• The Odinson Revisits Man of Steel

    Greetings from the Odinson,


     In June 2013, Man of Steel hit the Big Screen.  As anyone who has followed this column for any length of time knows, the Odinson is a huge Superman fan and NOT a huge fan of this installment of the Last Son of Krypton’s ventures into cinema.  So, almost one year later I have finally worked up the nerve to revisit this film and give it another chance to grab me. 


    This has worked a few times in the past.  There have been films that I did not like the first time I saw them but after a little time had passed, I revisited them on DVD and found that my first assessment of the movie was wrong and that I, in fact, rather enjoyed them.  Two such films that come to mind are Batman Begins and Iron Man 3.  These were two highly touted comic book films that I did not like too much the first time I saw them but after watching them again found they were not nearly as bad as I had originally thought.  However, films like Batman and Robin and X-Men Origins: Wolverine remain black-eyes on the adaptations of our beloved medium.


    So which one of these categories will the Man of Steel fall into?    


    First off, apologies to any SPOILERS, but this movie is almost a year old and if you are reading this column, chances are you have seen this film.


    Right off the bat, in my book, the film gets setback for being an Origin Story.  Sure, this has its place in super hero cinema, but when it comes to characters like Superman, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, we’ve seen their origin tales so many times over the years in the form of comics, cartoons, books, television, and, yes, movies, that, as I’ve said before, all that can be added at this point is at best, flourishes and updated CGI, and at worse, retcons and overhauls that alienate and upset longtime fans. 


    I’ve already reviewed this film in the past (see The Odinson Reviews Man of Steel) and listed the things I liked and disliked about the film, some of which I will revisit here.  But right now I want to talk about the filmmaker that helmed this project – Zack Snyder. 


    I will go on record by saying that I think Zack Snyder is a good filmmaker.  I grew up a huge George A. Romero fan.  So when the announcement of a Dawn of the Dead remake came out, you can imagine my trepidation.  In a time of very poorly made remakes, Snyder’s Dawn was actually really good.  Other than the Zombie-Baby scene, his reimagining of the Zombiepocalypse was a fantastic, adrenaline-fueled addition to the thriving genre.


    His adaptation of Frank Miller’s fantasy epic, 300, is an inspiration and a benchmark for what comic book adaptations to film can achieve when done right.  The same can be said for his film adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic super hero deconstruction - Watchmen.  Watchmen is another perfect example of what a comic adaptation can be.  Flourishes like seeing these masked vigilantes in live action and the film’s opening montage add nuances to the tale of a real world setting where men and women dress up as comic book heroes and fight crime.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the final showdown in the Watchmen film is infinitely more exciting than the one that plays out in the book. 


    Hey, I may even be one of the very few fans out there that actually enjoyed Snyder’s Sucker Punch.  So, when they announced that Zack Snyder would be helming my much beloved Man of Steel, I was overjoyed and excited.  However, my enthusiasm may have been a bit premature. 


    The following are excerpts from the magazine Variety.  Snyder’s quotes demonstrates why he may not be the right man to spearhead the cinematic universe of DC Comics:


    Snyder says - “...he’s merely depicting the ‘real world we live in.’”


    Right off the bat, he shows that he doesn't get it.  Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  He does not exist in the “real world we live in.”


    He continues - “...everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman...they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version, but more the movie version…the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things. I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world because those rules are different...”


    As a fan, I cling to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman because it is iconic and an example of when filmmakers get it right.  As for Superman killing, maybe somebody can refresh my memory but other than Superman #22, Trinity War (apparently the New 52 is establishing a whole new set of rules for our heroes), and alternate realities like Injustice: Gods Among Us and those depicted in Elseworlds, I don’t recall the Man of Steel doing an abundance of killing.  In fact, he has gone above and beyond to avoid this final solution.   


    Zack Snyder finishes by saying - “I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt and it’s not fun or funny.”


    Superman is about inspiration, NOT violence.  Superman saves people and prevents them being killed or hurt.  And, since when is Superman NOT supposed to be fun?! 


    This article and these quotes beautifully illustrate the fundamental problem with some of Hollywood’s attitude toward our beloved medium.  Half the time, Hollywood is trying to reinvent the wheel and turn our beloved properties into their creation rather than adapting them and keeping them true to the spirit of what Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and many others have created.


    Man of Steel was dreary and melancholy, not very colorful and inspirational like the character whose story it’s supposed to be telling.  Though I will say the cast was amazing.  I can even get past the unnecessary changes to Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, and I truly do like Henry Cavill in the title role and Michael Shannon’s Zod, though not as arch as Terence Stamp’s, was a fantastic portrayal of a truly complicated super villain, but all the good of the film is trumped by the film’s climatic scene and the hero’s ultimate solution to the antagonist’s threat.   


    That being said, my review of Man of Steel remains the same.


    Odinson rating: 2 out of 5 Hammers.


    I can’t say it enough, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a perfect example of how to adapt a comic book to film.  Steve Rogers, in dealing with his antagonist, acts less like the Punisher and more like Captain America and gives a man a chance at redemption, a chance to atone for past sins and become the hero he was always meant to be. 


    Steve Rogers does not give up on life, he saves it.  He inspires others to greater heights.  That is what Superman is supposed to do.  When Snyder says he wants to depict the “real world we live in” – he needs to remember that we know life can sometimes be a violent and dark place to live in, but we go to a Superman movie for the thrill, the love, and, yes, the fun of it all.  


    I just want to finish by saying I do think Zack Snyder is a good filmmaker.  Though if the beginning Krypton sequence of Man of Steel is any indication, he just may be better suited to adapt a live action version of Heavy Metal rather than helming the super exploits of the Man of Tomorrow.  But since he is the leader blazing the trail for the DC cinematic universe, I for one hope he learns his lesson from this first installment and stops trying to show us how real, violent, and murderous our comic book heroes are, and starts showing us just how fun, spectacular, and inspirational our comic book heroes can be.    


    This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

    5 comments so far:

    #1) Philip P. - 5:41 PM, Apr 28, 2014

    I feel like I've got to stick up for Snyder's depiction of the Big Blue Boyscout here. The meat of the argument here seems to be that Superman doesn't 'kill'. Now, I haven't read as much Superman as I have some other characters, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen him punch/heat-vision lots and lots of aliens of the years in ways that could end in nothing but death. It seems like the only thing Superman hasn't killed is a human. In MoS, Zod is shown to be a genetically engineered war machine. He's not so much a conscious being with agency as he is a walking talking weapon. It is covered multiple times (even in a line of dialogue so clunky, it must have been directed at those who would question Superman's decision) that Zod would not stop trying to destroy earth until he was dead. Superman's decision to kill Zod wasn't so much about making Superman into a character who kills, so much as it was about Kal finding his humanity. He spent the majority of the movie running away from the human part of himself in search of his Kryptonian heritage. Killing Zod (the last Kryptonian) was symbolic of Superman choosing his adopted home over Krypton, which had become a cold and corrupt place. The other thing to keep in mind is that we've only seen the first chapter in his story. Like you said, this was an origin story. He's not really 'Superman' until the end of the movie. Taking Zod's life is something that may weigh heavily on the character as subsequent chapters unfold. A good example of this would be the first season of 'Arrow' in which Ollie kills criminals without a second thought until the death of someone close to him causes him to rethink his ways.
    As to Captain America (which was a FANTASTIC film), Bucky/Winter Soldier wasn't really the antagonist. Frankly, he felt a little shoehorned in (which is okay, because that part where he caught the shield with one hand was awesome). My point is that the main antagonist was HYDRA and it looked to me like Cap and 'Tasha killed A LOT of HYDRA agents. A LOT. Which again, is okay because they're soldiers fighting a war.

    #2) Chuck D. - 5:57 PM, Apr 30, 2014

    I agree with quite a few things you spoke of Odinson, but the one thing that I feel I need to vocally agree with you on is the tone of the film. It is obvious that nowadays every superhero movie is made unnecessarily dark and gritty and full of death and tragedy. This style works for certain characters such as Batman, Wolverine, Punisher, just to name a couple, but NOT superheros like Superman. I also miss the adventure and wonder of a good superman story, the whole point of superman is to show how a man with such amazing powers could be a perfect hero, a true, as you said, Man Of Tomorrow.

    #3) Philip P. - 3:46 PM, May 1, 2014

    If only he could have flown around the world backwards to get a do-over in his battle with Zod. Then he could have just pulled the Kryptonian symbol for hope off of his chest and thrown it to incapacitate Zod before imprisoning him forever in the Phantom Zone. Because life imprisonment without trial in a cold hellscape is much more inspirational and heroic than a quick and painless death.

    #4) Mark S. - 9:37 AM, May 5, 2014

    Your comments on the Man of Steel in the latest mycomicshop.com email were dead-on. Thank you for saying what a lot of us have felt about what is wrong with some of the movies based on our beloved comic books and comic book characters. Thank you for speaking your mind and sticking to your guns.

    #5) Luke Y. - 6:00 PM, Jun 5, 2014

    Yeah, I have to agree with you, most of the way, sir, Odinson!! Most of Hollywood, I believe, have hijacked our beloved superheroes, and recreated them. But not just recreated them..but are using them to PREACH to us about their agenda and worldview. Unfortunately, most of their worldview is a darker, non funny and xenophobic world and even a world where issues of gay pride and spirituality and religion and good positive "heroes" are mocked and belittled. They favor the antihero and excessive violence and too much reality. I don't want to be preached to. I want to be entertained, and see true heroes win and save the day. And really, come on...why can't I see a little more color in the uniforms. Too many character changes. And mark my words, it is going to get worst. Nick Fury was one example. They even changed the race of Johnny Storm. And always the big "aliens invade and attack" theme. Come on! Give me back the simple but enjoyable good humored plots of TV Batman or at least put less sexuality and "soap opera" in the TV Arrow series. What a headache! I want a comic book, adventure and fun, not a "reality TV" soap opera where all the women and men are sleeping around and where the Hero does not even win sometimes. Am I missing something here? Surely somebody agrees with me.

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