Spoilerish Reviews of Man of Steel 4

The big sticking point for critics of Man of Steel by those who just don’t want to hate on Snyder in the same way they hate on Michael Bay is the violence. This movie contains a lot of action and the result of the action is destruction. Metropolis, as one person put it, looks worse than New York on 9/11. I want to take a few moments and actually reflect on the devastation that Superman’s battle with Zod wreaked upon our fair planet, contemplating what it says about America and the West.

In MoS Superman spends his whole life hiding his abilities from the public eye. All the strength and speed, all the radiation that his eyes and absorb and emit (X-Ray vision and heat vision for example), he spent his entire life trying to hide. There are times when his ideals, those instilled by his adopted Earth-father, get the better of him and he helps people out (makes for great voice-overs by Amy Adams’ excellent Lois Lane). But when it came to confront Zod and save Earth, it’s not the same story.

The fight begins when Zod shows up at the Kent family farm looking for the Kryptonian Genetic Registry (the Codex) in the rocket that brought Kal-El to Earth. Superman attacks Zod and drives him into Smallville where he faces off with two Kyrptonians (Zod is taken back up to his mothership) in a western style shootout on main street. It’s actually a cool image to evoke. Except the Kryptonians–helped by the US military attempting to kill all three aliens–nearly take the small town off the map.

Then Zod unleashes his world engine to transform Earth into Krypton. The engine is in Indonesia and the mothership is in Metropolis. The US military takes Superman’s rocket to Metropolis to collide it with the mothership which will send the Kryptonians back into the phantom zone prison while Superman destroys the engine. The terraforming attack unleashes wanton destruction on the city. Superman prevails and saves the day. But he still has to deal with Zod, who has been mastering his superpowers that Kryptonians get on Earth. This battle unleashes even more destruction until Superman kills Zod.

During Superman’s 75-year history he has become identified with America and our western culture. His “S”-shield is easily one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. Superman stands for “truth, justice and the American way.” And I think Man of Steel is speaking to this.

In this film, Superman failed to protect the people. Yes he saved them from Zod, but not protect (taking from Mark Waid). The moral compass that Superman is famous for was absent in the Man of Steel. The Superman of the Silver Age of Comics (starting with Showcase #4 in 1956) through today in comics is the guy who always knows the right thing to do and does it. But in MoS he’s not that moral center.

I think this movie is saying, among many things, that America has lost its place as a/the moral compass in the world. America was a place that represented hope and the future. But that’s gone. Instead we are a country that spies upon itself, a government that has lost the faith of the people, utilizes violence and war to solve its problems, the international community no longer looks to the US as a place for advice and leadership. America has lost something.

And just as Superman must earn his moral compass in the MoS-verse, so does America. I really do believe that the narrative problem with Zod’s death is that it wasn’t earned by the story. It wasn’t the impossible choice that Superman had to make. There were other options. But the point it was making still works. He’s not Superman, yet. More films will be needed for him to become Superman fully, as we know him.

America needs to relearn what it means to be the moral compass, the global leader into the future. But it cannot try to go backwards to reclaim it. It must move forwards. Just like Superman he must move forward and move past the guilt that I believe will eat at him in the sequel. If I can quote Yoda teaching Luke how to pull  the X-wing out of the swamp, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

And what makes Superman so special, more than any other hero, is his ability to do what needs to be done. He will move forward because he has to. We who are the cultural west, particularly America, must learn this lesson. We must move past leveling Metropolis to defeat our villains. We can do it because we have to. We cannot fail. We must not fail.

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~ by hankimler on June 17, 2013.

One Response to “Spoilerish Reviews of Man of Steel 4”

  1. Excellent post! I always enjoy a good movie review, though I didn’t really end up liking the movie, but the premises here were interesting. If you are interested, and I am not trying to spam you here (though I’m sure that exactly what spammers say , then head on over to The Disorder here on WordPress (http://thedisorderpodcast.wordpress.com) and check out our take on the superman movie (or just Superman in general). The rest of the site is us trying to be funny and we would really appreciate feedback if you have the time! I try to go around and comment on blogs because I know how difficult getting comments can be! Anyway, I’m sure I’ve taken up a lot of your time but I enjoyed this and just wanted to let you know!

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