CALLING OUT HATERS: Why "Man of Steel" Gave Me No Hope (SPOILERS)
Man of Steel sucks.
Now it doesn't seem all to controversial to say Man of Steel sucked, but if you say one negative thing on social media about it, the people who liked the movie will swarm on you like that tentacle thingy that tried to stop Superman in the movie. MoS fans to me are what Bronies are to some people, a group of people who take their love for something to a degree seem to react in a volatile manner to anyone who says otherwise. Not to the degree of what happened with Steven Universe fans (Though The Dark Knight Rises negative review thing caused Rottentomatoes to eliminate comments on reviews altogether) but notable in the fact their reaction makes the film actually look worse for me.
Years back I was planning on actually a defense rant on Man of Steel, but like a great many rants I came up with stagnated, and I've moved onto other things. But over time it's faults started to consume me, misguided creative decisions that made the film have a bit of an identity crisis.
I can understand the idea for Man of Steel at least, making a bit more of a human look at a popular comic book icon. Hell, that was the aspect that it felt like it was trying to amp up in the trailers, particularly the teaser which makes it look like Terrance Malick guest directed. But whatever humanity was teased at just doesn't translate into the final product, in fact it probably feels the most far removed from humanity out of all the Superman films.
The film's answer to trying to weave a bit more "humanity" into the story of Superman is to amp up the tragedy... like to 11. Not enough a man being the last of his kind and growing up with superpowers that makes him kind of an outcast, just about every moment of his origin tries to reinforce that he had a hard life. Very rarely do we get a glimpse that is upbeat or even uplifting, most of what we see him getting is either bullied or having growing pains with his powers. It seems to drown itself in being such a dreary re-interpretation of the Superman story that it forgets to have the fun and optimistic atmosphere that's usually associated with it. Forget him trying to outrun a train, watch him be ridiculed by his adoptive father for saving a bus full of children. And the tragedy of Jonathan Kent's death isn't because Clark couldn't save him from dying of natural causes, it's because Jonathan seemed to just have a death wish to "keep a secret."
Not helping the mood of the film is it's choice of color palette or lack thereof. When I think of muted color palettes like this film uses, I think of war movies, I think of political thrillers, I don't think of Superhero movies. Yet for whatever creative reason Snyder and cinematographer Amir Mokri decided to give this film a rather blue-ish tint with occasional lapses to orange, but makes the film feel very cold, detached and dreary to look at. Nothing inspires hope like very muted colors.
Now there's that word... "Hope." Supposedly the theme the movie tries to instill, that Superman has the capability to inspire hope in people. But when did this arrive? Throughout the whole runtime of 143 minutes when did something feel uplifting hopeful and triumphant? We certainly hear a lot about people saying hope and how he'll be a hero, that he'd be able to show people the light. But it kind of seems hard to feel that when we see a whole city being leveled or a hero punching a villain through buildings without regard to who might be in the way. It's nice to hear about a movie speak of hope... it'd be even better to see it. About the only hope "inspired" is by the military of the film but they are just as apathetic about collateral damage and destruction as Superman is. Guess he's truly following the American way.
A lot of the dreariness and false promises of hope would have been bearable if it had good characters to follow. But this film has quite a number of ill-defined characters it's hard to give a shit about any of them. It's hard to make sense of Clark Kent, even when this is supposed to be his origin story, never does his supposed arc feel natural, just hits on story bits without really connecting. What does Clark visiting a church really say? We never see his family be uber-religious, could have been a bit more impactful if that was the case. What worth does Clark see in humanity that is worth saving? We see most of his life be bullied and belittled, not really get a sense of why he makes the decision to become it's savior beyond the words of two poppas. For a movie supposedly about his origins, they don't really do a good job of building his character.
Then there is the movie's award for "biggest waste of a talented Oscar winning actress" Amy Adams playing Lois Lane. Lois is of course part of the Superman mythos so of course she'd be part of it, but much of what she does in this movie just feels so meaningless. We do see her resourcefulness as a reporter being able to track down Clark Kent and actually having to save us from the glasses stupidity usually associated with the character by figuring out he's a superpowered being, with no creepy amnesia kiss used here. But aside from that her function in the film seems questionable at best. I mean she certainly gets involved but it seems very tag-along, doesn't really add anything to her character. Aside from contrivance there isn't much of a reason for her to get involved in a lot of the big moments and yet she is placed in there because... she's Lois Lane.
Then there is the romance, or actually... good Zod, the lack of romance. What is it with some superhero movies confusing two people of the opposite sex coming to understanding with romance? Could have made this less of a problem in there was a friendship between Lois and Clark, but nope, when the big kiss arrives, it was all meant to be a love story. And nothing says romance like kissing over the charred remains of a major section of the city now doesn't it?
Truly is the "Can You Read My Mind" of this movie.
Much of the rest of the characters just don't really make any sort of impact, playing more character stock types than actual human beings, especially disappointing to see this version of Perry White barely have much to do. The only one who comes out straightforward is General Zod, because he seems to at least spell-out his motivations just about every other scene. He is a genocidal maniac because he wants to ensure the future of his species. No bickering council, no insignificant blue planet, no pretty boy in blue tights, would get him in the way of that. He may not be a flawless villain, gets a little too hammy and mustache twirling at times but at least I can say I can understand him much better than even the heroes. Especially in contrast to this film's Jor-El who says Kal-El is the hope for Krypton as well as Earth what with being born with free will and holding an ill-defined codex. But that whole buildup is pretty much thrown out the window by the end, "Krypton had it's chance" and all.
I will acknowledge buried beneath the grim, grit and depression of the film there is some interesting ideas. The whole free will vs fate thing could have been better explored. Building a film around Clark finding himself, traveling the globe rescuing people before donning the tights would have been even better, not even get the Kryptonians involved in that. We get glimpses of these interesting ideas but are pretty much pushed aside to just hit hollow plot beats and some agonizingly long action scenes. Much like Star Trek Into Darkness failed to really embrace it's idea of conflicting ideas of doing the right thing, in place a bunch of mindless spectacle and 9/11 truther inspired bullshit.
Above all else, this film just doesn't feel like Superman. It feels like much the antithesis of the colorful inspiring superhero who fights for Truth, Justice and the American way, instead it's a drab, colorless vaguely defined superhero who just fights for something because... people say he will inspire hope.
Much of the defense to this film's rather bleak and unrefined Superman is because he's just starting out, he hasn't quite embraced the Truth, Justice and American way yet, essentially "we'll have to wait for the sequel." Thing is I spent quite a bit of money to not see Superman's first day on the job, I wanted to see Superman have an actual arc. Never once did I feel there was a big change for the character from the start to the end, it was so poorly defined I couldn't really bring myself to care. Above all else, there is no real feeling that he will be the icon of hope and optimism that people have embraced for nearly 78 years. Only just promises of hope and optimism but the images of a lifeless crater and Superman screaming in anguish after snapping Zod's neck, don't exactly bring to mind we'll get to those ideals. "Show, don't tell" Zack Snyder.
If you truly want to see a Superman film, that tells the origin story and doesn't drown itself in sorrows go for Superman: The Movie. If you want an origin story that has some good action without betraying the fundamentals or making Metropolis into a crater the first three episodes of Superman: TAS "The Last Son of Krypton" is even better. Basically... there is much better Superman stuff to be watching than this.
I am already this frustrated and I haven't even gotten to seeing Batman v Superman just yet.
End of Rant