I am a comic book fan. Not a movie made from a comic book fan, but a comic book fan. I have boxes and boxes of comic books and have lost even more comics than I have. So when the big budget studios go out and decide to do a movie based on a comic book character I am instantly critical. I grew up with the comics and they as much a part of my being as baseball and hamburgers and beautiful waitresses at the neighborhood diner…but that’s a different story.
Superman: Man of Steel. The latest offering from Hollywood to tell the story of the son of Krypton. This may be the worst rendition of the Superman mythos yet. It is certainly a lot closer to Superman Returns than Christopher Reeves Superman. The Origin story is retold and with added intrigue because the original story must have left much to be desired. Baby Kal-el is sent from the dying planet Krypton to Earth to save his life by his parents. That is the original. In this reboot he is sent to Earth because he carries with him the total consciousness of the planet and all its people in his DNA. To be fair, back when Superman first came to be DNA wasn’t quite a part of the American lexicon as it is today.
What I loved about the Superman comics was that what was great about the Last Son of Krypton was what was also wrong about him. He could do no wrong. He could not lie. He could not steal. He could not kill. These virtues were as much a challenge to defeating his enemies as anything they could do themselves. Superman would have to figure out how to defeat the bad guys and not bring these rules. Superman had to be smart.
Enter the movie biz and their short cuts to telling a good story.
In Man of Steel. Superman’s parents send him to Earth with all of Krypton in his DNA, which they stole and when confronted with during the act resort to violence and killing Kryptonians to aid in baby Superman’s escape. This is all happening during a military coup by General Zod and his band of baddies who are caught and exiled into the Phantom Zone. Which, did anyone else notice that Zod and his crew where basically sealed inside of giant dildos and jettisoned into space? I could not be the only one to see that.
Kal-el crashes in Smallvile where he is found and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Jonathan who is played by aging actor Kevin Costner brings absolutely nothing to the film. He continually tells young Clark (Kal-el) to hide his power by lying about what he is and can do; and even stands meekly by as Clark is bullied and beaten by other boys. As a surrogate father Costner is incredibly weak as Jonathan Kent. There is even a scene where Clark screams out at Jonathan that he is not his father. Stolen directly from Spider-man before Peter Parker goes in to earn money as a wrestler. So you know, Jonathan had to die right after that just like Ben Parker did.
Martha Kent is played by eternally young and gorgeous Diane Lane who in her role as the sole surviving parent gives Clark more advice and direction than he ever got from Jonathan. Plus when she is on the screen, as usual, she is the only thing worth watching. Hint to movie producers out there, don’t even try to make Diane Lane unattractive, it just cannot be done.
Clark eventually begins to use his super powers for good with the help of Martha Kent as the common sense Earth mother and Jor-el his Krytonian father (An incredibly annoying Russell Crowe) who lives on as a simulated hologram. Also note in this doing good quietly phase Clark reaches into an open vehicle and takes clothes out of it. That people is called stealing. If you don’t believe me, try reaching into a stranger’s car this holiday season and take something. See what happens. And when the cops take you away mentioned that it cannot be a bad thing since Superman does it.
While all this is happening Zod and his crew escape the phantom zone and go in search of Kal-el. Upon arriving in Earth they threaten to kill everyone on the planet until he is delivered. Superman gives himself up, Lois Lane hops along for the ride and then the madness ensues. There are battles galore and a lot of destruction to towns and buildings alike. It hard to believe in all of this that civilians, innocent people Superman swore to protect, aren’t killed.
In the end, in a choice between letting a small family from being killed by lasers coming out of Zod’s eyes, Superman must kill Zod by snapping his neck. Which was incredibly easy to do even though they had just spent the last fifthteen minutes throwing one another through buildings and pretty much trashing Smallville and Metropolis. Of course after doing so, Superman breaks down in tears. I’m sure Dr. Phil was offset waiting to rush in and help him through this.
Superman lies, steals, and kills, but that’s okay because he cries afterwards. He is so remorseful. I’m sure he had therapy. He will probably do an Oprah or Piers Morgan interview to tell you how sorry he was. Like I said; Man of Steel Magnolias.
In the Christopher Reeves’ Superman what made that work was Reeve’s portrayal of Clark Kent. Not just by humanizing him but making his morality such a part of who he was. Reeves’ Clark Kent had an unwavering sense of right and wrong and that all people were essentially good if you gave them the chance. This new Superman blurs the lines and as can be said of too many men these days, has the inability to stand on one side of the other of what is truly right or wrong. Truth, Justice and the American Way were once Superman’s motto but this new Superman is unable to stand so firm and strong. If that isn’t a reflection of our times than I don’t know what is.
In the comics Batman often refers to Superman as the Boy Scout. As I mentioned before, in the comics Superman did not compromise his moral beliefs to defeat an enemy he rose above it. In this; Superman; Man of Steel fails miserably.
I understand the sequel will contain Batman and perhaps members of the Justice League. I hope so. Otherwise it worries me to think that a generation will grow up thinking this weak substitute is a true rendition of Superman – Man of Steel.