight from every WWII-influenced movie you have ever seen. There were a few real clunkers of line readings (the “I just think he’s hot” girl at the end, for example) but, for the most part, the performances are solid.
Just a few more points. The storage for the genetic code of every Kryptonian yet to be born is a hominid skull? (Krypto habilis?) Huh? Why wasn’t it a modern Kryptonian skull? Why a skull at all? Were they planning to breed apes?
The entire history of Krypton is expressed through an animated 1930’s WPA mural? Was Diego Rivera from Krypton? Did I see Lenin down there in the corner? Did anyone notice that Kal-El’s little ship in the mural was a combination of the one from this movie and the 1978 film?
And finally, well, maybe I’m just in re-boot overload, or maybe there have just been too many Superman (and other) re-boots, but after Glenn Ford, John Schneider, and now Kevin Costner as Pa Kent, and Jackie Cooper, Frank Langella, and now Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, and how many Ma Kents have we had? How many Lois Lanes? And how many Supermans since 1978? Look, I’m kinda done. Can we please just do at least three or four movies with Henry Cavill and the current cast? Can we have a little consistency and a few good stories? Can we please stop telling the story of how Superman, Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman, etc., etc., began and just start telling good super hero stories? Please? Can we just start to assume that most of the audience for these movies already knows the back story? Or doesn’t care? Heck, we never had to be told how James Bond became James Bond. It didn’t matter how James T. Kirk became Captain of the Enterprise (until Chris Pine started playing him). Why do super hero movies all have to be about origin stories? Superman has appeared in at least one comic book a month since 1938 (often more than half a dozen books a month). Not to mention movies, cartoons and TV shows. There are literally thousands upon thousands of stories already written. Pick one. Make a movie. Seriously. Can we please just lose the origin stories for at least a generation? Pretty please?
And maybe, just maybe, give a second thought to the collateral damage?