Sep 18 2016
1. This is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. Worse than Catwoman.
2. The movie is a great example of how not to handle family scenes. Picking one of these scenes at random, 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.” Whispered, of course. For much better family sequences, I’d recommend checking out Up, Incredibles, Inception, and Fantastic Mr. Fox (!?!), movies that weren’t mainly dramas but happened to have some highly emotional and sometimes tragic family scenes. Let’s look at Inception for a moment. Some background: this is the climactic 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 might be the only happy memory they ever shared). Look at the use of distance in this scene — he has to literally open a vault door just to SEE his father, and reaching him is VERY slow.
DYING FATHER, hoarsely whispering: “I… was… dis… dis…”
SON: “I know, Dad. You were disappointed that I couldn’t be you.”
FATHER gives a pained look.
DYING FATHER: “I was disappointed… that you tried.”
SON gives a blank look, and there’s a musical cue he realizes his father’s a lot different than he thought.
If you can get past the moment where the ice prince realizes that everything he thought about his father was wrong and bursts into tears, you’re a harder man than I am. 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 also maybe 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).
3. A question-and-answer session between two entirely cooperative characters is almost never the most interesting way of getting information out. 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 is probably unnecessary.
4. The movie heavily overfocuses on Clark’s parents, who delivered 26% of the movie’s lines (twice as many as Clark/Superman gets). Minor characters (mostly the military and minor Kryptonians) made up another 39%. Giving 66% 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 the parents of your superhero hypothetically were more interesting than your superhero, something has gone catastrophically wrong for your superhero story.
|Characters||Word Count||% of Total|
|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. 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. I’d say the second-worst thing about the conversations with the parents are that they completely sideline him. If ANYBODY is taking 80% of the lines in a conversation with your starring character, the scene-stealing characters damn well better be hyper-charismatic and/or critical to the plot (think Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs).
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. There’s a notable amount of incompetence in MOS.
- The military and Superman are working out a plan to use the one Kryptonian weapon they have 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 from Jor-El.
- 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.
- Zod has at least 10 Kryptonians. Earth has one. For whatever reason, only 2 of the invaders actually 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).
- Clark: “I don’t know if Zod can be trusted.” He’s threatened to devastate Earth and Jor-El mentioned that he launched a coup against Krypton. This COULD have been a badass moment sacrificing himself for the planet, but instead it sort of looks idiotic.
6. Emotional variety is totally missing. I think Clark smiles twice in the entire movie and there are literally no moments that he feels 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 a significant amount of levity and 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 just a gray pile of sadness where Superman stumbles from one tragedy to the next.
6.1. Pop quiz: Here’s 8 faceshots from the movie. What is Clark responding to in each of these shots? Your choices are A) Lois breaking up with him, B) surprised by a stranger on a ghost ship, C) seeing Lois Lane for the first time, D) practicing his superpowers for the first time, E) somebody punched his dog in the face, F) the stranger says he’s Clark’s dad, G) seeing Lois for the first time, H) suiting up for the first time, I) his parents could have accompanied him to Earth but chose not to, and J) seeing a dead body. I just took the quiz myself and mixed up “seeing Lois for the first time” with “seeing a dead body.” WTF.
7. Jesus Christ, how tragic can one person’s life be?
- One father dies in a tornado, and the other gets murdered in a civil war that lasts about five minutes.
- 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 forgets her.
- The only people that survived 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 black sunlight makes him interesting. I’ve never seen a black sun, either.
- 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? The house of El is cold as ice.
- 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.