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Regarding Clark
June 24, 2013 9:57 PM   Subscribe

"No one gets what’s special about Superman. ... What’s special about Superman, is that his parents didn’t f*cking die." Max Landis rants about Man of Steel and superhero movies.
posted by Cool Papa Bell (236 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pretty much sums up my opinions on the flick. And all the plot holes and inconsistencies in internal logic are secondary to the story ultimately being an incredibly bad take on the character and his supporting cast.
posted by ooga_booga at 10:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't love this.

It's hard to listen to a lot of this (particularly the setup) and not think the cherry-picking of Superman's backstory comes as a result of a rather fascinating projection of what fantasy Landis wants Superman to embody, instead of what Superman actually is, and why he's such a difficult character to modernize.

That said, I agree the movie has its share of problems, and many of his criticisms seems pretty reasonable.
posted by hank_14 at 10:17 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ummm. Kal-El's parents do, in fact, die (at least, for all practical purposes to we Earthlings).
posted by wobh at 10:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


wobh: "Kal-El's parents do, in fact, die (at least, for all practical purposes to we Earthlings)."

Which he addresses in the video, in that Superman doesn't find this out until he's already a young adult, and already decided to be a superhero. Their death, unlike Batman's parents, Robin's parents, Spiderman's uncle, etc., isn't what makes him decide to work for good.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 PM on June 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


"He's just a guy from Kansas..."

No, he's an alien. He's not human at all. That's what sucks about Superman.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Superman is an awful character, just in terms of story-telling. He was an adolescent power-fantasy written by children for children. He's basically one step away from axe-cop.
posted by empath at 10:38 PM on June 24, 2013 [33 favorites]


You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

No, really, I'm asking, because I can't remember if that terrible Barry Allen origin retcon ended up sticking.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:41 PM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


He's also a bit dismissive of the character if Batman when he's making the comparison. Batman wasn't some invincible super-strong flying dude with laser beams shooting out of his eyes who needed an excuse to use his powers for good. He was a little kid when his parents were killed and busted his ass to become a badass crime fighting super guy. Superman was actually Super from day 1 and didn't need to do squat to get there. Hey, congrats on not being a douche, Supes.
posted by Hoopo at 10:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Beans, crockery etc. etc.
posted by Jimbob at 10:46 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, he's an alien. He's not human at all. That's what sucks about Superman.

Yeah... that's what the makers of this movie were projecting. But it's bulls*t. Superman is human in all the ways that really matter in being human. Truth, justice and all that. Superman was raised by human parents as a human child and, guess what? He's just like us - in fact maybe even better than a lot of us.

The Superman mythos is, among other things, a story about what it means to be human - what we value most in humanity. It's not Superman's strength that we value most in the end - it's his basic humanity.

But the makers of this remake don't get that because they're out to score big box office returns - not to actually tell a story.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:51 PM on June 24, 2013 [30 favorites]


You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

Invincible?
posted by tjenks at 10:51 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Invincible?

I was gonna say Cory Booker.
posted by damehex at 10:53 PM on June 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


Max Landis is an amateur. If you want to see Man of Steel taken to peices you need Comics Alliance:

Chris Sims: 'Man Of Steel': On My Planet, The 'S' Is For Sucks
Andrew Wheeler: Choice And The Moral Universe Of 'Man Of Steel'
Tom Scioli: I Teach You The Superman
posted by Artw at 10:53 PM on June 24, 2013 [23 favorites]


Hoopo: "Hey, congrats on not being a douche, Supes."

Well, yes. Congrats. Go into any MeFi thread about rich folks and you'll find that the common assumption is that everyone rich or powerful or attractive or otherwise privileged will only look out for themselves. All powerful people are complete assholes, unless they have some extra-special back story that separates them from the rest of the asshole-by-default privileged.

But Superman? He's got no special back story, he's just a good person.

Don't get me wrong. I think Superman is boring and overpowered. I definitely prefer Batman. But "being a good person" is not the same as "just not being a douche", and having the superpowers he does and using them the way he does is fairly notable.
posted by Bugbread at 10:55 PM on June 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


He's not a farmboy from Kansas, he's nearly the platonic ideal of what a farmboy from Kansas should be. He embodies what we pretend to believe in but don't really. For me, that's sort of the point of Superman and what makes him interesting.

It's also why I don't think it's fair to call him an adolescent power fantasy, not in the way, say The Punisher or Batman are. Superman is all about not using all of your powers for your chosen goal, he's about restraint.

He can do anything he wants, and it'd be pretty much impossible to impose any meaningful consequence on him. Most humans put in that position turn murderous and insane pretty fast, Superman doesn't.

I agree this makes him hard to write well, but there are interesting stories there.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:56 PM on June 24, 2013 [38 favorites]



You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

No, really, I'm asking, because I can't remember if that terrible Barry Allen origin retcon ended up sticking.


Bruce Springsteen?

That's who I'd model Superman on him. Make him this blue collar, working class hero. He kinda was in his first appearances.

FILM CRITIC HULK has thoughts:

BUT FOR DECADES EVERY SINGLE YOUNG KID USED TO GROW UP WANTING TO BE SUPERMAN. THE REASONS WHY ARE A BIT MORE HEARTBREAKING: POLIO. FREQUENT STILLBIRTHS. WW2. KOREA. THE LOOMING, CONSTANT THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR. MEANING THE LOOMING, CONSTANT THREAT OF DEATH WAS A TANGIBLE THING TO KIDS AND THEIR FAMILIES NO MATTER WHAT STRATA. AND SUPERMAN? WHY HE WAS INVINCIBLE. NOT ONLY COULD HE FLY AND STOP BULLETS, HE COULD SAVE FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES. THERE IS SOMETHING JUST SO APPEALING AND INDULGENT ABOUT THAT TO KIDS, FOR WHOM MORTALITY IS A REAL CONCERN. AND BETTER YET? SUPERMAN STOOD FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY. HULK DOESN'T WANT TO START SOUNDING LIKE YOUR GRANDPA, BUT HONESTLY PEOPLE USE TO CARE ABOUT THOSE ABSTRACT CONCEPTS. SURE THERE WAS A LOT OF ARCHAIC B.S. THAT WENT ALONG WITH THEM, BUT THE HEART OF THESE CONCEPTS WAS EVIDENT IN THE IDEAS OF DUTY, CITIZENSHIP, INTEGRITY, AND A KIND OF DECENCY THAT WAS IMPLICIT. EVEN IF IT WAS A HALF-TRUTH, IT WAS A GOOD THING TO ASPIRE TO.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:57 PM on June 24, 2013 [22 favorites]


So, Max Landis wrote Chronicle, which is a pretty good movie, except for falling into the horrible cliché of the tormented, maladjusted kid who gets superpowers inevitably becoming the bad guy. It's not his fault or anything, his life is fucked up, but he turns evil, so his more popular and well-adjusted friend who also has superpowers has to kill him.

Basically, Max Landis doesn't like characters who are anything but all-nice and popular and well adjusted, that is, he doesn't like characters with any depth or moral complexity, because to him, they're candidates for being corrupted by power.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:58 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm saying the relative cost to Superman of doing heroic deeds is much lower than to say batman or Spider-Man. It's not really fair to just write that off like "these guys wouldnt do jack if their parents werent killed".

Well, except that there is an awful lot of kryptonite around for whatever reason.
posted by Hoopo at 11:00 PM on June 24, 2013


So, Max Landis wrote Chronicle, which is a pretty good movie, except for falling into the horrible cliché of the tormented, maladjusted kid who gets superpowers inevitably becoming the bad guy.

I agree it is pretty good, but keep in mind all he did was rewrite and Americanize Akira.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:01 PM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just wish superhero movies would start skipping the origin story part. I really do. It is always the dumbest part. It never works. Why does anybody think it works? You have to endure the guy coming up with a name for himself and you have to endure the guy coming up with a costume. Every single time. (Does Man Of Steel skip that?) You can just have the guy show up like any other action movie badass. I have never seen a movie with superheroes suffer from skipping The Creation Of. Do we need an origin story for Jason Statham in every movie franchise he's in? No. We see Jason Statham. We know dudes are gonna get expertly punched. That is also what we know when we see a superhero costume!
posted by furiousthought at 11:04 PM on June 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


knuckle tattoos: You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

No, really, I'm asking, because I can't remember if that terrible Barry Allen origin retcon ended up sticking.
The Greatest American Hero.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


So, Max Landis wrote Chronicle, which is a pretty good movie, except for falling into the horrible cliché of the tormented, maladjusted kid who gets superpowers inevitably becoming the bad guy.

Chronicle and Man of Steel both seem highly modeled on the end of Moore's run on Marvelman, or at least the successive diluted grimdark descendants of it. I am, TBH, way more happy with Chronicle being that.
posted by Artw at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hoopo: "I'm saying the relative cost to Superman of doing heroic deeds is much lower than to say batman or Spider-Man."

The relative cost is much lower, but the relative incentive is incredibly lower.

furiousthought: "I just wish superhero movies would start skipping the origin story part. I really do. It is always the dumbest part. It never works."

I dunno, I really liked the origin story bit of the first Raimi Spiderman. In general, though, I agree that they don't all work out that well. But I think it's somewhat important for all the non-superhero comic reader viewers, because otherwise the whole superpower and costume thing is insanely fucking ridiculous. At least the origin stories allow you somewhere to hang your suspension-of-disbelief hat.
posted by Bugbread at 11:10 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, Superman isn't really comparable to "the rich and powerful". The rich and powerful are still humans wih human vulnerability and mortality and insecurity and weaknesses. What does Superman need with luxury cars? Yachts? Private jets? Big house in a gated community? The guy doesn't really even have any needs or motivations that humans can relate to.
posted by Hoopo at 11:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not? As far as he knew, for the first two decades of his life, he was just a regular human kid with bizarre physical strength. Did finding a hologram of his dead dad make him lose all desires for physical comforts?

And does that mean I would stop pining for a bigger house and a lawn if someone doctored a home video to make it look like I was secretly an alien?
posted by Bugbread at 11:16 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


From a narrative potential point of view, Superman is much more difficult seam to mine. Perhaps it's because Superman stories are about a benevolent god and there isn't any natural representation to which we could relate. This doesn't mean that the character is boring or that there aren't interesting stories to tell, it just means that we just can't relate to him easily.

But the difficulty of telling a good Superman story is slightly at odds with criticism of the current movie as it was not just poorly written, it was poorly put together. Snyder just threw a whole bunch of ideas into the mix and then doesn't really do anything with them. I feel there was so many set pieces he wanted onscreen that he did it at the expense of character development. He also lets those fight scenes go on forever while not really showing anything new nor really advancing the plot in any meaningful way. This meant he didn't just fail at telling a good Superman story, he failed at telling a good story in the first place.

Landis's insight into Superman's point of view as a parent among children is on-point and all his hyper-criticality of other superheroes aside, he seems to me to be a much better candidate to have directed and/or written a Superman movie. Perhaps the powers-that-be might actually watch this and decide that story is not anathema to big summer blockbusters but, then again, winged simians might eject from my posterior.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2013


FILM CRITIC HULK has thoughts:

Do you think he ever regrets making CAPS LOCK his thing?
posted by empath at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?
posted by ooga_booga at 11:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


An illiterate, racist hick?

That's exactly my point. The idea of "decent, hardworking, smalltown, America" is a bad joke, particularly to the people on the sharp end of the polices these people embrace. In every respect, Superman is living a lie "Truth, Justice, and the American Way"? Well, which is it?

Superman himself isn't false though. Again, that's what makes him interesting to me. This idea that he's the embodiment of lies a nation told itself about what it is, but that honestly lived, those lies are in fact ennobling.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:22 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

It gets stuck on him when he is playing with his dog in the laundry, and he circles a few times trying to figure out how to get it off his shoulders.

That being said, the cape was a standard of the circus strongman, which is the inspiration for Superman's costume, and certainly something the original boy Clark would have seen.

I'm all for picking the film apart, but let's stick to its actual flaws.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?
posted by ooga_booga at 11:21 PM on June 24 [+] [!]


Captain Marvel, otherwise known as Shazam, since we are in the DC universe.
posted by daq at 11:33 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope Chris Nolan doesn't skate away from this controversy without at least a scratch. I really hated the last Batman installment, but besides that, if anyone green-lit the change in the origin story of Superman, one would think it was him.
posted by phaedon at 11:33 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rocket Surgeon: "So, Max Landis wrote Chronicle, which is a pretty good movie, except for falling into the horrible cliché of the tormented, maladjusted kid who gets superpowers inevitably becoming the bad guy.

I agree it is pretty good, but keep in mind all he did was rewrite and Americanize Akira
"

I like both, and I think they're dissimilar enough in pretty much everything but the very general idea that I don't consider it more than "generally a bit inspired by".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:34 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My guess is that with the success of tis movie and DCs current editorial leanings Grimdark Killy Superman with no silly pants has won and Superman who smiles and sometimes gets into goofy silver age adventures is dead for the moment, or at the very least backgrounded to the point where he'll only show up on faux-vintage lunchboxes for a while. Rest in peace, buddy.

Still, he did have one last onscreen hurrah: Superman Vs The Elite, which is basically "Superman vs the concept of killer superheroes", and SPOILERS he wins that one. Ah well, If only that had ended up being the case.
posted by Artw at 11:36 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:37 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


ooga_booga: "Landis's insight into Superman's point of view as a parent among children is on-point"

And this is why Superman is so fucking boring: We're kids, we're not entertained by stories of responsible adults.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:37 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


My guess is that with the success of tis movie and DCs current editorial leanings Grimdark Killy Superman with no silly pants has won and Superman who smiles and sometimes gets into goofy silver age adventures is dead for the moment, or at the very least backgrounded to the point where he'll only show up on faux-vintage lunchboxes for a while. Rest in peace, buddy.

Eh, it always cycles. He'll be back when people get tired of the murdery shit. It helps that they want to sell stuff to kids, and they can't go all the way DARK DARK DARK in the kids' stuff, so there's always a strain that's truer to the overall character. (I'm also hopeful that more interesting future writer-types will read All-Star Superman than any other modern Superman stories. Sort of a Velvet Underground situation. I can hope, right?)
posted by protocoach at 11:41 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The circus strongman as inspiration for Siegel and Shuster I buy, but as inspiration for a contemporary kid? Perhaps he was a fan of Liberace.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:41 PM on June 24, 2013


I like both, and I think they're dissimilar enough in pretty much everything but the very general idea that I don't consider it more than "generally a bit inspired by".

I thought there was a pretty striking resemblance, so much so I picked up on it about half way into movie and the ending pretty much confirmed it for me. He mentions in the video it's Akira and Carrie, which makes sense. Consudering that, I still think Chronicle is great and stands firmly on it's own merits.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:41 PM on June 24, 2013


I am, FWIW, totally up for a decent Wolverine movie where he stand a bunch of ninjas. Because that works.
posted by Artw at 11:42 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is every time a building falls down in a movie now a reference to September 11th?
posted by eugenen at 11:43 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is every time a building falls down in a movie now a reference to September 11th?

Of course. The World Trade Center is the only big building to ever get blown up, killing a bunch of civilians. Ever.
posted by straight at 11:54 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It might be interesting to compile a before-and-after list of skyscrapers falling down in movies.
posted by empath at 11:56 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"He's just a guy from Kansas..."

No, he's an alien. He's not human at all.


"I don't care if your parents brought you here as a baby and you lived in Kansas your whole life. If you weren't born here, you're not a citizen, so get out and stop pretending to be one of us."
posted by straight at 11:57 PM on June 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Setting aside the trope that Superman has become, he's still not a very good incarnation of that trope, because he's saddled with a lot of peculiar historical baggage (like his alien ancestry) that runs at cross purpose with the characteristics he has evolved into after several generations of reinvention.

The Samaritan gives an idea of what the symbolic purity the trope could have, if people would stop insisting on incrementally reinventing the same handful of familiar characters.
posted by belarius at 12:08 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is every time a building falls down in a movie now a reference to September 11th?

It's certainly the closest reference to hand, when you depict massive destruction in a big, first-world city with attendant skyscrapers and familiar imagery.
What was it about this scene that bothered me so deeply? Whether intentionally or not, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder brought to the movies scenes of intense urban destruction that visually and viscerally trigger memories of a real-life event in my lifetime, in my city. The close similarity surprised and shocked me, as opposed to, say, movies I've seen where I expected the horrific imagery like World Trade Center or United 93.
via one of the Comics Alliance links, on why one person found it too much. Includes a compare/contrast of a photo of 9/11 and a freeze-frame of the movie.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I fully understand his point about how lots of death and destruction that ends with the superhero standing in the rubble brings to mind a rockstar rather than a superhero. I mean I kind of get where he's coming from, but he's also suggesting all through that last part that superheroes should just. Stop those things (massive destruction in like Avengers, Transformers etc.) from happening entirely. Like he doesn't want disaster movies in his superhero movies.

And that's nice and all but I guess that leaves me wondering where the conflict would be? Would the end result even be a 'superhero movie' (whatever that means, or does he want to try to redefine it)? How would you do this in a way that would satisfy his criteria and still have a compelling story? (He says he prefers character driven stuff but I don't know how far this can go with superheroes... or maybe that's just how I feel about Superman. Honestly I could probably watch Cap sit around in his underwear listening to the radio all day and be happy, for more than one reason... but I digress).

I don't know. I kind of feel like if there are no real stakes in the fight then I'm not sure why we should care. And I don't mean that there has to be a massive body count, but I feel like the logical result of two superhuman beings duking it out amongst mortals, when one has nothing to lose and intends to destroy the other and everything he loves, it's going to be a brutal fist punching that--no matter how Supes tried, particularly considering that in this film he was something of a novice--was going to have high collateral damage. And there were multiple super-baddies to deal with too.

I haven't seen Chronicle. Does he manage to do something that is Not This? I guess if there's not some significant, large-scale threat that requires a more-than-human effort to overcome it, is it really a superhero movie at all? And if those things are tenets of a superhero movie I feel like it's only somewhat realistic to expect casualties, particularly as the newly-bloomed hero (or team of heroes like in Avengers) works out the kinks. There should be repercussions from all that damage and those body counts both 'in world' and for the heroes themselves, undoubtedly (and that's one thing I love about Iron Man 3 is the obvious PTSD).

I guess I'm just having a hard time seeing where he's coming from, or rather, what practical solution he wants to offer.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:30 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



I just wish superhero movies would start skipping the origin story part. I really do. It is always the dumbest part. It never works. Why does anybody think it works? You have to endure the guy coming up with a name for himself and you have to endure the guy coming up with a costume. Every single time. (Does Man Of Steel skip that?) You can just have the guy show up like any other action movie badass. I have never seen a movie with superheroes suffer from skipping The Creation Of. Do we need an origin story for Jason Statham in every movie franchise he's in? No. We see Jason Statham. We know dudes are gonna get expertly punched. That is also what we know when we see a superhero costume!


And that's why Dredd is the best Superhero movie.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:31 AM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]



Also, Superman isn't really comparable to "the rich and powerful". The rich and powerful are still humans wih human vulnerability and mortality and insecurity and weaknesses. What does Superman need with luxury cars? Yachts? Private jets? Big house in a gated community? The guy doesn't really even have any needs or motivations that humans can relate to.


If he's not comparable to them, why is his main villian/rival always a super-rich tycoon and businessman? There's an essay by one of the comics bloggers who posts on MeFi about how Batman's superpower is money, and that puts him up there with Superman. I sorta side with Luthor sometimes, though, and during Superman Returns I was loudly cheering for him. Something about Superman just inspires this visceral hatred- he's NOT LIKE ME.

'Course, I was always a Spider-Man fan. Supes is a Pulitizer Prize winning reporter at a major metropolitian newspaper. Spider-Man is a freelancer who's editor hates him and gets by more on snark than pure power. Much easier to relate to.

'Course, i didn't link the bit in the FILM CRITIC HULK article where he talks about how urban audiences want Superman's invulnerability, and that plays into what we were talking about in the Kanye thread, about needing someone invincible to look up to.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:37 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that's why Dredd is the best Superhero movie.

‘Dredd’ sequel rumor causes DVD sales spike
posted by Artw at 12:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dredd had an origin story. Just wasn't Dredd's. It was Anderson's.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was surprised by how much I liked this little tirade and how competely he brought me around to his point of view. Maybe I don't read enough comic book commentary but his take on the internal sense of Superman being the kind of superhero he is (outside of Man of Steel, anyway) was completely new to me, and I suddenly find Superman much more interesting. I've never been a fan because I don't see how you make an invulnerable god interesting without doing stupid shit with Kryptonite and Mr. Mytzlplk to introduce a magical exception, as he points out. I thought this was very worth watching.

But he's wrong about Spiderman.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:32 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

The original, golden age Superman. Origin done and dusted with in three pages, (not quite doomed planet, desperate scientists, last hope, kindly couple, but close), his foster parents dead of natural causes, Supes attempts to become a reporter for the Daily Star on page 4, does so by saving an innocent man from a lynching and a woman from the chair by finding the real killers, then in the next story beats up a wife beater and is off to Washington to stop the evil interests that want to embroil America in war in Europe. This Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but that's it. His morality is that of a Roosevelt democrat, tough, leftist, in defense of the common man against entrenched class interests. No kryptonite, no other kryptonians.

It's not a Superman we've seen much off since the late thirties...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:33 AM on June 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


Do you think he ever regrets making CAPS LOCK his thing?

Dunno about HULK, but I'm pretty sure his readers all do.
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thank you to the OP, by the way: although one could quibble with bits and pieces of it, I think that overall it was an intelligent and rather charming reflection on why Superman matters.

Movies ending with a "terrorist attack from space" have become disturbingly common and banal. And I share his aghast confusion at the fact that people go to these movies, which make money, and perhaps the audience even derives some satisfaction from them - I am not sure about the last point.

My suspicion is that these movies - Snyder's, Bay's etc. - are cargo cult blockbusters. Hollywood has socialised people into going to a certain kind of movie, and they go because they are trying to recreate a wonderful experience that people a little bit older than they are had when when they were younger. The movie no longer needs to be good - it can just have all the surface signifiers and signs of an earlier generation of blockbusters.

Now, this is not to say simply "get off my lawn". That would be stupid. There are plenty of new movies that are good! But I think a lot of people would agree with me that we are living through a peculiar moment, culturally, when it comes to the blockbuster: a moment in which certain movies are doing well economically even though it is very hard to see them as being, on any level, good. People fell in love with the early work of Spielberg, Cameron and Lucas. I can even see how people could love Emerich's INDEPENDENCE DAY or some of Singer's pulpier films. But is it really possible to love something by Zack Snyder or Michael Bay? It's very strange.

Incidentally, further to a rather lengthy post I made about MAN OF STEEL* in an earlier thread, which speculated (possibly somewhat presumptuously) about the impact that a public school upbringing might have on the ethos a director presents, I suggested that there was an elitism in Christopher Nolan's films that I find ugly. To give him his due, it seems that the final murder of General Zod was something that Zack Snyder and David Goyer voted for and he did not. He was right.

*A very revealing title? Makes me think of Martha Nussbaum's book THE FRAGILITY OF GOODNESS, which juxtaposes the fantasies of imperviousness (physically and morally) in Plato against the cathartic awareness of vulnerability in Greek Tragedy. And that imperviousness has since become strongly bound up with gender identity, particularly in modern America - men always have to be men "of steel", because to be vulnerable, to be permeable (penetrable?) would be to cease to be a "real" man. And yet it sits uneasily with the whole of Christianity, a faith focused on a vulnerable, mortal God who is remembered for his painful death. Hmm.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:31 AM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nope. Still don't get what's special about Superman.
posted by Decani at 2:33 AM on June 25, 2013


The problem is with these comic book 'continuities' running for decades there is no core 'character'. There is the archetype of superman everyone knows, then there is the character that actually exists in the current DC universe, which probably hardly anyone actually cares about.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


“Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.”
― Quentin Tarantino
posted by billiebee at 3:04 AM on June 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


I distrust that Tarantino quote, because it addresses a specific version of Superman - the one in the Richard Donner films, who is in part playing his nebbishness up because he is trying to make it inconceivable to Lois Lane that he could be Superman.

(There's an 80s Superman story, if memory serves, where Lex Luthor builds a supercomputer dedicated to matching every data point about Superman's comings, goings and associations, PRISM-style, but destroys it when it identifies him as Clark Kent, because a godlike being like Superman would never condescend to pretend to be a mere reporter.)

One doesn't have to go far to see different approaches - the next mass-media treatment, the Dean Cain Superman, for example, is a confident, easy-going dude who actually, if anything, becomes more of a stiff when he's Superman, because Superman is, as far as he is concerned, his job - he's on the clock.

The fact that the Dean Cain Clark spends a lot more time hanging out at the Kent farm (and has a living father) is probably a factor in this.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

Leonidas?
posted by HuronBob at 3:58 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Also, the Atomic Man? The Earth-One Batman villain? Do you perhaps mean the Atomic Skull, Max Landis, you fake geek boy with your lustrous fake geek boy hair, talking about Superman to get attention from the real geek girls etc.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:00 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just wish superhero movies would start skipping the origin story part. I really do. It is always the dumbest part. It never works. Why does anybody think it works?

Captain America. Man, what an excellent retelling and modernization of an origin story...

Also, pro wrestlers, especially heels, wore capes up until the mid '90s.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:04 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I distrust that Tarantino quote, because it addresses a specific version of Superman - the one in the Richard Donner films

Yeah but that's the one I grew up with so I know what he means. Also, I don't distrust it as it doesn't need to be trustworthy. Its one person's opinion on a fictional character. I just liked the idea that humans put on costumes to be superheroes, and he's a superhero who puts on a costume to be human.
posted by billiebee at 4:08 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


After seeing Man of Steel this weekend, I decided that big superhero blockbuster films should be judged not by a scale of quality, or acting ability, or screenwriting, or anything like that.

Instead, they should all be judged by the physical and collateral damage caused by the big superhero fights.

I call this the Coulson Scale.*

The less damage caused, the lower on the scale the film is. The more damage, the higher. Military targets don't count, because they're built for war. But towns, villages, civillians, roads, all that - that counts.

So, as an example, we have Captain America.

In Brooklyn, we have a few gunshots and broken buildings in the streets, and a few people knocked around (plus one kid in the water, but he can swim, so it's cool). In Germany, we have a train track. Everything else takes place in military installations (or places commandeered by the military).

This is therefore quite low on the Coulson Scale. Fixing a few broken windows and fishing a kid out of the water is fairly mild.

If we look at Thor, we have some destruction of a small town, but it looks repairable, and the civilians are quickly moved out of the way. But then we have the destruction of the Bifrost, which, being the main mode of transport off of Asgard, is kind of a big deal. So it's mid-point on the Scale.

Then we have Man of Steel. Which wipes out massive parts of Metropolis, wrecks the sealife in the Indian Ocean, and destroys most of Smallville, including the Sears where Clark's mom (and I bet a good 50% of the local economy) works.

Man of Steel is practically off the chart. It's only beaten by Aliens, because that ended up with all the colonists dead and the planet blown up in a nuclear disaster.

So the Coulson Scale is how I'm going to judge films now. "How was it?" "Well, it was veering towards 10 on the Coulson Scale, but the justification and response by the main characters really helped it. Plus that clean-up scene after the credits."

* Because Phil Coulson cleans up like a boss.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:15 AM on June 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


The backlash over Superman's offing of Zod is, I think, one sign that the nation is finally starting to come back to its senses from the Great National Freak-out after 9-11. For awhile people seemed to be willing to accept anything so long as the Bad Guys got theirs, by any means possible. Things like people speaking contemptuously of the idea that arrested people be read Miranda rights, as if that were somehow a failing of civilization rather than a triumph of it. Obama made it a point to kill Osama bin Laden. Not bring him to justice, not capture him so he could stand trial in whatever national or international court, kill. And on the way to sticking it to the Evil People, as Snowden and others have revealed, we signed quite a lot of Faustian contracts.

It took watching a fictional character created over 75 years ago buy into that logic to show people what was wrong with that. Welcome back to sanity, folks.
posted by JHarris at 4:16 AM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


The one thing constant across most of the pre-1986 takes on Superman was that he was an unabashedly utopian fantasy, as opposed to the dystopian fantasy that pretty much all superhero stuff has become since the mid-80s. He's the fantasy of the Better Man, who is alien not because he's "not human" but because he's from a kind of doomed utopian world dropped into a world that isn't there....yet.

His invulnerability and infinite strength reflect a kind of innate morality, as opposed to the Batman idea of both morality and physicality as the result of torturous, endless regimen of self-discipline or the Spider-Man idea of morality as a choice born of guilt and the accidents of life.

Clark Kent is Superman refusing to be a god and insisting on trying to see the world he's in from
the ordinary person's perspective, the better to relate to it and be humble in it. As Grant Morrison puts it in All-Star Superman, Clark is "the mild-mannered reporter who never let me forget how it feels to be an ordinary downtrodden man." (The Pultizer stuff is, tellingly, from the post-1986 version of Supemran, the one that isn't a utopian fantasy anymore.)

The conflicts in the best Superman stories are not about Superman, per se, but about how a world that is far from utopia reacts to the utopian human. He can't be dragged down, but people like Lex Luthor drag themselves down in reaction to what they can't see in themselves. And people like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, etc. try to lift themselves up.

That's no small part of why a lot of folks don't like the character, think the character is childish, or prefer the post-1986 takes on the character that dispense with the utopian idea entirely. We don't really like the idea of the superman anymore, and we tend to prefer darkly comic dystopias in our action stories.
posted by kewb at 4:18 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ya know, I think real hay could be made of a version of Superman where Clark Kent is the real hero. Because he's a reporter. Superman can knock your building down or divert meteors, but only Clark Kent, if he does his job right, can change people's minds. The pen is mightier than the Kryptonian fist.
posted by JHarris at 4:26 AM on June 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I distrust that Tarantino quote, because it addresses a specific version of Superman - the one in the Richard Donner films, who is in part playing his nebbishness up because he is trying to make it inconceivable to Lois Lane that he could be Superman.

Actually, no, that's the one thing all Superman versions -- Golden Age, Silver Age, radio, tv, movies, Fleisher animation -- had in common until 1986: Clark Kent is Superman's mask and Superman/Kal-El is Clark Kent's secret identity, not the other way around. It's only after the Byrnification of Superman that it's Clark Kent who is the real person and Superman the persona he hides behind.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:28 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me there's an even simpler way to put it: From the start, Batman, Spider-Man, and most other heroes fight crime. A few, like Captain America and Iron Man, fight enemies in war. Superman fights injustice.
posted by kewb at 4:36 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dredd had an origin story. Just wasn't Dredd's. It was Anderson's.

Yeah but Anderson's origin is really straightforward. The whole scenario of the Department of Justice is that it revolves around the Academy and rookie judges, since it's a meat grinder and Judges have such a short life expectancy. But Dredd's backstory is a fucking mess, or you can turn it into one. Look at that previous Dredd-esque movie with that preening prettyboy. They handle the origin story by evoking Rico, which is an awful story line. And pseudo-Dredd's sequences in the Academy are horrible, they're just exposition where he shouts lectures from the manual.

Anyway, this video.. who the fuck is this guy? Son of Hollywood royalty, parents with enough clout to get their loser son a movie deal. So he writes a bunch of undistinguished scripts that include cookie cutter superhero movies. And now he's an expert on the genre? This is what pissed me off about Hollywood, people sit around all night watching movies and think they're doing research.

And hey landis, FUCK YOU, you did NOT say there would be spoilers. So when you said, "See? I told you there would be spoilers," I turned off your whining. The movie has only been out A WEEK so you don't do spoilers. You got it totally wrong. What's so great about Superman is that it's the most evergreen movie franchise you could possibly create. I heard one screenwriter describe hero movies as "putting a moral agent into a moral crisis." That's all you need. That's all Superman has. He is a blank slate that anyone can write against. And almost everyone has. And that includes little kids playing with a blanket around their neck as a cape. Their understanding is better than yours.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, no, that's the one thing all Superman versions -- Golden Age, Silver Age, radio, tv, movies, Fleisher animation -- had in common until 1986: Clark Kent is Superman's mask and Superman/Kal-El is Clark Kent's secret identity, not the other way around. It's only after the Byrnification of Superman that it's Clark Kent who is the real person and Superman the persona he hides behind.

Good point - but that quote comes from Kill Bill, a film made in the early 21st century. It wasn't my intention to impugn or diss Tarantino or billebee - that's definitely one way to look at one approach to Superman. It's not singularly applicable to the current life of the character (outside specific silver-age tributes like All-Star Superman, which play with the idea in a pretty knowing way - with Luthor commenting on how stacked Kent is, and how incredible it is that such an insightful writer should be such a farm-raised milksop.).

I just think that quote should be treated like Quentin Tarantino's other highly quotable scripted comments on pop culture, like Like a Virgin or Top Gun - they are memorable, and quotable, but it's not wholly clear whether even Tarantino believes them - they are things said by characters in his movies.

Also interesting, of course, is that the examples David Carradine's character uses of superheroes who are not like Superman are Spider-Man and Batman. Spider-Man isn't powerful on the scale of Superman, but his powers are never _off_ - when he is out on a date with Mary-Jane, he can still throw cars and dodge bullets (or rather anticipate where the bullet is going to go and not be there). He has more human concerns - unemployment, making rent and so on - but this is about access to resources, in many ways. Iron Man has a Fortress of Solitude, despite being a regular human being - it just happens to be made of money rather than Kryptonian crystal.

Batman is interesting because of the fierce debate about precisely whether Batman or Bruce Wayne is his true persona ("it was Kovacs who closed his eyes, but it was Rorschach who opened them", as it were). At one extreme, there's a Batman who pretends to be Bruce Wayne when it is necessary, then comes home and immediately descends to the Batcave, boots up the Batputer and starts fighting crime. On the other there's 70s Bruce Wayne, who spends a lot of time on skiing trips and changes into his Batman costume specifically to fight crime when it turns up on those skiing trips. There's a tension between these two poles which is fairly regularly explored.

(Mark Waid wrote quite an interesting, if very Mark Waid-y story in which the Justice League were split into their "super" and "secret identity" selves. Everyone expected Batman to be driven, dark and unrelenting, and Bruce Wayne to be an effete playboy, but in fact Bruce Wayne was prone to violent rages and getting into fights he was not equipped to win without hurting himself or others badly, and Batman was languid to the point of inactivity. In this imagining, Batman is nothing but the means by which Bruce Wayne channels anger that would otherwise be wholly destructive.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:47 AM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Since we seem to all about the hate, here's Pauline Kael on the 1978 Superman :
“Superman,” one of the two or three most expensive movies ever made, and with the biggest event promotion yet, is a cheesy-looking film, with a John Williams “epic” score that transcends self-parody -- cosmic fanfares keep coming when there’s nothing to celebrate. The sound piercing your head tells you that you should remember each name in the euphoric opening credits. That’s where the peak emotion in the film is: in the package.

“Superman” gives the impression of having been made in panic -- in fear that “too much” imagination might endanger the film’s appeal to the literal-minded....

The narrative immediacy of comic strips is what has such a magical effect on kids. The plot is socked to them, with exclamation points. And we go to “Superman” hoping for that kind of disreputable energy. But it isn’t there, and you can feel the anticipatory elation in the theatre draining out. Donner doesn’t draw us in and hold on to us; we’re with him only in brief patches—a few seconds each. The plotting is so hit or miss that the movie never seems to get started.

The story has been updated from the thirties to the seventies, but not modernized, not rethought—just plunked down in the seventies... And, in an era in which urban corruption and decay are deep and widespread, Superman’s confident identification with the forces of law and order, and his thinking that he’s cleaning up Metropolis (New York City) when he claps some burglars and thieves in jail, might be treated with a little irony. (It would be more fun to see him putting out a fire while kids threw stones at him, or arresting a mugger and being surrounded by an angry, booing crowd, or tackling the garbage problem.) ...the film doesn’t bring any ambiguity into this portrait of an outsize F.B.I. man from space...

...we’re acutely conscious of the lack of elegance in the design, because Krypton, which is supposed to be more advanced than Earth by thousands of years, has plastic-chandelier decor, like a Vegas lobby... the mystic fortress looks like a crystal wigwam that is being put up by a stoned backpacker...

“Superman” doesn’t have enough conviction or courage to be solidly square and dumb; it keeps pushing smarmy big emotions at us -- but half-heartedly. It has a sour, scared undertone.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


And that imperviousness has since become strongly bound up with gender identity, particularly in modern America - men always have to be men "of steel", because to be vulnerable, to be permeable (penetrable?) would be to cease to be a "real" man.

The weird little masculinity dance is something that I notice characterizes Clark's relationship with the opposite sex, something he also takes from his origins. The movie also lost the fact that his non-tight wearing time is voluntarily spent in the company of women who give him shit.

Seriously, Lois Lane and Lana Lang were both supposed to be characterized as his kind of woman, and they both spend quite a bit of time reminding Clark that they are very not impressed with him. You can take the Tarantino view that he thinks this is what the human race is like, but people like Lois even go right back to bossing and scolding as soon as they know who he is. Clark has a type.

Superman, in tights, amps up the masculinity to 11, seems just as much a self aware power fantasy as Clark Kent, Ladies' punching bag is a disempowerment fantasy. When he's in the suit his whole demeanor changes, but it's just as much a fake as when he's willingly being sent off to the wrong location for a news story because Lois was pissed she got sent to cover the jam festival, not the active volcano doom machine.

Of course some versions of the story are nothing like this, but the rejection is usually so canonical that it was even worked into the return of Superman after he was temporarily killed off- granted with Lois and a helpful shapeshifting Supergirl in on it.

In this latest version, Lois is basically scrubbed clean of much of her delightful shrewishness, but instead we got another trend in these hero movies, where the love interest is supposed to be the emotionally ripped up man's rock, the one person he can sob at. And in Man of Steel she does that. They have zero chemistry, and their relationship is so based on frantically bopping around that they're basically a couple of conversations away from perfect strangers.

It's an improvement on the lamentable "Lois Drives Her Car Off a Bridge To Meet Superman" personality she'd drifted into, but only if you accept some pretty straight jacketed gender roles, and this movie is a mess when it comes to being weird about women. We have a bunch of females in support roles: Ma Kent, Lois Lane, Mrs. El (I don't think she got named in the movie even!), Zod's right hand, Kyrpton's ineffectual leadership, Jenny the Intern.

It's telling that Superman's father is dead, but not his mother, and he's still popping in from time to time to see Ma Kent and get a hug, and she's actually much more important to his ability to cope with his super powered autism/asthma than his father's big government paranoia. This is conservative Superman, so we get treated to Krypton dad standing to defend his castle while Astronomer mother, upon doing the hard work to make a non-vat baby, gets all emotional about throwing it into space, and the matriarch in a stupid hat gets to be the mouthpiece of why the society is doomed due to being hide bound and using birth control in lily white, supposed to be post-sexism-but-actually-tokenism Space Planet. Lois and Evil Soldier both get to do stuff, thankfully, but then, for no reason on god's green earth, we need to see the male staff try to rescue Jenny the Intern in a show of manly courage. The sound track to his movie was on a couple of occasions, women whimpering in terror and pain in a way that sounded quasi orgasmic.

Evil Krypton Henchperson, at least, was one of the good parts of the movie, and about the only female character who wasn't rescue bait.

But, there's no self awareness about the stupidity of the boxes people are in. Lois Lane is missing the sexism that used to be her biggest challenge next to needing to be rescued from peril-du-jour, and she's flat and flawless, a perfect mother replacement for when Ma Kent passes on and Superman needs hugs from a person who never challenges him.
posted by Phalene at 4:53 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


the mystic fortress looks like a crystal wigwam that is being put up by a stoned backpacker...

She says that like it's a bad thing.
posted by billiebee at 4:55 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[I]nstead we got another trend in these hero movies, where the love interest is supposed to be the emotionally ripped up man's rock, the one person he can sob at. And in Man of Steel she does that.

Maybe that's the real meaning of "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex."
posted by kewb at 4:58 AM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

Clark would be about my age, so thinking back to shows I'd watch in syndication around that age... Starbuck and Apollo.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:31 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


As for the movie itself, I'm more and more convinced that it was the result of a wish granted and perverted by the Monkey's Paw. "Man," said a viewer of Superman Returns as he walked out of the theater, "I sure wish Superman would punch something in the next movie."

And in his backpack, the cursed paw slowly curled its finger downward. Superman would punch something in the next movie. All the things.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:35 AM on June 25, 2013 [33 favorites]


No, he's an alien. He's not human at all. That's what sucks about Superman.

That literal alienation is what appealed to me as a kid. I couldn't fly, stop bullets, or shoot lasers from my eyes, but I knew what it was to be isolated and unsure where I fit into the world around me, and that resonated as strongly as any of the more "complex" characters in the Marvel world. Superman may not have been strictly human, but he was an existential touchstone, a man unsure of his origins, his place, or his purpose, which are essential human anxieties.
posted by echocollate at 5:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen Man of Steel yet, but honestly I'd find it hard to _be_ spoiled for it.

[Never sure whether it's appropriate to put a spoiler space in on MetaFilter, so leaving a small one - if you've WTFYTL, or read this thread, you're already spoiled.]



We know there will be huge property damage, devastation and implied civilian casualties which nobody seems to care about, because it's a CGI-heavy summer tentpole. We know the antagonist is going to be killed, because antagonists in CGIHST superhero movies are killed, and a set of movie executives are only going to have to worry about pushing out a small number of movies in that franchise before the market changes or they move to another studio, so they can burn through the four or five good options in a superhero's rogues' gallery.

(It's interesting that the Marvel movies have deliberately subverted this by keeping Loki alive, because Tom Hiddlestone is awesome and because they are turning out so many movies in a shared universe that they need the continuity. Lex Luthor and Magneto also tend to survive, I think because they are such definitive villains but also because the rogues' galleries of Superman and the X-Men are pretty thin in movie terms. Superman has a dude with a flaming skull for a head, a bright green computer and a now thoroughly nerfed killing machine with no conversation*, the X-Men a man you have to punch in the face before he can do anything interesting and an army of identical and emotionless robots. Your best bet is to cast a really good Magneto/Luthor and have him play off your notional antagonist.

Zod's great fun for a while with a charismatic actor, but basically he has two settings - I want you to kneel and I am killing you in order to encourage that guy over there to kneel. There aren't many places to go with that.

Although the CGI-heavy summer tentpole Lex will either find a way to synthesize Kryptonian superpowers or put on the Lexcorp battle suit for a huge set-piece fight at the end of the movie, of course.)

Plus, it's not wholly out of character for Superman to kill Zod (he kills a pocket-universe alternate of Zod in the comic books, having exhausted his other options - he can't risk taking him back to his universe, where they would be immune to "his" kryptonite as he is to theirs, and having depowered Zod and his cronies they would be unable to survive on the ruined Earth of the pocket universe**), nor is it wholly unprecedented for a city in the Superman universe to be fridged (Coast City and its seven million inhabitants are wiped out in The Death and Return of Superman).

* Or a thoroughly nerfed killing machine who sounds like David Hyde Pierce, depending on where you are in the cycle.

** Or, in dual-motivation terms, because the editorial edict of the day was that Superman was the last Kryptonian - so, if you wanted to use a Golden or Silver Age Kryptonian, you had to either make it a self-contained narrative in a pocket universe or make them no longer a Kryptonian.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:58 AM on June 25, 2013


It is however unchararcteritic for those things to be totally shruggable and no big deal. And lazy writing that they're there in the first place.
posted by Artw at 6:06 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the other points brought up about Clark is that Kal-El is basically "passing". That is, if you think of being an alien as being member of a very small minority, he's making his way by passing as a member of the majority.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I would like to see a "Superman minus Superman" treatment of the comics (after this). I have come to think that everything we think we know about Superman, even Clark Kent, is a projection of human desires onto a being that is profoundly alien to us. If we removed the projection what would we see?
posted by wobh at 6:18 AM on June 25, 2013


I distrust that Tarantino quote

It's not Tarantino. It's the character Bill speaking. Tarantino may or may not think it's total bullshit.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:26 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you think he ever regrets making CAPS LOCK his thing?

It's a tangent, but ... yes. Yes, yes. Not only is he a thoughtful writer, but he's a SUPER nice dude (he was on a SXSW panel I moderated). But I can't. I can't read it; I can't.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Him and the Red Letter Media guy.
posted by Artw at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not Tarantino. It's the character Bill speaking. Tarantino may or may not think it's total bullshit.

That is an important and relevant point, and anyone making it is both an acute commentator and also a super nice person.

It is however unchararcteritic for those things to be totally shruggable and no big deal.

I don't know - I've seen a fair few movies, certainly post-Transformers, where the finale is essentially "the action figures are smashed together for about half an hour in different configurations, for about four minutes of which we are seeing actual human bodies. A shedload of mundanes Endorpocalypse off camera as their immediate environment is reduced to a mess of fallen masonry. Eventually, the big bad 'splodes, and then the lead and his (always his) love interest make out in the middle of what must be be an aerosol spray of blood and particulate human organs and pulverised brick dust."

It's not great, although it can be done well or badly, but I don't know if it's uncharacteristic. Snyder certainly occupies a specific point on the axis of "visually spectacular" and "emotionally disengaged", though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2013


Right. It's boring, in imaginitive and crap. Of the best you can hope for from a Superman is parity with the Transformers franchise then something has gone seriously wrong.
posted by Artw at 6:35 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I distrust that Tarantino quote

It's not Tarantino. It's the character Bill speaking. Tarantino may or may not think it's total bullshit.


It's astute in context, though; Bill is telling Beatrix that story as a way of explaining to her why he'd hunted her down after she gave up her assassin's life and changed her identity and was prepared to live as an ordinary little housewife. ....Normal life was Superman's costume, Bill was telling her, just like normal life would be her costume. At her heart she would always truly be an assassin, just like Superman would always truly be a Kryptonian.

I'll admit I don't know my comics that well to know whether it's true about whether any other superheroes are from otherworldly places but are trying to "pass" as human - but I would be surprised to hear that there really weren't any others. Anyone?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Martian Manhunter - comes to Earth and becomes a cop.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of the best you can hope for from a Superman is parity with the Transformers franchise then something has gone seriously wrong.

I thought Transformers was LESS terrible, actually, because I went to it fully prepared for the trademark terribility of Michael Bay. MoS was terrible in new and unexpected ways that only Henry Cavill's unwaxed chest could make up for.
posted by elizardbits at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Martian Manhunter - comes to Earth and becomes a cop.

See, I was wondering about that - but the only information on J'onn J'onz I could find isn't clear about whether he's actually trying to pass as an Earthling, or if it's more like "okay, yeah, I'm a cop who just also happens to be from Mars, no big".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on June 25, 2013


He's green and bald. His cop identity is not. I'd call it a secret.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:44 AM on June 25, 2013


Not only is J'onn J'onz trying to pass as human in his secret identity, even his heroic identity has a more human form than his natural one.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:45 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


One thing isn't a secret - his love of Oreo Cookies! /holds up product, holds pose for camera.
posted by Artw at 6:48 AM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


(Which, to me, is a clear giveaway to his alien nature as those things are disgusting.)
posted by Artw at 6:49 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And anyway at least depending on your canon, Bill's totes wrong about Superman. Clark Kent isn't his disguise; he really is Clark Kent. Batman calls him Clark in conversation. Duder grew up in Kansas as the son of Ma and Pa Kent. He found out later that he has powers, and the powers have an explanation-- he's adopted! But the underlying kiddo fantasy is that maybe you, young one, might find out that you're actually from an alien planet and can fly and shit.

The 'Clark Kent is weak and cowardly' thing is, as said above, mostly from the Richard Donner movies. In the comics Clark is a little goofy and clumsy (mostly because being clumsy provides a surprising shit-ton of ways to cover up incidents that would otherwise reveal his identity) but he's a great reporter, whip-smart, but mostly just an average Kansas boy who loves his folks.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have come to think that everything we think we know about Superman, even Clark Kent, is a projection of human desires onto a being that is profoundly alien to us. If we removed the projection what would we see?

The Superman story has never concerned itself with the truly alien. The fact that Superman's body takes the same form as a human would influence his outlook tremendously. When all you have is a hammer the world looks like a nail, and so when you interact with the world with human limbs and sense organs, you'll think of it in terms of what your biological toolset can do to it, and what it can do to you, because if you didn't your ancestors could not have survived long enough to have evolved to that level of complexity. You could argue maybe that the contents of Superman's brain might still be quite different, but the fact is for all we know the same is true of humans compared to each other.

Anyway, why would Cthulhu bother to fight crime?
posted by JHarris at 6:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Landis's point at the end is a big important one that's not getting much discussed: the rise of disaster porn in superhero movies. What he doesn't bring up, so I will, is that this is all The Dark Knight's fault. And as somebody whose entire coming-of-age happened at the exact same time as the superhero movie's latest coming-of-age, I can pretty much say this with authority.

The superhero flicks of my pre-teen and teenage years were practically bloodless – Spider-Man and X-Men didn't even have the budget for wide-scale carnage. Sure, Wolverine occasionally savaged a dude, Magneto did his ball bearings trick. Yes, Spider-Man movies always ended with the villain simultaneously realizing the error of his ways and being killed for said errors (never because Spidey killed him, of course). But in those movies, death and carnage was the terrifying specter that superheroes had to prevent. A bad person was going to kill innocents, and only superpowers could prevent that horrible thing from actually happening.

The ideal, I think, would be to have the villain be somebody who could plausibly be a criminal in real life, and to have them commit a crime that comes perilously close to succeeding except that the superhero saves the day. Give the audience a taste of creeping horror, the realization that even with the superhero we might be fucked, and that without the superhero something awful would happen now. And then give them the relief of being saved, give them the superhero they can look up to, whose role they're supposed to follow.

Spider-Man did this fairly well, although upon rewatch the whole trilogy is utter shite. (It worked for me as a twelve-year-old, what can I say.) X-Men 2 gave us a plausible genocide-by-military, which creeped me the hell out as a kid. And, for all my faults with Nolan, Batman Begins does this wonderfully. The idea of a city being perceived as a modern-day Sodom or Gomorrah by an outsider, who then acts to strike it from the earth, feels a lot like the thing we're supposed to think terrorists want to do, and the fact that Nolan was totally okay with showing upper-class corruption makes us feel, uneasily, like perhaps those terrorists have a point. And the wonderfully terrifying thing there is that we don't know if Batman can be trusted. Sure, he says Gotham City can he saved. He's also insane. He'd say Gotham could be saved out of up narcissism even if it was burning to the ground. Hell, if he pulled Rachel out beforehand, he'd probably call it an overall victory.

But The Dark Knight was a turning point. And you can see it best by comparing it to Iron Man, which also came out that year. On rewatch, Iron Man may be the best superhero movie of this generation, though it lacks the highs of TDK, because of how competent it is at doing what it's best at, and how little it cares about making the unnecessary plot seem like it matters. Iron Man kills some terrorists, acts like a huge dick, lots of technology and explosions, and then a villain pops up who is utterly ineffectual and gets disposed of in about three minutes. In the end Tony Stark up and admits to being Iron Man, everybody cheers, and you get a superhero whose tragic flaws are his narcissism and his close connections with the corporate industrial system that also, we've already seen, enables the sorts of criminals that Iron Man has spent his time fighting.

I think my ideal Iron Man trilogy arc (though I haven't read any of the comics, so this is just going off that first movie) is one where he's gradually pushed out from the center of society. Rich white genius celebrity in the first film, and then he loses his business, his contacts, his fame. His values are increasingly rejected by the culture around him, but as he loses his access to money his technical genius starts to shine through, and at the end of movie everybody's reminded, welp, he's Iron Man. He totally is still awesome. And then maybe he retires to go devise methods of growing huge amounts of food in urban spaces, and the last movie ends with the guy inside War Machine deciding to follow his example and go renegade. But that's just a rough idea.

Anyway, The Dark Knight follows a lot of the superhero patterns that had by then been established. You've got your weenie villains, your big bad lurking in the shadows, Batman's fighting the one and not worrying too much about the other, things escalate, yadda yadda. But where The Dark Knight breaks form is that the Joker triumphs, again and again. And he triumphs in a way that we weren't used to seeing in superhero movies: he kills exactly the people Batman's trying to save.

He assassinates the judge, the police inspector. He kills Rachel. He burns off Harvey's face, blows up a police station (full of cops we've met and somewhat know), nearly convinces a city to murder Bruce's weasely employee. By the time he's doing the thing with the two boats, it is fully easy to expect that, seeing as this movie's trick has been to do the thing that you think Batman will be able to prevent, you're about to see two boats full of people murder each other. And Ledger makes it all seem plausible, because he's so intimidating, so sure of himself. Michael Caine's talking about burning down forests. Could this be the tragic, dark end to the second part of a trilogy, where movie three is all the Joker attempting to actually make Gotham rip itself apart? My theater cheered when the dude on the non-criminals boat chose not to blow up the ship. It felt like a victory for mankind.

It was also a triumph for superhero movies, which is why critics all raved about the superhero movie growing up and such. Roger Ebert was all, "This is a movie for people who like movies, even if they don't like comic books!" And there was much rejoicing. But while I think what Ebert was celebrating was the conflicted, antihero nature of Batman, the fact that even as he's doing the right thing you don't know if you entirely trust him to do it right, the villains whose ultimate goals are to break society rather than destroy it, what filmmakers and screenwriters walked away with was the disturbing, pit-in-stomach feeling you got as things went horribly, murderously wrong, before Batman ultimately achieves his Pyrrhic victory.

It was especially noticeable in 2012 superhero films. The Amazing Spider-Man was the least mass murderesque of the three, though its central plot was basically a genocide plot; nonetheless, it was considerably darker and grimmer and less concerned with having a heart than the earlier trilogy. It hit some actually great plot points, but the constant oppressive feeling made it hard to actually give a shit. The Dark Knight Rises was a go-for-gusto attempt to replicate the feeling of TDK on an even broader scale, though it failed because Bane was an awful villain, Talia was an awful everything, and TDKR was an awful length. And The Avengers was... well.

Joss Whedon has always been a bit of an "ironic sociopath", for my tastes. My roommate just convinced me to watch the first three seasons of Buffy, and what struck me about them (beyond their one hit-five misses ratio) was how much of the Whedon tone reminds me of David Lynch. I mean, the Mayor is essentially attempting to be Lynch's Gordon Cole. But you've got the same mixture of bland surface reality with horrible terrors lurking underneath, played up for ironic comedy and tragedy at various points. And Whedon's incredibly funny, and occasionally does some incredible plot-pacing. (The Avengers had both!) There's a key difference, though, and it's that Lynch, for all his bloody-mindedness, sees death as an unspeakable tragedy. Death for him is grotesque and it happens to people you care about and it is never a simple plot twist, it is the culmination (or revelation) of something dark and unspeakable. Whereas for Whedon, death can be funny, death can be a punch line, death can be a gotcha-moment.

So while the first two-thirds of The Avengers were excellent, except the parts with Thor and Loki because fuck those guys, the last third was basically the ending to a romantic comedy or a buddy-buddy film amidst a backdrop of astonishing carnage. Look! The superheroes are learning to like each other! Except that millions of people are dying, thanks to a jackass unthreatening god who cleverly managed to piss one of them off. I felt whiplashed and nauseous watching Whedon's direction: he'd do shots where "look at superhero doing important combat thing!" was on the foreground, while in the background an occupied building exploded. It struck me as so offensive that it invalidated the two-thirds of the movie that may have been the best superhero-movie thing to date.

(I'd have paid to see Lynch's Avengers a dozen times, just for the terrifying climax where they all realize they are the supervillains they've been trying to stop. And then Loki turns into Thor. And then Tony Stark starts wearing his Iron Man glove on his head, but some some reason it's disturbing beyond belief.)

Now we have Zack Snyder to do what Zack Snyder does, and what began as a narrative trick to heighten the tension whereby the superhero gets to save the day, and then turned into a narrative trick to conveniently up the stakes while keeping the focus on superheroes whose motives and behaviors weren't all that super, is now the focus on a film which, from what I'm reading of it, doesn't particularly give a shit about Superman being that super. The fetishizing of violence is what matters, not the morality behind the fetish. (I haven't seen Snyder's Watchmen, but Jesus Christ do I not want to imagine what that must be like.)

For superheroes to actually be worth something, they need to be some kind of examination of humanity on the abstract, thematic level. You need the deeper philosophy to counterbalance the punching and the explosions—to say, this is the moment that punching a dude is okay! This is when explosions is an awesome thing! At some point superhero movies were all about finding that balance, and some of them did an alright job of it, but now it's all spectacle and horrific amorality.

My fingers are crossed that soon the pendulum will tip the other way, but I kind of suspect that it'll only do so when the superhero market is so oversaturated that Hollywood stops making them altogether. People do like their violence. Even when it's as markedly unfun as it's been in superhero films, apparently.

One final sidenote: I just finished watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood recently, and I'd say it is the single best superhero epic I've ever encountered. Sure it's not technically a superhero story, but it's close enough to count I think. You've got people with insane powers defending the common people, villains with even more insane powers trying to fuck over the world, and lots of moral tension as people ask themselves what it means to do right. But what FMA:B does astonishingly well is that it's giddy and clever and silly with all its ridiculous elements, but takes its characters and plot very seriously. It's willing to punctuate a fight to the death with something hilarious but not undercut the tension in the scene whatsoever. And because it's so good at being light, it can deal with some very dark material without ever feeling too unpleasant to watch. All in all it feels fresh and phenomenal, and I hope more things like it follow.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


Anyway, why would Cthulhu bother to fight crime?

To counter the machinations of his devious criminal rival, Hastur and the Yellow Sign Gang.

Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Frank Quitely character sketches showing the difference between Clark Kent and Superman.
posted by Artw at 6:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

-- Blaise Pascal
posted by shakespeherian at 6:59 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyway, why would Cthulhu bother to fight crime?

Because Cthulhu had to watch the loss of the Progenitors when Cthulhu was a only polyp?

"And with Strange Eons, That Polyp Is Fighting Back!!!!"
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'll admit I don't know my comics that well to know whether it's true about whether any other superheroes are from otherworldly places but are trying to "pass" as human - but I would be surprised to hear that there really weren't any others. Anyone?

Basically, most alien superheroes based on Earth - Invincible, Majestic, Union, often but not always Supergirl etc. Although this is often because they are Superman analogs. _Not_ having a secret identity is unusual in an alien character, especially one with his or her own comic book (Rac Shade springs to mind, but he's a bit of a special case).

Martian Manhunter is interesting because, like many second-tier DC characters, he functions as a reflection on a first-tier character. He's an alien from an extinct race with powers that make him godlike (barring one weakness) in comparison with the dominant species of his new home - he's a strange visitor from another planet. However, because of his skill set (shapechanging and telepathy) and because he is a second-tier character who can't sell an ongoing series and so less fixed in identity terms (Superman can't stop being Clark Kent more than temporarily in the main continuity), the fluidity of his identity can be explored.

So, most of the time he has a core secret identity as Detective John Jones. But he also has multiple other identities which he sometimes moves between - not to protect his loved ones, but in order to understand humanity better. And sometimes he goes full Martian, abandoning the idea that he should be wasting time pretending to be an inferior human when he could be full-time Martianing.

So, Martian Manhunter is, I think, in part a way for writers to play with Supermannish themes of identity without messing around with Superman. Martian Manhunter is also more characterised by loneliness and alienation (pun intended) - he wasn't raised as a human, he has no human family, he was an adult raised in Martian society when he was transported to Earth and his ties to the human world are self-made and have to be maintained rather than deep and acquired from infancy. Kal-El's loss of home is defined in terms of his parents, because he was a baby when Krypton was destroyed, MM's is defined in terms of his wife.

As He Is The Only Imposter says, he even tweaks his natural Martian form to look more human, because the understanding of humanity he gets from his painstaking integration with them tells him they wouldn't accept him in his natural body.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, at least the Asteroids movie won't be disaster porn.
posted by Artw at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2013


It's astute in context, though; Bill is telling Beatrix that story as a way of explaining to her why he'd hunted her down after she gave up her assassin's life and changed her identity and was prepared to live as an ordinary little housewife.

So it's the murderous villain explaining why he was right to kill a church full of people and kidnap an infant? I mean, considering who he is, Bill's hardly reliable.
posted by kewb at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! And about that Kill Bill quote:

Having just been to a wonderful showing of Tarantino's original uncut Kill Bill epic, the 4.5-hour one that totally doesn't feel like 4.5 hours (and I went courtesy of fellow MeFites!), the reason Bill waxes on like that about Clark Kent is that he's trying to make an argument for the inevitability of crime and evil. He's saying, of course we're killers! We can't help ourselves! And, implicitly: YOU can't help yourself, Kiddo, and you wouldn't have been able to help yourself even if you'd tried to escape with your baby. So don't act like I've done something terrible by putting you in a coma and raising your child: if anything, I've been utterly honorable in all my actions.

It's a great, ironic monologue that punctuates the fact that Kill Bill is all about motherhood. (The one noticeable change in the full version is that, unlike in Volume 1, you never get Bill's line about the daughter still being alive after the Lucy Liu fight. So the audience only gets this reveal in the last minutes of the movie.) And we're supposed to gather that, after Kiddo kills Bill, this cycle of carnage is actually broken and she won't have to keep killing people just to keep her daughter. People are capable of mercy and redemption etc etc. Unless what's-her-name's daughter grows up to try and kill Kiddo, in which case the circle continues unbroken. Really damn wonderful film.

(In the uncut Inglourious Basterds, the one that showed in theaters nearby me, the scene in the bar was an agonizing 5-10 minutes longer, and much of the extra time was devoted to a monologue, in German, about how King Kong symbolizes the plight of the black man in America, or some such. The edited movie hints at the monologue but doesn't deliver it. And the monologue is fascinating, very insightful but also very racist, and you wonder all the while how much of this Tarantino agrees with and how much is just something he saw as a possibility within the film and then thought, "This sounds like the sort of thing a Nazi would say." What I'm trying to say is you should never trust a damn thing a Tarantino character says.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:05 AM on June 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


But in those movies, death and carnage was the terrifying specter that superheroes had to prevent. A bad person was going to kill innocents, and only superpowers could prevent that horrible thing from actually happening.

Going back to Alan Moore's Marvelman/Miracleman, there's a caption over the scene in which MM start his fight with his former sidekick Kid Miracleman/Johhny Bates, now a super-powered psychopathic adult. It says something to the effect of "My apologists have since claimed that the first car I threw at Bates was empty. That isn't true."
posted by Gelatin at 7:09 AM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Might've been nice to have a warning in the FPP about spoilers...?!
posted by markkraft at 7:19 AM on June 25, 2013


Might have been.
posted by Bugbread at 7:20 AM on June 25, 2013


I mean he says SPOILERS AHEAD in the video and then gives you time to turn it off.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he's not comparable to them, why is his main villian/rival always a super-rich tycoon and businessman?

For one thing, it's not. He fights plenty of big powerful things. The second thing is that Superman has been created with a set of powers that requires that any human challenger have pretty much every available resource at his disposal if he's going to be credible enough to be a threat.
posted by Hoopo at 7:27 AM on June 25, 2013


"My apologists have since claimed that the first car I threw at Bates was empty. That isn't true."

It was clever when it wasn't the norm.
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now my real question is why did Jon Hamm deign to be in Sucker Punch but isn't playing Middle Aged Superman in some fantastic whiz-bang Fleischer-esque movie?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:34 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cause he didn't want the world referring to him for the rest of his life as SuperHamm.
posted by permafrost at 7:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


See also
posted by shakespeherian at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2013


And does that mean I would stop pining for a bigger house and a lawn if someone doctored a home video to make it look like I was secretly an alien?

No, but you might if you actually had the abilities Superman does. Superman can blow super cold breath on a chunk of ocean, carve the iceberg into a big-ass castle with his heat vision, and send it into orbit or wherever he likes and live there for free, and still get to the 7-11 in minutes if he runs out of eggs. He has very, very little need for money because he's able to do and make pretty much anything he wants. Status symbols, if he even is motivated by such things? He can friggin fly.
posted by Hoopo at 7:44 AM on June 25, 2013


[Hans Moleman voice]I thoroughly enjoyed Man of Steel and Avatar and a couple other films my fellow MeFi SciFi geeks absolutely hated. Please don't hurt me or revoke my geek card. [/Hans Moleman voice]
posted by lord_wolf at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Warning: Kill Bill derail ahead]

Bill is telling Beatrix that story as a way of explaining to her why he'd hunted her down after she gave up her assassin's life and changed her identity and was prepared to live as an ordinary little housewife. ....Normal life was Superman's costume, Bill was telling her, just like normal life would be her costume. At her heart she would always truly be an assassin

It wasn't until about the third time I watched the movies that I realized a line in the wedding rehearsal scene at the beginning of Vol. 2 ties in to that. The reverend asks the couple if they have a song they'd like played — and they don't have a preference. And only after watching it a few times did it occur to me how odd it was that a record store owner and employee wouldn't have a song preference. She can pretend to be Arlene Machiavelli, record store employee, but in her heart she's still Beatrix Kiddo, assassin.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:02 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Might've been nice to have a warning in the FPP about spoilers...?!

I think it's safe to assume that links in a FPP about a currently released creative work, and the discussion in the resulting thread, are likely to contain spoilers, explicit spoiler warning or no. If you don't want to be spoiled, don't click the links, don't read the thread.

I successfully avoided spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the book) for two years after its release, until it came out in paperback and I read it then, by making this assumption. Had I relied only on explicit spoiler warnings, I'm sure I would have been spoiled.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:08 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Comics artist Kyle Baker (previously) has created a little diversion of those who couldn't get enough of the movie's Metropolis fight scene between the Man of Steel and General Zod:

Mass Murderer of Steel
Enjoy high-flying mass destruction as you ignore the hideous death screams of the millians you are pledged to save! Use your super powers to wage a never-ending battle for self-important allegorical bombast! Bludgeon your senses into numbed awe!

Sounds like it captures the spirit of Snyder's movie far better than the sclerotic official tie-in video game.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:08 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I told myself I wasn't going to see Man of Steel after watching the Red Letter Media review, and then some friends invited me along over the weekend and I went anyway.

I'm glad I did. It's the funniest movie I've been to this year. The Christ imagery had me cracking up each time it happened; the requisite Snyder slow-mo muscleman fight amid a million charred corpses was a thing of, well, not beauty but approximately the opposite; the fact that the swarthy evil sidekick essentially called herself 'evolution' and then proceeded to get herself brutalized by the turgid fist of clumsy Christian metaphor (in a Sears, no less!).

I don't want to give Zach Snyder too much credit, but it's the perfect satire of superhero movies - the movie that Watchmen should have been.
posted by codacorolla at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I just think Superman's time is past and Hollywood should let him rest in peace.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:19 AM on June 25, 2013


I'm glad I did. It's the funniest movie I've been to this year.

Someone needs to make a youtube of M.o.S. showing the funny face and yell (Yaaaaaa!") Supe makes in that movie whenever he is using his Supe powers .

How can you take Superman seriously when every time he does something he acts as if he's going to the bathroom for the first time after a particularly bad case of constipation.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 8:20 AM on June 25, 2013


The Christ imagery had me cracking up each time it happened

Oh god, the bit where holo-dad tells Superman he can save them all and Superman responds by silently floating back to earth with his arms held out. It's the most subtextless film since Top Gun.
posted by permafrost at 8:20 AM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is Zack Snyder even capable of subtext?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:22 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, as an example, we have Captain America.

In Brooklyn, we have a few gunshots and broken buildings in the streets, and a few people knocked around (plus one kid in the water, but he can swim, so it's cool). In Germany, we have a train track. Everything else takes place in military installations (or places commandeered by the military).


Does the damage have to be on screen to count? One of the early scenes has Red Skull destroying a Norwegian town with one of his gigantic tanks, off screen.
posted by brundlefly at 8:23 AM on June 25, 2013


Is Zack Snyder even capable of subtext?

I think he's either supremely capable (as in he's pulling one of the longest cons in film history by adapting macho male fantasies and completely subverting them) or he's supremely incapable and his movies are directed at face value.
posted by codacorolla at 8:25 AM on June 25, 2013


> The Christ imagery had me cracking up each time it happened

It wasn't put there for you. Ca-ching!
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:25 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think he's either supremely capable (as in he's pulling one of the longest cons in film history by adapting macho male fantasies and completely subverting them)

See also: 300
posted by shakespeherian at 8:36 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


>> The Christ imagery had me cracking up each time it happened

> It wasn't put there for you. Ca-ching!


At least this time it wasn't snuff porn.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or at least, not snuff-the-good-guy porn.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2013


> See also: 300

I wouldn't recommend it, personally.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:48 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think he's either supremely capable (as in he's pulling one of the longest cons in film history by adapting macho male fantasies and completely subverting them) or he's supremely incapable and his movies are directed at face value.

It's hard to know which side is supported by the fact that his best film so far is generally thought to be the one about the awesome owls.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:49 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I distrust that Tarantino quote

It's not Tarantino. It's the character Bill speaking. Tarantino may or may not think it's total bullshit.


It's doubly not Tarantino. It's Jules Feiffer, whose argument about Superman in "The Great Comic Book Heroes" was liberally adapted by Tarantino for Bill. This rather choppy Google books preview gives the gist of Feiffer's comments on Superman:

"But Superman had only to wake up in the morning to be Superman. Clark was the put-on. That fellow with the eyeglasses and the acne and the walk girls laughed at wasn't real, didn't exist, was a sacrificial disguise, a discreet act of martyrdom. Had they but known!"

versus Bill:

"When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent." etc.

posted by palindromic at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


his best film so far is generally thought to be the one about the awesome owls.

I haven't seen it but I liked Dawn of the Dead and the Watchmen (have not read the comic). He's not uniformly terrible. But when he's terrible he's remarkably so
posted by Hoopo at 8:59 AM on June 25, 2013


Huh. Watched that Red Letter Media review and they managed to convince me that Snyder actually did make a good movie called Man of Steel about the Hulk.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:02 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Max Landis, you fake geek boy with your lustrous fake geek boy hair

I thought you were taking kind of a cheap shot here, but then I realized how often he has to toss his hair and put it behind his ear and realized that it really is a faux-slacker expensive haircut that pretends to be sloppy and artless but is in fact a minor salon masterpiece. So yeah, cut that shit off so you can talk without using it as a boytoy fidget-prop.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


His argument seems to be, "Hey everybody who says that Superman is a weak character because he has no flaws or internal struggle or relatability, you don't get it because Superman is unique in the fact that he has no flaws or internal struggle or relatability and also see my movie which did this right."

So I remain unconvinced. Clearly there are people who love Superman, but I don't think in my lifetime I will ever get a satisfying answer as to why. And that's fine.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:14 AM on June 25, 2013


He lost me in the first 20 seconds.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2013


For superheroes to actually be worth something, they need to be some kind of examination of humanity on the abstract, thematic level. You need the deeper philosophy to counterbalance the punching and the explosions—to say, this is the moment that punching a dude is okay! This is when explosions is an awesome thing! At some point superhero movies were all about finding that balance, and some of them did an alright job of it, but now it's all spectacle and horrific amorality.

The film adaptation of Kick Ass does an amazing job of this. The movie is of course a deconstruction of the superhero genre, but it also hits the same notes that a really good superhero story should. The protagonist has no powers, no real resources, and no real talent to be a superhero. He just feels the need to fight against what he perceives as injustice and cruelty in the world.

And he loses. Bad. He's stabbed and beaten half to death. If anything his superpower is an incredible tolerance to pain. So he gets up and puts on his stupid costume made from a wetsuit and keeps fighting. And keeps losing.

Just like in the real world, the big bad isn't some extraterrestrial malevolent force or evil scientist attempting to take over the world, it's a sociopath who's primarily motivated by greed.
posted by arcolz at 9:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh god, the bit where holo-dad tells Superman he can save them all and Superman responds by silently floating back to earth with his arms held out. It's the most subtextless film since Top Gun.

The two little old ladies to my left were clutching tissues to their faces and sitting on the edges of their seats at that point while I and my BFF were fistgnawingly failing at muffling our crazed cackling. Oh how they glared.
posted by elizardbits at 9:31 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Snyder and Nolan at least appear to claim passing familiarity with comic books. They must be aware of how Batman ultimately resolves -- and does not resolve -- his conflict with The Joker in The Dark Knight Returns. Superman pulling the same stunt with Zod might not exactly be original, but it wouldn't push him over the same moral event horizon, either.
posted by Gelatin at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm tired of dystopias. I say this as someone who use to like the genera. But in a world as jiggeryjoo as we are currently living in I don't need stories to push me down. We have to envision what we want to be in order to achieve it, and the overwhelming of sucks suck sucks "realism" just gets oppressive and makes people more cynical.
posted by edgeways at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


but then I realized how often he has to toss his hair and put it behind his ear and realized that it really is a faux-slacker expensive haircut

I like Max Landis' take, his apparent intelligence and his work. I will happily plunk down money to see his movies. His line about Superman being what we should be if only we lacked human fear and insecurity, that resonated with me.

But yeah, he's a rich kid. Heard an interview with him where he relates a story about his father coming to him when he was about 16-17 years old and basically saying, "So, I'll pay for you to do whatever in the world you would want to do. Want to go to college? Name your institution. Want to travel the world? When do you want to leave?"

Oh well.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2013


Is Zack Snyder even capable of subtext?

This is the guy who said, on the Irrational Games podcast, something along the lines of, “I know this sounds totally crazy, but maybe a director making a movie about a video game would almost have to actually play the game or something weird like that in order to really understand it.”
posted by straight at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2013


> See also: 300

I wouldn't recommend it, personally.


I would. Sometimes the fact that that shit be wack is a reason to go, rather than a reason to stay away.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:55 AM on June 25, 2013


Please don't take my previous comment to really be a sleight against Max Landis. The fact that he had ten minutes of theory on Superman makes him 9 minutes and 59 seconds more thoughtful than Zack Snyder will ever be. I'm just unconvinced.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:55 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I felt whiplashed and nauseous watching Whedon's direction: he'd do shots where "look at superhero doing important combat thing!" was on the foreground, while in the background an occupied building exploded. It struck me as so offensive that it invalidated the two-thirds of the movie that may have been the best superhero-movie thing to date.

Why the destruction in Man of Steel matters.


"What’s more, the best parts of the final fight in The Avengers deal with saving civilians. Captain America creates a battle plan intended to contain the chaos, and then he has a great, wonderful moment where he convinces jaded New York City cops to help evacuate people. Then he rescues civilians from the Chitauri. And then Iron Man, not as much of a protector hero as Superman, sacrifices (he thinks) his life to save New York City from being nuked. Finally, the film has a sequence where the aftermath of the battle - including a wall of pictures of the missing civilians - is revealed.

The two fights aren’t comparable because The Avengers did it right."

The film adaptation of Kick Ass does an amazing job of this. The movie is of course a deconstruction of the superhero genre...

Until the end, when he gets a chain-gun jet-pack, and ... then it's just a regular superhero movie.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:58 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Until the end, when he gets a chain-gun jet-pack, and ... then it's just a regular superhero movie.

Maybe. But just now it occurs to me that this could be like the overt tagline inside of the Captain America film: that a weak man understands the value of strength. Maybe he needs to try and fail at being a superhero, again and again, to know what it is to be hurt but to keep coming back anyway, to become someone who can and should use power when he gets it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:03 AM on June 25, 2013


I'm going to set up a double feature of Kick Ass and Super because somewhere between the two of them there's probably a single halfway decent deconstruction of superhero films.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:09 AM on June 25, 2013


Don't forget The Specials and Defendor!

I thought you were taking kind of a cheap shot here, but then I realized how often he has to toss his hair and put it behind his ear and realized that it really is a faux-slacker expensive haircut that pretends to be sloppy and artless but is in fact a minor salon masterpiece. So yeah, cut that shit off so you can talk without using it as a boytoy fidget-prop.

I was taking a cheap shot! But not at Max Landis, but rather the idea of the "fake geek girl" - a mythical type of woman who affects to like geeky subject matter in order to attract the attention and romantic interest of geeky men. The joke being that Max Landis has totally revealed himself as a poseur by confusing one-shot Batman villain Atomic Man with recurring Superman villain The Atomic Skull.

That said, that is sort of annoying hair, but I think, if your family has millions in the bank, you are probably going to get hosed if you have a cheap haircut or an expensive haircut, so I can't wholly blame the kid.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you think he ever regrets making CAPS LOCK his thing?

I can't read it; I can't.


Scroll down on this page for a Greasemonkey script to transform Film Critic Hulk into Film Critic Banner.

Install the Fix Caps script, then go to Tools>Greasemonkey>Manage User Scripts and click the [Options] button for the fixcaps script. Add http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/* and any other ALLCAPS webpages that bother you, then reload and let Banner do the talking.
posted by straight at 10:13 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I just not seeing it, or do we have a whole thread about Max Landis and Superman with no one linking to his epic takedown of the Death and Return of Superman story in the comics (previously)?

Because that thing is very amusing, and includes my favorite role that Elijah Wood has ever played. Maybe everyone who likes Superman has already seen it? If not, you should check it out.
posted by straight at 10:21 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it funny how because of Man of Steel's blatant Christ imagery, the argument of whether Superman is fully human and fully alien starts to resemble the early Christian arguments about whether Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Which is less illuminating than comparing Superman to the immigrant narrative, in my view, but more fun in that you can imagine canon interpretations you disagree with as heresies.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:21 AM on June 25, 2013


My favorite Superman is Justice League Superman, because he and Batman get to play the Odd Couple over and over, and Batman is all "grimdark muttering," and Superman is all "I LIKE MILK" and yet they are still friends and teammates.

I get the feeling Superman doesn't do a lot of wholesome dairy consumption in this movie.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


My favorite Superman is Justice League Superman, because he and Batman get to play the Odd Couple over and over, and Batman is all "grimdark muttering," and Superman is all "I LIKE MILK" and yet they are still friends and teammates.

There's a series that really touches on this, with each the characters making lots of asides to the effect of, "I can't understand why he has (insert quality here)." Batman wonders why this earthbound god cares the way he does, and Superman wonders why "Joe Normal" has absolutely no fear.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:41 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it funny how because of Man of Steel's blatant Christ imagery...

I find it funny that we're talking about the Christ imagery of a character invented by a pair of Jewish kids.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Artw: "My guess is that with the success of tis movie and DCs current editorial leanings Grimdark Killy Superman with no silly pants has won and Superman who smiles and sometimes gets into goofy silver age adventures is dead for the moment, or at the very least backgrounded to the point where he'll only show up on faux-vintage lunchboxes for a while. Rest in peace, buddy.

Still, he did have one last onscreen hurrah: Superman Vs The Elite, which is basically "Superman vs the concept of killer superheroes", and SPOILERS he wins that one. Ah well, If only that had ended up being the case.
"

And said viddy was most excellent. I had to watch it to see how they handled what, to me, is a core Superman conflict.
posted by Samizdata at 10:44 AM on June 25, 2013


HuronBob: "Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

Leonidas?
"

This...is...KANSAS!
posted by Samizdata at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "(Which, to me, is a clear giveaway to his alien nature as those things are disgusting.)"

Hydrox FTW.
posted by Samizdata at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2013


JHarris: "I have come to think that everything we think we know about Superman, even Clark Kent, is a projection of human desires onto a being that is profoundly alien to us. If we removed the projection what would we see?

The Superman story has never concerned itself with the truly alien. The fact that Superman's body takes the same form as a human would influence his outlook tremendously. When all you have is a hammer the world looks like a nail, and so when you interact with the world with human limbs and sense organs, you'll think of it in terms of what your biological toolset can do to it, and what it can do to you, because if you didn't your ancestors could not have survived long enough to have evolved to that level of complexity. You could argue maybe that the contents of Superman's brain might still be quite different, but the fact is for all we know the same is true of humans compared to each other.

Anyway, why would Cthulhu bother to fight crime?
"

It amuses him and makes for a plethora of criminal crunchy snacks/insane cultist recruits.
posted by Samizdata at 10:57 AM on June 25, 2013


I Love Man Of Steel And I'm Not Sorry
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:09 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it funny that we're talking about the Christ imagery of a character invented by a pair of Jewish kids.

Who based it upon a character from a book rich with religious imagery and written by a Presbyterian minister's son. Not saying that means anything as far as Superman goes, or if Snyder is even aware of any of that, but a somewhat interesting superception.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 11:19 AM on June 25, 2013


Who based it upon a character from a book rich with religious imagery...

I had never heard of that book, thanks!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: "Who based it upon a character from a book rich with religious imagery...

I had never heard of that book, thanks!
"

It is on Gutenberg, if you are interested.
posted by Samizdata at 11:40 AM on June 25, 2013


Phalene: "Mrs. El (I don't think she got named in the movie even!)"

Obvious, her name is Kal Ella.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:40 AM on June 25, 2013


Samizdata: "HuronBob: "Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

Leonidas?
"

This...is...KANSAS
"

Kansas City Spartans.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joakim Ziegler: "Phalene: "Mrs. El (I don't think she got named in the movie even!)"

Obvious, her name is Kal Ella.
"

Not Kal Elisabeth? Or Kal Liste?
posted by Samizdata at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2013


Joakim Ziegler: "Samizdata: "HuronBob: "Also: kids run around with capes on to mimic Superman. Who the hell is little Clark pretending to be with that dishrag around his shoulders?

Leonidas?
"

This...is...KANSAS
"

Kansas City Spartans.
"

Then we will score in the shade!
posted by Samizdata at 11:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who based it upon a character from a book rich with religious imagery and written by a Presbyterian minister's son.'

Gladiator as "inspiration" for Superman is even more apparent when we consider that Superman was originally conceived of as, literally, the Man of Tomorrow. Anyway, Superman is really not a very good Christ-analog, for reasons others have outlined better than I could.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This...is...KANSAS

Kansas City Spartans.


So Superman's origin story is running around in rural Kansas wanting to be a girl? What the fuck, where are my superpowers.
posted by fleacircus at 12:15 PM on June 25, 2013


Anyway, Superman is really not a very good Christ-analog, for reasons others have outlined better than I could.

Yeah but we have a long history of an ass-kicking Christ because folks seem fairly disappointed in an all-powerful God who wins by sacrifice rather than being dudical and awesome. The whole thing about Christ is that he died alone, denied by his best friends, dirty, naked, ignored. It's a downer. Now everyone from Galdalf to Neo gets to be a sacrificial image of the divine who then comes back from the dead, because of course, ready to bust some heads. See also the slaughtering-millions Jesus in the Left Behind series-- not even Christ is a very Christ-like figure in a lot of literature. Even Dante has Christ bodily tear down the literal gates of hell.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it funny that we're talking about the Christ imagery of a character invented by a pair of Jewish kids.

Yeah, everybody knows that Christ was invented by no less than four Jewish kids, more if you count the apocrypha.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know why people think that an essentially good character is the same as a character without nuance or potential for conflict. Superman Returns was a great examination of precisely the kind of conflict that sort of character would face--the frustration of his own limitations (9/11 happens while he's gone! A much more respectful response to disaster than "let's just blow shit up and evoke 9/11 without addressing it textually"); the fear of existing in a world where being good isn't good enough, where evil will always exist and you have to make choices about how to address it; the isolation that goodness causes; and the ultimate fear about creating children who will bear the same burdens as you, who will have the same limitations, who are vulnerable and alone because of their strengths. These are all extremely interesting conflicts! But I'm a bit tired of the whole sociopathic angst thing, anyway.

I just wish superhero movies would start skipping the origin story part. I really do. It is always the dumbest part. It never works. Why does anybody think it works?

Hero's journey. Blame George Lucas.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


*slow motion panning shot of Christ striding through market place, he is glaring purposefully*

VOICEOVER, MARY: "You have a role to play Jesus... you can be the hero we need."

*sing-songy choral music, shot of young Jesus running through a field, he stops and stares... the camera follows his gaze, showing two swarthy roman soldiers beating a crying blonde woman who stretches out her hand to him. young Jesus' fists clench*

VOICEOVER, CHRIST: "They'll never believe in me..."

*christ alone in the desert, dirty, beaten, bleeding... silhouette of a demon shimmers in the foreground, ominous BOM-BOM sound as choral music continues and intensifies*

VOICEOVER, PAUL: "They will... they will have to."

*close-up of Paul, as he wipes a tear away, then grasping Jesus by each shoulder. music goes silent, and close-up switches to Jesus, looking upwards in to ray of light*

VOICEOVER, PAUL: "Because you will save them, whether they like it or not."

*absolutely brutal, pounding industrial music starts, cut back to Christ in the market place. he raises his left hand, revealing a whip of thorns. he breaks in to a run, jump-cut of extremely swarthy money-changers looking dismayed, jesus jumps in slow-mo whipping one, causing him to spin around, bleeding, spraying blood on to the camera. money-changer draws knife and charges Jesus who dodges, and punches the top of his head, sending him crashing in to sandstone floor in a shower of fragments*

TEXT, EXTREMELY BADASS FONT: "THIS SUMMER"

*Christ uproots crucifix, swings one end in to Roman centurion, spins, knocking over several legionnaires, ending by impaling a second centurion*

TEXT, EXTREMELY BADASS FONT: "THE FATHER"

*shiny, bloomy shot of indistinct figure in robes amid clouds, putting finger down to Mary's naked form writhing on a celestial pedestal*

TEXT, EXTREMELY BADASS FONT: "THE SON"

*slow zoom in on Jesus doing kung-fu in sunset, final shot of blood and sweat mixing on his forehead beneath a crown of thorns*

TEXT, EXTREMELY BADASS FONT: "AND THE HOLY SPIRIT"

*music goes silent, very loud roaring as giant demonic form rises from pit in the desert, cut back to Christ as he watches this. Close-up of his face as he smirks, and then longer shot of him slowly levitating, his body suffused with a bright light, creating a crescendo of sound as he begins to fly at the demon*

*loud, sustained BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAOM sound*

TEXT, EVEN MORE BADASS FONT: "ZACH SNYDER'S: THE CHRIST"

*single second cut to Jesus putting his glowing fist through a demon's head*
posted by codacorolla at 1:01 PM on June 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


I agree with PhoBWanKenobi. And I don't really understand people who say Superman isn't relatable because he doesn't have any flaws or "inner turmoil". He's a good guy who wants to help. What's so hard to relate about wanting to help? Since he can help people by punching Darkseid in the face, that's what he does.

Further, why do some people need for characters to have flaws in order get into them? And it's not like a real flaw that actually causes them trouble or something. Like Batman - Oh, no, his parents are dead and he's all messed up. But not that messed up, because he's got like 15 sidekicks who live and/or work with him despite him being a dick. And half a dozen girlfriends as Bats and more as Bruce Wayne. Plus he may not like it but he is actually good at team work. And since he's a superhero he always wins in the end. So, really what have his flaws actually cost him? He's no Oresetes or Hamlet.

I like angsty characters as much as the next person, but I don't need characters to be all emotionally scarred (but not too scarred!) to like them and relate to them.

I would love to see a return of 1930's Superman but since DC and Marvel are too lame to tackle actual social problems that's never going to happen.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Depending on who's writing him, Batman's flaws alienate his lovers, friends, and sidekicks. There's many depictions of old Bruce, but not many of happy old Bruce.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2013


Further, why do some people need for characters to have flaws in order get into them?

At the same time I see people saying they don't like watching Girls or Breaking Bad or whatever because all of the characters are jerks.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:41 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this is an old and much-invoked comparison, but is Zack Snyder the M. Night Shamalayan of action movies?

Marvelman is a very interesting book, partly for the wrong reasons - unlike V For Vendetta, its production was hugely fragmented, the illustration style veering from the superb to the (frankly) dreadful; much of the denoument needing to be conveyed in exposition. Despite that, it seems to be one of the most influential of comic books of its time: the idea that comes at the culmination of Moore's run (and forms the backbone of Gaiman's) - that Marvelman assumes the godhood that comes with the powers he possesses and rules the world - fed into The Authority; in some ways it's the first attempt at what would be Moore's trademark - the subversion (indeed, inversion) of a pre-existing text that nonetheless obeys and honours the rules and parameters of that text (most famously in Swamp Thing, though also Watchmen if you see them as the Charlton characters they're analogues of, and, to a certain extent, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen); a very minor example: Toby Whithouse stole a scene in its entirety for an episode of Being Human). To judge by the Red Letter Media review, the scriptwriters have similarly stolen the denoument of Marvelman for this movie. Though, I presume, the scriptwriters have done what the adaptors of Watchmen, From Hell, V For Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did and totally missed the point of the original text.

I wonder whether this film (and the Nolan Dark Knight films) feed into a mindset that people like my(younger)self have - that on the one hand we're enthralled by these texts, while on the other we realise at some level or other that they're fundamentally rather silly. Certainly, in my youth I maintained two versions of the same text - the deeply flawed one that existed on the pages or the screen in front of me and the properly grown-up version that existed in my head, and watching or reading was an exercise in being in both versions simultaneously. Moore's response was to take the texts and turn them upside-down, simultaneously exercising his genuine affection for the source material, while at the same time making a critique of them possible. By the same token, a lot of commentary on work that fits into the broad genre of the fantastical, the comic-book, the science fictional concerns not so much the work in question as how awesome it would have been if they'd done whatever.

What these modern versions are doing is to try to create a version of these myths that are just as grown-up as we always thought they were, to, essentially, vindicate the faith we had in the texts as Proper Grown Up Art all along. The problems with this are manifold: most of the actual grown-ups I've known who've seen The Dark Knight, say, found it not so much adult and intelligent as unpleasant and repellant - both as dumb as they expected a Batman film to be, whilst being no fun at all, with a careless misanthropic cruelty, like detailed, extensive coverage of a child pulling the wings off flies; at its best these grown-upped versions might seem like symphonic arrangements of Iggy and the Stooges, missing the point of both symphonic music and Iggy; The ultimate problem will come when the audience finds the voice to say that actually they rather liked the red-pants-over-the-suit and the inherent silliness of the thing, and that all they wanted was to be distracted for 90 minutes.

How could this possibly have been a grown-up film? If you're doing Superman, avoid reality, because reality says that everything in it is ludicrous. If Snyder couldn't make a grown-up film out of properties that were actually written deliberately for grown-ups in the first place (I'm thinking of Watchmen and 300 so perhaps not even especially grown up grown-ups), did he really stand a chance with a mythos that has consistently courted and attracted children? Donner's Superman is intermittently silly and slight, because it captures the spirit of the original perfectly, in a way that can be satisfyingly structured into a movie (and, it must be said, the 1980s Supergirl film does just the same thing: it's not very good, but then neither was the comic. It does have Peter Cook in it, though).

Can we expect Snyder's next project to be Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a dark tale of drug addiction, prostitution and death?

Golly. Those are more words than I ever thought I'd write on the subject.
posted by Grangousier at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh! Also! I want to start the Zack Snyder Homoerotic Drinking Game.

Basically, when a scene is just a bit more homoerotic than it needs to be, you drink.

You get incredibly hammered during 300, you develop alcohol poisoning if you drink every time Dr. Manhattan's giant blue wang is in the shot during Watchman, and the less said about the smoky silver dildos (complete with testicles!) that Zod and his crew end up in on their trip to the Forbidden Zone, the better.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hadn't planned on seeing Man of Steel, but the trailers made it look like there would be something more than the usual schtick. And there was, the world of Krypton, it's style and culture and history was fascinating.

But Superman himself was till boring as hell. There was never a moment to care about him because there was never a moment he might be in harm. In this movie, he's a god raised in storybook setting, who's only pain comes from having to hide how awesome he is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:03 PM on June 25, 2013


Further, why do some people need for characters to have flaws in order get into them?

Because there is no such thing as a human without flaws. Everyone in the audience has flaws and knows friends and family with flaws. This is how you identify with characters in a lasting way.

You know what characters don't have flaws? Characters that are not human.

Let's say it was Superdog and not Superman that was the star of the show, and we presented the dog realistically -- sniffing crotches with his super-smell, pissing on fire hydrants with super-pee. Since the audience has no drive to sniff crotches and piss on fire hydrants, the audience is limited in its ability to identify with the lead character.

Even when we try to create non-human characters, we deliberately put recognizable flaws, limitations, blocks and wounds into them, to play upon the audience's desire to know and interact with the humanity of characters.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:04 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, think specifically about stories about gods. What do you see? Human flaws. Odin is a liar, Zeus is a poon-hound, and Aphrodite starts a war because she thinks Helen is prettier than she is.

Then you get to the Abrahamic God. What do you get? You either get human avatars with flaws -- Jesus, Mohammed -- that speak for God, or you focus only on the Old Testament God, who is just as much a dick as Zeus ever was.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:12 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


But yeah, he's a rich kid. Heard an interview with him where he relates a story about his father coming to him when he was about 16-17 years old and basically saying, "So, I'll pay for you to do whatever in the world you would want to do.

Maybe having such privilege is part of why he sees Superman the way he does. Can we be good when we have, by accident of birth, huge advantages over the other inhabitants of our world? Many would say no; the Superman story says yes.
posted by stebulus at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


But Superman himself was till boring as hell. There was never a moment to care about him because there was never a moment he might be in harm.

I agree. This portrayal of Superman was bland and not especially likable or unlikeable. Reeve's Superman was a likable guy. The storyline built up character development to the point where you could identify with that character but this movie.... meh.

This movie was about 25 minutes of super-powered violence and little more because that's what some bean-counter-at-heart believe sells tickets and frankly that's all we get these days.. Meh. SOOO glad I torrented this.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2013


So, really what have his flaws actually cost him? He's no Oresetes or Hamlet.

Dude. That is not cool. Not cool.

HIS PARENTS ARE DEAD!
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:35 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Superman, the symbol, is supposed to be a flawless, aspirational figure. But Superman, combined with Clark Kent, DOES have flaws. I'm most familiar with the DCAU Superman, so all the examples I can think of related to that series, (so spoilers).

There's the episode (The Late Mr. Kent) where he interviews a death row inmate for a story, and the man sticks to the fact that he's innocent. So Clark looks into the old police case and finds some old security footage from a pizza parlor that proves he's not at the crime scene when it took place. Clark has this tape and decides to deliver it to the governor as Clark Kent the reporter, NOT as Superman. Only because, as he puts it, he wants this to be "a victory for Clark Kent". He wants to get the governor's handshake, the compliments from his co-workers, and maybe even a journalism award. It's pretty much pure pride he does this, and in a way he prolongs the death row inmate's suffering just a bit, because if he was Supes he could just fly there in a second. I mean, in the cartoon, he's driving there in his frickin' car when probably a phone call and sending the video via email would do.

There were other episodes that showed his arrogance and pride, especially in comparison to other heroes like Captain Marvel or Flash.
posted by FJT at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread spoiled the movie for me, which is cool; I was only planning to see it to snark on it. I hate movies that are pointlessly grimdark. Why do we need a gritty Star Trek movie, FFS? Give me some escapism. Superman works best as a straight man in an ensemble or a foil to other people's plots.

Chris Sims, in his reviews, liked the Lester Superman best. Maybe Superman is an inherently comedic character.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:27 PM on June 25, 2013


I am surprised that nobody in this thread has hit on my favorite interpretation of the Superman mythos. I don't recall who I heard it from, probably Harlan Ellison or someone like that.

There is no Superman. When you see Superman, you are inside a fantasy of Clark Kent. Clark is a milquetoast with a crappy job at the Daily Planet. He sits at his desk all day, wishing he could impress Lois Lane, and Superman is his fantasy. Superman is everything Clark is not: brave, strong, daring, and loved by everyone (and by Lois in particular). His villains are projections of his own mind, his triumphs are wish fulfillment.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


*single second cut to Jesus putting his glowing fist through a demon's head*

You mean it in jest, but if that appeared on movie screens as you've written it, half the audience would be cheering, and most of them would be Christians.

Because a lot of people will cheer for anything if it's bad-ass enough, and many (most?) American Christians have lost touch with what Jesus really taught.
posted by JHarris at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zod Fans Criticizing New Superman in Restroom Run Into Terence Stamp
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You mean it in jest, but if that appeared on movie screens as you've written it, half the audience would be cheering, and most of them would be Christians.

The more I plot it out in my head the more I legitimately want to see Paradise Lost / Paradise Regained / selected scenes from the New Testament adapted by Zach Snyder. It's set up in to 4 pretty great acts: posted by codacorolla at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because a lot of people will cheer for anything if it's bad-ass enough, and many (most?) American Christians have lost touch with what Jesus really taught.

To be fair, I cheer when Hellboy puts his glowing fist through a demon's head. I'd have to be a bit of a dick not to extend the same courtesy to Jesus.

Assuming this is being directed by Guillermo del Toro. And Jesus is being played by Idris Elba.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:12 PM on June 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


me: “No, he's an alien. He's not human at all. That's what sucks about Superman.”

Podkayne of Pasadena: “Yeah... that's what the makers of this movie were projecting. But it's bulls*t. Superman is human in all the ways that really matter in being human. Truth, justice and all that. Superman was raised by human parents as a human child and, guess what? He's just like us - in fact maybe even better than a lot of us.”

I haven't seen this movie at all or really read any reviews of it; I'm talking about Superman historically. Superman has been an alien since his inception. It would make no sense if he were anything else. He is invincible in almost every conceivable way. Fragility is a human thing; Superman is not fragile. In his originally-conceived (and still-prevalent) form, he does not face death. It was only later, when they realized that this was a ridiculous premise which left no room for tension or character development at all, that they added in a convenient weakness which was remarkable only in that it was very lame.

“ [In M.o.S.] There was never a moment to care about him because there was never a moment he might be in harm.”

You've just aptly stated the whole problem of Superman: he's invincible, and the attempt to make him vincible is always forced and weak because it's at the hands of people who realized after the fact that invincible characters don't make for strong stories.
posted by koeselitz at 4:33 PM on June 25, 2013


You've just aptly stated the whole problem of Superman: he's invincible, and the attempt to make him vincible is always forced and weak because it's at the hands of people who realized after the fact that invincible characters don't make for strong stories.

There are good stories about vampires, robots, deities, constantly resurrected characters, characters that "die" but can talk to living characters through the afterlife, and immortals of all kinds (Dorian Gray). I don't understand why every time Superman is mentioned, suddenly he sucks because he's invincible and every wannabe critic knows this because Batman and Spider-man can die!11!
posted by FJT at 4:53 PM on June 25, 2013


There is no Superman. When you see Superman, you are inside a fantasy of Clark Kent. Clark is a milquetoast with a crappy job at the Daily Planet. He sits at his desk all day, wishing he could impress Lois Lane, and Superman is his fantasy. Superman is everything Clark is not: brave, strong, daring, and loved by everyone (and by Lois in particular). His villains are projections of his own mind, his triumphs are wish fulfillment.

That's just adds a meaningless layer of meta to the whole thing. Of course Superman is a fantasy wish-fulfillment character.

If you want to imagine that we're talking about Clark Kent's fantasy inside Siegel and Shuster's fantasy instead of directly talking about Siegel & Schuster's fantasy, I suppose you can do that, but I'm not sure what that adds to the whole thing.
posted by straight at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


FJT: “There are good stories about vampires, robots, deities, constantly resurrected characters, characters that "die" but can talk to living characters through the afterlife, and immortals of all kinds (Dorian Gray). I don't understand why every time Superman is mentioned, suddenly he sucks because he's invincible and every wannabe critic knows this because Batman and Spider-man can die!11!”

Well, I don't really want to be a critic of anything. I just like thinking about this stuff. But:

Vampires, robots, deities, constantly resurrected characters – I would argue that these are generally interesting largely in relation to their weaknesses. And all of them have them – vampires can be killed, robots can be killed, even deities (in many stories, anyway) can often be killed. And I'd say the ways that they can be killed are generally more interesting or compelling than Kryptonite.

However – I appreciate the point that Superman, as a physically strong character who technically does have a weakness, is not different from other physically strong characters on this count. Probably the thing a lot of us object to in Superman is what we perceive as this odd arms race which has really characterized his development over the decades. Superman seems to exist initially as a fantasy of a powerful force for good; and the only immediate direction you can really take such a fantasy is in the direction of more power. Which is what happened to the Superman character; "leap small buildings in a single bound" became "leap tall buildings in a single bound" became "can fly," laser vision and super sight and super smelling and super everything else were gradually added, all of which accreted into an unbelievably powerful character of almost insane proportions. But all the while that this was going on, the constant problem recurred: how do you write stories with any kind of tension about a character that powerful? So a parallel parade of weaknesses developed alongside his strengths, and at this point most of them involve various kinds or configurations of Kryptonite. Which is a small thing to hang a character's entire vulnerability on.

But – once more, to take the other side – perhaps that's enough. One small thing was enough to hang Achilles' vulnerability on.
posted by koeselitz at 5:17 PM on June 25, 2013


straight: "If you want to imagine that we're talking about Clark Kent's fantasy inside Siegel and Shuster's fantasy instead of directly talking about Siegel & Schuster's fantasy, I suppose you can do that, but I'm not sure what that adds to the whole thing."

The new Superman movie represent's Zack Snyder's fantasy of David Goyer's script, a fantasy treatment of the comic book Superman, a fantasy of Siegel and Shuster, about a character named Superman, who is the fantasy of newspaper reporter Clark Kent, who is a fantasy big brother imagined by Jimmy Olsen.
posted by Bugbread at 5:21 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


give me a weird ass space opera Morrison Superman where he's the 'normal' one interacting with gods
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:25 PM on June 25, 2013


I don't understand why every time Superman is mentioned, suddenly he sucks because he's invincible and every wannabe critic knows this because Batman and Spider-man can die!11!

I wouldn't say he sucks, but he is uninteresting due to not only being invincible, but because he never seems to have lost anything or struggled. Which is just silly for someone who grew on a farm in rural America.

There are great possibilities with the character, but he badly needs to be updated and given a personality.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



There are great possibilities with the character, but he badly needs to be updated and given a personality.


Has anyone known what to do with him? He mostly seems to end up in romantic comedies, from the 70s onward. He also works in ensambles, as the dude the Justice League and the rest of the DCU looks up to... hell he even gets mentioned in Sandman. That works... no matter if you're Batman or John Constantine you know the Big Blue Boyscout is out there looking out for you.

i dunno.. i was always into Marvel
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:31 PM on June 25, 2013


I think there's a parallel to Batman/Superman in the Star Trek universe: Sisko/Picard

Sisko lives on a ramshackle space station in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by no less than three nasty dictatorial empires, always outgunned. He's fighting to keep some scrap of his ideals alive under pressure that forces him into compromises he despises. Guts and guile keep him alive. He names his ship Defiant.

Picard shows what the ideals of the Federation look like from a position of power and privilege. Picard has all the privilege: white patrician European aristocrat, captain of the gleaming flagship of the Federation, free to fly it wherever he likes with little or no constraints on his freedom to act.* Sometimes he needs to stare down the Romulans or a godlike being, but in a typical episode he's dealing with relatively primitive cultures. He could easily overpower them, but he has an obsessive concern with noninterference and letting them make their own choices.

Like Batman's, Sisko's stories are consistently well written. It's not hard to write a good story about a heroic underdog beating the odds through cleverness and willpower. Picard/Superman stories are often pretty bad. Still, I sometimes get a craving for hearing Picard tell Data about the dignity of all sentient life. Stories about an idealist with the power to make his ideals a reality can be very appealing.

* Remember the time Picard and Riker rolled into Federation headquarters and shot a bunch of admirals with no consequenses whatsoever? "They were infected with mind control parasites!" Sure, Jean-Luc, whatever, we've all wanted to do it.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:47 PM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


I suppose the thing that really tweaks me when it comes to the cinematic Superman, or at least this newest one in particular, they really missed an opportunity to really be clever or at least thoughtful in their insistence for grimdark (why is WB still stuck in the 90s comics industry mindset anyway?). There's so much of the real world terribleness that they didn't need to go to disaster porn to raise the stakes for Superman. I mean, so what if Superman himself is this powerful god-like creature? He is only one man, and in one very important way, that's why Lex Luthor is often his seminal archvillain, because he is only one man also, but he's powerful socially in a way Clark can never be and Superman could never match. The insidiousness of daily crime, of neverending disasters, of corporate influence over everything - what can the power of flight and invincibility have against a concentrated campaign of public relations that paints him as a threat, for example?

But to me, that's why Superman is important. He exists as an ideal, where normal people can aspire to be better. It's lonely at the top for sure, but his kind of superheroism isn't the nihilist kind that Nolan brought to his Batman, and thinking that this is what Superman needs is terribly off-the-mark.

I don't know, Superman has always been my superhero over Batman. He's not boring, just because he's inherently moral may make him at times distant from our everyday reality, to my mind. I'd argue it's even harder to be so, especially when you have all the power to not give a shit. Arguably you can see it as patronising benevolence, but I guess Hollywood's current generation of working screenwriters haven't quite matured to the idea of what a hero is, so preoccupied are they by the anti-hero.

for all the movie kept banging on about how the 'S' sigil of the House of El stood for 'hope', there was very little of that actually in action.
posted by cendawanita at 6:14 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Assuming this is being directed by Guillermo del Toro. And Jesus is being played by Idris Elba.

Keep talking, Ima gonna go get my wallet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:31 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


So a parallel parade of weaknesses developed alongside his strengths, and at this point most of them involve various kinds or configurations of Kryptonite.

I think that the current orthodoxy is that only green kryptonite currently exists in the DC universe... Superman is also vulnerable to magic, somewhat, which means that Captain Marvel has a slight edge to make up for his smaller power set in a "who'd win between" argument - this also applies to Wonder Woman's magic equipment, apparently. Most magic users would probably struggle to get an incantation out before getting knocked flat, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:46 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Speaking of the interpretation that Superman does not exist and is merely a projection of Clark's fantasy of impressing Lois]

That's just adds a meaningless layer of meta to the whole thing. Of course Superman is a fantasy wish-fulfillment character.

No, that's the essential quality. Sure reading a superhero comic is an exercise in fantasy wish-fullfillment by the reader. But reading it with the explicit knowledge that Clark is doing the same projection, makes sense out of the incongruous elements of the mythos. Like for example, inside the story, nobody notices that Clark and Superman resemble each other, but the comic book reader knows. The story is targeted at someone who is aware they are projecting into the story, just like Clark dreams his superhero fantasy. It's more than a suspension of disbelief, it's a secret bond shared by Clark and the reader.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:20 PM on June 25, 2013



No, that's the essential quality. Sure reading a superhero comic is an exercise in fantasy wish-fullfillment by the reader. But reading it with the explicit knowledge that Clark is doing the same projection, makes sense out of the incongruous elements of the mythos. Like for example, inside the story, nobody notices that Clark and Superman resemble each other, but the comic book reader knows. The story is targeted at someone who is aware they are projecting into the story, just like Clark dreams his superhero fantasy. It's more than a suspension of disbelief, it's a secret bond shared by Clark and the reader.


I really hate that 'oh, they're just imagining it' 'twist'. Its not a twist, its a faux-clever thought experiment by people trying to turn every movie into Fight Club.

Besides, that's kinda the Captain Marvel thing - Captain Marvel is how Billy Batson thinks of being an adult.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:58 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Exclusive Preview ‘The Ten-Seconders: Godsend’ - a neat take on the whole Superheroes as Horror genre from 2000ad.
posted by Artw at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2013


Jim Carrey vs Mark Millar over Kick-Ass 2
posted by Artw at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Curse you, Jim Carrrey, for making me say "Mark Millar sort of has a point, you know"!
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:49 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's almost a dead certainty that this is one of Carrey's bizzarre marketing stunts. The man is deeply, profoundly smart, and the trolliest troll who ever trolled under a bridge in a troll-face mask.

I mean, the guy was being interviewed on MTV in the late '90s, and saw a figurine of Beavis and Butthead on-set, and in the middle of the interview asked, "Hey, who are these two little guys?" He then waited as the interviewers squirmed, trying to figure out if he was being serious or not...
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:25 AM on June 26, 2013


You've just aptly stated the whole problem of Superman: he's invincible, and the attempt to make him vincible is always forced and weak because it's at the hands of people who realized after the fact that invincible characters don't make for strong stories.

But part of the brilliance of the 1978 Superman movie is that the climax didn't focus on his vulnerability or lack of; the conflict was the dilemma imposed by his essential goodness. Luthor fires nuclear missiles at both coast, noting that Superman couldn't stop them both. and Miss Tessmacher frees him from the Kryptonite by extracting merely a promise that he'd stop the East Coast missile first -- a promise that she couldn't possibly hold Superman to after she freed him.

But he keeps his word. And then he flies around saving all those people on the West coast. And then he finds Lois dead. Sure, the reversing-time-by-flying-really-fast thing is silly, but it works because we've finally found the one price Superman isn't willing to pay to be so essentially good, the one reward he demands.
posted by Gelatin at 5:44 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, the reversing-time-by-flying-really-fast thing is silly, but it works because we've finally found the one price Superman isn't willing to pay to be so essentially good, the one reward he demands.

No, it's pretty damn silly. If he could that, why not just fly back in time so he could stop both missiles?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


But reading it with the explicit knowledge that Clark is doing the same projection, makes sense out of the incongruous elements of the mythos.

But why is it OK for Clark's fantasy of Superman to have holes in it, but not OK for our fantasy of Superman to have holes in it?
posted by straight at 8:32 AM on June 26, 2013


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: I really hate that 'oh, they're just imagining it' 'twist'. Its not a twist, its a faux-clever thought experiment by people trying to turn every movie into Fight Club.
Agreed, except I'd substitute "once-clever" for "faux-clever". Now just tired.

OTOH, the movie "JFK" really is just a product of the imagination of Oliver Stone - does that count? ;)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:57 AM on June 26, 2013


Slap*Happy: It's almost a dead certainty that this is one of Carrey's bizzarre marketing stunts. The man is deeply, profoundly smart, and the trolliest troll who ever trolled under a bridge in a troll-face mask.
Jim Carrey is Andy Kaufman Lite.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:00 AM on June 26, 2013


Well, in the comics and the excellent '90s animated series, Superman has no shortage of challenges to his power - some of which he has no chance to take head on. Many of these are fun-house images of Superman himself, distorted and evil in character while possessing more than enough power to breeze past him - albeit with one fatal flaw, similar to Superman's weakness to kryptonite.

Take Mr. Mxyzptlk - he has the power to do literally whatever he wishes. An infinity of wishes. He is here simply for his own entertainment at our expense, like a child with a magnifying glass hoving over an anthill. He can only be defeated if he says his name backwards. No mystical gem, no punch to the face, no flying around the world backwards. Superman's power is useless, apart from mitigating some of the worst excesses of the villain.

However, Superman's other qualities - intelligence, inquisitiveness, empathy - when paired against the egocentricity, sadism and hubris of Mxyzptlk, means Superman usually wins.

Superman stories are about amazing power, sure... but they're mostly about the qualities of the person who wields them. Those qualities are constantly questioned and tested with dire consequences, as they are in everyone's life, and that's what makes a great Superman story.

(And this is where I stop before I start complaining that Doomsday really works better as an update of Bizzarro, and the entire silver age Jimmy Olson series is dedicated to the notion that just any jerk off the street suddenly blessed with immense power would probably mess it up, big time.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:45 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


the entire silver age Jimmy Olson series

You mean ELASTIC LAD?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agreed, except I'd substitute "once-clever" for "faux-clever"

I actually hated that twist. It was pretty much OK plot-wise that Norton and Pitt fighting in the parking lot or whatever gained a bit of interest from bar patrons and passers-by that allowed them to set the whole Fight Club in motion. But with that twist, we have Norton beating his own ass up in the parking lot. Who looks at a crazy guy punching himself in the face and thinks "this guy really looks like he's got something to say!"?
posted by Hoopo at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, I think cause I had such low expectations* , but I literally just saw Man Of Steel and thought it was fine, a competent outing overall. Lois was great, Cavill was Suoermany, Russel Crowe cashed the easiest paycheck ever, the color palette was awful, and a little more levity would've been nice but eh. I didn't hate it and we're kinda stuck with Superjesus so ...whatever.

*or it could be that I saw it in a little downtown two screen theatre in a small town that seems flash frozen in 1955, corner soda shop! Toy store! Charming movie theatre with a five dollar ticket price and art deco details and plays Connie Francis songs before the movie and not commercials and the popcorn bags are still red and white stripes! Really if you wanted the perfect environment to see a Suoerman movie in, there you so.
posted by The Whelk at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best way I came to understand and appreciate Superman as a character, is thinking of the people who say "If God is all-powerful, then why does he allow bad things to happen?" Except Superman IS God, and he's asking that of himself.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:38 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've seen people saying good things about this movie, and I have an odd feeling that when I see it to mock it I'll end up coming back here and posting some faux-Nieztichian stuff about Superman's 'pure exercise of his powerful will' or something.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:02 PM on June 27, 2013



The best way I came to understand and appreciate Superman as a character, is thinking of the people who say "If God is all-powerful, then why does he allow bad things to happen?" Except Superman IS God, and he's asking that of himself.


Except Superman's powers are physical, not metaphysical - he needs to occupy physical space, and can only occupy one place at a time, and can only change things by punching or otherwise interacting with them. He isn't omnipotent, like his contemporaries The Spectre or the Phantom Stranger, and he isn't a godlike being like Kirby's New Gods (who Superman did hang out with) or the Endless. Hell his communication powers put him on par with the Internet. He's still, in some way, embodied. Which is why he keeps lifting things.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:04 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know who's an American hero who cares about the working class, doesn't believe in killing, is devoted to his city, and has a strong, altruistic moral center, a fantastic set of powers, and an origin that has nothing to do with murdered parents?

Invincible?

I was gonna say Cory Booker.


Cory Booker pauses Senate run to rescue trapped dog
posted by homunculus at 3:33 PM on June 28, 2013


On the bleak world of DC movies
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That writer should use the word "plopped" less often. No more than once per article.
posted by Grangousier at 1:15 PM on July 2, 2013


Superman and the Military: Best Frenemies
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:01 AM on July 3, 2013


Editorial: The DC Movie Universe is not as bleak as you think

/unconvinced.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the Superman-as-God thing above:

Superman sees his great power as a source of great responsibility. This is basically the Peter Parker motivation taken to its logical conclusion. Of course, Superman ultimately has to set boundries somewhere, the world is full of suffering, and no one would know it better than Superman, with his super hearing.

I think a real-world Superman would have to eventually evolve out a zen-like approach for most things just to stay sane. Or else, instead of flying around 24/7 plugging leaks, he'd have to put his abilities to work finding and fixing underlying causes. He'd probably end up working on a social level to alieviate suffering. For that he'd need a lot of money, but he could probably use his powers to earn it; who needs rockets to launch satellites when you have a strong flying man who can survive in space?

Of course any time you do real good in the world, the many people who were profiting off of the bad will be against you. Lex Luthor would thus probably be a Roger Ailes type, right down to having worked for Nixon.
posted by JHarris at 2:17 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That comes back round to Marvelman and him remaking the world in his own image - Ozymandius and Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen a little too.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Superman decides to take over" is a fairly common elseworld scenario - most recently in Injustice: Gods Among Us, before that in the Justice Lords storyline in JLU, to an extent Kingdom Come... it usually ends badly, for one reason or another, but it's interesting that the Superman "we" have is a little wobble away from just deciding "screw it" and dismantling the UN.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:18 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Superman Just Did Something Very Un-Superman Again
posted by homunculus at 12:50 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn. I was really hoping it was kigurami.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:55 PM on July 11, 2013


Superman Just Did Something Very Un-Superman Again

But very Nu52. It's the new normal.
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Flying Man

"A new superhero is coming, only this time it's on his terms. Will he still be considered a hero?"
posted by homunculus at 2:46 PM on July 11, 2013


I'm torn as to whether I should make a Sally Field or a "A Talking Cat!?!" joke.
posted by JHarris at 3:37 PM on July 11, 2013


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