Tag Archives: superman

Man of Steel Movie Reaction

*Spoilers Ahead, Obviously*

Things I Liked:

First of all Henry Cavill is so hot, amirite?  Like, so hot that he’s literally on fire within seconds of appearing on screen. And then later when his mom says “You’re beautiful.  We saw that the moment we laid eyes on you,” I was like “yeah you are, and yeah we did!”  And at the very end, when puts those glasses on, and smiles at Lois’s “Welcome to the Planet,” he’s literally almost too adorable to stand looking at.  I can’t find a picture of that scene online yet, but if you’re reading this you probably already saw the movie and you know what I’m talking about.  (Is this a good time to remind everyone that I have a giant Henry Cavill poster from Immortals in my bathroom?)

This boy is on fire.

This boy is on fire.

Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane was a lot less annoying than the pushy version in the old films, yet still very much retained that assertive-journalist-who’s-not-giving-up on-a-lead vibe.  I liked her.

I loved dream-state confrontation between Zod and Superman, when they were at the Kent farm (but not really) and the world-building machine was over the field, and Superman suddenly went from wearing a t-shirt to his suit, and sank into a pile of skulls.  The visuals felt very much like something out of the pages of a comic book.

The music was very good, and I’m almost willing to say they’ve recovered from that initial trailer music mishap where they played Gandalf’s death song from The Lord of the Rings.  But whyyyyyy is the Man of Steel soundtrack so expensive?  I couldn’t afford to buy the whole thing, so I had to choose a couple favorite songs, and I’m not done pouting about the fact that I don’t have the complete soundtrack.

As I’ve already blogged, I loved all the Kansas shout-outs.

Because I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, I was delighted to spot both Alessandro Juliana (Gaeta) and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo) in small speaking roles.  Alessandro was one of the military guys, and Tahmoh was one of the leads that Lois questioned to get to Clark.

I loved when he first figured out how to really fly, and then accidentally crashed into a mountain.  The joyous tone of that “I can fly!” scene reminded me of one of the best parts of John Carter, when the title character figures out how to take giant leaps in the low gravity without falling on his face.  It’s a similar “this is awesome, and fun!” feeling.

It was a tiny moment, but I loved it when the fellow fish-boat worker “saved” Clark from a falling trap, because I thought it was showing a teeny example of how living among humans had fostered his empathy and sense of justice and responsibility: if you see someone in trouble or in danger, you help them.

This is not a like or a dislike, just a curiosity: who came up with the clunky, unimaginative name “world-engine,” and how can I get a list of translations of Zod’s line “Release the world-engine!” when it gets dubbed into other languages?  Because I bet there would be some funny ones.

Also, this part.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Was it really necessary to spend so much time on Krypton at the beginning?  We get it: he’s not from this world.  I would have preferred to see more of Clark’s formative years rather than getting them piecemeal through flashbacks the way we did, which maybe there would have been time for if we hadn’t had all that Kryptonian backstory.  “Ooh, Jor-El rides a giant dragonfly/dinosaur creature.”  Well that doesn’t add to Superman’s storyline at all, so who cares?

Also, why add the extra layer of drama with the “ooh, he’s so different and special because all other Kryptonians have their careers predestined, but he’s going to have to choose.”  I mean, it really doesn’t matter what other Kryptonians’ lives were like, because either way Kal-El would still be the only person with superpowers on planet earth, and would still have to choose how he was going to use his powers, whether for good or for evil.  The “first natural birth in centuries!”, not that it would matter how he’s born since we’re sending him to a different planet anyway!

Furthermore, all of Jor-El’s platitudes about choice and leading humanity sounded exciting in the trailers, but within the movie they just fell flat.  There was a lot of vagueness about leading people to exist in a somehow better state, which I guess Kal-El was supposed to inherently know how to do, or maybe it was because he was reading Plato that time he got bullied at the auto shop?  And there was too much talking about how Superman could show humans this better path without any showing the audience what was meant by that, or how he would go about doing it.  I mean obviously humans aren’t going to be able to fly and be bulletproof and have x-ray and laser vision, so I have to assume Jor-El meant that he could instill values of fairness and justice and helping protect the disadvantaged and live peacefully and stuff like that.  Which Superman spent basically zero time doing in this movie.

And Jor-El’s motivations were all over the place, anyway; first it sounds like he wants to rescue his son from the destruction of their planet, but then it’s “I broke hundreds of years of tradition because CHOICE,” (which, isn’t it ironic that Jor-El CHOSE to have a natural son and then said he wanted his son to be able to make choices for his own life because Jor-El couldn’t…like, didn’t you just?), but then when Clark finds the ship and talks to the memory of his father Jor-El wants him to lead humanity to a better future, but then later he says he wants him to be a bridge between two worlds, but then it’s revealed that he secretly all along wanted him to be  the host of an entire potential world with the DNA of all engineered Kryptonians in his cells?  WTH?!

I agree with everything in Devin Faraci’s post on Badass Digest about the excessive destruction at the end of the movie.  And again, maybe there would have been time for more dramatic development, showing Clark struggle to figure out what the right course of action for his life is, if the whole last third of the movie wasn’t just battles.

I don’t know how I feel about Jonathon Kent’s death…I mean, I guess it was okay, but I wish they would have shown it earlier, so that Clark wandering around like a bum for years and not using his powers at all would make sense.  Like if they would have shown him losing his dad because he respected his wishes not to reveal his powers much earlier, and then showed scenes like the one in the bar where he just silently takes the blows from the drunk and doesn’t fight back, which would have felt more intense if we knew “oh, he’s holding back because if he doesn’t it’s like his dad’s death is meaningless and he should have just saved him”.

And when Clark expresses a wish that his dad could have seen what he became, his mom says something like “oh, he did,” and we flashback to kid-Clark in a red makeshift cape it makes no sense.  Why would he be dressing up like a superhero if there weren’t any superheros yet??  And anyway the cape is not what Jonathan Kent would have been proud to see, it would be seeing Clark save people.  So why not show a flashback to a young Clark helping someone or fighting for justice in some innocuous little incident, and Mr. Kent watching and smiling a half-grin because he knows that his son is on the path to someday fighting for those same values on a global scale?

To sum up, when/if they make a sequel, I would like MORE DRAMATIC CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, LESS SUPERFLUOUS AND OVER-EXTENDED BATTLE SCENES.  Please and Thank you.

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Kansas Shout-Outs in Man of Steel

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, it’s no secret that I am both a proud Kansan and a movie-lover, two qualities which contributed to an analysis of the fictional setting of Looper and which I shall now employ to nerd out about all the Kansas references in the new Superman movie Man of Steel.

It’s no secret that Clark Kent grows up in the fictional town of Smallville, Kansas, although according to a recent article in the News-Leader, Smallville wasn’t linked to Kansas until the 1978 “Superman: The Movie.”  I haven’t read enough early Superman comics to know whether that’s true or not, but the Kansas connection is not in any doubt right now considering the town of Hutchinson is going to be officially re-named “Smallville” for a day on June 21, while across the state in capital city Topeka Clark Kent will be inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame.  Clearly I am not the only Kansan nerding out these days.

Even though the farm grew corn instead of wheat, it felt very familiar.

Even though the farm grew corn instead of wheat, it felt very Kansan, as did some of the scenes when Superman flies over farmland, and the one where he gets beat up in the muddy parking lot outside “Sullivan’s Truck & Tractor Repair”.

The first official shout-out to the Sunflower State came during a flashback to a young Clark Kent struggling to focus with his hypersensitive and powerful senses in a classroom.  The teacher is heard saying “…when Kansas became a territory,” and then directs her attention to the clearly disturbed boy who is freaking out that he can see everyone’s skeletons.  “Clark?  I asked if you could tell me who first settled Kansas?”  she repeats.  I absolutely loved this, because Kansas History is actually required 7th grade curriculum in this state.  (I guess we can infer that Clark in in junior high in this scene!)  I remember learning Kansas history, although when I read through the current curriculum standards just now (to research whether or not it was still required) I don’t remember the answers to all the suggested questions.   Still, the introduction to the section on Kansas history says “The course should seek to build a connection or relationship between the student and the state,” and here I am over ten years later blogging about Kansas pride, so it must have been effective.

The second Man of Steel Kansas-specific reference was when Cark’s adopted father revealed the truth of his alien origins, showing him the ship he arrived in and the mysterious command key that was inside.  “This was in the chamber with you,” he says.  “I took it to a metallurgist at Kansas State.  He said whatever metal it’s made of didn’t even exist in the periodic table.”  That would be K-State, home of the Wildcats, in Manhattan, KS.  It makes sense to me that Mr. Kent would have gone there rather than the other major university, KU, because as a fifth-generation farmer, (a fact he mentions in a later argument with Clark), he likely would have gotten an agriculture degree from K-State, so he would have more ties to and been more familiar with that campus than rival KU’s in Lawrence, KS.

Later, just before Zod takes over all televisions to send his message to the people of earth demanding Kal-El be handed over, Clark is watching a football game between at 12th-ranked KU and an unranked Lousiana Tech.  This got the biggest laugh of the whole night from my audience, likely because KU athletics is definitely not known for their excellence in football.   Basketball is what the Jayhawk nation is dedicated to and passionate about.  As one commenter on a Kansas City Star article that mentioned the Kansas references in Man of Steel put it, “You know it’s a work of fiction because nobody watches KU football games.”  It’s been “liked” twice as many times as the comment below it, that asks “I do, does that make me Superman?!!”

There was also a KU shout-out in one of the trailers for the movie, when Clark can be seen wearing a KU t-shirt.  That scene must have been edited differently for the movie, because I don’t remember being able to see it in the movie itself.

Rock Chalk, Superman's a Jayhawk.

Rock Chalk, Superman’s a Jayhawk.

It’s the tornado scene, though, which deserves its own mention here because when Mr. Kent shouts to “Go for the overpass,” I almost yelled “NO, THAT IS THE WORST PLACE TO GO!”  Seriously, there are tons of resources that will tell you this is a terrible idea.  (**update** Weather officials have responded to this scene specifically, reiterating that you should not seek shelter from a tornado under and overpass.)  If you’re out driving on a highway when a tornado strikes, the safest thing to do is get out of the vehicle and lay down in the lowest possible ground you can find, like probably the ditch next to the road.  The Kents should have known that.  And why were there so many people out on the road anyway?  Even if there wasn’t a tornado watch, (in which case most people know not to go out if they don’t have to,) that looked like more cars than you’d normally see on a Kansas Highway that isn’t the intersate…unless maybe it was a holiday weekend?

Anyway,  back to Kansas references: when Superman passes out in the Kryptonian ship’s atmospherics and has a dream-state confrontation with Zod, he starts out clad in a Kansas City Royals baseball shirt.  Someone in my audience at midnight let out a loud “YESSSSS!” when that shirt appeared, but everybody else only chuckled.

The filmmakers weren't very subtle with imagery like this one of the giant American flag mural meant to symbolize Kansas being "as American as it gets."

The filmmakers weren’t very subtle with imagery like this one of the giant American flag mural meant to symbolize Kansas being “as American as it gets.”

Finally, towards the end of the film when Superman confronts one of the military leaders about trying to follow him with a spy drone and the officer demands to know how the government can be reassured that he won’t one day betray their interests, the cheeky reply is “I grew up in Kansas, General.  About as American as it gets.”  That line got a decent laugh from the audience in my theater, but I didn’t really like it.  I suppose that in Superman’s defense there isn’t really a good answer to that question, and maybe he was just trying to deflect it with humor.  But  it makes two assumptions that are neither true nor helpful in the divisive political gridlock this country seems trapped in.  The first is that it assumes that the implied Midwestern values are “really” American, and people who live on the coasts or in a blue state are somehow un- or less-than American.  Like it or not, the reality is that America is made up of both liberals and conservatives, that as a collective whole we share more beliefs than we care to admit, and that our system only works when we’re able to work together and find compromises, so stating that a particular area is “more American” than others not only insults those not from the selected area, but it invalidates all other possible perspectives from citizens as “not really American”.  Besides, it isn’t even accurate to prescribe the same values on every single Kansan; just like the country at large, we’re a collection of individuals with various opinions and views.

The second assumption is that a person doesn’t change their thinking or values when they grow up.  The storyline in Man of Steel established that Clark spent several years wandering the earth outside of Kansas, including working on a fishing boat.  That means he would have encountered other ways of life and lines of thinking besides what was accepted as normal in his hometown.  That doesn’t mean his convictions would have necessarily changed, but when you see that other people live and think differently than you it changes your perspective on the world.  I’m definitely speaking from personal experience, having grown up in a town where “diversity” meant that we had Catholics and Protestants, and then spending years in the liberal cocoon of a university campus, but I think it’s probably a truth about growing up everywhere, that at some point you have to re-examine the assumptions you’ve made and decide whether you still believe them.

What do you think?  Am I being over-sensitive about a line that was meant as a joke?

Let me know in the comments if you noticed any other Kansas shout-outs that I missed.  There was one other instance that I was afraid was going to become one, but was thankful when it didn’t.  It was when Superman was fighting Zod’s female henchman, and she went on a little rant about how Kryptonians were more evolved than humans, so they deserved to take over the planet because “if history has proven anything, it is that evolution always wins.”  The subtext is that teaching evolution in Kansas schools has been very controversial, but I was glad the movie didn’t actually make explicit reference to the fact that our state school board elections are national news by having Superman bounce up off the pavement and say something like “Well in Kansas, we’re not so sure about evolution!”   I do wonder if there was an earlier version of the script where he did, though, because in the film he actually doesn’t respond verbally to her diatribe at all.

Anyway, I give the movie an A- for having so many great Kansas references, and the only reason it’s not an A+ is the tornado-sheltering-under-the-overpass scene.  Maybe I’ll post my thoughts on the movie apart from the Kansas aspect later.

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What Do Gandalf And Superman Have In Common?

The first teaser trailer for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, was recently released online.  My first time seeing it was at the theater for the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.  I thought at the time that the music sounded suspiciously like part of the soundtrack from Lord of the Rings, a score I am very familiar with since I have seen those movies dozens of times and the complete 3-disc soundtrack was my go-to music when I would stay up all night writing research papers for school.  A quick visit to my ipod confirmed my suspicions–the music featured in the Man of Steel trailer is the last minute of a track titled The Bridge of Khazad Dum, from The Fellowhip of the Ring.  Said bridge is in the Mines of Moria, and this is the music that accompanies Gandalf’s fatal fall into the pit with the Balrog, and the Fellowship’s immediate devastation.

Watch one version of the Man of Steel trailer, (this is the one with voice-over from Clark Kent’s adoptive father; the other one is the same except the voice-over is from his biological dad Jor-El):

Now compare the music in that teaser to the last minute of The Bridge of Khazad Dum.  Skip to about the 4:40 mark:

I mean, it’s exactly the same.  It’s not “similar to” or “in the style of,” it’s actually the exact same piece of music.  It’s not unusual for trailers to feature music from other movies, or to recycle something that won’t actually be in the finished product itself.  This is, after all, a teaser trailer, so maybe they haven’t scored anything for the film itself yet.  But it’s still strange to use music from such an iconic film, that is so recognizable.  Howard Shore composed the music for Lord of the Rings, but Hans Zimmer is scoring Man of Steel, so they’re not even recycling from the same musician.

I’m sure they chose this music because it’s haunting and dark and fits (or sets) the mood of the trailer very well.  I’m sure they didn’t intend for me to start thinking about how Gandalf and Superman can be compared, if at all.  But because this music is so strongly tied to Lord of the Rings, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Is it because both Superman and Gandalf resemble humans but are actually much more powerful and are sent to this earth for some greater purpose?  (See TolkienGateway for the origins of wizards in Middle-Earth).  Is it because they’re both kind of loners by default, having very few true peers?  Is it because they do both value the less-powerful lives of their human/hobbit/dwarf/elf friends, and that love for humanity is seen by their foes as a weakness?  Is it forshadowing that Superman will a) fight some sort of ancient evil like the Balrog, or b) sacrifice himself to save others less powerful than he?  Is Superman going to “die” and be resurrected, the way Gandalf is, and actually the way Superman Returns ended?  Is it because, right before Gandalf falls, he whispers, “Fly, you fools!” and the trailer ends with Superman flying?  (That’s my favorite theory).

“Fly, you fools!”

I’m sure none of those comparisons were intended.  But Warner Brothers underestimates the accuracy of my nerd powers of recollection if they expect me not to notice this sort of thing.  And now all I can think about is, who would win in a duel of Gandalf vs. Superman?  Vote, and give your reasoning in the comments below.

I say Gandalf, with his staff.  If Superman can take the staff away, then he’d win.

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