I LOVE Superman. I really do. He’s like a family member to me. Kinda like that really cool uncle who was in the war and will sometimes sneak you a sip of his beer. That kind of family member. The kind that, when you see his memory being degraded by the money hungry idiot of a cousin who just happens to be his current heir, makes me so mad I think I might burst a testicle.
But first, a bit of Good News
What Man of Steel got right
The acting was very well done… mostly. Henry Cavill & Amy Adams were fantastic, ditto for Russell Crow and Lawrence Fishburne. Michael Shannon… well it was a bit over the top but I think that may have been due to the script more than a conscious choice by the actor. Overall though its a well acted film.
The Sun God/Jesus Allegory
Superman is a classic sun deity. Anyone who reads Superman will recognize this, and the film did a good job of relating this allegory to the viewers, which I think is necessary for any Superman film to be successful (one of the reasons why Bryan Singer’s didn’t do as well as it could have).
Here’s how it all went wrong.
I’ve written before about why Zod should not have been the main villain. That being said, here’s why Zod failed at being the villain in this film.
Where to start…
The second film should have had Zod arrive and destroying both humanity’s and Superman’s idealized vision of Kryptonian culture. Zod is a classic Hades archetype, and represents the fact that even gods can fall, that Kryptonian culture was more human than Superman led humanity to believe. The second film humanizes Superman and the Kryptonians and helps to set up a third film where Superman must find his own way while attempting to lead humanity toward its goal of bettering itself.
Of course, the reason (or one of them) why Zod appears in the first film is to help humanize Superman by showing the audience and humanity that even Kryptonians can give in to their baser instincts. And I would have been okay with it, really, if they had done it well.
But this Zod is insane. Literally. He started off as a revolutionary who wanted to wage war on Krypton’s ruling elite to fix Kryptonian society… fine I get that. But later in the film he becomes a mass murdering psychopath willing not only to kill the son of his (supposedly) friend but also billions of sentient people in order to remake Krypton on Earth.
Which, by the way, why did he want to fix the atmosphere on Earth? They have super powers with that air… wouldn’t Zod want to keep that? Aside from that Zod’s split personality, or his personality change isn’t really explained well. The Zod we see in the third act is an insane megalomaniac that doesn’t fit wit his earlier portrayal in the prologue.
But my main beef with the characterization of Jonathan Kent is that he dies in such a terrible way. In the comics he dies in various ways, or remains alive, depending on what continuity. Most of the time it’s from a heart attack reminiscent of the Richard Donnor films. But this Jonathan Kent dies while attempting to save a dog from a tornado as his son watches. Not a person, literally a piece of property. Its meant to drive home to the viewers how afraid Jonathan Kent was of letting Clark’s secret come out, but thinking of it from a psychological perspective it must have been torture to Clark to know that he could have saved his father but his father chose to die in order to keep Clark’s secret. Also, this is not in character with Jonathan Kent at all. The entire film he’s teaching his son restraint, and then he decides to end his life so that he can save a dog. (Please don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, but I’m using this to express the incongruities in Jonathan’s characterization.)Leading me to the biggest problem with Jonathan Kent – there’s no logical way that this childhood could have led Clark Kent to be the man he is later portrayed as in the films. And, lets not forget that Jonathan’s sacrifice was utterly useless because…
The Plot Holes
- Why Couldn’t Jor El save a copy of his wife in that memory stick?
- What exactly does putting the genetic material of all of Krypton in Kal El do?
- Why did Zod bother telling Kal El he was going to kill all of the humans… why not lie to him?
- How did Zod find Martha Kent’s Farm?
- How did the US army get Superman’s baby spaceship? Did Martha Kent give it to them? Does that mean they know who Superman is?
- So Kryptonians travelled to earth 18,000 years ago in the North Pole (which was frozen at the time). Our atmosphere was the same then as it is now, our sun was the same then as it is now… so how did the Kryptonians die? They had super powers back then.
- Speaking of super powers, how is it that Clark spent his whole life gaining superpowers and only learned how to fly a few weeks before Zod arrived… yet Zod is able to learn how to fly in a matter of days?
- Getting back to the Kryptonians… how is it that they didn’t know their planet was dying? There are ways of explaining this, but the film did not. Were they all imbeciles? Were they all too distracted by Zod’s rebellion?