It’s that time of the week again. This week with Friday Flix we go super—at least Superman is in this one. Was I excited for a new Superman movie? Definitely yes! Did the movie live up to my expectations? Well, let’s just say Man of Steel was Man of Stilted. Disappointed? I was too.
I mean something produced by Christopher Nolan should be awesome, right? That’s what I thought, too. Let’s just say if you like spectacle more than you like story then this movie is for you.
The description from IMDB.com :
A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.
Kind of sounds boring already, doesn’t it? So what is it about Man of Steel that was Man of Stunk? Let’s get started!
THE THING ABOUT BACKSTORY
Backstory is not a bad thing. If you have been in writing long enough you understand that while backstory is necessary you don’t want to clutter up the beginning of your story with a lot of flashbacks and info dumping. If you caught any of the previews, you know Man of Steel will do a little bit of backstory because it’s necessary to understand where Superman is coming from—especially those who don’t know much about the Supes.
However, the problem with backstories or flashback is that it slows the story down. You’ve got to know when to put it in and when it’s appropriate. If you just put it in there willy nilly you’ll bore your readers and your story won’t have much meaning.
The issue I had with the backstory in Man of Steel was that the writers spent hardly any time having us get to know Clark Kent in the present. We see a lot of scenes of him rescuing people, and an awful lot of brooding, but there weren’t very many of those getting-to-know-you moments except in flashbacks.
I guess the point they were trying to make the movie is that he was kind of a misfit/loner in the beginning, uncertain of himself. But it doesn’t work well for a movie if your main character is just breathing and not interacting because we can’t see what’s inside of his head on screen. We didn’t really get to connect with Supes and so when supposedly important battles would happen, I found myself not caring because they hadn’t created any real meaning. The only affinity I had for Supes was young Supes. In fact, part of me wished we could just watch that part of the movie instead.
Oh wait, they’ve done that.
THE THING ABOUT FAMOUS CHARACTERS
I’m sorry to even have to remind you, but remember the atrocity that was the Star Wars Prequels? No, I’m not saying Man of Steel was that bad. But I think the movies have a problem in common, and that’s great works preceding them.
Part of what made the prequels fail is George Lucas treated the material like we should already have an affinity with already known characters simply because we already know them. Anakin easily turned evil because we all know he becomes Darth Vader anyway. So of course whatever whim George chose to get him to turn Darth was justified, because, hey, it’s Darth Vader.
Okay, enough digression. Let’s come back to Supes. I want those of you who have seen the movie to think over it very carefully. If you had no idea who Superman was at all before watching the movie, would it have really been that interesting to you? Can you name even one moment where we understood why Superman chooses to do what he does (other than cuz someone told him to…zzz…)
When you’re retelling a story—or any story really—you should take the time to build up a rapport with the main character and the audience so that they have more reasons than because it’s Superman, a character I already like for the MC to succeed in his/her goals. That way when big battles happens or Peter Jackson-long fight scenes happens it has meaning. It’s not just a spectacle for the sake of spectacle.
I CAME FOR THE STORY, NOT THE DEMOLITION DERBY
This touches on another of my issues with a lot of movies in general these days. This last weekend at a small town parade, they had a few smashed up cars drive past to let everyone know the demolition derby would be happening.
For those of you who don’t know what the demolition derby is, it’s basically a bunch of old junk cars in a rodeo arena that the smash into each other. It’s a bunch of action with no meaning other than seeing cars smash into each other.
A lot of movies today, like Transformers, probably a big chunk of Pacific Rim—you know the types—are more for the action and CG and all that crud and story becomes an afterthought. If this is the future of movies, I think I’ll stick to Redbox and the Dollar Theater. It’s just not worth $9-14+ for 100 minutes of demolition derby and 20 minutes of story.
YOU KNOW IT’S TROUBLING WHEN…
I knew the movie wasn’t cutting it when about 1.5 hours in I caught myself wondering if I could walk out of the movie out of sheer boredom. I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t care about the villain. Supes wasn’t all that interesting, and everything felt unemotional and cold. All in all, if you’re all about story like me, I’d say leave it until Redbox. Seriously.
I also got really tired of crowd reaction shots. If the theater paid you a nickel for every time you saw a bunch of people looking up at something, you’d probably have the money you spent back, and maybe even enough for concessions.
The scenes with Kevin Costner were pretty good. I would have liked to see them use Supes’ earth Dad as more of a motivation for what he does. It was already built into the movie, they just needed a couple scenes to connect the dots.
Henry Caville makes a pretty good Superman.
I think if he actually had a story to act in, rather than just tromping around like a broody weirdo. I also liked all the carefully placed Lexcorp shots. It was at least interesting during the too long fight scenes to see if I could spot some Lexcorp property before it got destroyed.
The soundtrack was decent too, especially coming off the heels of John Williams. It’s very different than the John Williams days and yet still speaks to the grandiosity of a Superman story. Thanks Hans Zimmer!
Like I said, Redbox.
Have you seen the movie? Do you agree? What do you think Zack Snyder did well? What could they have improved on? Do you think we’ll ever get a better Superman movie than the Richard Donner days?
Postscript: For fun, this is my opinion of the Superman media in order of greatest to stink. Superman II, Superman I, DCAU Superman, Smallville, Max Fleischer Superman, Lois & Clark, Man of Steel, Superman III, Superman Returns, Superman IV.