The State of DCEU: Part 3
OP-ED by Anna Aaron, Visual Journalist
Annnd we’re back on the third installment of my movie reviews of the DCEU according to Snyder. I read an article about how Warner wants a “strong Superman movie”. I don’t know what that means but let me tell you that writing the review for THIS movie was tough. It’s epic in its realism however it doesn’t do anything for me.
Man of Steel
Superman has had several depictions on the big screen and TV (in contrast to Wonder Woman for example which has been far less). Many actors have played Superman and Superboy. I vaguely remember watching Gerard Christopher as Superboy in the 80s.
The most memorable actors for me are Christopher Reeves (the embodiment, imo), Dean Cain (the campy version of Supes made for TV, meh: I’m sure Cain is nice guy in person), Brandon Routh (he played a Christopher Reeves Superman without the charisma with a story that wasn’t good, Routh did give us moments of heroism that we could cheer about but the rest is mostly forgettable), Tom Welling (never got into Smallville for the life of me; couldn’t make it through Season 1 because every episode was basically the same), Henry Cavill (DC messed up this one; Cavill’s Superman had nothing to root for. He was a brooding emo with a bad hairstyle. We did see glimmers of a Supes we could cheer for in the Justice League but it fizzled) and Tyler Hoechlin (he’s the current TV version and has a milquetoast butt). And the almost Superman, Nicolas Cage [sniff]. (Seriously, I think that would have been interesting to see him in that role.) At least we have Cage as a voiceover Superman in Teen Titans.
Overall, it was different.
I had grown up on the Donner/Salkind Superman movies. For me, Christopher Reeves was Superman. There are arguments to this day about who is the best Superman of all time. Most of the votes go to Christopher Reeves as the ultimate embodiment of the Last Son of Krypton. Henry Cavill comes in second but the material he had to work with was subpar when you step back and look at it all. He briefly embodied Superman in small scenes from the Justice League. The other films were just about his angst, doubts and having issues with Batman. I admit I’m for the “S” curl and thick black hair a la Reeves. In some shots, Cavill’s hair is slicked back, making him look like a leftover from the 1940s.
There’s the costume too. Some like the old school red underpants. Others dig the more modern approach with muted blue, red and yellow sans underpants. If you know anything about the origin of the costume, it was from the circus strongmen that wore their underwear on the outside. I don’t have a problem with the classic look although the Snyder suit could have been brighter.
The tone and direction was different. It was a serious film with grave themes of destruction and the eternal question of “are we alone in the universe?” Some enjoyed the contrast that DC offered to Marvel movies —one that wasn’t geared for kids necessarily— but offered realism of a Superman type figure in our world and it’s implications. Mirroring real life in movies is cool up to a point, but most don’t go to movies to experience more real life. Especially in a superhero movie, they want to feel hope and inspiration. Superman is the father of superheros so it should stand to fit that his movie would do that. In this case, with the Man of Steel, you’re left wanting. Honestly found myself cheering on the Kryptonian criminals if they weren’t so psychotic! I guess if they keep rebooting, every generation will have their own version of Superman. Now it seems as if DC does have multiple versions of Superman. Superman can be more. There is room for stories to be told in alternate realities and universes. It’s been done before with Elseworlds. I think the comics industry needs to be more open to this especially in DC’s case. However it’s more of struggle at the present moment for fans who crave new takes on Supes.
From the get-go, we get a somber and dark-toned movie. You can tell by the opening shots of Krypton, there is no greenery! Just rock, dust, flying creatures and spaceships. Still asking where is Green Lantern? Martian Manhunter? (I know, I know it’s his origin story and I’m being somewhat facetious. I feel those two characters have gotten the shaft from DC.) Wouldn’t the Kryptonians have known about an ancient Martian civilization? Wouldn’t the Lanterns have known about Krypton and its colonial outposts? They monitor sections of the known universe. You’d think there’d be some reference (the scout ship computer mentioned 100,000 known worlds). Guess I’m looking for the obvious interconnectedness and interweaving found only in great storytelling but it’s not there.
A 21st Century Origin Story
Jor-El and Krypton
It seems to be the case with stories of Krypton, they’re doing a very different take. The Krypton in Man of Steel is set on a warm, rocky planet with dinosaur creatures. Their sun is a yellow star with two moons. For being such an advanced civilization, they maintain a warrior-military class. The technology has artificial intelligence and fascinatingly everything is powered by a USB drive in the shape of the House of El crest. They all wear heavy armor and elaborate head-gear as seen in the Kryptonian Council. There also seems to be a generation at odds with General Zod’s posse who are young revolutionaries and the Council who are a bunch of disconnected-with-reality old farts. It’s also a very aggressive culture. I find the take on how they reproduced their population through a Genesis Chamber that contained pods of Kryptonian infants fascinating. (Hello The Matrix!) They forgoed natural procreation in favor of a controlled assembly line of incubation chambers.
The question also poses of their physical structure, their DNA, how does the evolution of their DNA create the ability to soak up energy from the rays of a yellow star to become dense and impenetrable to injury and defy gravity to fly? Jor-El mentions to Kal-El inside the scout ship that Earth’s sun is younger and brighter and will give him powers. So does that mean Krypton’s sun was at one point the same way and gave Krypton the same powers? It’s obviously comics and the difficulty of combining real-world physics to science fiction, you just have to suspend what you know and go with the comic flow. Yet this movie is attempting to show realism. It’s confusing.
This is where I diverge with Snyder’s vision of Krypton. I find the Donner/OG Comics version to be more authentic to what I think Krypton would be. Any planet that orbits a dying red star would not be a warm, dry climate but an icy one. The flyover of Krypton in its crystalline formation in the 1978 Superman carries with it an otherwordliness. The crystals present throughout, on Kal-El’s ship and in the Fortress of Solitude are powerful. Crystals do carry information. We use crystals in much of our technology. Crystals grow. So I find that more plausible for an advanced civilization to harness as well as space travel. In 1978 Superman, Jor-El did not abandon his infant son. He promised that he would carry with him all the days of his life. I loved the education his father (holographic memory-mind consciousness) gave him as he discovered more of who he was and where he came from.
In Snyder’s MOS, Kal-El spends most of his time trying to deal with his powers and being different. His earthly father doesn’t help him much. I think some of the advice he gives him is bad, but I’ll expand on that in a little bit.
Unlike the portrayal of General Zod in the 1978 Superman where he was just a treasonous criminal who wanted a new order and to be worshipped, Michael Shannon’s Zod was a true psychopath. If he was born with the code of being a protector of Krypton, then he could have chosen Mars to terraform and build New Krypton there. Then he would be exhibiting real leadership in the salvaging of a lost world yet he chooses to terrorize Earth and exact revenge on Kal-El… because Jor-El wouldn’t side with him? I just think that if Kryptonians have such high IQs that border on psychopathy, there would probably be more of them in their population and wouldn’t the birth chamber have weeded out the possibility of one being born with no ethical core? Given if they had such control over genetics, they could determine not only the physical traits but also what that individual would be predisposed to.
Either way, I think Shannon did a fantastic job in his portrayal of Zod. Clearly his philosophy which is Kryptonian superiority is at odds with Superman who has chosen to be Earth’s protector. If Zod wasn’t a psychopath because of his high IQ and genetic engineering then he would have chosen to rebuild Krypton on say Mars. No wonder Krypton was doomed. Their genetic engineering was flawed. Funny tho, this Superman has the genetic codes of a billion Kryptonians in his cells. He would have the potential to exhibit cruelty and sociopathy because it’s in him. So him turning evil isn’t far-fetched when you examine this closely.
But the Superman we cheer on is the one who was raised in an environment that chooses morality and goodness (nature vs nurture theory). His human parents were the ones to instill that not anyone else really. One’s parents is what tethers you to your life’s philosophy and core principles. How they brought you up imprints you for life. So I disagree with Lois Lane being the one who keeps him anchored to Earth and humanity. It’s such a discredit to the Kents.
Still finding himself. Doing things that we know the character of Superman wouldn’t do. Like not rescuing his father. That was a doozy. Jonathan Kent dying in a tornado. The snapping of Zod’s neck is another doozy. A Kryptonian madman underneath it all? Of course all of the Christ-like motifs in this movie symbolizing his personification of Christ. But I won’t go into that. It’s been talked about already.
Plot holes too numerous to list.
So she finds out who he is and they fall in love? The romance was so rushed. I still can’t figure out how her body mass gets pulled down while cars that weigh more than her gets pulled up into the singularity. Ah but that’s because she’s the damsel in distress and is the real Kryptonian here. It’s amazing how she gets to the train station fast too. Plot holes too numerous to list.
Lois Lane is much more than just the damsel in distress trope. She is the embodiment of humanity’s fascination of humans pairing with god-like figures. Mythology is full of these types of stories as well as the Nephilim in the Bible. Wicked angels taking women and birthing superhuman offspring. I don’t think comics has quite shaken off this “unequal pairing/interspecies romance” trope which is why we keep seeing this pairing over and over again.
Pa and Ma Kent
There’s not much to say about Kevin Costner or Diane Lane. I think they play the Kents well. They are casting these types of roles on more younger and middle-aged actors. The hot MILF Aunt May in Spiderman Homecoming for example. When you think of Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle in Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, they were old folks. Even Marlon Brando was an older guy. I like seeing older folks in those roles maybe because my parents were older when they had me and I just see a sincerity and wisdom in old folks. Don’t agree too much with some of the advice Jonathan Kent gave though. Just let a bus full of kids die so that you can keep who you are a secret? Yeah nice going on that one.
I struggled to find any at this point, because I don’t care.
- “Make a better world, Kal.” – Lara. This was a sad moment but I like how she already called her son, Kal. How much time did they have together for her to affectionately call him that? Amazing. And why earth? I guess I’m echoing the other Lara’s sentiments about her views on the primitive Earthlings. Maybe this should just go under Pet Peeves. 😀
Still asking where is Green Lantern? Martian Manhunter?
She is simple the best thing out of this movie.
Complaints and Pet Peeves
- No one heard a truck being lifted and several tree trunks piercing through the metal?
- If you’re in the Arctic, Miss Lane you’ll need more layers, ie., ski mask, to venture out into subzero weather and avoid frostbite. Also cameras in that weather don’t do too well unless she had a mirrorless camera.
- How did Clark get clearance to work on the base there? Just exactly how did he know there was a ship there? Why didn’t he just get there sooner before the military found it? There’s a missing chunk there but I think it’s just the writing. Obviously they wrote Lane in since they write her into everything. She’s like that 5th wheel you really don’t need but it’s annoyingly there.
- The scout ship looks like a leftover from Aliens with the pods and passageways that look like the inside of a skeletal creature.
- Don’t forget to cauterize the other side, Clark.
- “A world much harsher environment than Earth’s.” – Jor-El. Say what?
- So only 100,000 years: artificial population control and outposts. Colonial outposts. So there was other life there and they took over the people and their resources. Nice.
- So Lois has super hearing? She just knew he was standing behind her. Yea right.
- Lame. The rescue of Lois from the pod.
- The major fights are careless. Smallville and Metropolis. Just reckless.
- Lois Lane defying gravity and a black hole. Incredible!
- Metropolis couldn’t have been rebuilt in 2 years. It would take much longer to rebuild the kind of destruction that city endured! Smallville as well. If you lived through 9/11, you know that it took years before it was rebuilt. People who were there still feel the ramifications decades later. It wouldn’t be any different for this event and probably more so. The emotional damage sustained by humanity in an extraterrestrial conflict where aliens battle on their turf and kill millions. There was no time for that city to be evacuated. Same with Smallville.
- Which would make Clark Kent showing up at the Daily Planet at the end just ridiculous.
- The skull inside the Genesis Chamber that was the codex looked odd. This was where they were getting all their juice for procreation?
- So much for that one-inch nano force field that Superman supposedly has. He’s seen with plenty of torn-up clothes.
- Never trust a man with a bowl-shaped haircut who happens to be a general.
- All those people died. There wasn’t enough time to get away. Millions not thousands.
- The fight between Faora, Non and Superman along with military in Smallville. Even though I’m not a fan of the destruction.
- The fight between Superman and Zod in Metropolis. Epic yes but the collateral damage was too much.
- “Go to hell.” – Martha Kent. How Superman punches Zod when he attacks his mother.
- Zod screaming “I will find him.”
- Faora. She is bada$$ throughout. I love her cool demeanor.
- The destruction of the iHop restaurant. Seriously.
- Ok I was re-watching the part where he was about to destroy the world engine and he did for a moment look like Reeves.
The Superman Curse
So much has been surmised about that. Maybe the fizzing out of this reboot can be attributed to that. Do you think it’s real?
And voila! You made it to the end.
I do own this movie. It is what it is. Now waiting for my DVD to arrive and you can guess what the next movie I’ll be blogging about will be…