Friday, June 21, 2013

Silver Age Aspects of the Man of Steel

I went to see the Man of Steel movie yesterday.  I enjoyed it a lot, although I will confess that I started out a little suspicious, especially given the build-up during the scenes on Krypton.  I did like the high-tech stuff there, but what the heck was that flying butterfly that Jor-El was dashing around on?  Struck me as a bit of a rip-off from Avatar.

But the rest of the movie was much better; about the only complaints I had with the Earth scenes were that they did a bit too many back and forth in time cuts and the fight sequences lasted way too long, especially that last one, where Metropolis made New York look like it had a picnic on 9-11.

But there were a lot of nods to the comic geeks like me.  For example, Pete Ross.  Now granted, in the books Pete is blond-haired and a popular kid who blows Clark away by liking him, while in the movie he has red hair and is dumpy and dorky and initially a bully.  But still... it's so cool that Pete Ross turns up in a Superman movie that I'll cut them a little slack.

My take on General Zod was pretty much the same; different from the comics but close enough that I'm not going to gripe.  He did try to take over Krypton, albeit with an army of Bizarro Zods:
By the way, in these movies, it always seems that there is one person of hench who almost always has some visible physical flaw--some deformity intended to cue us in that they are really, really evil.  And yet while Zod's main underling was pretty obvious, I didn't catch any flaws in her other than that she was a mean-ass beeyatch.

One cute bit was where Superman learns to fly; I really liked that, because they started him out jumping (in the earliest stories he could jump but not fly), then showed him flying, but having a bit of a problem keeping himself under control.  Remember this story?

It's one of the tales in the series where Mort Weisinger and his writers started to fill in the legend of Superboy.  BTW, since that cover shows Pa Kent, I will mention that I thought the characterization of Jonathan and Martha Kent was terrific in the movie.  Commander Benson has often mentioned that they were the unsung heroes of DC comics, taking the most powerful being on Earth and molding him into a responsible, heroic young man.  We got some of that in the movie, but more about what a challenge it was to help Clark deal with the way he was different from everybody else, and the urgency of him keeping it a secret.

And yes, I loved the scene at the very end where Lois meets Clark the reporter; that's clearly something of a nod to this:
Yes, they pulled pretty much the same gag with Green Lantern and Carol Ferris.

Some other points:

Loved the bits with Jor-El later in the film, after Krypton exploded.  Again, something of a nod and a wink to the Silver Age, where Jor-El appeared almost constantly despite being, well, you know, dead.  I do have to assume it was just some sort of AI computer saying the things its program tells it Jor would be likely to say in those situations.

Steve Lombard gets a bit at the very end; although he did not appear in the Silver Age, I do remember him coming on the scene shortly thereafter.

Did you catch the Lexcorp gas trucks in the final battle?  The story in this Superman movie does an excellent job of setting us up for a Luthor sequel based on the modern interpretation of Luthor as obsessed with Superman precisely because he is an alien.

Yes, I did get a little disappointed at the resolution of the battle with Zod; it doesn't fit the character circa the Silver Age.


Anonymous said...

One personal pet peeve: the movie seems to give the hero a guilt motivation, as did the Batman movie in which the Waynes got mugged after young Bruce asked his parents to leave the theater early. Both cases reflect the cynicism so prevalent in the super hero genre these days. The hero can't be motivated by a desire for justice, and he certainly can't be heroic and altruistic because responsible parents taught him moral values. He has to have "issues." And, also, the guilt motivation is imitative of Spider-Man.

Anonymous said...

The wholesale destruction climax reminds me of the 1980's parody comic book series, "Megaton Man." The hero's secret identity was reporter Trent Phloog, and his girlfriend was a Lois Lane-type named Pamela Jointly. In one issue, a headline reads, "Megaton Man rescues Pam Jointly. Eleven other victims fall to their deaths."

hobbyfan said...

Apparently, Zack Snyder & Christopher Nolan never read enough Silver Age Superman stories or watched the DVD's of the old cartoons. No, the idea of killing off Zod is taken from the late 80's reboot by John Byrne, as others have pointed out to me. All WB wants is an excuse to pad out the movie with CGI effects to help their profit margins.

Other than that, it was good, but not great. I gave it three stars because it was a decent story, though over-padded at times. Nice to know someone else also caught the foreshadowing of Luthor in the next movie......

Anonymous said...

When you think of all the problems Supes had with Lois Lane, Lana Lang and that mermaid, he might have been better off if he had disregarded females and acquired world power.

hobbyfan said...


I don't think you get it. Having not one, but three romantic interests only help define the humanity in Superman.

David Morefield said...

Overall, I was unimpressed. I think their hearts were in the right place, as far as keeping Superman a fairly bright spark in an otherwise oppressively gloomy world (which I suppose is the best possible outcome given that DC is determined to slop over as much "Dark Knight" darkness as they can into this franchise), but given how crappy everyone else on Earth is, the fact that Kal still wants to save anyone makes him either a saint or a dope. I disagreed with every word of advice Pa Kent uttered and Crowe's "Rambo-El" didn't work for me either, although it is kind of fun that Superman's fathers were played by not one but two failed Robin Hoods.

My chief gripe with the film was the unimaginable carnage and devastation created by the various fights, none of which seemed to bother "Earth's protector" overly much. I understand the "wow factor" of having a building fall down, but after the 50th or 60th one topples, the mind begins to shut down and it becomes pretty much impossible to relate any more to what's going on. Someone else described the film as "disaster porn" and I think that's apt. By the end, it didn't really matter if Superman won or not, because just about everyone was dead, anyway.

Also, after spending 3 hours (4? 5?) trying to establish that this Superman lives in the "real world" (a phrase that comes up again and again in that 13-minute promo film), they end by trotting out the old "pair of glasses" disguise, which strained credulity even in innocent George Reeves days, but is flat-out nuts here, where all of Smallville knows about Clark and Lois bums a ride to the Kent house, getting out of the car to yell "Clark!" at a costumed Superman for anyone to hear.

Oh, and more than "imitative," that last scene with Pa is a direct lift from Raimi's Spider-Man movie, right down to the later-to-be-regretted "You're not my dad" remark (made in a car, no less). I have to confess I was kind of hoping the dog would turn out to be Krypto and save the day. At least that would've been a surprise.

As a video game (with someone else at the joystick) it was okay, but as a film it left a lot to be desired. Ultimately I have to look at this one this same way I looked at Superman Returns, which is to consider how bad things could have been (cough-Nick Cage!-cough) and be grateful.

Oh, and the filmmakers don't necessarily get too many Silver Age Brownie Points for including Pete Ross, since it's possible they simply know the character from the "Smallville" TV series.

Pat said...

David, mostly solid points. I am with you on the reality of the issue of the collapsing buildings. But I will give the story credit on that point; they showed Perry ordering that the Planet building be evacuated; hence we can assume that most buildings other than news-oriented buildings were closed.

I will also point out that destroying major buildings has been a significant part of comics translated to movie since at least the classic Fleischer shorts, so I don't have a particular problem there; although I did wince a bit at the destruction in the finale. IOW nobody died in the skyscrapers, as unbelievable as that sounds.

I hated the "you're not my father" comment. It's terrible in this situation (and Spiderman). In a lot of ways it's ludicrous; after all, J Kent was his father for about 99% of the time before he turned 18

MyBulgingWallet said...

The fact that Zod ends up the way he did in this movie is following movie convention. The same thing happened to General Zod in the movie "Superman II."

David Morefield said...

It's true, Zod and pals look to have bought the farm in the final cut of "Superman II" (even though follow-up scenes were shot, but cut, showing the trio being carted off to prison. You can find them on the "Donner Cut" DVD). And if we're going to end a super-film with a killing, I admit it's at least more interesting to precede it with an orgy of city-wrecking than the "super-duplicate-statue-ing" and "super-cellophaning" nonsense we got in S:II.

Anonymous said...

The city-smashing bugged me too. Superman never makes any effort to shift the fight away from the people or to save anyone--in the comics, the Kryptonians would probably be exploiting his impulse-to-save to keep him from fighting effectively.
And yes, very much an Uncle Ben moment in Kevin Costner's death.

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