Coming out of retirement.
There’s a secret review hidden within Man of Steel itself. It takes place in the scene where Superman is staring back in wonder as a fuel explosion ripples up the side of a building, the flames lighting the shards of glass and casting shadows across the splintered concrete, when all of a sudden General Zod runs up and punches Superman right in the side of the head.
Superman is played by me, the spectacle plays itself and General Zod is played by the idiot screenplay.
Like some self-fulfilling prophecy Superman is doomed to be the poster child for how to make an interesting superhero boring. Often portrayed, or at least perpetuated, as being impervious to bullets without any faults or character flaws he also becomes impervious to the bullets of our hearts. Our heart bullets just can’t pierce through a man of steel.
Which is where many of the interesting moves come from in Man of Steel: splintering the mythos and building some cracks into his armour.
We open with a bearded Clark clearly despondent and lacking in purpose hence the beard. Aimless to the point of trawling for fish in the oceans beside an offshore oil station Clark doesn’t think twice about walking through the blazing fire engulfing the drilling station in what I read as a clear message to support large corporations to the neglect of local suppliers. I also misread this as a sign that we were moving swiftly past the establishing of who is, without question, the most established superhero of all time.
Oh actually, I misspeak. The film opens with an unnecessarily long swansong of the planet Krypton exploding. My brain is already unpicking that memory and scattering it to the winds of time. Next it will obliterate the scene where Clarks Kryptonian daddy explains to Clark about the demise of Krypton. So we get to see a man explain an event we’ve already seen to another man and – kablamo – General Exposition happy slaps me once more to the side of the head.
But back to his roots. General Plod does indeed come along and we spend twenty minutes traipsing through the fields of Kansas as young Clark discovers and controls his powers anyway. But it’s worth it for the relationship between Clark and his Earth daddy which is at best character building and at worst morally reprehensible. In Kansas tough parenting involves rationalising with your able-bodied child that it might have been better to have let the school bus full of fellow children drown rather than save them and expose his secret ability to save drowning children. Now I’ve heard America grades against the average score of the class but c’mon be realistic.
Here’s a sound file to play on loop while reading the previous joke.
Also the fact that Clark’s x-ray vision fails to spot his own alien ship in his own farmhouse or, for that matter, a single female nipple is totally unbelievable and calls into question the whole reality of the film and the true story that inspired it.
Perhaps the best revelation for me in Man of Steel plays out in the big climactic fight scene with General Zod. And for the record that isn’t a spoiler because the bad guy shouts it, screams it, and bellows it no less than eight times in the opening ten minutes. Because Superman is near-invincible thanks to Earth’s yellow Sun, he can get his ass kicked more than anyone else. So while it’s disappointing that once again we have Similarly Powered Superhero versus Similarly Powered Supervillian (see Ed Norton’s Incredible Hulk, Will Smith’s Hancock, New Zealand Guy’s Thor) it’s really fun to see him brawl against Zod’s acolytes causing nearly as much if not more destruction to Metropolis than the crisis he’s fighting to avert.
Man of Steel nails the look and feel of Superman but like an overused sucker punch analogy diminishes in impact because of poor writing. But in so far as rebooting the character this is the guy. Now there’s something to look forward to in the Justice League film should they not realise it’s probably a terrible idea to make a Justice League film.