Superman Begins?

6/20/2013 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments


Before I start, I have two things to say.  First, I loved Man of Steel, I just think there were a few moments that fell far short of their potential.  Second, I'm not going to dance around spoilers.  If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see it.  See it on a big screen with big sound and 3D if you want (it looks good, but it's not eye popping or anything).  That's my official review.  Go see it, then come check out my spoiler ridden opinion.  This is written with the expectation that you have already seen it.

My biggest gripe is how much this movie is compared to Batman Begins.  It's only understandable, not only because Batman Begins has set the bar in super hero origins stories for the past decade, but also because David S. Goyer and Chris Nolan were both a massive part of the creative influence of both films, but this was not Batman Begins.  The story structure was very similar with the non-linear telling and excessive use of flashbacks, the sort of nomadic quest for identity followed by wearing a cape.  MoS did not capture the same heart as BB did, though, for a few reasons.  First, Bruce Wayne had a clearly defined purpose in his worldly wandering.  He was seeking to gain an understanding of crime, he was looking for "a means to fight injustice," and etc.  Unfortunately, this question wasn't very well specified for Clark Kent.  It is a very impersonal story of a man that is aimlessly wandering the globe.  He does appear to have an objective, just not one that is relevant enough to explain to the audience.  In BB, get to witness Bruce Wayne's quest first hand, Kent's story is almost a found footage film where we witness him through the eyes of a third party.  We are definitely following a story, but I didn't see much plot.  There are several scenes such as the crab fishing boat or when Lois Lane lands in what I assume is Antarctica (not sure it was specified, there was lots of ice and most of the Galactica crew) where you will almost not even realize Clark is lurking around.  I understand the effect of viewing him from the perspective of the every-man, but when he is trying to establish his identity is not the right time.  We don't even really see him discover the Kryptonian ship/Fortress of Solitude on screen, we mostly get to see Lois Lane get shot, and then he shows up all chill after the life changing events of meeting his Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and discovering his heritage as Kal-El.  The most significant thing that happened in that scene was Lois getting shot, which has nothing to do with anything other than demonstrating his ability to cauterize a wound.

It's a similar situation in all the flashbacks.  We get to see how his existence effects those around him such as his parents, or the residents of Smallville, but we see very little of how it affects Clark Kent/Superman/Kal-El himself.  The closest we got was after the flashback of him being bullied when Johnathan Kent asks "Are you hurt?" and Clark says "I can't get hurt" and Pa Kent says "I know you can't get hurt, I'm asking if you're ok?" This flashback is  equivalent in character significance to Thomas Wayne's "Why do we fall?" question in Batman Begins.  To me, this is the heart of the movie and deserved to be tied back to at some point (maybe after he kills Zod?), but is left adrift amongst many other interesting but under utilized character details included in the script.

Maybe it was a problem of my expectations.  If this is not viewed as a Superman movie, but as a movie about a world that Superman exists in, a story of Fatherhood (as David Goyer emphasizes), then it may be quite a bit more enjoyable.

As I said, I still loved the movie.  I'm going to see it in theaters at least once more.  It is gorgeous, it has the best action we have seen in a comic book movie.  It makes me want to see a proper Dragonball movie with Zack Snyder involved.  It is still a great character story and hits many points very well, but there were so many parts that were so close to the mark, but just far enough off that I was left wanting more, which is good in terms of themes left to cover in Man of Steel 2, but there were some nails they could have hit a little more squarely on the head to make for a grand slam instead of a home run.

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