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It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a messiah figure!
June 14, 2013 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Although the new Superman movie by Zack Snyder (previously) has put off critics with its appropriation of 9/11 imagery and riled fans with its revision of the superhero's moral code, Warner Bros. Studios is hoping Man of Steel will win over the Christian market. In interviews, Snyder is talking up "Christ-like parallels" in his reboot of the character created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. For those who'd like something more theologically grounded, the studio's marketing department is offering sermon notes entitled "JESUS - THE ORIGINAL SUPERHERO" [PDF] by Dr. Craig Detweiler, M. Div., and organizing free pastor screenings through faith-based PR firm Grace Hill Media. They aren't the first, however, to notice similarities between Jesus and Superman (among other popular cultural figures).
posted by Doktor Zed (220 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
They were talking about this today on CBC radio, and the guy they were interviewing (the author of a book on the subject) maintained that Superman was, like his creators, Jewish. Why else the "man" (which we've been pronouncing wrong this whole time) part of his name?
posted by arcticwoman at 4:50 PM on June 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hollywood marketing to Christian pastors is nothing new. Interview.
posted by dobbs at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2013


OK, but how long will it be before we can include scenes of horrific urban destruction without being accused of appropriating 9/11 imagery? I unabashedly love disaster movies, and special effects tech is finally catching up with what I see in my frequent end-of-the-world dreams, so not seeing Superman is basically letting the terrorists win, IMO.

The Jesus thing; eh, whatever.
posted by Huck500 at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


OK, but how long will it be before we can include scenes of horrific urban destruction without being accused of appropriating 9/11 imagery?

I'm pretty sure it just can't be New York Metropolis.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:55 PM on June 14, 2013


Presumably the specific Christian audience thet are after wants a darker, more violent Jesus who snaps Pontius Pilot's head off as a measure of last resort. Sounds about right for America.

But seriously, fuck Zack Snyder.
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on June 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


Just came back from it, and the Christ parallels would rank somewhere middle in my list of nitpicks if I were to ever make one. But is this really new? Bryan Singer stopped short of actually quoting John 3:16 in Superman Returns.

I'd recommend this one for the reimagined origin story though. I wouldn't say it took chances, but it made narrative and character choices that's more seen in the comics than the cinematic/television versions so far.
posted by cendawanita at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, Jesus is great because he sacrificed himself for all our souls, right? I'm not very up on my Superman gospel, but does he every make a similar sacrifice? The pastor's notes PDF says he sacrifices by handing himself over to Zod, but we all know that he will end up kicking Zod's ass before the movie is over.

I'm betting that the tropes will to flow from Superman to Jesus, and in 150 years there will be an American church that teaches that Jeesuz managed to pull himself free from the crucifix, and then flew over to Rome where he convinced Nero to raise the number of firemen in the city.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:02 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, Hi Artw.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:03 PM on June 14, 2013


The pastor's notes PDF says he sacrifices by handing himself over to Zod, but we all know that he will end up kicking Zod's ass before the movie is over.

We know that in the other story, too. That's the point.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd be actually far more interested in a Superman movie with lots of Yeezuz overtones.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd prefer a Superman movie that plays up the immigrant angle. The Christ thing has always struck me as boring and shallow. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were Christian.
posted by brundlefly at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


Seriously, I thought Superman was Moses, not Jesus.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't think the idea of a violent Jesus is an American invention though. Christianity has been trying to add a violent coda to the story of sacrifice and redemption since St. John The Divine of Patmos penned his screed about how Jesus was going to return and then you'll be sorry, oh yeah let me tell you how fucking sorry you'll be.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:14 PM on June 14, 2013 [27 favorites]


My main question is whether Snyder has read the end of Moore's Marvelman or if this is the end of a long chain of increasingly brainless copies of it.

The Watchmen movie could be evidence for either.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on June 14, 2013


Wouldn't it be more accurate to say Jesus and Superman are both messianic figures?

And this business about invoking 9/11 imagery should be a sign to everyone that maybe we have too much violence in our entertainment.
posted by Xenophon Fenderson at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2013


Mark Waid on how Man of Steel broke his heart.
posted by Artw at 5:16 PM on June 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'd be actually far more interested in a Superman movie with lots of Yeezuz overtones.

I dunno, I think Kanye is more of a Mister Mxyzptlk.

Mark Waid on how Man of Steel broke his heart.

It is funny that all Zack Snyder films seem to turn into a fetishistic yet strangely sterile exercise of violence with vaguely pro-authoritarian nodding. Surely accidental!

I'll be skipping this one. Give me something with a pulse, a wit, and a sense of adventure.
posted by selfnoise at 5:20 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


MAN OF STEEL? MORE LIKE, MANATEE OF STEEL

(MANATEES ARE DISSIMILAR TO SUPERMAN, WHICH IS WHY THIS BURN IS SO EPIC)
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:21 PM on June 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


So does Superman go wandering around in India in his '20s, or not?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:23 PM on June 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


With the lack of phone booths these days, I'm just wondering where the poor guys gonna find a place to change.
posted by jonmc at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


A few years ago I was watching the movie Knowing, where Nicolas Cage is being chased by shadowy figures who are clearly otherworldly while he's trying to figure out if the world is ending, and I thought to myself: either he's being followed by aliens, or he's being followed by angels. If he's being followed by aliens, I'm cool with that; if it's angels, that's garbage. And I stopped myself for a second, because that distinction doesn't make any sense. I don't believe either of them exist, nor do I believe that the movie was seriously trying to convince me that either of them are worth believing in. But still: I find the presence of angels in a movie more galling than the presence of aliens, because whatever specific aliens are depicted in pop culture are clearly meant to be fictional, while people actually believe in angels. It's easier for me to suspend my disbelief for the one that no one is asking me to believe in.

For awhile after that I was thinking about the difference between those two camps. And I came to a conclusion: aliens are just our modern secular way of making sense of the Jungian desires that religious faith used to answer. They're both creatures from "out there" that are inexplicably interested in our lives, have powers beyond our understanding, and yet remain remote from us. They're a way of reaching out of our world - which can often seem to lack meaning - to posit that there is something out there that has the answers which we want. Also, it's a way of positing that those answers do, in fact, exist, because those creatures are posited to live in worlds that are a lot more advanced and theoretically noble than our world, which most people can agree is often kind of a bummer, meaning that they establish that life in a non-bummer context is possible.

The more I thought about it, the more that it made sense to me, especially when you consider that the fastest growing religions in America today - Mormonism and Scientology - take the religious imperative and implicitly graft it onto science fiction concepts. Mormon heaven is getting your own planet: their afterlife has been separated from the concept of clouds and harps and turned into an episode of Amazing Stories. Scientology is even more explicitly about science fiction. I think part of it's appeal is that a lot of Christian concepts - like the idea of hell and the devil - come with a lot of baggage that can be off putting for new converts, while you can just make up whatever alien story you want and it doesn't have to fit into a canon that was written in very different times.

I think a lot of our modern fantasy culture is actually not that different from the passion plays that used to be so popular in the middle ages, we just made it more secular. The same way that the Devil used to be able to cover all the bases of evil, sometimes being very clever and erudite (Goethe's Faust), sometimes being nothing more than a savage brute (Marlowe's Faust), and at other times being all things in between, vampires now cover the same range. There are seductive Interview-with-a-Vampire vampires, there are bogeyman-under-the-bed vampires, hungry-for-world-take-over vampires, pitiable-husks-of-men vampires - and all of them offer their victims great power at the cost of making them rot them from the inside. Those that are interested in power or eternal life might find a vampire's bargain compelling, but the trade they are promising is troubling, because it represents a complete betrayal of the things that make us human. The devil and vampires both ask us the basic question: what would you give up of your life to get out of death? But vampire movies aren't going to get picketed by crazy people like Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ was. Vampires let you tell a scary story about all the torments that can happen to a physical body but in a way that won't get you labelled a heretic.

So: if they are explicitly making Superman into a Christ figure - well, good for them. People still want those sorts of fables. And I'd rather that they get the juice that satisfies the Jungian hunger for cultural meaning from something that is asking you to pay them $10 once, rather than 10% of every paycheck. Because at the end of the day, Man of Steel might be good and it might be bad, but it isn't going to tell you what civil rights gay people should have and it's going to let you make up your own mind about a woman's right to choose. I'm all for giving attention to stories and I'm all for people making up their own damn minds, so this switch away from religion to pop culture sits fine with me.
posted by Kiablokirk at 5:30 PM on June 14, 2013 [39 favorites]


Artw: “Presumably the specific Christian audience thet are after wants a darker, more violent Jesus who snaps Pontius Pilot's head off as a measure of last resort. Sounds about right for America. ”
Pretty much. To me, the image of a body-builder Christ breaking the cross into pieces more-or-less represents everything that is wrong with modern American Fundamentalist Christianity.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:31 PM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Next week, you’ll get World War Z, which sets its act-one Philadelphia takedown in the early morning — like the World Trade Center attack — and finds Brad Pitt and his family running for their lives through some narrow, crowded city streets, outracing thousands of panicked citizens who are all trying to escape the attacks happening in the metropolitan core.
Kyle, you're ridiculous.
posted by planet at 5:33 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the Mark Waid review, Artw, which confirms that the "revision" mentioned in the Wired link is as bad as I would have thought. Looks like I'll be watching animated Superman, he of the "world made of cardboard" speech and the Justice Lords alternate future, for my Superman-that-actually-acts-like-Superman fix.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 5:41 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


In Zack Snyer's Jesus, the main set piece is a 40 minute "cleansing the temple" piece where Jesus relenteless battle a group of evil money changers and, in the process, flattens most of Jerusalem using his Messiah powers. Also, when he is tempted by Satan, we see a love scene between Jesus and Mary Magdalene when her eyes glow and then shoot out rays of celestial light at the moment of climax. That scene is 8 minutes long set to "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2013 [36 favorites]


I really, really don't like that there's link in this post that's a major spoiler for a movie that was just released today. I thought it was basic courtesy to label spoilers here.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:45 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


So is the sequel going to be "The passion of the Superman"?
posted by nickggully at 5:49 PM on June 14, 2013


That Mark Waid link is probably worth avoiding if you're concerned about spoilers too. On the other hand, it saved me a bunch of money on going to a movie to be made outrageously angry by it.

That said, if I told you Zack Snyder fundamentally breaks the character in a lazy and predictable way you can pretty much guess the rest, right?
posted by Artw at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


That Waid piece basically confirms my worst fears about this movie. I don't know why they keep giving these high profile comic book movies to Zack Snyder when it's so clear that he doesn't understand anything about the material beyond, "Fucking AWESOME fight scene, dood."

Also, I don't understand why, during the run-up to production on a Superman movie, nobody has pulled out a copy of "All-Star Superman" to get a sense for how the world of the movie ought to look. Everybody understands how Gotham's supposed to look...it should always look like an overcast autumn night or worse. In the same way, the environments of a Superman movie, Smallville and Metropolis, ought to look like the kind of place where a solar demigod is hanging out.

By the way...that's real connection between Superman and Jesus: straight up sun gods, both.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think when Superman was created the whole Jeebus thing was nonexistent; he was just a super strong fast guy who happened to be born on another planet, which was why he was so strong and fast and able to leap tall buildings, but not necessarily maintain sustained flight, much less fly into outer space much less fly to other worlds faster than light.

So the character underwent a kind of grade inflation by which he faced more powerful villains, necessitating finer and greater powers, which necessitated more capable villains etc. And one day the dude is a god. Not just any god, but the son-god of a benevolent father who sent him to us knowing he would be better than us but that this would give him a chance to find a simlar protector role. And at that point SuperJeebus was born.

I know SuperJeebus was very strong by the time of the Chris Reeve film because there was a contemporary novelization (VERY different from the movie) which leaned very, very hard on the jeebus element. And it seemed clear that this had been a thing in the original comics long enough to be canon. (Not that I know; my Dad followed those comics maybe I'll ask him when we go see the movie on Father's Day.)
posted by localroger at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


A Zack Snyder Batman movie would be Batman shooting a bunch of dudes.
posted by Artw at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


Everyone Is Jesus In Purgatory (TVTropes warning!)

oh who am I kidding, I'm an English BA, I love stuff like this. Give me more low/high-culture cross-pollination of symbolism for my superhero flicks, more!! Can Batman be John the Baptist? Or maybe Samson, blah blah Hathaway!Catwoman = Delilah? Tony Stark refuses to be Jesus despite the actual torture and dying (temporarily) for our sins, so we're gonna have to dig into Gilgamesh or something for him.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:07 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


So does Superman go wandering around in India in his '20s, or not?

No, but now you're making me want an Invisibles movie...
posted by verb at 6:14 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zack Snyder is super annoying and I'm always down to get vexed by unnecessary christing of stuff, but in this particular case I'm not really worried about the actual story since that's not what I'm interested in seeing.
posted by elizardbits at 6:20 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Superman isn't a Christ-figure. Unlike Jesus, Superman doesn't ask anything of you. You don't have to believe in him, or worship him, or even like him. He also doesn't tell you what to do, or promise you anything if you do it. He doesn't forgive you because he never condemned you in the first place. And he doesn't have all the answers. In these and other ways, Superman is preferable to Jesus.

I also often hear, "He's like a god," and that generic case isn't true, either. Superman isn't omniscient or omnipotent. He can't grant wishes. He doesn't know what you're thinking. He can't be everywhere at once. Bats was more omniscient in "The Dark Knight" with his NSA-style mobile-phone surveillance than Superman ever was. For most problems you might face in life, you'd be better off praying to Bruce Wayne to fix them with gobs of money than petitioning Clark.

I get where the urge to make links between Supes and Jesus comes from; both are amazing benevolent iconic figures and connecting them is fun. Certainly many directors and artists and writers have lazily played up that connection. But their characters and their narratives are as different as apples and onions. You can eat either, but you can't substitute one for the other.
posted by Missiles K. Monster at 6:22 PM on June 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


verb: "So does Superman go wandering around in India in his '20s, or not?

No, but now you're making me want an Invisibles movie...
"

I keep waiting and waiting. Goddamnit, just get King Mob and crew up there!!!
posted by symbioid at 6:24 PM on June 14, 2013


Artw: “That Mark Waid link is probably worth avoiding if you're concerned about spoilers too. On the other hand, it saved me a bunch of money on going to a movie to be made outrageously angry by it.”
Yeah I was coming back to thank you. Saved me $15.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2013


Missiles, most of your "unlike Jesus" things actually apply to Jesus. Jesus wasn't God, he was the son of God. The SuperJeebus thing supposes that Jor-El and/or Krypton were something a bit greater than a man standing on a ball of rock orbiting another ho-hum if dimmer star. And Jesus healed and preached redemption and forgiveness without asking for either belief or devotion.

The Christian godhead is tripartite and Jesus is only one third of the picture. Supes lacks both the omniscient asshole streak of his Dad and the transcendent spiritual streak of his family's token spirit.
posted by localroger at 6:28 PM on June 14, 2013


Christianity has been trying to add a violent coda to the story of sacrifice and redemption since St. John The Divine of Patmos penned his screed about how Jesus was going to return and then you'll be sorry, oh yeah let me tell you how fucking sorry you'll be.

Not quite. I do not recommend that non-Christians read Revelation or the Gospel of John. They are theological works for insiders. It is the story of Christ as victor, not as a warning.

That being said, the obsession of certain Christians with Revelation is a fairly modern one. From an apostolic perspective, the Left Behind series and its story of the "good guys" against the "bad guys" is just wrong. The fact is that there are no good guys and woe be to him who looks to the grave day of judgment.

The Left Behind series is 16 books, but we apostolic Christians believe that the story could fit on a Post-It note.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:28 PM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


So - funny, I was reading a thread about favorite Communist (super(TM))Heroes and someone posted about Superman originally being pretty Communisty, so I googled and found the following paragraphs:
The liberal politics that Shuster and Siegel shared can be seen in the earliest Superman stories, from the mid-1930s, before their publisher took editorial control in 1948 after a protracted legal battle. Reprinted by DC Comics in a series called the Superman Archives, these early stories show Superman as a crime fighter with a distinct political conscience. He is seen fighting against a wife-beater, a lynch mob, two munitions manufacturers, some war-crazed military dictators, a drunk driver and a gangster who tries to take over a labour union.

Like the movies of Frank Capra and the Warner brothers from the same era, these early Superman tales are animated by a charmingly naive version of New Deal liberalism. Superman uses his fists to fight the social problems that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt tackled through social legislation. Not surprisingly, Superman is even described in one panel as the "saviour of the helpless and oppressed."

In one story from Superman #1, the Man of Steel tackles labour relations. The story opens with a coal mine collapsing. Superman rescues Stanislaw Kober, a worker trapped in the accident. Afterward, in the guise of Clark Kent, Superman finds out the cause of the accident. The miners turn out to be poor immigrants exploited by a cruel and criminally negligent employer.

"Months ago we know mine is unsafe," Kober says. "But when we tell boss's foreman they say: 'No like job, Stanislaw? Quit!' " The plight of the miners leads Superman to take the matter into his own hands by pulling an elaborate trick on the owner of the mine, Thornton Blakely. Using a series of elaborate and implausible deceptions, Superman gets Blakely and his capitalist friends trapped in the same coal mine that nearly killed Kober. After being "rescued" from this near-death situation, Blakely agrees to improve working conditions for his employees. In the last panel, Clark Kent says, "Congratulations on your new policy. May it be a permanent one!" However, Kent also thinks: "If it isn't, you can expect another visit from Superman!"
Of course, the article actually fairly and rightly points more towards New Deal Liberalism than Communism, but still, the idea remains that this is what he started out doing. And look there's a usage of the word "saviour"
posted by symbioid at 6:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think when Superman was created the whole Jeebus thing was nonexistent; he was just a super strong fast guy who happened to be born on another planet

I can't say you're wrong despite my brain whining "YOU'RE WRONG" because the only evidence my brain can immediately produce is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is fiction and not evidence. But I do think you're overlooking the influence of comics creators (including Superman's) who were Jewish and had a cultural story tradition including stuff like a/the Messiah and the golem of Prague. Superman has always been a nice immigrant boy; that he should probably rightly be a Jewish one gets downplayed as in most comics canon.

(Joss Whedon will get many brownie points from me for the Fantastic Four reboot if Ben "Still Jewish" Grimm gets any reference at all.)

Everybody go read Kavalier & Clay; I know where my weekend's going now.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:31 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd rather see a Red Son style story (course that wouldn't go over well here)...

Considering Stalin means "Man of Steel" (speaking of having the word "man" in the name) I'd love to see that parallel told/sold instead of CK as JC.
posted by symbioid at 6:32 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


And nicebookrack, holy crap, my friend asked me, after I had posted the above quote on my LJ if I'd read Kavalier and Clay. Guess I should do so.
posted by symbioid at 6:34 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


including stuff like a/the Messiah and the golem of Prague

Well I can get behind the Golem idea, but didn't that turn out rather badly in the mythos?
posted by localroger at 6:34 PM on June 14, 2013


Superman isn't omniscient or omnipotent

Really depends on who's writing him. He's frequently depicted as being able to hear everything happening in the world and, of course, he has x-ray vision. So he can't read your mind, but he can surveil you whenever he wants. The reason this is less ominous than Batman's freaky electronics is because Batman is paranoid and scary, but Superman is (supposed to be) always good and universally trusted, like a benevolent god. That's why an amoral, immoral, or state actor Superman is so terrifying. You really get a sense of Superman's nigh-omniscience and omnipresence when the comics take Lex's perspective, showing the countermeasures and the lead boxes within lead boxes he needs to be able to plot in secrecy.

As far as omnipotence, Superman has a ridiculous grab-bag of powers that's not always consistent. But his power is basically only limited by the writer's imagination and the audience's credulity. This is a character that has reversed time, after all.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 6:34 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Supes is not omniscient, full stop, X-ray vision and spidey sense or no. None of his stories could progress for more than thirty seconds if he just magically knew what everyone was up to.

As for omnipotence, one could argue it's under the hood but not fully enabled in some writers' manifestations. Again, if fully enabled there would be no stories to tell. I think it's important to distinguish between Supes as God, which is ridiculous, and as Jesus, who was both a son and a sun figure and rather more limited than his Dad, even if potentially more important in the long run.
posted by localroger at 6:39 PM on June 14, 2013


If he's being followed by aliens, I'm cool with that; if it's angels, that's garbage. And I stopped myself for a second, because that distinction doesn't make any sense.

Seems pretty clear to me. Aliens are natural beings; they have planets and spaceships. Angels are supernatural beings, they are purely spiritual creatures, whatever that actually means. If you don't believe in aliens, you don't believe in a second instance of a thing that is a thing like us. If you don't believe in angels, it is often because you don't believe in any supernatural realm whatsoever.

aliens are just our modern secular way of making sense of the Jungian desires that religious faith used to answer

I believe Jung thought so too.
posted by thelonius at 6:39 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Man of Steel. Saw midnight screening last night here in Key West. Audience screamed at climax. Screamed. And then the room broke out in loooong applause when it finished. Half the room stayed to watch the credits—AWESOME soundtrack composition!

In hindsight, I can see some holes. So I'll go see it again. But the key here is this: Generally speaking, I can't stand Superman. This is not a superhero/metahuman/"underwear pervert" I can generally get into. Aside from the fact that he's 1) male, 2)white, 3)American, all that power is just unnerving. Okay, he's a sungod. He's a male, white and American sungod, and that's problematic at worst, kind of boring at best.

SO to make me empathetic towards this character, I am going to need complexity. And that is this Superman. Which here is in no small part due to the quality performances given by supporting cast. Superman's dad, for instance. Yes he is a "good man" but apparently one of those rare-enough-to-be-legendary good men but just on this side of obsessive. Kevin Costner of all people pulls it off.

Lois Lane? Perfect. I forgot I was supposed to compare her to canon. Amy Adams owned this character.

Speaking of which I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was for the absence of Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor (well very almost). Oh my google I was so not looking forward to seeing these characters. They are so canonized they are nearly tropes!

Speaking of tropes, Perry White is like a J.Jonah Jameson in terms of cliche. "Great Caesar's Ghost!" Arrgh. Argh arghh arrgh. So again, major props to supporting cast, which in this case is Lawrence Fishburne for his success in playing Perry White and making me care.

And Henry Cavill is brilliant as Superman. I mean the first time you see him with his shirt off in a normal setting, you're like WOW this guy LOOKS like Superman! And he nails it. NAILS it. I mean, I'm 48, Christopher Reeves? Bless him but, never, was never Superman to me. This is Superman. All the way through, full-on believabilty.

In hindsight there is stuff I wanted to see and stuff I want to know—what's the story with the Very Big Kryponian—but I like thinking about a film after I see it.

Heck, even the soundtrack was perfect. Hans Zimmer, I did not consciously know his name before this film, but as of today I bought my first Hans Zimmer composition. And it is the soundtrack to Man of Steel. ("Oh he did Inception? Wow...")

He's like a god. He's white, his parents are protestant, and he's not only American but he's from the heartland. If there's Jesus allusions well there you go.

I myself am sort of complex too. On the one hand there's me, an adult who values my time and my money, and who appreciates good art. On the other hand, there's a 10-year old inside who lives for this stuff. Last night, all of me went home happy and happily woke up this AM thinking about that awesome movie last night And that movie, for the record, is Man of Steel.

Like most everyone in the full theater last night, I applauded loudly when Man of Steel finished. And I was part of the crowd that stayed to very end. IMO, Man of Steel is not just a Big Summer Movie, it's a great Big Summer Movie.
posted by Mike Mongo at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Generally speaking, I can't stand Superman

You are the target audience.
posted by Artw at 6:46 PM on June 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


Thanks for the review Mike, I will be going to see MoS Father's Day with my Dad. My mother died in December and the Chris Reeve version was one of her favorite movies. It could be a bit difficult it the movie doesn't just blow him out of his socks.
posted by localroger at 6:47 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, let's tell yet another story about the inescapable, unrelatable 1930s superhero (seriously, the character has been in print for 75 years now) and fill the popular culture with blather about how "mythic," "relevant" and "timeless" he is. PHOOEY.
posted by JHarris at 6:48 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


the character has been in print for 75 years now

Meh the prague golem is going on what, 400?
posted by localroger at 6:49 PM on June 14, 2013


Mike Mongo: "He's a male, white and American sungod"

and he's hung like a horse... Or so I hear.
posted by symbioid at 6:51 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obligatory snark now out of the way, and putting on my fanboy hat -- that Wired magazine article seems right on the money with the problems with the film.
posted by JHarris at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2013


I was pretty sure this wouldn't be worth watching right when I heard that General Zod was going to be the villain. Sure everyone loves kneel before Zod, but he's just about the laziest Superman villain you can get. At least in the Christopher Reeve series they held him back until #2.
posted by ckape at 6:54 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aside from the fact that he's 1) male, 2)white, 3)American, all that power is just unnerving. Okay, he's a sungod. He's a male, white and American sungod, and that's problematic at worst, kind of boring at best.

Yes, a white American male. What a problem. I think I just got a case of the vapors.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:58 PM on June 14, 2013


Didn't Supes kill Zod in the comics AND in the Donner movies?

Also, if you watch the movie, you should notice that the entire climax of the film is Superman holding back so he doesn't have to kill Zod (or others) but when he realized he had no choice (because Zod wouldn't ever stop and the Phantom Zone was 'gone) is when he easily ended it. It was a play on the almost immediately prior scene of Clark as a boy saying he wanted to fight but didn't, blah blah blah.

Basically there is a whole lot of whining going on and the only thing I feel is accurate is the poor use of Lois Lane throughout all but the beginning of the movie.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:03 PM on June 14, 2013


Superman did not die for my sins.


That is all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:17 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jor-El said the Phantom Zone would be closed by the end of his first term but the Kryptonian Council blocked it
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:22 PM on June 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I've seen some pretty horrible reviews of the film; all flash and little character development. I'm giving this movie a pass.

There have been many better takes on the character throughout the years.
posted by Catblack at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2013


So, Jesus is great because he sacrificed himself for all our souls, right? I'm not very up on my Superman gospel, but does he every make a similar sacrifice?

Yes, in All-Star Superman he allows himself to be dissolved into a being of pure light energy and then gets trapped inside the sun, where he's forced to stay forever (or at least until he figures something else out) to keep it from going supernova and destroying Earth, after Luthor wrecked it with one of his death rays. Just like Jesus did that one time.

I'll probably check it out anyway.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:36 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Supes is not omniscient, full stop, X-ray vision and spidey sense or no. None of his stories could progress for more than thirty seconds if he just magically knew what everyone was up to.

You're absolutely correct, of course - though I was drawing a contrast to these lines:

Bats was more omniscient in "The Dark Knight" with his NSA-style mobile-phone surveillance than Superman ever was. For most problems you might face in life, you'd be better off praying to Bruce Wayne to fix them with gobs of money than petitioning Clark.

Like you say, Supes is portrayed like a god more than capital-G God. He could hear and see basically everything, I suppose, but he's not the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-intrusive kind of god - he's the prayer-answering type. He's vigilant for signs of distress, as a hero should be. He answers when he's called, whether by Lois shouting or Jimmy with that high-pitched signal watch. And when he's written as very powerful, his power amplifies this into a godlike caring for the entire world. I'm thinking here of Superman Returns, which played up the Jesus angle really heavily.

On spoilery preview: Superman is also supposed to be an exemplar of morality. He's not handing down the laws, but he is supposed to keep people safe and protect lives. And the big rule of the comics and cartoons is that people wouldn't trust Superman if he killed. They'd fear him. If he killed, everyone would be as paranoid of this powerful alien as Lex is. It's not just a "we're as bad as them" argument derived from Comics Code constraints, it's that Supes desperately wants - and here's the immigrant angle for those who prefer it - to protect his adopted home and earn its respect and trust. And he also doesn't completely trust himself not to abuse his power if he doesn't stay within these lines he's drawn (and that have been given to him by his Kansas and Kryptonian families).

I could see how a story would bend the rules and make it so that everyone celebrated Superman for killing an alien menace threatening the Earth, but that's so depressing - just like the image of Jesus as someone who fights for Us against Them is the worst idea. If anything - and here I'll do tooltip spoilers because this is unrelated - (hover over this).
posted by knuckle tattoos at 7:39 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lets see, what can I add here. I know that there was some surprise regarding the Christian interest in the film, and once it started there was some effort to take advantage of that momentum. But that really was a small piece of a huge marketing effort that covered a broad range of areas and concepts.

I never heard any mention over the past two years of a concerted effort to draw the Jesus analogy, but it would probably be difficult to tell this story without landing in that arena.

My somewhat biased opinion after seeing it last Monday in New York.. I thought it was great.
posted by HuronBob at 7:43 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just like Jesus did that one time.

I believe it's in the New 52 Testament
posted by Hoopo at 7:49 PM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'll say this for Snyder: he understands that you can't make a Superman movie in which Superman doesn't punch anything.

Seriously, Bryan Singer, a real estate scam? That's the best supervillain plot you could come up with?

Why, yes, I am still bitter, why do you ask?
posted by Rangeboy at 8:08 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


"We know that in the other story, too. That's the point."

I never thought the point of the crucifixion is that Jesus is just about to whup some Roman ass.
posted by klangklangston at 8:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


That all said, I'd be fine with Superman Jesus metaphors if they made Peace on Earth into a movie, where it's about the emotional weight of Superman not being able to punch away world hunger, etc.
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get the "he doesn't kill" thing. Superman kills. Superman has killed, Superman has killed Zod. He does it when he has no choice. It rips him in half, but he does it.

Some of the criticisms I get. I winced at the destruction and little evidence of Supes saving people from it, but seriously, it's not like his hands were clean up to this point.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:15 PM on June 14, 2013


What put me off about the movie after reading the Mark Waid spoilers isn't the point already mentioned here but the other item he was complaining about in the spoiler section, which seems to me to be more antithetical to Superman's character than him killing a major threat in extremis.

On the other hand, a Christopher Nolan & Zack Snyder (the guys who gave us TDK and Watchmen) movie about the Big Blue Boy Scout is probably not going to be a winner for me. I think I'll go back and watch the animated series again.

knuckle tattoos - Now I'm imagining the Wonder Woman film put together by this duo (by the guy with the serious dead wife problem and the fellow who brought us Sucker Punch) and really wincing. Good thing there is less than zero prospect of a Wonder Woman movie because as the studios are happy to say, women protagonists don't put butts in seats!
posted by immlass at 8:23 PM on June 14, 2013


OK, the Krypton stuff was pretty cool... great visual language, and you get that these people are not like us, for both good and bad.

Then there was the incredibly stupid stuff filling up the rest of the movie, with huge and pointless forays into nationalist USA military fetishism, Pa Kent all but kissing a picture of the NSA headquarters in his reverence to keep secrets, even if it kills people, Perry White, newspaper editor, nodding sagely that his top reporter should keep the public in the dark, because fuck them, that's why... Superman and Lois necking in the rubble with hundreds of thousands dead around them.

Superman failed so completely and utterly to save people, or even think about them, throughout the movie, it became farce. It was laughable. "I will save a soldier from falling - and ignore the town being blown up! Because fuck that town, that's why."

That, and the pacing was plodding. Oh, god, so long, so overwrought, so many useless subplots, so many giggle-worthy attempts to meddle with the viewers emotions. Then there was the social-conservative themes running throughout the whole thing.

Baguy's Girlfriend: "Evolution always wins!"
Superman: "Not in Kansas, it doesn't! Jesus-Punch to the face!"

It was right-wing tawddle, bloated to the point of chronic flatuence. I am very disappointed.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:26 PM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


benito.strauss: "Oh, Hi Artw"

I actually thought you were making a Tommy Wiseau reference there for a moment.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:26 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had an interesting discussion with the kid about the 9/11 imagery. I reacted pretty strongly to it, as did the wife who know two people who died on 9/11. The response I got didn't really satisfy me, basically a reference to "this is the world we live in now..." I don't think I buy that, something about not wanting to believe we need to just accept this as fact.

The irony...regardless of the body count when you factor in the destruction of the city, the bodies we never see, it's rated pg-13.
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, lens flares and explosions. So many lens flares, so many explosions. Lens flares on explosions. Exploding lens flares. It's like Abrams and Bruckheimer had sex.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:30 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also generally think Superman is a boring goody two-shoes, and I've never found the comics particularly interesting. So maybe I might like this movie?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:42 PM on June 14, 2013


Slap*Happy: "Baguy's Girlfriend: "Evolution always wins!""

To be fair, when bad guys tote "evolution" as being on their side in fiction, they're generally always referring to some pretty odious right-wing social darwinism bullshit, and/or using it as a justification for fascism, genocide, or enslavement of "weaker people".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:44 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, and that's precisely what happens here.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:54 PM on June 14, 2013


SPOILERS

Agree with the above comments about the lack of... something in the movie. A lot of the fight scenes, especially towards the end felt too sterile. Why do I care that Superman is fighting a big Cthulu-oil rig snake?

Also, here is the plot:

Superman: We have to stop Zod. I've sort been scuffling with him and his gang for the last couple of hours. It's pretty rad because we punch each other really hard and we can't even hurt each other! Sorry about all those trains and houses and cars and businesses. Why do all your houses explode when people fly through them anyway? Methlabs?

Anyway, my space baby carriage has a phantom drive. And I think Zod's giant worm Thumper has a phantom drive too. So if the CGI construct of my dad is right, if we drop my space baby carriage into the worm thumper, it will create a singularity and then make a mini black hole that will suck up a bunch of the kryptonians. You better give Lois a cute pilot jumpsuit so she can help with the bombing run. She has my magic key/family wax seal. She's probably the only one with the hand-eye coordination to put a pentagon shaped peg in a pentagon shaped hole. Better get that pilot, commando, general law and order guy to help as well.

Why don't I do it? I need to go fly to india to fight the oil rig cthulu squid monster. It's changing the earth's polarity and acting as a gravity weapon. Something about eugenics. I guess the kryptonians don't want to live on a planet that gives them awesome-trippy super powers so they need to terraform earth to look like a post apocalyptic shithole with crappy mercury-T1000 displays instead of tv screens.

I don't know, maybe it's a radiation thing. I can't figure out if it's the air or the yellow sun that give me super powers. I know that I can fly in space, but when I'm on Zod's ship I lose my powers. It could just be dirty airconditioning filters, I guess.

Everyone else: Sounds great! You sure there's no other way to do this though? I mean before 20 million people die, there's no other way for you to defeat Zod right? I mean you can't snap his neck like Steven Seagall or something?

Superman: Well I'll try punching him through some more buildings as a plan B. But trust me dudes, that singularity thing is the way to go.

Also, you're 33 dude. Good luck with getting that first job as news reporter in Chicago. I'm guessing it's an unpaid internship. I wouldn't plan on saving up for a mortgage off of that one.
posted by Telf at 9:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


To be fair, when bad guys tote "evolution" as being on their side in fiction, they're generally always referring to some pretty odious right-wing social darwinism bullshit, and/or using it as a justification for fascism, genocide, or enslavement of "weaker people".

Yeah, usually they end up meaning the exact opposite of evolution. In this case, recycling the same genetic code over and over again and actually avoiding any kind of evolution at all.
posted by Telf at 9:12 PM on June 14, 2013


consider that the fastest growing religions in America today - Mormonism and Scientology

That is horrifying and does not bode well for the future of the nation.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The trailers pretty much told me that they were going down the boring grim and gritty path,just from the way the color palette ranged from dim blue to gray. Ah, well, clearly some people got the BatSuperman they wanted, so I guess that's good.
posted by tavella at 10:31 PM on June 14, 2013


I think it's a mistake to think that Superman is grim and gritty in Man of Steel. The character himself isn't... it's the world around him that is. I just got back from seeing it a second time and I enjoyed it a great deal more this time around. Maybe it was because, through the first showing, I was on edge and casting a critical eye at every last thing and waiting to be disappointed. Certainly, there are flaws in Man of Steel, like the seemingly consequence-free and body count-free violence of many of the superhero battles, but they were visually stunning and something, quite frankly, I've dreamt of seeing portrayed onscreen in that way since I started reading comics. There are a lot of flaws in Superman: The Movie, and I have a feeling that if it were released today, fanboys would be picking that apart, too.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:11 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Superman did not die for my sins.
That is all.


I'm an atheist, but I think I can be appalled with St. Alia at Warner Bros' attempts to use Christian culture as a marketing angle.

but they were visually stunning

I'm tired of people trying to visually stun me. Big monsters and epic scale disasters no longer impress me. We've hit the end of the action inflation made possible by computer animation.
posted by JHarris at 12:04 AM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had hopes, but then again, it is Zach Snyder, so I probably shouldn't have hoped. As mentioned above, All-star Superman is, if not the story you'd want for a Superman movie, it is most definitely the feeling you need. This page, where Superman drops everything to try to convince a suicidal person not to jump, that's Superman. Grant Morrison, in his run of JLA comics, captured another part, a key part of Superman (as over the top as it was), when he fought and beat an archangel (as in from heaven), while essentially saying 'how dare you endanger my people.' That's Superman, too.

To some extent, Red Son also looks at another amazing part, one that doesn't get looked at all too often. Every time Superman has to foil Lex Luthor, or fight any meta-human who's got some conquer the world scheme, people are dying. Every minute Superman spends dealing with a villain is a minute in which he could have done countless acts of good, but here's this asshole standing in his way. Red Son, like I said, does touch on it, and it's definitely not a Superman that would be maintainable in any ongoing series, but lord, I'd love to see a Superman who prioritizes, and who makes sure his villains understand what it cost Superman to stop and deal with them, how many people died because the villain wanted to play the witty banter game.

Or, from what I'm reading about MoS, I'm not about to find any of these takes in this movie.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:25 AM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Superman did not die for my sins. That is all.

but maybe he's a metaphor or a, like, trope or it's uh intertextual kinda.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:34 AM on June 15, 2013


Perry White is like a J.Jonah Jameson in terms of cliche.

I don't think J. Jonah Jameson is cliche. He couldn't keep his title as world's most abusive boss without a certain creative flair. Cliche's don't sell papers. In small doses he's no end of fun.

Ahem.

GET ME PICTURES OF JESUS CHRIST! We've got a front page to fill! Has anyone ever seen Jesus and Superman in the same room at the same time? HEADLINE -- SUPERJESUS: ANARCHIST OR COMMUNIST? Answer: both. Now show me what you've got. What is this, an oil painting? Does this look like the Louvre to you? I want photographs of Jesus Christ. WHERE'S MY MODERATOR? Artw's Waid link isn't going to give itself a spoiler warning. What's that? What do you MEAN Jesus Christ has been dead for two thousand years? He came back, didn't he? Find him! ...or at least find someone who looks like the guy in the oil painting. Well, what are you still doing here? Do you think I'm paying you because I like you? what? an intern? Do you think I'm letting you use that perfectly good desk because I like you? Go out there and get me pictures of Jesus Christ in tights and a red cape or don't come to work tomorrow!

Settling down now.

The funny thing is that there's significant depth to the character underneath his trademark barrage of abuse. His grandiose self image is in uneasy tension with his shamefully cynical attempts to boost circulation. In the Raimi movies he's self aware enough to feel that tension and be bothered by it. Scratch him hard enough and you'll find some genuine principles. At rock bottom he really does believe that superheroes are a menace to democratic society on the grounds that they're secretive and lawless, and cause at least as much damage as they prevent. Jameson doesn't often get depicted as a closet idealist but that approach is open to writers as a different way to play the character.

Besides which, I can't look away from a man who wears a toothbrush mustache without shame. Every five seconds/panels I say to myself "holy crap he's rocking a Hitler mustache and getting away with it!" It's so transgressive it's mesmerizing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:15 AM on June 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Superman did not die for my sins.

I'm willing to bet the next movie will be about Doomsday...
posted by happyroach at 2:36 AM on June 15, 2013


GET ME PICTURES OF JESUS CHRIST! We've got a front page to fill! Has anyone ever seen Jesus and Superman in the same room at the same time?

I love 3J. It takes an amazing normal-human character to stand on his own as interesting in a world of friggin' superheroes, and justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow is exactly right on all counts, especially that he's probably a secret idealist. It takes a man with strong opinions to get saved by Spider-Man constantly and still hold a grudge against him.
posted by JHarris at 3:24 AM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Well, that he could be interpreted as such. You could also interpret him as a cynical money-grubber. I think the secret idealist angle is very interesting, at least.)
posted by JHarris at 3:26 AM on June 15, 2013


The "Evolution Always Wins" thing was pretty awful. It didn't even make any sense, in context or out.
posted by Sleeper at 4:08 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to bet the next movie will be about Doomsday...

Brainiac. It'll be the Jor-El program corrupted by Luther's attempts to use Kryptonian technology. Notice how Zod dropped his armor, which if painted green and purple would look a lot like Luther's classic battlesuit, on the top of a building site likely owned by LexCorp. Kryptonian technology will be the MacGuffin for this series that will get us our Metallos and Parasites and so on.

Saw the movie yesterday. In it's plus column, it has Supes actually punching something and the lack of being saddled with a kid. In the minus column, it has that Snyderian love of set pieces where characters just move from points A through G without ever seeing the consequences of what they did. Also, you'd think a city like Metropolis would have, like, sewers and subways and stuff, but I guess they made their streets in Creative Mode out of Minecraft Bedrock so instead everything gets pounded flat ontop of them.

I agree with Mark Waid's complaint that Superman never took the battle outside of populated areas. If it was a plan by the Bad Military Dudes (I did like Zod's where did you learn to fight, farmer? line despite the Name of the King flashbacks) to keep faster, stronger, fly-ier Supes underwraps in a fight, fine, but you'd have to show him actually saving people from collateral damage.

On the whole, I got what I expected: Superman punches someone who can punch him back, big destruction set pieces, the opportunity to mutter Kneel Before Zod when I knew the movie wouldn't, and slow mo explosions. I hope they hand the franchise over to a new director (and writing team), though, as I don't think Snyder (et al) can get the human element that good Superman stories have. They're fine at archetypes wot punch and speechify, but now that Clark is on the scene, that won't work.

As for the whole Christian thing, well, uh.... Superman did sort of perform a mass abortion with eye lasers at one point so, uh... Life Begins At Genetic Templating?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:26 AM on June 15, 2013


Didn't Supes kill Zod in the comics AND in the Donner movies?

The recut Donner Version of Superman II includes a still of the three depowered Phantom Zoners being led out in cuffs; their implied deaths are an artifact of the movie's troubled production history more than an intended story choice.

More generally, there are three iconic stories in which Superman kills. In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, he kills Mxyzptlk in circumstances arguably more dire than those in this film. He then decides he's not worthy of being Superman any longer, depowers himself, and lives out the rest of his days as a normal person.

He does execute Zod and two others in John Byrne's final arc of the rebooted 1980s titles, but does so after they have literally killed every living thing on a parallel Earth. In the aftermath, he has a nervous breakdown and eventually exiles himself from Earth for the better part of a year, only returning after he learns a great deal about his heritage and rededicates hismelf to his vow never to kill. It's because of this incident that he gives Batman a Kryptonite ring, trusting that if he ever does take the easy way to start to slip, he'll be accountable.

Finally, there's the Doomsday fight, where he's got no other choice as in Man of Steel. In this case, however, it's essentially "taking you with me." Both Superman and Doomsday later turn out to be only mostly dead and come back; later stories reveal that Doomsday simply can't die.

Superman is a secularized messianic fantasy, albeit one as much an inverted Moses story as a Jesus story. (He's found in the bulrushes, but goes *from*the royal court to the people rather than the other way around.) The idea as Garth Ennis once put it so memorably, is that "Superman saves everyone," that he always finds a better way, and so on. The few stories where he doesn't are about the fact that he should have, and invariably make the cost to Superman so great that they hardly recommend desperate measures.

I'll grant that this seems to be the story people want. A traditionally optimistic fantasy of a character who, unlike other superheroes, actually stops the massacres before they start and who traditionally affirms the idea that we can be better and do better is impossible for people to enjoy or believe in. Instead, it's a world where madmen kill millions with impunity, and all we can do is belatedly kill them back. Anything else is "boring goody two-shoes" and unrealistic, and our flying space messiah movies must be nothing if not "realistic."

Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman is being thrown around a lot, but I keep thinking of a line from his Flex Mentallo: "Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism." It's hard to imagine a filmmaker more adolescent than Zack Snyder, of course, and the key demographic these days is the 18-25 slice of men aged 18-49.
posted by kewb at 5:02 AM on June 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yup. A Superman who kills isn't Superman anymore, and either has to give it up or becomes a monster, Justice Lords style.
posted by Artw at 6:44 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is funny to me because previous commentaries have suggested that Superman has roots in Jewish symbolism and wish fulfillment. (As have authors like Chabon in Kavalier and Clay, for example.)

Supermensch!

IO9: Is Superman Jewish or What?

It's a bird, it's a plane....it's a Jew?
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:47 AM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus has roots in Jewish symbolism and wish fulfillment fantasies, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:54 AM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clever. Although I'm not sure whether you're saying that should underscore or undermine complaints of Supes' explicit Christianization. Or just musing. (I'm not sure, myself.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:03 AM on June 15, 2013


I've been somewhat on and off the fence on seeing the movie after reading a number of reviews, but I figure I'll go ahead and pull the trigger this weekend.

As mentioned above, Jesus == Superman is nothing new (Singer pretty much put him on an invisible cross) and I'm not surprised at all to see Warner Bros. trying to cash in on it. Hollywood has discovered there's a nice well of money if you can tap the Christian market in the United States, and while it's a bit more commercial in this instance, I don't think it's that much more than other attempts for other movies. In total honesty, Warner Bros. can do what they want, it's up to the pastors and preachers to go with the message or not. If they can actually craft a good sermon based off of Superman, then sounds fine to me.
posted by Atreides at 7:06 AM on June 15, 2013


“Dude, I didn’t even get a free ticket. Are you kidding me? It’s DC. Even Marvel invites me to the movies.”
posted by Artw at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2013


To be fair, when bad guys tote "evolution" as being on their side in fiction, they're generally always referring to some pretty odious right-wing social darwinism bullshit, and/or using it as a justification for fascism, genocide, or enslavement of "weaker people".

Which is an argument against evolution that pops up all the time in conservative Christian circles in the US, that believing in evolution necessarily ends up justifying fascism, genocide, and enslavement.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:18 AM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


symbioid: "Mike Mongo: "He's a male, white and American sungod"

and he's hung like a horse... Or so I hear.
"

SHUT UP! Or you will get the Whelk started up. And we know what THAT means.
posted by Samizdata at 7:37 AM on June 15, 2013


Superman VS Captain America…







In a battle for The Whelk's heart!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


When he moved to the U.S. from the old country, he changed his name from "Kal-El" to "Clark Kent".

Definitely Jewish.
posted by kyrademon at 7:59 AM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


How'd they have circumcised baby Kal-El, with a kryptonite blade?
posted by Renoroc at 8:15 AM on June 15, 2013


Yeah, I felt Faora's 'evolution' line to be showing how decadent and racist Kryptonian society was. Kryptonians use eugenic caste enforcement which makes them believe that they are the scientific/cultural/biological superior people. They came to a planet to set up a colony and really didn't see the ethical problems with exterminating 7 billion humans and an entire ecosystem in order to perpetuate their (obvious to them) superior race. It's seeing this brazenness and disregard for "lesser" life that finally has Superman turn his back on Krypton and declare that "Krypton had its chance" while he destroys their plan. By the end, Krypton is shown to be, yes, scientifically advanced, but a planet that uses bad science more for rationalizing their superstitious views of culture (cue Zod's remark that natural birth was "heresy"). This was not a science versus faith argument.

The evolution mentioned by Faora is the scientific racism that had well over a two hundred year run as mainstream and is sadly still with us today. It's not evolution in the sense of trying to understand the mechanisms of the world around us, but the rationalization for imperialism and genocide. We as the audience are not led to believe that Darwin's theory of evolution is incorrect here, but rather the unethical, immoral use of scientific justification to attack, dehumanize, and kill is wrong.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Older Kal-El circumcised himself, a la Abraham. HARDCORE.

Superhero secret identities are not a specifically Jewish thing ('sup Scarlet Pimpernel) but there's a certain frisson of Jewish wish fulfillment under that history of concealing your culture due to justified paranoia, especially Superman's secret identity. "You have to hide who you are because mainstream culture won't understand / will try to kill you...but you should still be proud of your background because who you secretly are is AWESOME and a Chosen One and more powerful than a locomotive!" And you have a responsibility to use your awesome for the good of the world. Tikkun olam and all that.

Did Superman ever get to punch Hitler in the face? If not I hope he and Captain America had a jolly crossover laugh sometime over Cap's Hitler-smacking.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:05 AM on June 15, 2013


Superman mainly beat up Japanese people - it was kind of racist.
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on June 15, 2013


Pretty sure Cap beat up a lot of Japanese people too. Hope that was a moment of not-jolly crossover shame.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2013


I haven't seen it, but I love the IMDB plot summary: "A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kryptonian illegals, invading our planet and stealing our jobs!
posted by nicebookrack at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2013


Did Superman ever get to punch Hitler in the face?

As usual, he found a better way.
posted by kewb at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Those "what if?" stories usually had a twist or shocking ending or something like that...but I kind of like the simplicity of that one. "Q: What If Superman Ended The War? A: The War Would End."
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:45 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I seriously doubt Warner Bros put Jesus parallels into the film to court Christian viewers. Generally speaking, the Christians I know would find a "isn't this superhero just like Jesus, you guys?" storyline to be offensive or at least in bad taste, not an awesome validation of their beliefs by Hollywood.

Of course, that's not to say that Warner Bros is smart enough to realize that... "It worked for Aslan!" etc.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:54 AM on June 15, 2013


One thing that's really interesting to me about discussions concerning this film is the uncharacteristic lack of concern for spoilers by most people, and how that's such a barometer for the mild level of enthusiasm for the film.

The guys in my office, myself included, are usually pretty spoiler-averse, but that hasn't been the case with this film at all. Nobody really cared enough to not find out what happens in the film.

This thread's another example, I think...there are no outright spoilers in the sense of "in the end, Superman..." but a pretty big part of the finale is being discussed without reservation in a way that it wouldn't be for a franchise that most people were more excited about.

I don't really have a point here (spoiler!), I just think this could be an interesting Moneyball-like indicator of a film's prospects, like The Spoiler Avoidance Index or something.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Superman is 33 in the movie. Yeah, I get it.
posted by JARED!!! at 1:51 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Halfway through the movie: Hey, this might not be so bad.
Closer to the end: Please make it stop.

The religious text was pretty ham-fisted. The battle scenes were a mashup of Thor and The Avengers. It felt like nothing was at stake. And JJ Abrams wants his lens flare back.
posted by starman at 2:04 PM on June 15, 2013


Apologies for the long post.

It doesn’t entirely surprise me that this movie is turning out to be not just bad, but morally dubious. Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder have a history in this regard.

Zack Snyder simply appears to be stupid. This is an unkind thing to say, but there it is. 300 is miserably incompetent as an action film – boring, full of pompous twits who are impossible to identify with, no sense of threat at all and an air of unreality that makes everything seem pointless. The only thing that works even a little is the intense, but rather kitsch, aesthetic; this, however, gets boring fast. Snyder then went on to display a lack of anything like sensitivity to tone or taste in his ham-fisted and leaden adaptation of WATCHMEN. He is a complete waste of time as a director – everything he produces lacks recognisable human feeling, character depth or a compelling story. Visually, his work is on the level of those glurgy photoshop paintings you see on Deviantart, typically showing a huge cliff, a dragon and a woman in skimpy armour (e.g. SUCKER PUNCH). He is essentially dismissable.

Christopher Nolan has pretensions to be something more intelligent. He is sufficiently more talented than Snyder to have produced films that have a consistent, if repellent, point of view. Leaving aside his two-dimensional and sexist portraits of women, I want to look at his politics, as they seem fairly consistent throughout his big-budget work.

I agree, for instance, with the argument in this blog post here (and also here). To paraphrase, it argues that the Batman movies are basically aristocratic. Some people – an elite – matter, others do not. The elite are a moral elite, but also an established wealth-holding elite. And they are the elite at least partly because they are prepared to use violence. Always reluctantly, of course. But… well… it’s funny how the necessity keeps coming up, isn’t it?

This is a plausible argument, based on the content of the films. It also fits with Christopher Nolan’s background. He is an English public* school boy – he went to Haileybury and Imperial Service College, a school that was actually founded to train imperial civil servants for Britain’s empire in India. This is not necessarily conclusive – Joss Whedon is also a product of the English public school system, having gone to Winchester College, and a great deal of his “revolutionary” wit is just recognisably English – but Joss Whedon, I suspect, as an American, was always an outsider to that system. The psychology of public schools is complex, and often splits people into them and us – the scholarship-boy / outsider who has to work twice as hard to get half as far, and the insider who never has to consider his condition of casual privilege. The former group tend to become chippy liberals, who are acutely aware of the realities of power and unfairness (e.g. Raymond Chandler, who went to English public school Dulwich College). The latter tend to spend the rest of their lives arguing that cold-blooded disregard for large swathes of humanity is natural and realistic (e.g. the English Tory party). It would be difficult to say where Christopher Nolan fits into that (the son of an advertiser and a flight attendant - but his family lived in the affluent Highgate area of London).

Regardless of the psychological reasons why, the outcome is a series of movies, particularly his superhero films, in which a small number of people really matter and everyone else is just background.

That was always a horrible corruption of Batman, by the way – a corruption that had been years in the making. It first took root with Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT. Some people really like this book. I suspect it’s because they think Frank Miller was being hyperbolic. He wasn’t. He really is a deeply unhinged, unpleasant man, as his recent rant at occupy wall street showed. He took a children’s hero who was a great detective, who tried to avoid taking lives, who looked a little silly but at least gave kids something positive to aspire to – and turned him into a paranoid fantasy about revenge on a nebulous underclass. He played to a very dark streak in the American psyche that quivers with fear of the poor and the different and that loves to fantasize about “necessary” violence against them. Unlike Alan Moore’s superb WATCHMEN, THE DARK KNIGHT didn’t represent superhero comics becoming more adult: it was a regression into the psychology of a bullied adolescent.

Nolan took Miller’s fascism – and it is fascism, recognisably so, full of the worship of violence, the desire for a strong leader, the hatred of the lying media, the ending in which society is reborn as a secret group of the righteous elect – it’s practically on the level of THE TURNER DIARIES – well, Nolan took that and filtered it through a much more elitist vision. THE DARK KNIGHT is all about society needing those it hates to rule over it. We need someone to defend us from those crazy enough to set money on fire – but don’t go getting any ideas that you can do it by yourself. Anyway, why would anyone set money on fire? Only someone who was just thoroughly crazy! He wants to watch the world burn - and what else could the world be made of, if not money? “Bring back our management consultant in a pervert suit, who can discipline society!” the movie cries. This becomes doubly obvious with the red-baiting and anti-democratic THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, where the villain is that classic conservative/propertarian baddy – someone who claims to stand for social justice, but who turns out to be a nihilist with exclusively personal motives. (see also: Amon in THE LEGEND OF KORRA). It’s a clever twist! Except that it’s the same one we've seen a million times before.

So Batman has long since fallen – swallowed by his public identity, the billionaire Bruce Wayne, he has been reclaimed by the dark side. This move seems to have been happily embraced by comics fans, despite being essentially the stealing and perversion of a child’s toy.

Superman was another matter. The problem with Superman is that he is a fundamentally democratic, anti-aristocratic. Really? Surely not? But you see, Superman is powerful because of who he is – an immigrant (on Krypton he would be powerless). Not because he is rich. Not because he is a property owner. Not because he comes from inherited wealth or has a divine right to rule. He is just an ordinary person, who happens to be able to punch out the moon. And yet – despite having god-like powers – he doesn’t make himself king. He doesn’t think of himself as fundamentally better than everyone else. He is a Kantian superhero who treats others as ends-in-themselves, rather than a Platonic superhero who sees himself as either a philosopher king or a guardian or some other necessary elite. That sort of thing turns the stomach of some in the geek community, because it suggests that you can still be a worthwhile human being despite not being clever. But it remains much more admirable.

And in a way, that reflected an incredible amount of self-confidence in America in the era in which he was created. This was at a time when wages were consistently rising – which they stopped doing, by the way, in the late 1970s. What was the greatest thing an alien from another world could aspire to be? An ordinary working stiff with a pure heart and a socially useful job.

Does any of this matter? Arguably not – these are just films, people will say. But of course, films promote attitudes. I have known people whose political views were shaped to a disturbing extent´ by conclusions drawn on the basis of fiction. Still, it would be silly to suggest that someone will become an oligarch or a fascist from reading a single Batman comic or watching a Superman flick. Most people who watch these films leave vaguely unsatisfied and dismayed, and only half form their reasons why, probably because they have real lives and more important things to do.

Nevertheless, this turn towards aristocracy is pretty timely. We are living through an ongoing recession. In Britain, wage cuts for workers are the deepest since records began. And this is a recession that has entirely fallen on the poor – the rich are doing fine. And there is no shortage of shills willing to defend the interests of the "1%". At such a time it is pretty vulgar to make yet another film that says that only a few people matter. It feels like spitting in the faces of those who did not create the crisis, who have suffered most throughout it and who have not recovered from it yet.

I mean, let’s be perfectly frank here, dear reader. We are not the elite. You might be, I suppose; but I feel safe in wagering that you almost certainly aren’t. We are the faces in the crowd. We are the ones who get squashed by a falling building off-screen. These movies work to make us so afraid of the Bad Men that we actively resent any Superhero who even momentarily scruples to use brutal violence against them.

What can be done? Expecting any kind of support from Hollywood or any other large mass media outlet is pointless. The process by which films get made is baroque and chaotic – it is completely possible that a particular director will try to make a more democratic superhero film. Equally, that might never happen at all. Certainly, protesting or complaining online will likely achieve nothing.

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that a lot of people in the so-called “geek community” eat this shit up and ask for more. And I’m not interested in doing that. Increasingly, I find myself drifting away from fan communities to seek out intelligent discussion or real creativity elsewhere.

At the end of the day, superheroes aren’t modern gods or totems worth putting at the centre of your life. They are tokens of intellectual property, created and sustained by a system that is constantly dragging them down to the status and character of any other consumer good. A few, talented people injected some creativity into them. Those were the real aristocrats – the aristocrats of the only true aristocracy, which is the aristocracy of talent. And those people have always been treated pretty badly. Remember what happened to the creators of many of these “heroes” when they demanded better treatment at work – they were fired and replaced with starry-eyed “fans” who wanted nothing more than to write Spiderman.

* An English “public” school is actually a private school. English terminology is bizarre, sometimes.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:03 PM on June 15, 2013 [35 favorites]


I don't know what kind of allegory it was but after seeing it my dog went deaf.
posted by fullerine at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


5 Modern Problems Even Superman Can't Defeat
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really wanted to like this movie. I thought people were being hypercritical. They weren't.

Remember that old line from the Reeve's movies, "You will believe a man can fly . . . "

Well, you'll believe Henry's Superman can fly, but you won't believe he is capable of any emotion other than brooding, you won't believe this film is set in a world that is in any way relatable, and you certainly won't believe there's any chemistry between Lois and Clark.

And dear god, you won't believe how long the final fight sequence lasts.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:03 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


MAN OF STEEL? MORE LIKE, MANATEE OF STEEL

(MANATEES ARE DISSIMILAR TO SUPERMAN, WHICH IS WHY THIS BURN IS SO EPIC)


Supermanatee
posted by homunculus at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2013


There's nothing clever about it. A lot of the messianic Jews at the time of Jesus' appearance on the scene were expecting a superman warrior messiah, and weren't willing to accept the peace and love preaching guy some in their community decided was the long awaited messiah. Those Jews were among the segment of the Jewish population that didn't start following early Christian teachings. The creators of Superman likewise were Jews who as I understand it even by their own accounting were expressing their own vision of a messiah. So just musing really, but Christians sometimes forget they didn't invent the idea of a messiah, it seems.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:58 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like the filmmakers missed a real opportunity here. I know that's easy for some schmuck on the internet like me to say since I wasn't the one lining up financing or trying to maximize overseas revenue, but think about it...the biggest challenges facing a new Superman franchise are:

1. Replicating the massive success of Nolan's Batman films, and 2. finding a way to make a square like Superman relevant to today's audiences.

I think there was a simple way to satisfy both of these without going down the route that the MAN OF STEEL team did. They chose to make a Superman movie that felt like it more or less could have happened right across the bay from Nolan's Gotham. But I think a better route would have been to directly contrast how different Superman and Batman really are, and take Superman all the way back to his earliest roots.

In the Golden Age, Superman wasn't portrayed as the boy scout he's come to be seen as. That's not to say he was dark or sociopathic, but rather that he was a lot more explicitly populist. He was just as often battling corporations and corrupt politicians as he was gangsters and bootleggers. The "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" tag was still 15 years off (and came from outside the comics). He was created during the Depression and reflected his audiences' disgust with the fat cats running society.

But of course, that's not at all relevant to us today, when there's no real protests about the role of large corporations in our lives...oh, wait. #OccupyMetropolis

Look, it wouldn't have to be that explicit, because that would actually be pretty terrible, but it wouldn't take much to portray a world where Superman was essentially on the people's side, their voice and their strength against all-powerful forces the average person has no hope of taking on. A world where standing up for "the American Way" does not necessarily mean "the American Government's Way". Where the people in power who exploit those not in power have a hell of a lot more to fear from Supes than any desperate mugger does.

Historically, Batman has been seen as the outsider, hunted off and on as a vigilante by the authorities, while Superman has been portrayed as a neutered pet of the government. But it doesn't have to be that way; who is the government more likely to be scared of, a guy beating up bank robbers in the dark, or a living god who has vowed to defend the little guy at all costs?

Batman's a rich guy, raised in wealth. He fights crime at the street level and from an essentially Conservative standpoint: personal responsibility trumps all else. No matter what the mitigating circumstances are, no matter what their background is, a person has a choice whether or not to commit a crime. And once they've made that choice, all bets are off. They've become a bad guy, a villain, an enemy. They had a choice and they chose wrong; now Batman is here to give them what they deserve.

But Superman wouldn't have to be like that. He was raised by farmers, in a small rural community in the midwest, and (in this movie) he spent his 20s traveling as an itinerate worker all over the world. Unlike pampered Bruce Wayne, he saw that the world is complicated, that poverty and hunger and inequality can drive good people to do desperate things, that one can hate a crime without hating the criminal.

Batman fights crime with fear, with negative example. To his way of thinking, if he becomes frightening enough, both in demeanor and in tactics, a potential criminal will be so afraid of encountering the Dark Knight that he'll think twice about committing a crime.

But Superman should be the opposite; he should "fight crime" by giving us a better example. Not in a corny "I want to be like that handsome white dude" way, but because he believes in us. He has an unshakeable faith in the best parts of even the worst of us. He knows that none of us are truly evil, he knows that most of our evil acts are born of fear and ignorance and selfishness and myopia. That's why he gives everything he has to save us, again and again, and one way we can thank him is by living in a way that makes us worth saving. We should strive to be the people Superman believes us to be, even if we don't always believe it ourselves.

All this leads up to the biggest way to differentiate between a realistic Batman film and a realistic Superman film. The MAN OF STEEL filmmakers thought that the way to make a more realistic Superman film was to put Supes in the same grimdark Nolanverse as Batman. But there's another way to be put a superhero like Superman into a realistic setting, one that would be much more satisfying than just watching Superman being forced to spoiler his enemy's spoiler: force him to make impossible choices.

Batman is a zealot. He doesn't have to make hard decisions, because he literally has no conflict in his heart about what he does. But a realistic Superman, full of empathy and even love for his fellow man, would have nothing but hard decisions, and a film shouldn't shy away from that.

I've talked already about how Superman can never truly view street criminals with the same eyes as Batman, but what about larger international issues? I know we're getting close to Quest For Peace territory here, but bear with me. Most writers deal with this by just having Superman be a nonpartisan who mostly stays out of international conflicts. But how could our Superman, devoted to humanity and dedicated to alleviating suffering, not interfere in Syria? In North Korea? In Guantanamo Bay? And how does he deal with the political blowback once he, say, steps foot into Palestine? Most importantly, what does he do when his interference somewhere leads to even greater suffering?

Superman is a deity, but he's a deity with only 24 hours in a day, who can only be in one place at a time. He can contain a reactor from melting down OR he can stop a school shooter. How can he live with himself regardless of what he's chosen? Maybe he became a reporter as a kind of penance, forcing himself to be confronted every single workday with the horrible repercussions of the tragedies he chose not to stop.

This is what a realistic Superman "origin story" should be: him struggling not with his powers but with the LIMITS of his powers.

None of what I've written stops a Superman movie from still being an action movie blockbuster. Forget about boring old Zod, bring back Luthor for the first movie. Turning him from an evil genius into a corporate raider and politician is one of the smartest changes in the Superman mythos, and it should be preserved here. Superman, the man of the people, against the most powerful CEO in the world.

But Luthor's power should be shown as REAL power, and give him the ability to weaken Superman without ever even touching Kryptonite: Luthor can turn the people Superman serves against him.

As I said above, this Superman would be more of an outcast than Batman ever was. Once he started standing up for the powerless, the powerful would do everything they could to shift the opinion of the people against him.

Superman not only has to deal with natural disasters and international conflicts, he also has to deal with the world's media distorting his every action, exaggerating his every flaw, and outright lying about him. And they're successful...the average person doesn't know what to think about Superman. His opponents, after all, are so good at this that they've already convinced a significant number of uninsured people that letting the government pay for their dialysis is the first step on a direct path to Nazism.

Our Superman would begin this movie as a folk hero, embraced by the people he's helped in spite of what their leaders want them to believe. Our Superman does the right thing because it's right, knowing that most of the world will never hear about it, or worse, hear about it in a way that makes him sound wrong.

And the person most responsible with turning the world against our hero? Media mogul and presidential candidate Lex Luthor. Hopefully, the film would be smart enough to give Luthor a viewpoint that he sees as being valid, at least to him, and not just give him an invisible mustache to twirl.

There could still be a rollicking action movie here. Luthor, having turned the world against the alien, wants credit with capturing him. Giant robots? Sure, giant robots. And the robots are controlled by a rudimentary AI. The artificial intelligence has a long LuthorCorp code name, but everyone just calls it Brainiac.

A few scenes of Superman getting batted around by giant robots, and then Luthor gets in trouble: Brainiac achieves true self-awareness, decides to enslave humanity, yadda yadda.

Superman reaches out to Luthor for help in battling the rogue AI. Yes, his help: he knows that together they stand a much better chance of beating Brainiac than they do alone. He needs the robots Luthor still controls, but he also needs Luthor's strategic genius. Luthor is the only person who can deploy him most effectively against Brainiac. Superman has the strength and the speed, but he needs Luthor to play a giant game of chess with Brainiac, drawing his forces away from major cities and maneuvering him into a position where Superman can strike with maximum effectiveness.

Luthor initially rebuffs him, but Superman appeals to Luthor's humanity. Superman tells him he noticed something about the earlier battles: Luthor's robots only ever attacked him over the sea or over the desert...Luthor doesn't want innocents to be hurt any more than Superman does.

So they team up, duke it out, and Brainiac gets taken offline. Luthor and Superman end up together on a bluff overlooking the battlefield, a small town that was able to be evacuated before the fight.

Genuinely moved by what they just accomplished, Luthor offers Superman a partnership. Just like with Brainiac, the two of them fighting beside each other would be able to accomplish so much more than apart. This shouldn't be a straightforward "deal with the devil" that Superman should obviously spurn...it should be attractive, it should make sense, it should inspire internet contrarians to argue after the film that Superman was a fool to turn it down.

But he DOES turn it down, because he knows that Luthor is suggesting they use their combined power to rule, not to lead. Throughout the film, Superman has had to come to terms with the limits of his abilities, but now Luthor wants to use him as a limitless source of power, to reshape the world in their image. Superman doesn't turn it down because it's repellent...he turns it down because it's too seductive, too much of a slippery slope.

This is Luthor, though, and there's no way he and Superman can just disagree and part ways, still respecting each other. No, Luthor takes the rejection personally, sees it as a form of disrespect. For most of this film, he wanted to contain Superman for his own political goals. But not now; now he HATES him.

He tells Superman that there is no way he's gonna let him have any credit for this win. In fact, the rampage is going to be pinned on him. Instead of being the thing that helps him gain acceptance in this world, it's going to be another mark against him. Luthor will get all the praise, and no one will ever know that Superman was the one who saved them.

Superman tells him he understands, that he knew there was a good chance of this happening when he reached out to Luthor. Then why in the world, Luthor asks, did he go through with it? I'm not even going to make you a villain this time, he says, I'm going to make you a JOKE, someone who tried to conquer the world and ended up barely able to destroy an empty suburb.

Superman doesn't answer him, just looks down on the crowd of first responders and volunteers at the scene of the final battle, putting out fires and clearing out rubble. Just ordinary people, doing everything they can to help their neighbors. The film is smart enough to not have Supes oversell it and say "That's why." It's obvious that's what he means. They watch the crowd together for a few beats, then there's a red and blue that leaves Luthor alone and bitter and ashamed.



[After writing all of this, I've refreshed the thread to see that lucien_reeve's excellent comment anticipated a lot of what I was fumbling with here. But since this comment represents the bulk of my Saturday afternoon I felt I owed it to myself to follow through with hitting Post Comment. Like him, I apologize for the length.]
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:11 PM on June 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


I would love to see that film Ian, but to judge from the last Batman film, Nolan's sympathies lie with the Millionaires and the CEOs; ordinary people are the mob.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 5:39 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I could in good faith accuse a Snyder film of having a deliberate subtext since he doesn't know what one is.
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yup, that's a movie you'd never get out of Nolan. Which is why adopting the Nolan aesthetic was such a terrible, terrible idea for a Superman movie. I mean, I'm not surprised that plenty of people like it, there's always been a substantial cadre of superhero fans that believed that Superman should be "cool like Batman", but that doesn't make it a good idea.
posted by tavella at 6:39 PM on June 15, 2013


Hell, I may have said myself of the last movie that they should have Superman punch something sometime... That's some monkeys paw shit, it turns out.
posted by Artw at 6:44 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Man of Steel Porn Parody Features Things You Won’t See In Man of Steel
posted by homunculus at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2013


You know, it's perfectly OK for you to disagree about the film, not like it, and tell us in detail why you don't like it...

But...

"Zack Snyder simply appears to be stupid. " Is not the kind of comment we would make about each other, is there any reason to stoop to this level in the thread when talking about the subject of the thread? Especially since, I suspect, you've got no knowledge to that fact you're throwing out there.

Yes, I'm way too close to this to participate, so I've pretty much stayed out of this thread, other than a couple of comments of fact that I could contribute, but, Zack's a friend, I have tremendous respect for him and felt a need to at least counter your statement with my opinion that he is far from "stupid".
posted by HuronBob at 6:48 PM on June 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I saw it with my mother today. She's been a Superman fan since she was four years old, in 1953. We left the theater and she declared it "not really Superman."

To her, the film's greatest crime was the costume--and honestly, I have to agree. Because I think that suit is emblematic of a bigger problem, that Supe's fundamental supe-ness is so earnest and good and kind of embarrassing. Like red spandex underwear. But he resists laughter, sneering, because he's so pure, so charismatic, so right. To do Superman right you need to embrace that and this movie demurred but ended up doing something that was, in a way, more embarrassing. Snakeskin body suit. And a red-blooded American hero who mercilessly snaps someone's neck.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:16 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


not the kind of comment we would make about each other, is there any reason to stoop to this level in the thread when talking about the subject of the thread?

I'm not the one who made that remark, but I don't think there's any need for us to be polite to anyone not actually participating in the conversation. I'm quite certain that Zack Snyder will find plenty of consolation in the fact that the film seems on its way to being a big hit.

And honestly, he's got Superman killing a guy by breaking his neck. He's going to take some heat for that, because some of us take this stuff seriously.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:31 PM on June 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


HuronBob, people calling you stupid on the internets is pretty much the price of fame these days. I'm sure his millions of dollars will be of some comfort to him.
posted by JHarris at 8:09 PM on June 15, 2013


And the thing is, the neck snapping could have worked. It was so close to working! Just make it clear that it's a kindness, not an act of vengeance. Have Superman say something, make a comforting sound, before he does it. Later, instead of flashing back to Clark playing Superman (which made no sense--not even to my sixty four year old mother who loved the end of LOST), show a scene with Jonathan and young Clark. Maybe their dog attacked a baby bird. Clark brings it to his father and asks if they can save it, but it's clear it's already dying. Jonathan makes the same sound as he snaps the bird's neck, young Clark watching, wide-eyed. Jonathan teaches Clark how caring means empathy, how sometimes kindness means death. That's when we realize what it meant for Clark to grow up on a farm, on Earth, among humans--that he'll do the sometimes-unpleasant work of truly taking care of us, of even Zod, who would have destroyed us--but who was hurting now that his fellows were gone.

But . . . narrative opportunity ignored.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Zack Snyder simply appears to be stupid. " Is not the kind of comment we would make about each other, is there any reason to stoop to this level in the thread when talking about the subject of the thread?

Perhaps "stupid" (or the appearance of stupidity) may seem a little harsh on a personal level, but that's the kind of hyperbole that people are apt to employ when they're aware that their voices are likely to be drowned out by reports of box office returns. A more charitable observation might be that Snyder, in directing and promoting this film, displays that peculiarly insular thoughtlessness that Hollywood cultivates. It takes a certain kind of cognitive dissonance to transform a character created by a Jewish creative team into a quasi-Christ figure and then market it to a religious audience despite the film's climax of the hero breaking the Fifth Commandment rather than, say, turning the other cheek.

While I certainly don't know Zack Snyder personally, I expect that he probably comes off as a nice guy and easy to get on with. He certainly was able to command more loyalty from studio execs when it came down to a choice between him and Darren Aronofsky to direct the next Superman movie. Still, real evidence of niceness would have been getting a ticket for Mark Waid to the premiere of Man of Steel after basing so much of the movie on his work in Superman: Birthright. But that's show biz, I suppose.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:43 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personal insults may be "the price of fame," but I thought Metafilter aspired to a higher level of discourse than that.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:50 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi, based on this comment of yours, I thought MetaFilter had an implicit agreement with you that we would all go see the next Superman movie with your mother.

/just kidding, glad you got to see it with her.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just watched Mystery Men on netflix, and man, that movie has improved dramatically with age. It's got goofy optimism and idealism, exciting setpiece battles, and a scary, wonderful and fully realized cyberpunk world you almost wanted to live in, the whole thing interwoven with a beautiful surrealism.

It's everything I wanted from a modern Superman movie, but didn't get with Man of Steel.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:42 PM on June 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I saw Man of Steel at a matinee today. Yeah, disappointing. SPOILERS DEARIE!

First off, the whole notion that Superman is itself a Jewish name - boom. Mind. Blown. Seriously, how long have I been on the internet and not read that.

Anyway, the story starts off as a pretty cool sci-fi revision of Gladiator except Maximus dies! What's with that? Anyway, we have the Moses story of the baby in the basket cast into the river. I get it.

Then, in the wilderness, Clark see his father, who is both his father and a ghost. OK, so now he's a little Christ-ish. Fine.

Then in space father-ghost tells Supes "You can save them all." And then Superman makes like he's crucified. At this point the movie has pretty much lost it for me. The "symbolism" is being heaped on with a trowel, it's so thick.

But then it turns out the Kryptonians are actually all into eugenics. And their creepy scientist has... a German accent? So now they're not Jews, but Nazis? Wait, what?? And there Holocaust imagery of Supes standing on a mountain of skulls except now the Humans are the Jews?

So Superman is some sort of... blood traitor when he destroys all the Kryptonian embryos?

This is like some grade school-level religious imagery here crossed with some Stormfront outtakes.

And then you have the wonderful declaration that there's nothing more American than distrusting your government although they need to trust you.

Honestly, having Superman kill a guy - the last surviving fellow member of his race I might add - is the least of this movie's issues. I mean, Superman has always had that whole theme of searching for identity (well, except in the comics when he was on Krypton every other Tuesday it seemed) - while he could do anything, he could never really know exactly who he was. But here we have some sort of indoctrinated cult member who kills his own family as the final step in his initiation ritual. He's a 33 year-old Somalian child soldier now or some sort of Jewish child pushing the button to dispense the Zyklon B.

The religious imagery makes the 9/11 imagery - which itself was again applied with a trowel, what with all the white ash covering everyone, like they stepped out of 9/11 news footage - look positively respectful and not, say, completely exploitative.

Maybe Zack Snyder is a nice guy and he's probably smart enough to beat me at bridge but Man of Steel was a goddamn mess. Well, Kevin Costner was actually OK. Because at least he's nice to kids which is more than you can say for Superman.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, on behalf of German people, thanks to Zack Snyder for trotting out a nigh-on 100 year old trope that Germans are terrible, evil scientists whose only interests are eugenics and sometimes Oktoberfest.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Philip French's Observer review is as on the money as ever (he'll be sorely missed when he hangs up his pen later this year).
posted by brilliantmistake at 11:22 PM on June 15, 2013


The stories of Superman and Jesus are both examples of the "hero" myth, along with Luke Skywalker, Siegfried and King Arthur. And Moses too, of course.
posted by La Cieca at 11:57 PM on June 15, 2013


HuronBob, I know this is a bit awkward for you, but if I may ask, do you have any insight into what Snyder's response is to the complaints that his Superman has abandoned the character's traditional moral code? That seems to be the primary complaint among fans.
posted by homunculus at 11:58 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


homunculus, I haven't spoken to Zack since last Monday evening, after the Premier but before the reviews started pouring out so I don't know what his response is, when I get a chance to talk to my kid later this week I'll see if he has any thoughts on it and will send them off to you.
posted by HuronBob at 12:37 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personal insults may be "the price of fame," but I thought Metafilter aspired to a higher level of discourse than that.

I dunno. Sometimes the snark runs full and thick in this place. There is the idea of acceptable targets, however, and punching up. I'd personally agree that calling him "stupid" wasn't a good idea, but just because there's more effective ways to express disappointment than simple name-calling.

I'd agree with homunculus that it'd be interesting to see Snyder's response to this, because although I haven't seen the movie, nearly everything I've heard about it I have profound negative reactions to. (And saying "don't judge until you've seen it" only goes so far; if I know I'm not going to enjoy a thing I'd be foolish to spend money just to confirm it and waste my time.) Anyway, there are plenty of chances for people other than the writer and director to ruin movies these days, so our complaints about the film need not even be taken personally by them.

Mystery Men, BTW, is excellent, much better than its box office at the time suggested. It's based off of Flaming Carrot Comics, natch.
posted by JHarris at 1:20 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


They really did write themselves into a corner with Zod, huh? By not sending him into the Phantom Zone, they pretty much left it so Supes would have to kill him. Nothing had been established earlier in the movie that could take him out of the equation besides the Phantom Zone. I mean, heck, even the ethically dubious Kryptonian people did kill the guy and he straight up shot the Vice President In-charge of Headdresses.

After Superman pretty much wiped out the remnants of the Kryptonian people (in Zod's eyes, at least. I'm sure there is a colony on Argos for Supergirl to come from at some point), Zod had nothing to do but vent his hate and despair at him for as long as he lived. Plus he was getting the whole Yellow Sun treatment, so he'd just get more and more powerful! Dude had to die.

Basically, what I'm saying is that before he could kill Zod, he needs to kill something else for a Right Reason.

His dog. The dog that was the cause of his adopted father's death, the dog that had been a loyal and faithful member of the family for years, the dog that, after Jonathan died, grew sick and strange, aggressive and vicious (give'm rabies for an Old Yeller death), turning on his family. This time, it would be Mom, not one of the two Ghost Dads, who gives Clark advice - "He hasn't been the same since Jonathan died. He lost his purpose and then lost his way and... got sick. He's in pain Clark. Save him before he shares that pain with someone else."

And then Superman kills his dog.

But even then, it would be better for Superman to not actually do the Wonder Woman Lord-Twist. The more I think about it, that was pretty dumb. What, Zod couldn't turn his gaze three feet to the right? Rig up some thing about the engine of the scoutship going nova and have the last confrontation be in the shattered remains of the un-imprinted Kryptonian dead babies. Supes can keep his hands clean and tell Zod he's "deciding to be human and humans can't fly" and the General can bite it in the impulse drive or something.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:00 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else not want to hear the film maker's reaction to the criticism? Pretty uncomfortable an idea, and frankly, the work should be able to defend itself. And the criticisms here might be directed at Snyder, but they're perfectly cromulent critiques of his work.

I will say this: narratively, this was a much more cohesive work than many recent superhero movies or big budget action/sci-fi films. Unlike, say, The Avengers, the character's motivations largely made sense even if they didn't make sense in light of the Superman canon; the plot was without non-sensical twists or stupid MacGuffins. The women in the film were more active and well-realized than they often are in such outings. And visually, I thought it was interesting--better textured than, say, the 300. The entire aesthetic seemed to grow out of Cavill's musculature and five o'clock shadow, sure, but it was pretty and made a statement.

My problems here were largely in the anviliciousness of the symbolism. We can't just have a scene in a church were sacrifice is discussed; we have to have a shot, perfectly framed, with Jesus hanging over Clark Kent's shoulders. We don't just have an Aslan-like creature who martyrs himself; we have a thirty-three year old Aslan-like creature with a ghost for a dad. Similarly ham-fisted was the 9/11 imagery.

Oh, and the product placement. Can we talk about that? The funny thing is, I'm fine with characters working at IHOP or visiting a 7-11. These are things that we actually do in our modern lives. But when nearly every scene in a fight has a perfectly-framed Sears logo in the background, it's distracting; it takes me out of the movie. These are all poor artistic choices. They're not smart. I think this had potential, as a work, but needed significant tightening. It wasn't quite there. It wasn't, say, Lindelof stupid. But these choices? Yeah, stupid.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 AM on June 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I both liked and hated this movie. I liked it as stupid action movie but as a Superman movie it sucked.

Likes:
Zod fucking with his cape
Lois knowing from the beginning
Focus on Superman as an alien
Pa Kent being a jerk

Hated:
The beginning on Krypton
Zod's rebellion
Jor el having a pet dragon
Lara wussing out - kinda sexist
Pa Kent being a jerk
Random suit ready in "fortress of solitude"
Zod being so genocidal that he couldn't just go to Mars or Venus or another solar system
Why exactly was Lois on that plane?
Superman vs the robots from the Matrix
Supes not bothering to save bystanders - letting Zod's ship fall on Metropolis - that's not Superman
Superman couldn't just turn Zod around or force him face down?
All the boring Christian symbolism
How exactly is no one recognizing Clark Kent as Superman since Supes is world famous at this point?
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:03 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find that the appearance of absolute internal consistency in popular action franchises usually results from sloppy reductivism and ideological simplification. In a way, that's kind of what lucien_reeve is saying above: Nolan and Snyder achieve that impressive internal consistency precisely by reducing their representation of the actual world and its people to figments of neoconservative or fascist ideology.
posted by kewb at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did people not like Mystery Men at the time? Because that movie has always been gold to me.
posted by Artw at 9:52 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


we have to have a shot, perfectly framed, with Jesus hanging over Clark Kent's shoulders

Is it really that blatant? Wow.

Did people not like Mystery Men at the time?

I think it did middling in box office. Lots of films we look back on fondly didn't do terribly well on release. The rise of satirical takes on superheros like Dr. Horrible and Venture Bros. has helped Mystery Men a lot (kind of ironic, since Flaming Carrot was one of the very first of that style).
posted by JHarris at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


the best part for me was near the beginning where (SPOILERS)

where they trapped the bad duders in ice nuggets and then placed them in black dildoes that flew them up into the prison ship. Seriously. THEY WERE IN BLACK DILDOES.
posted by Windigo at 10:35 AM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


YES THOSE WERE SURE SOME DILDOES. BALLS N ALL.

Since I saw it with my mother I just had to be like "hee" really quietly to myself.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2013


PhoBWanKenobi mentioned product placement -- is it just me, or has the interlinking of movies and advertising exploded this year? You used to see it with James Bond with the watches and the cars and ads using shots/clips from the movies, but now it's fairly random things like Gillette for Superman.
posted by tavella at 11:31 AM on June 16, 2013


I was out yesterday somewhere that had a TV and was surprised to see an ad for trucks (Dodge?) with clips from Man of Steel. I'm a no-cable-TV person--I buy my TV shows from iTunes or rent DVDs--so it took me a moment to process the ad and figure out what they were selling. "Why are there cars in this movie ad?"
posted by immlass at 11:37 AM on June 16, 2013


I googled "man of steel product placement" last night and apparently this film set a record. I'm really not surprised, since that lengthy Smallville fight scene seemed to be sponsored by Sears, U-Haul, 7-11, and IHOP.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


regardless of my earlier comment here, I must admit, however much I love Superman, and I did enjoy Henry Cavill's work and Amy Adams as Lois, when I was asking myself if I'd go for a second viewing, as per usual, my gut instinct is to seriously balk. A lot of the critiques has been very much on the mark. Man of Steel is positively gorgeous, dripping with the money that was thrown at it, but for an origin story (which was still more coherent, than say, Batman Begins), it's Marvel compatriot, Captain America, had a MUCH better grasp of what that character is all about.

Nolan, Snyder et al spends too much time being cynical about the human condition and too little trying to inspire it. This was my fear coming into the movie, and for the most part has been proven true.
posted by cendawanita at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Superman vs the robots from the Matrix

Jon Peters was listed as a producer in the opening credits - that meant Superman was gonna fight something spiderlike at some point.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:43 PM on June 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, the priest was the kid who bullied Clark by the fence, right? Hence the overly done GULP when he realized he almost got himself pulverized during his wayward youth.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:46 PM on June 16, 2013


Jon Peters was listed as a producer in the opening credits - that meant Superman was gonna fight something spiderlike at some point.

He finally got his wish...
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


How The National Guard Is Using "Man of Steel" To Recruit You
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2013


Lois Lane and the Case for the Female Superhero Movie
posted by homunculus at 4:41 PM on June 16, 2013


Saw it. Don't have time to go into detail, but thought the complaints about Superman's "lack of moral code" were overstated. When he dealt with Zod, it was obviously done as a last resort and there was obvious a pained reaction to having done it. The next scene took place obviously quite a bit of time later, so perhaps the movie didn't focus on it long enough, but it was there.

Flawed, tho', and I'll try and offer more thoughts tomorrow when I have the time.

Overall, mixed on it. Hrm.
posted by Atreides at 5:35 PM on June 16, 2013


Just saw it with Dad and his reaction was: "Have to say Superman II with Chris Reeve is still my favorite Superman movie." While some of the new bits were good, particularly the way Lois and Clark are set up with Lois being a much stronger character and in on the secret from the beginning, are much better. But Zod as bored sociopath who takes over the Earth just because hey, why not seemed much more fun than Zod the genetically programmed defenderbot.

Also, wasn't Krypton supposed to be a technologically advanced industrial world? All they needed was some slave girls for it to be a dead ringer for Gor.
posted by localroger at 6:26 PM on June 16, 2013


Also, wasn't Krypton supposed to be a technologically advanced industrial world?

Right. Along with the ice dildoes, this was my biggest problem with Krypton. Why the hell was Jor-el riding around on a space-dragon? WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT? So unnecessary, so distracting, so dumb.
posted by Dokterrock at 8:52 PM on June 16, 2013


Space-dragon? Wait, that's it! Krypton is the future of Westeros. Jor-el is a Targaryen. It all makes sense now.
posted by homunculus at 9:23 PM on June 16, 2013


Saw it. Don't have time to go into detail, but thought the complaints about Superman's "lack of moral code" were overstated. When he dealt with Zod, it was obviously done as a last resort and there was obvious a pained reaction to having done it.

Except it's a key part of his character, in the comics, that he won't kill anyone even as a last resort. See the "What If" story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," where (spoilers) in remorse for killing a malevolent god-being threatening to annihilate the universe, a threat much more dire than Zod, he willingly gives up his powers.

The defense usually given by people on behalf of this kind of character tinkering is that it's a "new take" on the character. Poppycock! It's just an excuse to make the movie the director really wanted to make with the built-in audience of a licensed property! Otherwise they'd make up a new character to put in the movie. They didn't, because people would say "why should we care?" Why should we, indeed!
posted by JHarris at 10:02 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


robocop is bleeding: “Jon Peters was listed as a producer in the opening credits - that meant Superman was gonna fight something spiderlike at some point.”
For the reference of people unfamiliar with the story, here's the Superman Reborn saga from An Evening With Kevin Smith.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:39 PM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


But even then, it would be better for Superman to not actually do the Wonder Woman Lord-Twist.

True.

.
posted by homunculus at 10:50 PM on June 16, 2013


As I say, I blame Alan Moore.
posted by Artw at 10:58 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: “As I say, I blame Alan Moore.”
I think I speak for all non-comic-book-readers when I say, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Actual, Over?" This was not for sale to minors, right?
posted by ob1quixote at 11:12 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm... AFAIK it didn't even have a "for mature readers" tag. I have no idea how widely distributed it was.

Nice ti know it still has impact after all these years and all the imitations.
posted by Artw at 11:23 PM on June 16, 2013


Ah, here's the whole thing I meant to like to above (I thought it was gone) including Superman's horrified reaction to said neck-twist.
posted by homunculus at 1:34 AM on June 17, 2013


More from Kevin Smith:
Fat Man on Batman #040: Man of Steel Super Special: Fat Man and Gar-man on Superman
Jun 16, 2013 - In the Fat Cave this week, we check in on the other half of the World's Finest fighting duo, and discuss Batman's partner in crime-fighting - the Big Blue Boy Scout from Metropolis, Superman! As the Last Son of Krypton dominates the box office in MAN OF STEEL, we celebrate the return of the Big S with a podcast nearly as long as the movie itself! With Special Guest Villain Ralph Garman!
posted by ob1quixote at 1:47 AM on June 17, 2013


It first took root with Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT. Some people really like this book. I suspect it’s because they think Frank Miller was being hyperbolic. He wasn’t.

I assume you mean The Dark Knight Returns? And the seeds were definitely there. But there is a very good case that something happened between the Frank Miller of the pretty good Batman: Year One (and remember who the real enemies were in that novel - not the street level thugs) in the 1980s and the Frank Miller of the truly dire The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

Nolan took Miller’s fascism – and it is fascism, recognisably so, full of the worship of violence, the desire for a strong leader, the hatred of the lying media, the ending in which society is reborn as a secret group of the righteous elect – it’s practically on the level of THE TURNER DIARIES – well, Nolan took that and filtered it through a much more elitist vision. THE DARK KNIGHT is all about society needing those it hates to rule over it.

I'm going to answer by pointing out that the first and part of the triology was Batman Begins. What you are saying makes sense if you only look at The Dark Knight Rises - i.e. if you strip it of two entire films worth of context. But in the Gotham of Batman Begins, the power structure is corrupt from top to bottom. Those who wish to rule over the society aren't Batman and co but The League of Shadows. As well as Gotham's rich and corrupt elites. The Gotham of TDKR is fundamentally different from the Gotham of BB - and it is so because there no longer are secretive people ruling over it. (The Dark Knight doesn't star Christian Bale - it's Heath Ledger's movie). And Bane/Occupy is Bane taking advantage of what was already there. His rhetoric from memory was inconsistent, incoherent, and generally trying to cause trouble. But note that even without the police Gotham wasn't as bad under Bane's rule as it had been in Batman Begins. Context is king.

As for "Rule over", Bruce takes a step back from trying that at the end of every film. And quite deliberately so. Right down to giving the surveillance power he creates from mobile phones to the person he knows doesn't want it and will actually destroy it. And at the end giving up being Batman. (One important thing to notice about that ist that Bruce never actually has a dream of his own. Batman is his version of Ducard's League of Shadows, and at the end his actions are Alfred's).

Again, taking The Dark Knight Rises on its own merits rather than as part of a trilogy I have a lot of sympathy with your viewpoints. But when put up against Batman Begins, I see an overwhelmingly different narrative. The one in which no one who wants power can be trusted (not even Gordon), all leaders are flawed (even Alfred), but when given a chance the people are nothing like as bad as the elites running the place would make them.
posted by Francis at 5:41 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


MAN OF STEEL Wrap up: It’s a hit! So what next?
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on June 17, 2013


The line interviews on this are really telling: Can Critics Make Their Mark on 'Man of Steel?'
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chris Sims: 'Man Of Steel': On My Planet, The 'S' Is For Sucks
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:44 AM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I bet he was looking forwards to sitting that one out... But they dragged him back in!
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Jim Romenesko's blog: Here's what would happen if Clark Kent tried to get a newspaper job today.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:36 AM on June 18, 2013


These days, of course, Clark Kent is big on social media.
posted by Artw at 7:16 AM on June 18, 2013


Man of Steel’s snap decision: Goyer and Snyder were for it; Nolan wasn’t — SPOILERS
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on June 18, 2013


So the "fanboys" were the ones who wanted Supes to kill, not Nolan, per the article. What's actually rather ironic is that the two who profess the most love for the genre are the two who insisted on going against the grain for the purpose of essentially making what they felt a better cinematic outing of the character.

I would like to think that Zod could have been tossed into the Phantom Zone/Black Hole in a manner that would not have been anti-climatic. Slow down the consumption of the Kryptonian ship, edge up the suspense by having Supes and Zod fighting on the perimeter of the vacuum, have objects hurdling past them, and so on and so on...
posted by Atreides at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2013


So the "fanboys" were the ones who wanted Supes to kill, not Nolan, per the article. What's actually rather ironic is that the two who profess the most love for the genre are the two who insisted on going against the grain for the purpose of essentially making what they felt a better cinematic outing of the character.

Well, Snyders the kind of "fanboy" that thinks the point of Watchmen is that Rorschach is really cool, so it shouldn't be that suprising.

And DC right now is utterly mired in grim and gritty "adult" writing that's dumb as a sack of rocks, so in a way it's even fitting.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had an interesting discussion with the kid about the 9/11 imagery. I reacted pretty strongly to it, as did the wife who know two people who died on 9/11. The response I got didn't really satisfy me, basically a reference to "this is the world we live in now..." I don't think I buy that, something about not wanting to believe we need to just accept this as fact.

We already know from watching the news—not to mention those who were downtown that day—that this is the world we live in. What we ask of art (if Hollywood movies want to consider themselves art) is not mere reporting of what everyone is aware of, but some kind of catharsis beyond that. Instead, Hollywood has been giving us empty spectacle, blockbuster after blockbuster, summer after summer.

The irony...regardless of the body count when you factor in the destruction of the city, the bodies we never see, it's rated pg-13.

What Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan lacked in thematic depth, they have overcompensated for in sheer devastation. Disaster experts estimate that the apocalyptic destruction from Zod and Superman's fight would result in 129,000 people confirmed dead, along with 250,000 missing and one million injured, and $750 billion in property damage, for a $2 trillion total cost to the economy. The psychological aftermath would, of course, be incalculable. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki is a better measure for this than any of Snyder's superficial parallels to the fall of the Twin Towers.

Ironically, although nobody's expecting Snyder & co. to address all this adequately in the fast-tracked sequel that Man of Steel's boffo box office now justifies, next year theaters will be hit with a remake of Godzilla.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pacific Rim looks pretty mindless, but at least it's not a rehash of some existing character franchise. They're seriously remaking Godzilla? Good grief.

Also, disaster porn always has to ratchet things up. What's the point of having Superman fight Zod and there ends up being less destruction than last night's news from some tornado, hurricane or flood?
posted by GuyZero at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2013


Moving from footage of tornadoes/hurricanes/floods on last night's news to disaster porn at the movies might indicate a developing fetish.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2013


The American public's fetish for war and disaster porn is pretty well-known.
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on June 18, 2013


They're seriously remaking Godzilla? Good grief.

This will only be our third American produced Godzilla move, no? We got a ton more to make to catch up to Japan! (Though the Die Hard franchise is working to match that same output)
posted by Atreides at 11:19 AM on June 18, 2013


I want someone to re-do the clip of Superman wailing after killing Zod with Vader's infamous NNOOOOOOOOO.

Chop chop, internets.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2013


The difference is that each Japanese Godzilla movie is different - they all know who Godzilla is, there's a different monster, etc.

In the American ones it's a re-boot every time. Ugh.
posted by GuyZero at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2013


the apocalyptic destruction from Zod and Superman's fight would result in 129,000 people confirmed dead, along with 250,000 missing and one million injured, and $750 billion in property damage, for a $2 trillion total cost to the economy. The psychological aftermath would, of course, be incalculable.

Yeah, I'm kind of over action movies that feature this kind of destruction without even a cursory nod towards either a) preventing it, or b) the consequences. Like, it doesn't take much to satisfy me on this score! Avengers managed it with one line from Captain America about keeping the aliens in a three-block radius, and a couple scenes of saving civilians and working with first responders. Otherwise, I'm going to spend the entirety of the movie's expensive flashy action sequence fixated on all of the people dying in those collapsing buildings, and the massive (human and financial) costs of destruction.
posted by yasaman at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I just can't take massive destruction and loss of life in movies anymore. 2012 literally made me sick to my stomach. But The Avengers worked fine for me, mostly for the reasons you mention, yasaman. Large-scale action can be done right.
posted by brundlefly at 12:20 PM on June 18, 2013


250,000 missing and one million injured

Yeah, the very first thing I said to Dad after we left the movie (he having been the big comic nerd in his own youth) was "Doesn't Supes usually do a better job of saving the innocent bystanders?"
posted by localroger at 12:23 PM on June 18, 2013


Disaster experts estimate that the apocalyptic destruction from Zod and Superman's fight would result in 129,000 people confirmed dead, along with 250,000 missing and one million injured, and $750 billion in property damage, for a $2 trillion total cost to the economy.

These sorts of analyses are fun to do. Audiences rarely think about the aftermath. For example, the Endor Holocaust. In the Expanded Universe, it is called an Imperial lie but it had to have happened.

See also, Independence Day, where all the motherships fell to Earth without making multimegaton explosions.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2013


GuyZero: “Pacific Rim looks pretty mindless, but at least it's not a rehash of some existing character franchise.”
Del Toro says that Pacific Rim "start[s] from scratch" in the genre, but all my friends who are anime fans told me it looked like a live-action Neon Genesis Evangelion. Opinions vary on the Internet as to whether or not this is so.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2013


Huh. Compelling. But re-booting a franchise is as much about branding and name recognition as it is about characters and plots. Which is how we get Smurfs movies inexplicably set in modern New York city.
posted by GuyZero at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2013


I Don't Want to See Zack Snyder's Take on Wonder Woman
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I Don't Want to See Zack Snyder's Take on Wonder Woman

"Over in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Comics Studies..."

I would very much like to be a fly on the wall during that journal's peer review process.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:53 PM on June 18, 2013


It's nice to know other people were as put off by the wanton destruction and 'look at how cool all those people dying looks' attitude in 2012. That movie actually made me angry, and made me rethink how I watch movies, which would be a triumph if that had been anything like the goal of the film.

Hint: it wasn't.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:36 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jukebox superhero: 26 songs about Superman
posted by homunculus at 2:54 PM on June 18, 2013


I Don't Want to See Zack Snyder's Take on Wonder Woman

I should have known that my confidence it wouldn't get made was too good to be true.
posted by immlass at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2013


Nobody ever did get Sandman all the way into production...
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2013


Could they bring back Bowie and the makeup team from Labyrinth for Sandman??????????
posted by GuyZero at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2013


Del Toro says that Pacific Rim "start[s] from scratch" in the genre, but all my friends who are anime fans told me it looked like a live-action Neon Genesis Evangelion yt . Opinions vary on the Internet as to whether or not this is so.

It's really just all part of the same subgenre that is kaiju and mecha. There are definitely elements that I've seen in the trailers that borrowed from Eva, particularly a shot of a dead monster on an aircraft carrier, but I'm figuring it's influential rather than a rip off.

I'm actually pretty excited about Pacific Rim, not to mention it's a movie that will definitely benefit from the scale that 3D can offer.
posted by Atreides at 6:31 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody ever did get Sandman all the way into production...

For which we can all be grateful.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2013


More and more grateful the more you look into it, the book "Tales from Development Hell" devoting a full chapter to the awfulness of various versions of it. Thank god it's dead.

But now...
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on June 19, 2013


Man, the more I think about this movie, the less gruntled I get.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:14 AM on June 20, 2013


The S stands for SKULLS!
posted by Artw at 6:36 AM on June 20, 2013


WTF? The black costume is kinda nice, but skulls!!! What the hell, DC?
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:48 AM on June 20, 2013


I sort of wanted to see this because I like giant ridiculous spectacles, but I decided to just cave and watch the spoilerific Red Letter Media review. Holy shit, am I ever glad that I didn't spend money on it.
posted by codacorolla at 8:05 AM on June 20, 2013


The black costume goes with the skulls.
posted by localroger at 8:56 AM on June 20, 2013


I Love Man of Steel and I’m Not Sorry, Connor Kilpatrick, Jacobin, 19 June 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 3:22 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Choice And The Moral Universe Of 'Man Of Steel' - really great peice by Andrew Wheeler of Comics Alliance.
posted by Artw at 8:57 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is The Godfather of superhero movies"
posted by the_artificer at 3:26 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, Armond White, never change...
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:02 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


THE ANTI-VERDICT HAS BEEN REACHED.
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on June 21, 2013


next year theaters will be hit with a remake of Godzilla.

Bah. Even Godzilla is no match for the Fiery Phoenix.
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mark Waid follows up on previous comments about what DC writers can expect when their work is used in a movie: HOW DC CONTRACTS WORK
posted by Artw at 6:17 PM on June 21, 2013


Finally got to see it today. Liked the first three quarters a lot and got really bored during the finish. It seems to be impossible to make a super hero movie that doesn't end in a lot of pointless crashing around.
posted by octothorpe at 7:10 PM on June 22, 2013


It seems to be impossible to make a super hero movie that doesn't end in a lot of pointless crashing around.

Or any kind of summer tentpole genre movie. Many of the reviews of World War Z seem to take it as a serious weakness that the last reel was not the "now let's everybody fight" that is expected.

Superman can be a hard character to write for (being as Green Arrow termed him at one point, a big blue Boy Scout). That is hard to convey without being cheesy, and this is part of the reason for that for a long time the Chris Reeve version was the definitive version, as well as being unique in the annals of filmdom for being a superhero movie that was successful with audiences and critics. For you younger folks, that simply did not happen 35 years ago. Reeve brought a winning and unforced aw-shucks-ma'am charm to the role that would never have flown (heh) if one of the many A-listers who was sought for the role (e.g. Burt Reynolds) had taken the part.

The issue here is that there was no character in the character. The guy is keeping a low profile and has had great restraint with his powers urged on him by his adoptive father... and that's it. As with Oakland, there is no there there. It leaves a big Superman-shaped hole in the middle of the story.

Now, there are a couple of major things I see going wrong here: first, the entire first twenty minutes looks like Zack Snyder is submitting a sample reel to direct one of the Star Wars sequels. Second, it squanders every single opportunity for greatness by squeezing itself into the one-size-fits-all mold of 90% of superhero movies: Act One, where we see the origin story; Act Two, where the hero is confronted with the problem of someone with his power but who is a bad guy*; and Act Three, which is always twenty-five minutes of explosions and gratuitous property damage.

On top of that, there is the comical level of product placement -- notice the loving, lingering close-up on Lois Lane's Nikon D3S 12.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR, and weren't we all alarmed when the Kryptonian drone reacted to a flash from its bracket-mounted SB700 AF Speedlight Flash Unit ($329.95 from Amazon) -- and the worrying prospect that that the entire US government cannot locate a superhuman but a reporter can talk to some fishermen and an IHOP manager and then go knock on his front door. And there is some weird structural oddness going on: we get twenty minutes devoted to a battle in a small town with our hero fighting Zod's barely-defined lackey Faora and some large dude whose face we never even see. It goes nowhere and does nothing, save to get 7-Eleven on screen four or five times, as required by their contract.

On the upside, there was a mishmash of good points: they got a lot of star wattage and genre actors into the cast (good to see Helo and Gaeta working again). Henry Cavill looks good in the suit. The notion that our hero (and subsequently, Zod) are not instantly and automatically in perfect control of their powers is surprisingly daring. It was daring to have the backstory of our hero be not the overachiever he usually is but a working-class drifter. The ankle-length cape is a dramatic choice, and it works. Zod having a sympathetic rationale -- trying to save his people -- could have been quite good. The defeat of the bad guy by a brawling move would be dramatic and out-of-character, if he had any character for it to be out of. And while it was very light on the mythology, Zod did toss a Lexcorp tanker trailer at our hero in the climactic fight.

All in all, I found it a disappointment. Not Green-Lantern-level, why-did-they-even-bother, but more a feeling of squandered opportunity and unsuccessful striving for a point that should have been made clearer.


*Iron Man fights Obadiah Stane in an Iron Man suit; Hulk fights The Abomination; Thor fights Loki; Green Lantern fights Hector Hammond; Wolverine fights Sabretooth and so on. It gets tedious.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:54 AM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gaiman on awful Sandman films.
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2013


Sounds like Man of Steel's Christian marketing campaign may have backfired. Religious correspondents are calling Zack Snyder's version of the Big Blue Boy Scout "the anti-Christ" and "there mostly to satiate that part of the American psyche that wants their messiahs to punch things, too." When their target viewer says, "Don’t sit there and tell me I can compare this character to Jesus. Harry Potter is a better messianic figure than this Superman is.", well, you know that the marketing department is in trouble.

Since the movie's box office plummeted by almost two-thirds in its second weekend—cinema audiences evidently preferred to get their apocalypse on with Brad Pitt's zombie catastrophe—one can expect that this kind of word-of-mouth will only further decrease this Superman's momentum.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:12 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


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