Sep 18 2016

Man of Steel Review

Published by at 10:06 pm under Comic Book Movies,Superman

1. This movie is about as bad as Catwoman but, in Catwoman’s defense, it had okay action scenes.

2. Man of Steel particularly struggled with family dialogue. E.g. Clark’s Kryptonian parents take 3 minutes to describe their plan to send him to Earth and say their goodbyes. It’s pretty bland stuff, e.g. melodramatic intonations like “Goodbye, my son, all our hopes and dreams travel with you.” For much better family sequences, I’d recommend checking out Up, Incredibles, and Inception, non-dramas that happened to have some highly emotional and sometimes tragic family scenes. Let’s look at Inception’s vault scene, where a son insecure about failing his imposing father’s expectations is about to inherit a business empire from his dying father. He quietly hates his father because he thinks that his father has rejected him (e.g. not acknowledging a photo of a homemade pinwheel that’s probably the only happy memory they ever shared).

If you can get through this scene without shedding a tear or smiling at all, I’d recommend talking to a WB casting director because apparently they’re really into that. Also, the dialogue in this scene takes about 1:15. Compare to 3:15 of “Goodbye, my son, all our hopes and dreams travel with you and maybe also an AI which will spend another 5-10 minutes narrating to you later.”

(For some extra tragedy, this scene from Inception is a dream sequence created to trick the son into breaking up his father’s empire. In actuality, the father probably actually was a bastard).

2.1. When Pa Kent reveals to his son that he’s an alien, he bends over backwards to be weird about it. E.g. “You’re not on the periodic table”, “You’re the answer to ‘are we alone in the universe?’”, and “You need to decide whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.” Clark doesn’t respond at all to this weirdness (his father gets 146 words in this scene, and Clark gets 13 – like most scenes between Clark and a parent, it’s more of a parental monologue than a conversation).

2.2. When Ma Kent’s son locks himself in a closet at school, mixing in some conflict would probably be more interesting than trying to be a yoga instructor. (“Focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island. Out in the ocean. Can you see it?”) Alternately, maybe having Clark react when they take conversations in exceptionally weird directions. In this scene, Clark’s mom gets 80% of the words. Contrast to more effective conversations in Dr. Strange – even the most New Age-sounding lines from the Ancient One address problems and advance goals in a serious, practical way.

3. A question-and-answer session between two entirely cooperative characters is almost never the most interesting way to convey information. If the backstory of what had happened on Krypton actually were important, I’d recommend cutting the first 20 minutes of the movie on Krypton and most of the conversation between Clark and Jor-El, and have General Zod briefly mention or allude to important pieces when he shows up. Even that’s probably unnecessary.
3.1. If you’re rewriting a scene that feels like an 100% cooperative Q&A session, I’d recommend considering building some conflict between the characters, some mistrust, some concealment and/or lying and/or self-serving, not being willing and/or able to tell the whole story, and/or unreliable answers, etc. Also, there may be some degree of “cost” to the questions — e.g. if you sent your son to another planet and could have come yourself but chose not to, you might be uncomfortable freely admitting that because he’d probably think that you abandoned him. There probably should have been some pushing/conflict before Jor-El elaborates on what happened there.

4. The movie heavily overfocuses on Clark’s parents, who delivered twice as many lines as Clark/Superman gets (26% vs. 13%). Minor characters (mostly the military and minor Kryptonians) made up another 39%. Giving 2/3 of the lines in the movie to minor characters that have little bearing on the plot, little personality, and almost no unusual decisions between them is a bad idea. If your superhero is so boring that sidelining him for his parents might be a good idea, something has gone catastrophically wrong for your superhero story.

Characters Word Count % of Total
Clark’s parents 1,888 26%
Clark/Superman 926 13%
Zod 850 12%
Lois 725 10%
Everybody else (mostly military + minor Kryptonians) 2,815 39%

4.1. Arguably the worst part of the conversations between Clark and his parents is that his parents are windbags that relentlessly info-dump at him in the most grandiose, messianic terms what he symbolizes and the unbelievably wonderful things he’s going to accomplish some day when he gets off his ass and stops listening to windbags telling him about it. Jor-el: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. You will help them accomplish wonders. You will guide them so they might not make the same mistakes we did. You will show them this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” Pa Kent: “You were sent here for a reason. All these changes you’re going through, one day you’re going to think of them as a blessing, and when that day comes you’re going to have to make a choice, to stand proud in front of the human race or not… You just need to think about what kind of man you want to grow up to be, because whoever that man is, good or bad, he’s going to change the world.” Who the **** cares what he symbolizes? Get him doing and saying interesting things. In the first hour, he doesn’t come close on the first or attempt the second.

4.2. If ANYBODY takes 80% of the lines in a conversation with your main character, the scene-stealing characters damn well better be hyper-charismatic and/or critical to the plot, on the order of a Hannibal Lecter or Han Solo or Blake (the “coffee is for closers” sales instructor in Glengarry Glenross). In Man of Steel, virtually every scene with Clark’s parents sidelined Clark, which is very unusual for a lead character. I don’t see what they were going for. Clark didn’t get a lot of opportunities to have personality, develop himself and/or be interesting.

4.3. There’s one point at which the ghost of Jor-el tells Clark “If only Lara could have witnessed this.” Nah, three hyper-generic parental figures should be enough, I think.

5. The entire plot is a festering cancer of incompetence.. Being in Man of Steel is like barrel-rolling a Jeep full of incontinent donkeys. Nobody walks away looking good.

  • The military and Superman have one Kryptonian weapon against the Kryptonian invasion. Instead of doing a conventional aerial assault, like the last one that got totally wrecked by Kryptonians flying at Mach 20, why not have Superman fly it in?
  • Krypton’s codex, the only means by which Kryptonians can have children, is completely unguarded. Jor-El doesn’t even need to pick a lock to steal it, let alone deal with any guards. It’s less secure than the average 7-11.
  • Zod moves at an exceptionally slow pace when trying to recover the codex .
  • Zod: “I was bred to be a warrior. I trained my entire life.” Zod and two soldiers with rifles are unable to defeat a scientist in combat, and the scientist punches Zod out. Nor is he able to prevent a journalist from shooting her way out of captivity. I’d get a refund on that training.
  • When Zod stabs Jor-El, he doesn’t secure Jor-El’s gun even though Lara is a few feet away from it. You sure you can’t get a refund on that training?
  • Zod has at least 10 Kryptonians. Earth has one. Might have helped having more than 2 of the invaders try superpowered fighting.
  • Clark not figuring out a way to save his father secretly from the tornado (e.g. creating a distraction with heat vision and then running in while people are distracted).
  • Less blatant, but I think a smarter superhero could have spared Metropolis some devastation by drawing Zod away from the city.
  • Here’s the first lines exchanged between Hardy and Lois. COLONEL HARDY: “You’re early. We were expecting you tomorrow.” LOIS: “Which is why I showed up today. Look, let’s get one thing straight, guys, okay? The only reason I’m here is because we’re on Canadian soil, and the appellate court overruled your injunction to keep me away. So if we’re done measuring dicks, can you have your people show me what you found.” That… got out of hand quickly. To make Lois come across as tough rather than mentally unstable, I’d suggest giving her an actual provocation to respond to rather than just a military officer gently pointing out they agreed to a different schedule. Treating that as “measuring dicks” makes her sound completely in over her head and/or massively insecure. Also, I’d recommend giving her some social skills – check out Maltese Falcon or The Killers for much better examples of characters working on hostile sources of information. Introducing yourself by declaring “YOU’RE OPPOSED TO MY INVESTIGATION!” for no benefit generally isn’t very sharp, even if the target actually were opposed to your investigation (which Hardy doesn’t appear to be, in this case).
  • Clark: “I don’t know if Zod can be trusted.” Zod has threatened to devastate Earth and Jor-El mentioned that he launched a coup against Krypton. I’d recommend taking this in a badass direction (e.g. “he’s probably going to kill me, but it might save the planet”) rather than “I really am that dumb”.
  • Perry evacuates the Daily Planet about 10 minutes after an alien warlord’s spaceship reaches Metropolis and a few minutes after the bombardment begins. If an alien that has threatened dire consequences for Earth parks a warship over a major city, sticking around to watch makes it less of a murder and more of a suicide. This is probably obvious to everybody in the world but Metropolis.
  • The conspiracy blogger was a pleasant surprise. He’s fully aware that Lois is trying to use him, and throws a wrench in her plans the first chance he gets (revealing that she knows who Superman is). It’s badass and makes Lois’s habitual idiocy sort of tolerable here. (If you need to blindly trust somebody, telling them how much you detest them while asking them for a favor probably should not work out all that well. That’s probably obvious to everybody in the world besides Lois).
  • Perry refusing to run a huge story on a UFO sighting because he thinks that Lois might have hallucinated it. Okay, but did she hallucinate the multiple collaborating eyewitnesses? And her laser wounds, and the massive ****ing crater where a spaceship flew out of a mountain? To make Perry look less idiotic here, I’d recommend making Lois’ case a bit more sketchy (e.g. she has several military contractors who will anonymously corroborate her story but no one willing to go on record, and there’s a plausible alternative explanation for the crater, like a volcanic eruption). Alternately, have Perry refuse to run the article because he’s been badly burned by Lois’ sources before and/or he suspects there’s something she’s not telling him (e.g. she’s in love with the subject of the article, probably has a vendetta against the military, is a BS artist, and generally is a walking time-bomb of incompetence and conflicts of interest).
  • Speaking of chronic incompetence, about 2 seconds after Perry refuses to run her UFO article, Lois gives it to a conspiracy blogger to run. She’s still surprised that Perry figures it out. (She gave him the article to read. How could he have NOT figured it out? There weren’t any other journalists within 100 miles). I’d suggest having her handle this in a more brazen, daring way (e.g. she knows that Perry will figure out what happened, and maybe doubles down when Perry confronts her about it – his decision to sit on an ironclad blockbuster story because there was an official denial is bad journalism).
  • Jor-El: “We’ve had a child, Zod. Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries.” Why tell him that as he’s about to kill you? It accomplishes nothing but endangering Clark. It’s also unnecessary from a plotting perspective: nothing Zod does later requires knowing this early that Jor-El sent a child (when Clark later activates the SOS beacon on the ghost ship, Zod can figure it out on his own).
  • If you’re driving a schoolbus, and blowing out one tire (out of 4-6) causes you to completely lose control and drive off a bridge, you probably shouldn’t be driving a schoolbus.
  • If you’re an infantryman and you bring a grenade launcher on a cargo plane carrying the military’s only superweapon, you probably shouldn’t be on this mission. Particularly if the enemy has proven utterly immune to conventional explosives.
  • If you’re a military planner and you have an alien in custody, you might want to try learning more about Kryptonian capabilities, Zod’s goals on Earth, whether Zod can be trusted, the backstory between Zod and Superman, or anything else that might be useful if the obviously sinister Zod turns out to be a major problem moving forward. Taking a tissue sample might also be useful for developing ways to kill Zod if it comes to that (and, based on the way Zod introduced himself to Earth, it should be obvious it’s going to).
  • Military planning: if an alien is immune to heavy aerial munitions and can fly at supersonic speeds, anybody that sends in riflemen next probably shouldn’t be a military planner. Maybe nerve gas? Sound-based weaponry? Biological weapons? Anything more creative and/or potentially useful than weaker versions of what you’ve already tried? (Alternately, if the point is that the military is unable to respond in ways that might be effective, why give it so many scenes?)
  • When a building collapses towards Perry, he tries outrunning it in the same direction it is falling. E.g. the Chrysler Building is ~1000 feet tall by ~100 feet wide. If the building is falling south, running south will take 1,000 feet, whereas running east/west will take 50 feet.

6. Emotional variety is missing. I think Clark smiles twice in the entire movie and there are literally no moments that are exciting or cool. Compare to much more effective dark movies, like Chronicle and Deadpool and Kick-Ass and Watchmen, which have a lot of despair and suffering, but ALSO have some levity and a lot of energy. E.g. in Chronicle, one of the main characters has an abusive father and is generally an outcast at school, but everybody gets occasional bursts of excitement and happiness and most of the characters are living semi-functional lives. Man of Steel is a gray pile of sadness where Superman stumbles from one tragedy to the next.

6.1. Here are some faceshots from the movie. Clark’s emotional expressions could use some work (e.g. his pose for seeing Lois for the first time is virtually identical to when he sees by a corpse).
Superman faces

6.2. I can sort of understand the rationale behind doing several scenes with military extras – Superman has virtually no good dialogue in this movie, and his powers don’t lend themselves well to interesting fight scenes. However, if you spend so much time on military characters that they have more lines than Superman does, I’d recommend having the military extras actually be sort of useful (e.g. taking down one of the minor villains or something rather than just shooting ineffectually).

7. Jesus Christ, how tragic can one person’s life be?

  • One father dies in a tornado, and the other gets murdered in a 5-minute civil war. And then gets murdered again by the same guy.
  • His father died because some asshole left her dog in a car. He couldn’t save his father because there were randomly hundreds of witnesses on a highway in the middle of Kansas.
  • His mother dies when his planet explodes. His Kryptonian father who turns himself into a ghost apparently forgot her. Probably just as well, they were just going to get murdered again anyway.
  • According to Jor-El, his parents could have accompanied him but chose not to, shooting him into the middle of Kansas instead and guessing that’d be good enough. They’re the ultimate deadbeat parents. (Superman doesn’t remark on this, but given that he himself was a deadbeat dad in Superman Returns, I imagine it’s a sore subject). Seriously, not even sending a robot or something to make sure that he’s cared for before humans find him? Also, dressing him first?
  • The only other people that survive his planet exploding are hardened criminals that had previously vowed to track him down across the galaxy.
  • When Zod shows up with a warship orbiting the Earth and demanding that Clark turn himself in, Clark doesn’t remember that Jor-El had previously mentioned Zod to Jor-El and might have some insight into whether Zod is as nutso as he appears (“yep, actually he murdered me”). He asks a random priest for advice instead.
  • A fishing cage falling when he’s right under it.
  • At least five people start a fight with him because they’re assholes (two sets of school bullies, and a drunkard in a bar).
  • His school assigns Plato.
  • Millions of people die when Kryptonians attack the planet. Zod thanks him for (unknowingly) activating the SOS beacon that gave them directions.
  • His schoolbus loses a tire just as it’s going over the bridge, and everybody nearly dies.
  • An oil rig explodes near his fishing boat.
  • Yellow sunlight makes him invincible and green sunlight makes him interesting. I’ve never seen a green sun, either.
  • Falls in love with Lois “Catastrofe” Lane. She can’t ****ing cross the street without getting kidnapped twice, and she’s not much better at journalism.

8. A recurring problem for Superman: an active Superman is so powerful that he can instantly solve most problems that come his way. For most of the movie, they opt for “Clark wants to act but instead does nothing to hide his powers, and then has a 3+ minute debriefing where a parent monologues about why he had to do nothing to hide his powers.” If you’re going to have so many of these scenes, I’d suggest at least having him TRY to overcome his problems without superpowers (e.g. talking his way out of it, run for help, or make some friends by having any outside interests or anything going on in his life besides random disasters and tragedies) or maybe some sly use of superpowers like using his heat-rays to start a fire alarm to bring out witnesses at an in-school fight.

9. Characters should respond more naturally to each other. For example, if Clark says something like “You’re some guy that found me in a cornfield” to his adopted parents, please write a sharper response than “Clark!” / “No, honey, it’s alright.” If you want to have Lois to declare that Hardy is trying to measure dicks with her, please give Hardy a sharper response than nothing. Other moments in the movie that probably deserved more of a response than they actually got:

  • Clark finding out that he’s an alien, and that his adopted parents have been keeping that from him for a long time.
  • Jor-El telling Clark that he’s Clark’s father.
  • Jor-El heavily implying to Clark that his parents could have accompanied him to Earth, but chose not to. (Alternately, maybe a slight rewrite like Jor-El and/or Lara attempt to accompany him to Earth, but die of wounds taken during the civil war?) This conversation sort of starts to explain why Kryptonian society thought Kryptonians couldn’t be trusted to have their own kids. They’re really, really bad at it.
  • Any of the lines where Jor-El sounds strangely lukewarm about Zod, even after getting murdered by him.
  • Clark locking himself in a closet at school.
  • Clark’s parents deciding that he shouldn’t have any friends. (We hear this from a kid at school, it never comes up in conversation between Clark and his parents).
  • Any exceptional strangeness from Clark’s parents.
  • Pa Kent sacrificing himself to save some asshole’s dog that, spoiler, will probably get euthanized in 5-10 years because its owner won’t pay $6,000 for hip replacement surgery. Clark’s parents (both sets) repeatedly screw Clark, and certainly a father screwing his family on behalf of a stranger’s dog is pretty rough, but at least they didn’t send an infant alone to an alien planet, right?
  • Clark’s father not creating a ghost for Clark’s mother.

10. For a dramatically effective version of soldiers fighting an impossibly powerful enemy, I strongly recommend looking instead at the final scene of Rogue One (doomed rebels in a terrifying encounter with Darth Vader). The scene lasts less than a minute and is completely non-redundant with everything else in the movie. In contrast, Man of Steel (and Suicide Squad) have 4+ emotionless scenes where military extras get mowed down emotionlessly just to burn time off the clock.

31 responses so far

31 Responses to “Man of Steel Review”

  1. Xbimpyxon 19 Sep 2016 at 2:35 am

    Here’s a very important lesson.

    Clark does nothing for before he becomes Superman. He didn’t become a fish catcher to save nearby people. It happened out of convince to show he doesn’t live in a void. He didn’t become a waiter to save nearby people and locate his supersuit. It happened by chance. The supersuit wasn’t even, let alone the FOS. It was Supergirls, his cousin who happened to come to Earth. Activating it happened to draw out Zod, the only character insane enough to make Clark do something worth while in an the interesting sense

  2. Andrewon 19 Sep 2016 at 3:59 am

    Pelt me if you want, but I enjoyed MOS

    (Australian Accent: What we’re looking at here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Is what’s known as ‘Alternatus Opinionus’ more commonly known as the alternate opinion. You don’t get a lot of them ’round these parts because they’ll usually get trampled to death before it even sees five minutes of life. They’ve become practically extinct)

  3. B. McKenzieon 19 Sep 2016 at 7:14 am

    “I enjoyed MOS.” What would you say was best-executed? Was there anything about it that another superhero movie hasn’t done significantly better?

    “What we’re looking at here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Is what’s known as ‘Alternatus Opinionus’ more commonly known as the alternate opinion. You don’t get a lot of them ’round these parts because they’ll usually get trampled to death before it even sees five minutes of life. They’ve become practically extinct).” First, the discussions on SN are pretty consistently professional and over the course of ~45,000 comments we’ve only had ~10 users banned. Second, even if the persecution complex were justified, please be less pretentious about it.

  4. (o_n')on 19 Sep 2016 at 8:02 am

    If it is so bad, I might watch it. Does it have any accidently comedical traits?
    I don’t be trapped again in a cinema with a bad action movie(last time was The incredible Hulk).

  5. Andrewon 19 Sep 2016 at 8:22 am

    The score was great. They got Hans Zimmer, who also did the music for the Dark Knight Trilogy. I think they did a more modern context for Superman, non of that ‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane’ outdated stuff from the 40s. And Henry Cavill was good, I mean, he does seem determined to do the character right

    And it’s usually this point where someone comes up with a paragraph long argument against what I said. Is it too much to ask that we agree to disagree?

  6. Ben Willowson 19 Sep 2016 at 10:32 am

    I’ve gotta say, I agree with all of these points, and then some. I really do. But I still enjoyed it. Hans Zimmer was excellent as always, and the fight scenes were enjoyable, if a bit drawn-out.

    But yeah, it definitely required me turning off my brain for a long while, and ignoring all of Zack Snyder’s Blue and Orange editing. I’m also surprised that you didn’t mention the Jesus allegory/allegories (it’s been a while, I can’t remember how many Jesus allegories there were. There was definitely at least one).

    Ultimately however, I still found it dumb-yet-fun. Not as bad as Catwoman imo, and it definitely didn’t piss me off as much as BvS did, although I did have far higher expectations for Dawn of Justice than Man of Steel.

  7. Byakuya91on 19 Sep 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Ah, MOS. A movie that had me so split/ disappointed. And arguably made me turn away from DC when it came to live-action movies. But then again, after BVS, I’ve come to see MOS as being the least offensive, along with SS.

    The biggest issue I have with MOS was that it was a TERRIBLE adaptation of Superman Earth One. JMZs comic beat for beat is this story, but done better. Clark, while not happy, does have bright spots in life.

    His adoptive folks actually have meaningful conversations. They tell Clark to live his life according to HOW he wants to. They don’t do this stupid Nolanized exposition where they tell Clark is special. Instead, they actually do character development. For instance(SPOILER ALERT FOR THE COMIC), there’a s scene with Johnathan Kent where he tells Clark that while it is admirable that he holds back, everyone has a breaking point where enough is enough.

    It is such to where he tells Clark that when this breaking point is reached, one should do something. No convoluted , ambiguous BS about Clark NOT saving people(SPOILER END). Just good character development. And it helps that pa Kent doesn’t die from a Tornado.

    But back to the movie, not once had I felt an emotional connection to Clark. The choppy pacing and editing are horrendous. Why have a Krypton scene and cut to Clark in the water? Start with Clark in the water.

    Zod was particularly lame. My question is WHY use him? Earth One’s antagonist sucked, but that hadn’t meant Synder wasn’t obligated to use him. Why not Brainiac? Use the TAS origin of coming from Krypton.

    In short, MOS disappointed because it honestly failed to take the best parts of Earth One and instead relied on exposition to the max and little characterization. Say what you will about the Donner films, but for all the goofiness, they had character development and growth.

    Superman honestly needs it more than most given he’s a character who is hard to write, but CAN be done.

  8. B. McKenzieon 19 Sep 2016 at 4:49 pm

    “If it is so bad, I might watch it. Does it have any accidentally comedic traits?” The acting, definitely. For example, here’s a scene where characters have minutes left to live and are about to send their child away on the last shuttle before the planet explodes and also soldiers are about to storm their house. It looks like Lara is amused and Jor-El isn’t sure whether he left the oven on.

    The dialogue, probably comical. Mainly in how unnatural it sounds. “The world’s too big, Mom!” is a helluva strange way for a kid to react to suddenly getting super-senses.

    Pa Kent is probably the most consistently weird, though. At one point, he’s trying to tell Clark that he’s an alien. One way a human might phrase this might be something like “There’s something you deserve to know. We found you in a spaceship, and it’s possible that your birth parents might be from another planet. We love you anyway.” (Or have Clark find out this information on his own by breaking in to find what his parents have been hiding in the barn).

    Here’s how the scene actually played out.
    CLARK: Did God do this to me?
    PA: We found you in this [spacecraft].
    PA: We were sure the government was gonna show up on our doorstep, but no one ever came.
    PA: This (Kryptonian key) was in that chamber with you. I took it to a metallurgist at Kansas State. He said whatever it was made didn’t even exist on the periodic table. That’s another way of saying that it’s not from this world, Clark.
    PA: And neither are you.
    PA: You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to “Are we alone in the universe?”
    CLARK: I don’t wanna be.
    PA: And I don’t blame you, son.
    PA: It’d be a huge burden for anyone to bear. But you’re not just anyone, Clark, and I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason. All these changes that you’re going through, one day… one day you’re gonna think of them as a blessing. When that day comes, you have to make a choice. A choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.

    Seriously, how does anyone take a conversation from “I have this extremely hard information I need to break to my child” to “You’re not on the periodic table” to “You need to decide whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not”?

    Adding to the weirdness, why is Clark so emotionless about this? He just got told he’s an alien. There should probably be an emotional response here (e.g. anger that he hasn’t been told this yet, relief that now his problems with superpowers make a lot more sense, fear/concern about how many people suspect something is amiss, excitement that he has a ****ing spaceship*, curiosity/confusion about his birth parents, gratitude towards the Kents, etc). For the most part, we get some pouting and not much else.

    *Clark is almost never happy or excited. His life is a wall of misery.

  9. B. McKenzieon 19 Sep 2016 at 6:25 pm

    “And it’s usually this point where someone comes up with a paragraph long argument against what I said.”

    When I do, it’s usually out of respect that the author’s ideas are interesting and/or could help me or somebody else make better comics/novels (whether I agree with them or not). If you are significantly distressed that people may disagree with you in a mostly professional way, commenting online would be a bit of a strange hobby. Also, I’d suggest staying away as far from publishing careers as possible — discussions tend to get a lot more heated when money is on the line.

  10. B. McKenzieon 19 Sep 2016 at 7:10 pm

    “They don’t do this stupid Nolanized exposition where they tell Clark is special.” What are some other examples of Nolan works that have gone in this direction?

    (The first thing that comes to mind is that many characters in TDK treat Batman as extremely important, e.g. Joker pointing out that Batman scares the gangs so much they won’t meet at night, but Batman has actually earned this respect/fear by doing things and generally being formidable. Also, the hype for Batman is much shorter and more grounded. He’s not the answer to any huge questions, not a messiah, and merely adopted the dark.

  11. Byakuya91on 19 Sep 2016 at 9:50 pm

    ” What are some other examples of Nolan works that have gone in this direction?”

    Easily, I can give two examples.

    1) TDK when Alfred was explaining to Bruce about the bandits he encountered in Burma and how some people quote ” just want to watch the world burn”. Okay scene, but really unnecessary. We’ve already see how insane and crazy the Joker is. I mean the opening intro should have sufficed, but at that point; Nolan was smart in putting in appropriate bread crumbs.

    If Nolan wanted to have the scene, fine. But have it develop the characters. Alfred for the most part jus came off as a platitude slot machine. Always gave some line about what it means to be Batman or something, but really didn’t have much of a character. Just a wink and nod to the audience about some grandiose theme. That’s cool, but there needs to actually be a character.

    Say what you will about BVS(a horrible movie), but Alfred there had a lot more character. He was supportive, but stern. He knew when Bruce was heading down a bad path and wasn’t afraid to voice his sentiments about it. To be fair, a lot of it was due to him knowing Bruce beforehand.

    This was needed in the Nolan trilogy. Alfred needed to do something other than stand around and give moralistic platitudes and speeches. TDKR tried to do that, but ended up being a mess of a movie.

    2) Talia A Ghul’s twist in TDKR. Oh, man this was painful. Okay, so aside from Bane being a lackey once AGAIN which is so insulting; we have this twist. The exposition dump about her wanting to fulfill her father’s goal; so shoehorned in and unnecessary. It is so jarring and halts the overall pacing of the story.Especially nearing the third act. it also just flies in the face of that romance.

    it would be one thing if we spent more time with Miranda and hints of this shadiness were there. Hence, the twist could have had more weight. But it literally felt like Nolan was doing a checklist based on WB/DC’s demands. So what did he do? Exposition drop it like a jack and the box.

    I’ll admit; while I do think Nolan is competent; he’s incredibly overrated. His older works, like Memento and Insomnia were great. But man, his newer works just scream of pretentiousness and style over substance.

    Characters are just dishes to which hold themes. They are rarely characters. Not once have I felt connected to them.

  12. B. McKenzieon 19 Sep 2016 at 10:28 pm

    “I’ll admit; while I do think Nolan is competent; he’s incredibly overrated.” Being able to get good movies out of WB/DC is sort of a superpower. Unfortunately, it’s a superpower nobody else seems to have…

    Take for example David Goyer, who has been credited with writing a LOT of mediocre superhero movies. Outside of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the movies he’s credited with writing have an average of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes*. In addition, Goyer was credited on Batman Begins and had a story credit on TDK and TDKR. I give the Nolans a lot of kudos for writing most of the series themselves and/or getting Goyer to punch far above his weight class.

    *The Crow 2 – 12%, the Blade series – 54%/57%/12%, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – 17%, Jumper – 16%, Man of Steel – 55%, BVS – 27%, Unborn – 10%.

  13. (o_n')on 20 Sep 2016 at 10:09 am

    I wouldn’t look for faces too much. Anyway I apparently a bit emotion blind, I can’t tell anger similar emotions like jealousy or frustrated. But the moviemakers on MoS seems to have same problem. Just set me in front of bunch emotion icons, my plan was get someone else to draw, because I wasn’t overly confident in my drawing skills, secondly learn something new.

    – Nolan’s trilogy made it social acceptable to watch superheromovies. If it is not superpower, I don’t want know a real superpower.

  14. B. McKenzieon 20 Sep 2016 at 9:17 pm

    “Anyway I apparently a bit emotion blind, I can’t tell anger similar emotions like jealousy or frustrated.” It might look sort of similar, because these emotions could overlap heavily (e.g. if a girlfriend is jealous of a boyfriend being too affectionate towards another lady, there might also be some anger towards the other woman and/or the boyfriend). However, there isn’t any reason that seeing the love of your life would play out similarly to seeing a corpse. Unless you’re a necrophiliac.

  15. Byakuya91on 21 Sep 2016 at 7:00 pm

    “Okay, take for example David Goyer, who has been credited with writing a LOT of mediocre superhero movies. Outside of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the movies he’s credited with writing have an average of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes*. In addition, Goyer was credited on Batman Begins and had a story credit on TDK and TDKR. I give the Nolans a lot of kudos for writing most of the series themselves and/or getting Goyer to punch far above his weight class.”

    I can see that. Goyer’s scripts have always bugged me. They tended to lack any sense of levity or characterization in the sense that his characters were often individuals expositing themes and concepts. Not actually characters. That’s one thing the MCU does well. Their plots tend to be very formalistic, but the characterization, combined with top performances, always captivated a lot of audiences. Especially, Civil War to which had plenty.

    The only two films I’d cut Goyer some slack are the Crow city of angels and BVS. The former is due to him and Bill Pope having lost full control over the movie due to Harvey Weinstein. Look it up, the guy is a straight out jerk who bullies himself into productions, thinking he is right. And when he fails, it goes over his head.

    That isn’t a excuse for some of Goyer’s crappier work. But in that movie, his hands were tied. BVS the screenwriting was shared by Chris Tierro, director of Argo. Now, it is easy to place the blame on Goyer, but it seemed he had very little involvement. Heck, he’s not working for WB anymore.

    If anything, Tierro could have just as easily screwed up as much as Goyer. We’d need to see a copy of Goyer’s screenplay before Tierro came on.

  16. B. McKenzieon 21 Sep 2016 at 8:00 pm

    “I can see that. Goyer’s scripts have always bugged me. They tended to lack any sense of levity or characterization in the sense that his characters were often individuals expositing themes and concepts. Not actually characters.” With the right pacing and/or plot development and/or character development, I can handle a surprising amount of exposition. E.g. the dialogue in Vader’s chokehold scene in Star Wars is essentially rolling exposition, but it’s executed in a fairly high-stakes and dramatic way. Virtually every conversation about the Force is heavily thematic, BUT most of them are immediately relevant to winning a galactic war and surviving the adventure of a lifetime. If Star Wars were taken in a Man of Steel direction, Luke Skywalker would be farming on Tattooine about halfway through the movie, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru get twice as many lines as he does, Luke repeatedly complains that he can’t just be a moisture farmer, and Han lets Greedo kill him because the director finds charismatic/bold/exciting characters completely unworkable for his vision.

  17. Phoenixon 24 Sep 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Addressing your Kryptonian security concerns: it was Krypton, not Earth. They were a very low-crime society. In the comics, they had shifted from shooting prisoners into orbit (getting sleep rehab a la “Demolition Man”) to putting criminals into the Phantom Zone. The story arc that introduced Faora Hu-Ul (in all her martial art ass-kicking bad-assness) culminated with her master plan of putting Earth’s population into the zone and letting all the Kryptonians out. That released about thirty Kryptonian ne’er do wells. Thirty. That was the extent of malcontents in an advanced society.

    We have a long way to go before comparing them to Terrans.

    Likewise, super-orphan farmboy is a serious guy. Almost the sole survivor of his people, he’s had to grow up exercising so much restraint so as to not break objects and bones (of others) with every casual interaction. Then, on top of keeping his growing superhuman abilities under wraps, let’s drop the bomb on him that he’s an oddity because he’s from another planet. What’s his “normal” reaction to this everyday situation supposed to be again? Instead of him having the reaction that you think every Earth person should have, how about he has his reaction?

    Kryptonians are seldom shown to flock toward the idea of having superpowers. They tend to be very conservative and ordered. In the case of these, they’re very big on realizing their genetic programming even though they didn’t agree with the government they were going to usurp. Having a group of soldiers (only some were soldiers; Jax-Ur (the bald guy) was a scientist, for example) doesn’t give you an instant super-strike team. Additionally, it takes time (as displayed) for the powers to manifest as their cells saturate with our sun’s energy. Then, there’s still learning to use the abilities.

    They had him in numbers and even martial skill in Smallville, but they were still behind him in raw power. If he’d been less restrained (though that would’ve been completely against character), he could’ve done more damage than the hellfire missile did to Faora.

  18. B. McKenzieon 25 Sep 2016 at 4:29 am

    “Likewise, super-orphan farmboy is a serious guy. Almost the sole survivor of his people, he’s had to grow up exercising so much restraint so as to not break objects and bones (of others) with every casual interaction. Then, on top of keeping his growing superhuman abilities under wraps, let’s drop the bomb on him that he’s an oddity because he’s from another planet. What’s his “normal” reaction to this everyday situation supposed to be again? Instead of him having the reaction that you think every Earth person should have, how about he has his reaction?”

    It’d probably be helpful if Clark’s reaction to seeing a corpse were distinguishable from his reaction to seeing Lois Lane for the first time. Or if Clark’s reaction to seeing a stranger on a ghost ship were distinguishable from the stranger telling Clark that he’s Clark’s father. I think most actors and/or better directors would have handled this in a way more intuitive for human viewers.

    Man of Steel Faces

    “Addressing your Kryptonian security concerns: it was Krypton, not Earth. They were a very low-crime society.” They had a warrior caste, and had armed guards at a government hearing. They didn’t have armed guards at a system critical to the species’ reproduction. That seems like an oversight. Also, the coup-plotters apparently put a low priority on securing a system apparently critical to their plans. Given that the system itself is unsecured and can be moved out by literally anyone inclined to do so, I would think that a conservative/orderly planner would predict that this should have been stolen/secured at the very start of the coup. Also, after the system is stolen, Zod has an extremely slow pace even after he has been told that Jor-El has ignited an engine and is presumably about to launch away from the planet.

  19. (o_n')on 25 Sep 2016 at 7:58 am

    It seems stupid to me that the villain giving carte blanche to somebody to runaway with critical information. Unless Krypton was like Sweden in peacefullness, they should a good reason to protect the system. As far I know Swedes would be clever eneough to protect it.

    I think finnished practing looks more like he actually saw a corpse. But I have hard time tell just saw a corpse with seeing Lois Lane. Anyway the lighting is too much scandinavian noir.

  20. B. McKenzieon 25 Sep 2016 at 10:52 am

    “Unless Krypton was like Sweden in peacefulness, they should a good reason to protect the system. As far I know Swedes would be clever enough to protect it.”

    I’m going to guess that the average Swedish or Swiss post office has better security, like a locked door or something.

  21. InnocentBystanderon 25 Sep 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I’ll give the movie kudos for one thing; the scene where young!Clark is overwhelmed by his enhanced senses and his mother helps him out. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic and have hypersensitivity (especially regarding sound) so I could relate more, but it was the one point in the film where I connected emotionally with the characters. Pity the film couldn’t keep that going.

    Relating to that (and it’s connected more to BvS than MoS, but I think MoS suffers from the same problems), there’s a video I found that sums up the DCEU’s biggest problem right now:

  22. B. McKenzieon 25 Sep 2016 at 6:28 pm

    “Maybe it’s because I’m autistic and have hypersensitivity (especially regarding sound)…” After trapping himself in the janitor’s closet, Clark declares, “The world’s too big, Mom!” Any ideas on a more natural way of phrasing this?

    On DCEU’s main obstacle… some recurring problems I’ve noticed:
    –Probably above all, DCEU plots repeatedly hinge on characters being incompetent and/or overlooking obvious solutions to their problems. See the Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Green Lantern, and Batman Vs. Superman reviews for more details.
    –Outside of Nolan’s Batman movies, no one (even Batman) gets consistently good lines either in terms of character development, plot development, and/or just being entertaining.
    –Plot progression/pacing decisions are sometimes baffling. E.g. in MOS, spending 20 minutes on Krypton before we get to Earth is probably not ideal. Or another 40 minutes on Clark’s origin story, mainly in flashbacks and/or really low-stakes scenes with Clark responding to random one-off tragedies. In Suicide Squad, the final 60 minutes of the movie are a single rolling mission.
    –The enthusiasm/excitement level is consistently very low (e.g. contrast emotions displayed by actors, romantic lines, uses of superpowers, training sequences, whatever). Whether you go “dark” or “light” or anywhere on that spectrum (an overrated way of categorizing superhero movies, I think), I don’t think there’s a strong creative rationale for going low-energy.
    –Inordinately long action sequences.
    –The source material doesn’t give them a lot to work with in terms of cinematic superpowers. Much harder for a flying brick like Superman to film a good fight scene than with a more finesseful character. My impression is that Marvel’s flying bricks (e.g. Thor) spend significantly less of their time in battle than comparable DC characters.

  23. InnocentBystanderon 25 Sep 2016 at 8:48 pm

    “Any ideas on a natural way of phrasing this?” I dunno. As a kid, I would probably say something along the lines of “it’s too much.” Maybe something like that? (Never said the scene was perfect; just that it was one of the few times the characters felt like people rather than constructs and that it connected with me on an emotional level and it’s a shame that couldn’t continue through the rest of the film.)

    Agreed with regards to “dark” and “light,” especially because I think the more appropriate comparison people are looking for is stylism versus realism. For instance, Tim Burton’s Batman films are very comic book-esque, but no one is going to call them light (especially Batman Returns). And while I haven’t found an example yet, I think it’s possible to do a realistic (or at least as realistic as is possible for the genre) superhero film/TV show like The Dark Knight trilogy while not being as dark and broody.

  24. B. McKenzieon 26 Sep 2016 at 5:27 am

    “And while I haven’t found an example yet, I think it’s possible to do a realistic (or at least as realistic as is possible for the genre) superhero film/TV show like The Dark Knight trilogy while not being as dark and broody.” I think it depends on what you mean by realistic. E.g. if you consider Batman to be relatively realistic, some Batman stories (e.g. most of Batman: The Animated Series) aren’t particularly dark or brooding. Alternately, season 1 of Heroes (besides maybe Peter Petrelli moping and some particularly creepy Sylar moments).

    For a few more counterintuitive choices…
    –Incredibles had a relatively heavy focus on mundane life (e.g. marital difficulty, trouble fitting in at school/work, and even some superheroics ending in a really mundane way like a lawsuit from someone thwarted in a suicide attempt).

    –Guardians of the Galaxy, while definitely more removed from present-day Earth, probably requires less of a suspension of disbelief than the average superhero story.

    –Depending on what you consider to be a superhero story, Person of Interest starts out as a fairly standard procedural but mixes in superpowers over the first few seasons. For the most part, the main characters occasionally benefit from superpowered entities (two competing security algorithms), but don’t actually have superpowers themselves. The superpowers are generally limited to functions that machines could plausibly have (e.g. granting access to or interfering with surveillance, database access, manipulating traffic lights, predictive analytics, etc).

  25. Cat-vacuumer Supremeon 09 Oct 2016 at 4:49 pm

    On an unrelated(ish) note, apparently the Canadian equivalent of concealed carry is a live raccoon. On the news there was this brief blurb: a fistfight in a Canadian McDonald’s was disrupted when one of the fighters pulled a live raccoon out of his jacket. In America, it would probably be a gun, shots might be fired. Canadians = Aliens. Hey, about those Kyrptonians . . . (Canadians?)

  26. B. McKenzieon 10 Oct 2016 at 11:56 pm

    “In America, it would probably be a gun…” The sort of guy that pulls out a raccoon in Canada might throw an alligator through the drive-thru window. It’s happened before.

  27. Vinnyon 26 Oct 2016 at 6:18 pm

    “His school assigns Plato.” AHAHAHAHA—

    Perhaps the only entertainment factor that holds up in movies like this is imagining what SuperheroNation would say about it in a review. Desperately glad I found this. On point, B. Mac, on point.

  28. B. McKenzieon 26 Oct 2016 at 7:03 pm


    In one of the scenes where bullies try beating him up, he’s holding Plato’s Republic. I’m REALLY hoping it’s a school assignment, because it might be a singularly terrifying political tract for a Kryptonian to be attracted to. (If I’m understanding it correctly, Plato describes the ideal state as approximately a police state run by a philosopher king who controls which people get assigned to which breeding partners*, which books are mandatory/forbidden, the main point of government is to force virtuous thought/behavior, government is more of a caste system than a popular decision*, and where basically the only check against government tyranny is that the government castes don’t have private property. It is one of the most widely assigned and seriously discussed texts in philosophy, which hints at how abjectly lunatic other philosophy works must be).

    PS: If you’re looking for philosophical works that don’t sound like they were scrawled in crayon on the walls of an insane asylum, I’d suggest checking out St. Augustine, J.S. Mill, Thomas Aquinas, Locke, Hume, Kant, etc.

    See also Jor-el’s speech that his son will “guide” humanity to a better future, and Jor-el’s surprisingly lukewarm relationship with philosopher-king Zod, and his belief that humans will see Clark as a god. My cynical interpretation is that “You will guide them so they might not make the same mistakes we did” doesn’t sound like JE is talking about writing letters to Congress.

    *Like Snyder’s version of Krypton. But Snyder’s version of Krypton doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of how the state drugs people to make sure they procreate with their designated partners. I’m guessing Plato was romantically in a dark place when he wrote it. A really dark place.

  29. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 27 Oct 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Hmm…that could actually be fairly interesting. It would be interesting if they intentionally left that in there, along with Bruce’s…umm…future sight dream in BvS to hint at an Injustice type of story. That’s the one where Joker makes Clark kill Lois and destroy a large portion of Metropolis, leading to him taking over to world to protect us from ourselves. If so, that’s…really ineffective and bad foreshadowing that could have probably been done in a much more interesting (and story intensive) way. It fits with the much darker (color scheme and character-wise) style of the Snyder-Verse. Though I’d be really worried with another relatively interesting DC story being turned into a movie in the near future, if any current releases were to be trusted (though Wonder Woman does look better than anything else they’ve done of yet).

  30. B. McKenzieon 27 Oct 2016 at 5:13 pm

    “It would be interesting if they intentionally left that in there…” Given the uncanny similarities between Plato’s republic and Krypton, showing Clark reading The Republic would be a hell of a coincidence. I haven’t seen any explicit confirmation (or denial) from anybody actually involved with the production, though.

    “If so, that’s…really ineffective and bad foreshadowing that could have probably been done in a much more interesting (and story intensive) way.” On the plus side, they didn’t spend very much time on it… low-cost, low-benefit. For more entertaining works involving political philosophy more in-depth, I’d suggest Lord of the Flies, maybe Starship Troopers (novel only) and maybe Battlestar Galactica. If you’re REALLY committed, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Candide. I don’t think Superman could sustain anything like that, partially because his powers make cooperation largely unnecessary and partially because his lack of personality makes it hard to do anything more serious with politics than a utopian, unicorns-and-pixie-dust direction. E.g. compare the (childishly executed) anti-nuclear message of Superman 4 to Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, When the Wind Blows, and probably Watchmen. He doesn’t really have a failure condition, whereas a serious risk of catastrophic failure is a critical element of every actually good work with a nuclear message.

  31. B. McKenzieon 24 Jan 2017 at 7:54 am

    I was thinking today about the scene where Pa Kent sacrifices himself to rescue a dog. The rescue looks sort of implausible — the dog somehow runs away, but Pa Kent doesn’t even try to make it back. Alternative scene: somebody is about to die during the tornado and, realistically, will only survive with superpowered assistance. Pa Kent creates a distraction and Clark rescues the victim by doing something which would have looked suspicious if people were paying attention (e.g. ripping the car door off). Pa Kent’s distraction gets him killed by the tornado, but at least have him attempt to run back on his own rather than dying helplessly in what I’ll call “stoic shock” where a person appears to have control of a situation but ends up being as paralyzed if they had been totally in shock.

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