“Man of Steel”

14Jun13

I have inside information which I believe perfectly illustrates just how clueless of a director (and possibly a writer… and maybe a human being) Zach Snyder is. It involves a minor spoiler, only in that it concerns one of the very last scenes in the movie, but that’s the whole point. I think we, as a society, have got to get over our SPOILER WARNING paranoia, but I’m putting one here, because of the location of this particular element. You’ve now been warned.

Moving on…

I saw “Man of Steel” at a preview screening, after which director Snyder did a Q&A. Somebody asked him a question I can’t remember what it was, because it was just an excuse for Snyder to tell humorous (to him) stories about making the movie. Standard Q&A stuff. He told a story about the late-in-the-movie scene where Superman has demolished a government spy satellite, and the general says “What the F?” to Superman.

Originally, Snyder wanted the general to say “What the fuck?” but the MPAA made them change it. Snyder was beside himself, because there was no other use of the F-word in the entire movie and, according to the weird math the MPAA institutes, a film is allowed two non-verb-tense uses of that word within the PG-13 limits. But here, the MPAA was threatening an R rating unless the offending word was excised.

I believe the reason the MPAA flagged it was because that word drew attention to itself. It was jarring. Nothing in the preceding two hours has set us up to expect or accept the use of that word in this movie. To include that word would have fit in as well as having Superman turn into a werewolf.

And my point here is that Snyder doesn’t see that. And to not understand why that bit got flagged is proof that he doesn’t understand structure and payoff, two things “Man of Steel” sorely lacks.

Now with that being said, I enjoyed most of the movie. I may have my own managed expectations to thank, but I liked it. I wanted kick-ass Superman-type stuff, and it delivers in that regard. I liked seeing so much of Krypton, even though the first 20 minutes could have been reduced to 6 and you would have gotten the same result. I enjoyed seeing Young Clark discovering his powers (maybe the best “Never seen that before” moment for Superman in the film). I enjoyed Michael Shannon and his field general, and how fast Superman could move.

But then there’s the final act, that is a weird, irresponsible mess. It doesn’t pull together in the kind of “Hero learned a lesson that will help him defeat evil” kind of way, like you see so aptly displayed in the Pixar films. And you read correctly, it’s “irresponsible.” The World Generator is pulverizing Metropolis, and I mean PULVERIZING, which must result in thousands of lives lost. Building upon building destroyed, lives ruined. New Yorkers are still taking about September 11th, and that was “just” two buildings. But here, they destroy what seems to be 1/3 of Metropolis, for what purpose? To show how evil Zod is? Or just to do it? Like I said, irresponsible. A while back I worried how the school shootings would affect my viewing of films like “The Dark Knight Returns Part 2,” and this is another example of such a thing. Who is going to see this and not think of September 11th? And who is not going to wonder — if only for a moment — about the thousands of bodies lying under the rubble?

Answer: Snyder and kids born post-2001. And idiots, I suppose.

With all that being said, I still enjoyed myself. It’s not great, but I knew that it wouldn’t be. Ranking it against recent superhero movies, I’d say it’s better than “Thor” and “Iron Man 2” (and I liked it more than “Watchmen,” mostly because Snyder’s “Everything should be huge and bad ass!” style fits this movie better), but it’s not as good as “Captain America” or “Iron Man (1).” It’s better than “Superman Returns,” I think, but not better than the first two Christopher Reeves “Superman” movies. I can’t tell you if it’s better or worse than “Dark Knight Rises,” but it was less irritating. How’s that for a recommendation?

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