I would like to preface this review with the statement that there is a lot of talent behind this film. A LOT! And this is what makes me so sad. I WANTED Man of Steel to be a good film, and promote sequels that will keep people busy. It’s just…not. And this whole “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” is bullshit. There is good art. And there is bad art. And there are distinct reasons why they are the way they are. And when hundreds of millions are spent on bad art, it troubles me. All those fantastic artists could have been working on something worthwhile, entertaining, emotionally moving with something important to say. The most positive thing I can say outside of those qualities its that it could be potentially entertaining … for some.
I have a great admiration for Christopher Nolan and David Goyer. I love lots of things they are part of. Nolan is truly gifted and probably the most consistent writer/director out there as far as developing extremely compelling stories with unbelievably complex plot structures. Goyer is hit and miss with projects that are either great or absolutely horrible — there is not “Meh, it was OK” with Goyer stories. But when the two work together, like on the Dark Knight reboot, things usually come out just fine. Include VFX powerhouses Weta Digital, Double Negative, MPC, and water/destruction specialists ScanlineVFX and you think you have the makings of a movie.
Then something derails it. First problem is director Zack Snyder, who makes kinetically overwhelming films utilizing hundreds of people with more talent than he to accomplish his “vision”. Like his classmate from Art Center College of Design Michael Bay, I think if you limited Snyder to a camera and five lenses, he couldn’t tell a viable story. Next, throw in equally kinetically inclined Director of Photography Amir Mokri, who brought us the amazingly dull Season of the Witch and impossible to follow Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It looks like Snyder and Mokri may have been wrestling with the camera because is never slows down or stands still. It was either that or they strapped it to a cold chihuahua. I read somewhere that their intent was to make it feel like a documentary. They failed.
I would like to blame it on Snyder because I am not a fan of his films. The remake of Dawn of the Dead was interesting, and the often overlooked Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole was a beautiful piece of animation of which none can really be contributed to the director since he was too busy focusing on his pet project masterpiece, Sucker Punch. So, Guardians is a testament to animation director Eric Leighton and his crew at Animal Logic. But, I have to plant blame firmly on the shoulders of Nolan and Goyer, for they are the ones that wrote the story.
Like most reviews of films I dislike, this one dives heavily into the flaws in the story and filmmaking style, so there are lots of SPOILERS. It shouldn’t make a difference because if you don’t know the Superman story, well… that’s not really my problem. He’s been around since Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster created him in 1938, and he is an integral part of Americana and, really, world culture. So, Google him… “Superman”. Read up, and then come back to this blog.
Without further delay, join me into reliving the movie Hell that is Man of Steel.
The story opens with grunts and groans and the extreme close-up of a female face in pain. What could this possibly mean? Oh wait, there is some kind of bio-mechanical thingy floating in the background, its metal surface magically becomes a beating heart and then an unborn infant. OHHHH!!! Now I get it…a baby is being born. Thank you, Dr. Obvious. (Minor Sidenote: the fetus in the middle of birth isn’t in that position. Thanks. ~Sincerely, The Science Patrol) So we get introduced to Jor-El (a thankfully not singing Russell Crowe) and new-mother Lara Lor-Van…and a very clean newborn Kal-El, aka Superman. At that moment, we
EXT. KRYPTON – DAY
A strange alien creature bellows for no reason.
Why? I’m not sure. It represents new life? This is their pet? This is supposed to establish Krypton — a dying planet, yet flush with animal life? Who knows?
Then we cut to Jor-El discussing troubles with the Krypton Elders. The planet’s core is compromised. They have used up their natural resources and the planet will soon collapse. But he has the solution. The Codex (sp?)! The thing that holds the DNA information of all of Krypton. He can save their races by reaching to the stars “just like our ancestors”. Just give him the Codex!! But wait!!! Unknown infiltrators blast there way into the counsel chambers!!! Enter General Zod and as of yet, unnamed followers. General Zod has come to claim rulership of Krypton because of needless and wasteful bureaucratic jabbering that has wasted time. And to make a point, his shoots an elderly person in regal robes. THAT’LL teach em. NOW people will listen. Zod asks Jor-El to join them. Joe-El scoffs, and once again explains that the planet is dying (psst, the audience knows already — don’t need to repeat). Offended, Zod has Jor-El taken away. While he’s being led, they run into the floating biomechanical thingy that asks if everything is alright. Jor-El closes in eyes (in ECU, so its somehow important), and then overtakes his captors shooting them with a weapon. He turns to the floaty thing and says “Get me, Lara”. She appears in magical metal pinboard art, and he tells her to prepare things – or something to that effect.
Jor-El runs out onto a deck and looks out to the panorama of Krypton, now in the throws of planetary destruction, but in the middle of a military coup, with spaceships battling one another. We don’t know who these people are. We don’t care about them. We really don’t know why they are shooting each other down. Its simply mindless destruction and chaos (just giving us a taste of what’s to come). But Jor-El, calls out and a winged creature from Avatar flies down through the battle to come pick him up. Is this how he got here? Is this his transportation in this advanced world? Is this the creature bellowing in afterbirth empathy? It flies out of nowhere and we’re suppose to give the story the benefit of the doubt.
Jor-El takes off in a plummet surely designed for stereo. Crisscrossing through the aerial battle — which, BTW, is all spaceships and mechanical things. Nowhere else do we have men riding on creatures. Things are happening fast, but don’t fear!!! The camera has a zoom lens to needlessly punch into the action and track it. And if one punch-in is not enough, it is bound to punch in AGAIN. Hint to filmmakers and visual effects people: There is a REASON we don’t use zooms. It doesn’t make your visual effects look more real. It was a camera toy that wore out its welcome in the 70s. It’s distracting. It draws attention to itself. It pulls us out of the movie. So if you don’t know why you are using it, or unless you are being nostalgic — knock it off!!!
Jor-El weaves his way through the battle, not back to Lara and his child, but to a pool, floating on the side of a high structure. He bravely dives in and swims his way through a pool of embryos in pods being harvested by bio-roboty things. That’s right — I put together that embryos are being harvested and that Kal-El’s natural birth was unusual. All by myself, I figured that out. Yay Me! Jor-El pops up inside an internal pool, and grabs the codex, which surprisingly is a monkey skull suspended by magical energy. So the DNA information for all the citizens present and past of Krypton is protected from everyone who can’t hold their breath for more than 45 seconds AND its a monkey skull. Makes total sense. Jor-El swims back through to the outside and is threatened by the second security system — big laser guns. Too bad they didn’t detect them on the way in. It warns Jor-El of his illegal activity, and then fires at him — BUT MISSES!!! It instead blows up the ledge Jor-El was standing on, causing him to fall once again. He falls. And falls. And falls. BUT IS SAVED by the flying creature!!! WHEW!!! I was worried.
Jor-El flies back to the “Citadel” aka Casa De El, on the creature that is now wounded from a laser blast (I think). Jor-El soothes it. But because we don’t know anything about this creature, I have as much empathy as I would watching a cheetah take down a gazelle — which is more empathy than I have with any characters that I has so far been introduced. And, to add insult to injury, the animal comes in for a crash landing. It has sacrificed its life to get Jor-El back home. Too bad we had no insight into the relationship between beast and master to care. However, that would have made the prologue of the movie A WHOLE MOVIE UNTO ITSELF!
So Jor-El runs inside with the monkey head. Lara is cradling the infant, weeping and saying “No… just one more minute. I just want to look at him” The world is coming down around them (again, not the destruction of Krypton), Jor-El has stolen the codex, and General Zod is hot on his trail. But you know what? One more minute can’t hurt. Take as much time as you want to say goodbye.
Finally, Lara hands over Kal-El and lets Jor-El do some magical stuff with the baby. The same energy flows from the monkey skull and into Baby Superman. I mistakenly think this might be information that Kal-El needs later. But really, it is saved for a less than astonishing reveal later in the movie. Baby Superman gets cocooned in a cool metal apparatus that probably made the modeler who created it very proud. And he should be. The engines engage. In the meantime, Jor-El gets all suited up in battle gear. Ready for the big fight.
Outside, Zod’s craft (not a flying creature) hovers over the citadel, while Zod hollers out orders like “Focus all firepower at the doors”. I’m guessing it’s so that unthinking military troops don’t fire on the entire citadel destroying all inside including the codex. Thank goodness for General Zod and useless dialogue. They blast their way in. Second-in-command Fauro-UI (I had to look that up. Note to screenwriters, choose memorable names) announces that drive have been engaged inside. “A ship engine” Zod proclaims confidently. And then goes inside to deal with Jor-El and get the codex. Jor-El takes most of the lower soldiers out with laser blasts, but somehow fails to shoot Zod in the face, thus eliminating his foe. Instead, they get into a fist fight, and when Jor-El has the upper hand, he stops so that he can explain to Zod his entire plan of having a real child so it would have the ability to choose his destiny rather than having it dictated — which Zod finds to be heresy. Not to be dissuaded from falling into a completely hubristic soliloquy, Jor-El continues to reveal his plan of sending his child to another world — thus giving Zod nearly all the information he needs to foil this plan. Jor-El certainly would have made a template perfect James Bond villain.
So Lara launches the Baby Superman Rocket with the “Phantom Drive” (foreshadowing). This angers Zod because Lara has “DESTROYED KRYPTON”!!!! Zod can’t say this enough throughout the entire film. Lest we forget that Zod isn’t a bad guy, he’s just doing what’s best for the citizens of Krypton. I think, perhaps in every scene Zod is in, he is referencing his reasons for doing these bad things. We get it. So, to prove his mettle, he blindsides Jor-El with a retractable blade to the kidneys. Very honorable, Zod. Then he leaves Lara to weeps and challenge Zod that Kal-El is way beyond his reach.
Outside, Zod looks up to see Baby Superman Ship going through the atmosphere with the help of ridiculous camera zooms. He tells his people to target that ship! OK – Military sidenote: I’m no military strategist, but if you know that a drive has been activated inside the facility you are infiltrating, and you have deduced that it is an engine before you go in. Will you tell your troops, “If I haven’t returned, and a ship launches from this building? Meh…just let it go until I get back…”? How is Zod a General? 12 year olds playing Call of Duty have better military training. Anyway, one of Zod’s ships heads up to destroy the ship, but a HUGE SHIP blows it away, and then external speakers announce that Zod is under arrest. The bad guys put down their arms. An entire city under attack, and the leading commanders put down their weapons at the first sign of defeat. Nice, Zod. Nice.
So, now we CUT TO:… A TRIBUNAL HEARING!!! WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END?!?! When are we going to get to the Man of Steel’s story? How many complex subplots do we have to endure? Superman born. Sent away from dying Krypton. Throw in Zod and Co. exiled to the Phantom Zone for taste. Krypton blows up. BOOM. Exit prologue, and into Act 1. That’s all we need!
Good lord!!! In the time its taken to get this far into the prologue, I could have given birth to Superman and raised him to manhood — all without stifling his potential because people might be afraid of him!!
Ugh. OK. Tribunal Hearing: Zod gets all up in Lara’s face, screaming and spitting and saying that she has killed the Krypton citizens. He gets nearly apoplectic yelling that he will find Kal-El. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but, sure, Zod led a full coup against the sitting government. Yeah, probably not the best choice. But Lara is sitting on the side of tribunal. Did she not at least aide and abed the theft of the entire DNA dataset that drives the artificial reproductive system of Krypton — and sent it warping to some other part of the universe with her illegally born child? Is she simply just waiting for her trial date? Whatever. Zod finishes spitting, and he and his minions are painfully surrounded by phallic, Egyptian-like sarcophagi made of liquid and glassy stuff, and then get launched up into a ship that will transport them to “The Phantom Zone” The ship is huge and feels like it takes 10 hours to make this journey — every second of which we have to witness.
We jump back at the citadel as Lara looks out onto the planet which has FINALLY decided to collapse and destroy itself in a thickly veiled nod toward human-induced climate change. The floaty thing asks Lara if she would like to try to evacuate. Lara tries to say some sage-like dialogue, but all I remember is “There is no where left to go” And then she burns up in lava and ash.
Big planetary level explosion, leaving a sort of accretion disc, and I seem to remember the Phantom Zone blowing apart. But don’t worry if you didn’t catch it! It will be all explained later in redundant exposition.
YAY! Moving into Act I.
Baby Superman Ship flies around Saturn. You may ask, with such a big planet, how on Earth are we supposed to see this little ship?!?! ZOOM LENSES!!….
It flies around the Moon and then through Earth’s atmosphere, and then, instead of the predictable shot of the Kent’s finding the crashed ship in Kansas, we
EXT. RANDOM OCEAN – CRAB BOAT – DAY
Rains pummel a small fishing vessel.
Crew members scramble on deck trying to keep their footing on the slick surface.
A CRAB TRAP FALLS
A crew member pushes another out of the way of certain injury.
CREW MEMBER #1: Watch it, Greenhorn. How’d you get this job, anyway?
The other crew member looks back without comment. He sports a rugged beard, but the chiseled jawline of someone that would be recognizable as Clark Kent aka Superman to anyone with prior knowledge of the story, but a stranger to anyone else.
Like a mediocre magician who has yet to master prestidigitation, Zack Snyder has pulled a fast one and has clumsily stumbled 33 years into the future (this number has obvious religious symbolic meaning to you guys out there who like that stuff). This confuses the audience and probably the characters. You see there is a thing that was invented a long time ago, and then discussed in depth by a Russian filmmaker named Sergei Eisenstein and American D.W. Griffith. It’s a little thing I like to call editing. It juxtaposes different parts of a story to collectively make a whole, cohesive story. It CAN be used to great effect to intentionally disorient the viewer to try and attain a certain empathy for a confused character. This, however, is not one of those times. The audience is following a very linear story from the prologue that was too long, but at least it was told in order. Suddenly, we are in the middle of an inferior Tarantino film where time doesn’t matter anymore. Instead of going to Kansas, we are now with grown up Clark Kent crabbing in some ocean. Why? Well, I’m sure we are going to find out. And I’m sure the reason will be inadequate.
Inside the cabin, the ship captain is listening to a distress call from some oil platforms. He yells back some orders at “the Greenhorn”, but GASP! He’s gone!
Cut to the burning oil platforms. Coast Guard flies around looking for survivors. They are about to give up. Inside, some oil drilling guys are frightened and can’t escape. The door buckles and the Greenhorn rips the door off — skin burning like Ghost Rider (another David Goyer gem). Was he covered in oil? Is that why he’s burning? Plausible. He IS bare-chested, and could have easily oiled himself up beforehand. — The guys run onto the deck and the helicopter comes down for the rescue. But the framework is starting to buckle! Greenhorn hesitates (as if he is trying to decide to jump in the helicopter so he can explain himself). But he makes the choice to take a CG leap across the beam to hold up the framework to give the helicopter enough time to escape. It bends. It buckles. And finally, with the copter out of danger… collapses. Greenhorn aka Clark Kent aka Superman falls into the ocean. I guess he’s unconscious. But he floats down and things get dreamy and baptism-y.
Anytime things get dreamy and we get macro shots of pencils and butterflies and flowers and clothes drying on a clothesline — it means we are in Kansas and probably a flashback. We find young Clark Kent in a classroom staring off into space with a terrified look in his eye. The teacher asks Clark a question, but only gets deer in headlights. We go to Clark’s POV as he sees the skeleton and internal organs of the teacher and classmates. He hears everything. He sees everything. HE CAN’T TAKE IT!!! He runs out of the classroom and locks himself in a closet. Even the teacher can’t talk him down, and he heats up the doorknob with super heat vision. Martha Kent comes running. Clark whines “The world is so big!!!” Martha coos, “Well, make it small, Honey. Just focus on my voice. Picture yourself on an island….etc, etc, etc” Clark calms down and relaxes. He looks about 7 years old or so. If it’s taken this long to control the overstimulation of super powers, wow, raising him must have been HORRIBLE. Talk about colic. Perhaps through Clark’s problem of sensory overload, Snyder is giving us a sample of how we should feel while watching his films.
Jump back to “now”, or later, or whenever it is that Clark is grown up. He climbs out of the ocean after his amazing feat of rescuing the oil drill guys. He slyly walks past a little coastal house, checking out the hanging laundry, and then STEALS clothes from the back of a car. STEALING!!! NO!!!! Superman doesn’t steal. In no adjunct mythology does Superman succumb to petty larceny. I don’t give a shit if he needs a shirt. Go to a shelter, Clark. Bad Goyer. BAAAD GOYER!! No cookie!! It’s just wrong in both the moral way and the incorrect way. “Oh, he needs to be a flawed character” — find another flaw, writers! We already know he’s afraid of the world, and will know soon enough that this fear of the world was instilled in him by his Kansas father, Jonathan Kent. Isn’t that enough flaw? As much as that fear makes him a whiny bitch, I prefer that over being a thief.
Clark walks through the small fishing town and sees a school bus. Cut to younger Clark on a School Bus. A big slob of a kid taunts him about something or another, but Clark doesn’t give in. The bus blows a tire and skids off a bridge into a river. The bus sinks fast. Clark must make a quick decision. And he make the right one. He pushes the bus out of the water, and then goes back and saves the kid who was taunting him. Cut to, Jonathan and Martha Kent trying to dispel rumors to the mother of the saved bully that Clark is exceptional. Then, Jonathan goes out and has a talk with Clark. The talk boils down to: “You can’t trust the people of Earth. Because you are different, they will fear you, and that is not safe.” This talk goes to the extreme that perhaps Clark should have let those children die. Revealing what you can do? That just might scare them. I have to say that this is THE worst advice to ever give a child. Let others die rather than risk revealing that you are different. It makes me angry just writing about it. Its selfish. Self-serving. Lacks any faith at all in mankind. Some may say “Well, Jonathan was just protecting him until he was strong enough to handle it” HE’S SUPERMAN!!!! HE IS INVINCIBLE!!! What’s going to happen if people are afraid of him? Kill him? With what? Hurtful words? They’re going to shame him to death? If so, Jonathan is setting him up for just such a shameful existence. RE-DONK-ulous.
Anyway, Clark is all whiny and crying about it like the little bitchy son Jonathan is raising him to be. Clark wants to know if God did this to him. So Jonathan takes Clark to the ship hidden in the basement of the barn and gives him the superman logo shaped key that was in the ship with him. “See son,” Jonathan says “Your existence is the answer to whether we are alone in the universe.” And more or less implies that this world-changing information should be held close to the vest. Don’t tell anyone that you are different (read gay, smart, talented, artistic, odd, nerdy, etc). At all levels, the message is fucked up and it is never countered. There is never a moment where Superman comes to the conclusion “Things get better” In fact, later … bah…. just wait. It’ll be here soon enough.
Back to reality. Clark has taken a job at a truck stop, with his super-hearing. he overhears some military guys talk about something weird that they found. Sidenote: How is Clark at these places? Why is he on a crab boat? Is he looking for something in particular? Did he watch an episode of Deadliest Catch and come to the conclusions that crabbing is dangerous business and could lead to him saving lives? And in this case, does he know he’s getting closer to his origin? What coincidence in this world allows him to overhear secret conversations that give him hints to something that pertains to him? Weird. Anyway, some jackass truck driver swings in and starts some trouble. Clark asks him to leave. The guy throws beer in his face, but Clark doesn’t react. He throws in the towel despite the ridicule.
And we cut to another flashback of Clark getting bullied, not reacting, and once again being told that he can’t reveal his powers, lest people become a-feared.
Quick shot of jackass truck driver walking out and seeing his logging truck skewered with its own logs. Funny little scene that feels like it should be in a good movie, even though logically that bit of passive-aggressive rage on Superman’s part probably would have blown his cover. Side-side note: Are there people out there who behave like this trucker (and I know they are out there), who would watch a movie like this and totally not relate to this guy? Totally miss that they are an asshole like this guy is, and miss the morale of this particular scene? How does that happen in today’s world?
Enter Lois Lane. She arrives at the Canadian military outpost being discussed by early military guys that Clark overhead. OH! And low and behold, Clark is there by the name of Joe, who helps Lois out by grabbing her bags which she says “Be careful, they are heavy” HAR HAR! Lois is a fast talking, smart report who has been embedded with the troops before and doesn’t take no guff from no one — a character that has Amy Adams stretching. She is escorted into the bunker for some much needed exposition and to set up an acrimonious relationship with Colonel Elias Koteas played by Christopher Meloni . Sonic reading detect something buried in the ice, and ice core samples indicate that it has been there for nearly 20,000 years. She is then escorted to her cot and told not to go roaming because it gets below 40 degrees out. And what does a good reporter do when told not to do things. She does ’em. So far, Lois is likable enough, and mostly the scenes are fairly innocuous and somewhat plausible — comparably.
Lois grabs her camera and goes out for a recon stroll into the subzero night with a parka and mittens to see what she can find. She takes one photograph of the cliffside with a research bunker on the top. Looks at the photo, clicks around, zooms in and SEES A GUY WALKING ALONG THE CLIFF. She says “Hello, where are you going?” Now, you know that question I asked just a few paragraphs ago about in what kind of world do these coincidences happen? THIS! THIS KIND OF WORLD. Find some other way for Lois to find the cave, Goyer. Don’t expect us to believe this nonsense! Ugh! She somehow scales the hundred foot ice cliff to get to where she saw the guy (we assume its Clark), and then she perilously moves around the 2 foot wide cliff outcropping to a tunnel that Clark has made with his heat ray vision. Note: this is a cool look, photographically, despite the ridiculousness of the situation.
Inside the ice, Clark finds a big ship. He climbs inside and looks around and a control panel unfolds in fronts of him — but behind him one of the floating pinboards rises up. Clark sees a hole in the panel, and immediately concludes that his little Superman key would fit into that. “Yay” for characters doing smart things! The key snaps into the hole, but then the pinboard attacks and tries to pull Clark away from it. He struggles (really, he struggles with the little floating robot), but manages to slam his key in the rest of the way, and the assaulting robot backs off. Clark begins to roam the ship, while a ways behind him, Lois makes her way into the ship. and is confronted by the pinboard guard that attacked Clark. Not one to be worried about obviously alien things hovering threateningly in a ship that’s been buried for 20,000 years, Lois decides the best thing to do is to snap a photo. The flash fires. The alien attacks with the tentacle it tried to use on Clark. Lois is hit. Her camera is destroyed (Note: Never once does this come up again like: “Hey, Lois why didn’t you get pictures?” “Oh, the alien thing broke it” — next time, how about have her not try and take a picture and actually retreat like a normal human). Clark hear her cries and he appears suddenly behind the approaching robot and smashes it like a can of Tab he’s planning on recycling. Lois freaks out (a fine acting choice on Adams part, and one finally appropriate to the situation.) But, Clark’s handsome cheekbones calm her, and he diagnoses that she is hemorrhaging on the inside and that she’s going to die if he doesn’t cauterize the wound. Fine. All makes sense — except for the part that he’s been anonymously saving people for 33 years, and he immediately reveals his powers to the pretty lady. She screams.
Cut to: Earthquake as the alien ship rises from the ice. Is this another weird juxtaposition between suffering women and non-related sounds of violence — first bellowing alien creatures, now the straining screeching of ice breaking. It’s just weird. I think they are trying to be clever, and its just….dumb. Anyhow, the ship flies away in the way that all ships from here on out will fly away. They will start slow, fly off to the horizon, and then zip vertically into the air. Every one of them. Just watch and count. Usually its covered with zoom lenses just in case we can’t follow what’s happening.
Lois Lane’s voice-over talks about her savior (religious reference again) that day, accompanied by footage of a helicopter picking up Lois’ unconscious body from an ice shelf. That’s right. Infinite Do-Gooder Clark Kent aka Superman aka Kal-El aka Alien Jesus has saved Lois Lane from certain death, convinced her that she will be safe as his eyes begins to glow red — and then… HE LEAVES HER EXPOSED ON AN ICE SHELF for the military to find her in the morning. WHAT!!!???
So she gets rescued and she’s talking to Daily Planet Editor-In-Chief Perry White, who ironically is played by Morpheus. He doesn’t believe a word of it and says he can’t print it because its all nonsense and the Pentagon denies the existence of a ship. You know what I would have said next if I were Lois and have been attacked by a alien and then had my internal hemorrhaging cauterized by a man with glowing eyes who left me to die on an ice shelf? I would have lifted my shirt, showed him the wounds, and asked “Then what the Hell happened here?” Sure, he could have denied it. BUT AT LEAST IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A START! So, what does she do? Goes to an Internet blogger to post the story “So, I can let my savior know that I know who he is” — as if Superman is going to read this guy’s blog.
Let’s get back to Superman’s story, as he is hot on the trail of his origin. We assume he has figured out how to fly the alien ship, as he flew it out of the ice, and managed to land it on some other ice. Here, he has time to examine things more. Jor-El appears to him as a hologram and proceeds to explain to him: ALL THE STUFF WE ALREADY KNOW!!! We had a half hour prologue so that we would know these things. Screenwriting 101, people. Don’t explain to the audience something you’ve already SHOWN them. I don’t care if Clark doesn’t know. Have Jor-El say “Allow me to give you the history of your people…” then cut to the friggin’ suit and explain why he has super powers and he needs to push their boundaries so we get to the scenes of him leaping around like Ang Lee’s Hulk. We don’t need fluid metal dioramas of Krypton’s history. Don’t get me wrong. Its lovely. It’s a lovely idea, wonderfully executed by the talented artists at Weta. But, an utter failure in storytelling.
So, like I said, Superman, now donning his dress blues, which have been conveniently stored for him on a ship that has been buried in ice 20,000 years before his arrival, goes leaping around the Arctic Circle trying to figure out if he can fly. I don’t recall Jor-El specifically saying, “Hey, you may even be able to fly”… It was a little more ambiguous, like “You are probably more powerful than I can possibly imagine, how powerful can only be found by pushing the limits” Which prompts Superman to go hopping around, and ultimately breaks the sound barrier in a couple of minutes. There is some more Jor-El wisdom about helping the people of Earth shine in the sun — more Jesus savior speak. And with that, he has all the control of his powers, and he flies all around the world, covered with more stupid punch-ins with zoom lenses.
Somewhere nearby, Lois is busy tracking down her savior by following the trail backwards… to all the people we have seen Clark and been affected by him. She somehow missed the guy saying “Some asshole stole my clean clothes.” But in a matter of three minutes of screen time, she has tracked him back to Martha Kent’s house. And then, Lois finds herself at Jonathan Kent’s grave. And with a WOOSH, she knows what’s up. Her savior is standing behind her with a coy baseball cap pulled over his eyes asking why she found him. “Because I want to tell your story” she asks. “What if I don’t want my story told?” He retorts, and then goes into the final ridiculous flashback. But before we do that, allow me to propose a possible alternative storyline to professional screenwriters David Goyer and Christopher Nolan… How about START with Lois trying to track down who Superman is, and spend Act 2 having her go back through those people that Clark saved. Maybe even have we, the audience, go on that journey WITH her. How about that? You can do all the flashbacking you want to, and all the while, Superman is establishing himself as a superhero so that when baddies come to get him, PEOPLE GIVE A SHIT!
Alright, last stupid flashback, which leads to immediately planting my face-into-palm and shaking head. This time it’s in a car. Clark is more grown up but still a whiny bitch. Jonathan lectures him once again how he should live in the shadows cowering in the fear that people may not accept him. And Clark’s brilliant retort boils down to “You’re not my real dad!!!!” Then the stakes rise. A tornado is coming. People panic but the level headed Jonathan makes sure everyone heads toward the overpass for safety. But the DOG. THE DOG has been left in the car!!! Martha cries “NO!!” A level F5 tornado is swirling up in the distance (created with love and care by my friends at ScanlineVFX). Clark makes a move to save the dog, but Jonathan holds him back “No, no, my invincible lad, ” his wordless look implies, “You must not risk revealing yourself by running back and saving the dog while it it still plausible that a human could accomplish such an endeavor… I’ve got this.” Jonathan runs to the car and gets trapped momentarily, but gets the dog out. He eventually gets himself out of the car, too — but it’s too late. Clark steps toward Jonathan. But in some kind of sacrificial action to save Clark from himself and the rest of the world from the miracle of an alien being who only acts in for the benefit of mankind, Jonathan holds out his hand, and with a silent shake of his head. He holds off his rescue and disappears in the whirling dust like an apparition. And Clark once again, cries out like the bitch Jonathan raised him to be.
“He was trying to tell me something”, Clark tells Lois. Yeah, the WRONG thing. Remember Glenn Ford as Jonathan? Remember his speeches? “But then a man gets older, and he starts thinking differently and things get very clear. And one thing I do know, son, and that is you are here for a *reason*. I don’t know whose reason, or whatever the reason is… Maybe it’s because… uh… I don’t know. But I do know one thing. It’s *not* to score touchdowns” You see the difference? One inspires hope and purpose — leading to a superhero who has a foundation to his moral code. The other instills fear and doubt — leading to an angry superhero who steals peoples clothes. And while we are on it, lets look at Jonathan’s death in the 1978 Superman. A heart attack. He falls in the middle of the driveway with wheat waving around him. Clark’s words? “All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn’t even save him.” This is not “I had those powers and I DIDN’T save him” Those are the words of a coward — and not anything attributed to a real Superman. This is “and I COULDN’T save him”, the words of a hero. Hence, placing Zack Snyder’s Superman firmly into the “You Are A Douche” camp. Very similar to Ryan Reynold’s portrayal of Green Lantern. Waaaaaa!!!! I’m scared!!!! Waaaaaa!!!!
Good lord. We haven’t even reached the bad guys yet…And so we trudge on.
So, Lois gives up on the story. Perry White is furious at her for leaking the story in the first place, but is happy that she is dropping it. And he reaffirms the theme revolving around fear and inaction, “Imagine how our world would react if they came face to face with this…” Yeah, they’d probably freak a bit. SO WHAT!!!!???? Imagine the BENEFITS of a guy with superpowers!!!
We jump to military headquarters. They have found something in geosynchronous lunar orbit, and the scientists wanted the General to know before some amateur astronomer finds it. “Is it a comet?”, queries the naive General. “Comets don’t make course corrections.” DUN DUN DUN…. and Hans Zimmer strikes more forgettable ominous ambient drum thumps.
Back in Kansas, Clark has returned home, happy to reveal to his elated Earth mother that he has found his real people AND his purpose!!!! And the first thing he’s gonna do in this world tormented by crime and hunger and famine and mudslides and earthquakes and war and Disney Television programming? He’s gonna sit back, eat some cereal, and watch Louisiana State football on TV. I’m gonna start that whole “Saving The Earth” project tomorrow. Way to go, Captain InAction. While that is happening, the electricity goes haywire everywhere in the world, and everyone with a receiving device, like a TV, or radio, or something — even on cellphones as indicated by unnamed Daily Planet intern, What’sHerName (who will play prominently later as “Unknown Woman In Danger”). I’m guessing that Zod (yes, this is Zod, who else would it be?) I’m guessing that Zod doesn’t realize that most people watch DVRS or stream from iTunes or Netflix. So, unless the Zod transmission is in my Netflix queue, I’m not seeing it. But regardless of the viewing habits of the world, Zod manages to transmit his message to everyone, including the Mongols in their little tents, which is probably about as much as Zack Snyder found out about Mongols on Wikipedia before he realized he forgot to take his Adderall.
So Zod tells the people that they are not alone, which in itself would have caused worldwide panic. Maybe if Clark Kent revealed himself sooner, then the world might have been more prepared for this Zod guy. Yeah, give people 10 years or so to get used to the idea of strong flying guys, and you don’t have the world running around screaming when another one or two or thirty invulnerable aliens show up. And furthermore, when Zod asks the world to give up Kal-El, you don’t have 7 billion people suspicious of why you haven’t revealed yourself until some guy in a dangerous looking spaceship calls you on your shit. Now, even when you defeat the bad guys, you have a lotta ‘splaining to do, Lucy. What are you going to say? “Well, I wanted to save people’s lives, but my Dad said I couldn’t. I didn’t wanna get a whoopin'” Nice, Snyder. Great hero you’ve provided for us.
So, now, news programs wanna know who this Kal-El guy is, and the blogger guy totally throws Lois under the bus, who leaves her apartment to evade the FBI (Sidenote: “great” camera work on a pointless tilt up to the exit sign and then back down as Lois…. exits…down the stairs. Good job, giving the audience the benefit of the doubt that we know what Lois’ intentions are.).. She makes a mad 15 second, adrenaline-filled dash down the back alley … but AWWWWW, she’s stopped by the government officials, led by — none other than Elias Koteas’ doppleganger Colonel Chistopher Meloni — remember, the guy who didn’t like here when he was stationed in the middle of the arctic circle? Well, he’s assigned here too.
Back in Kansas, Clark chats with a priest and reveals that he’s the guy that Zod wants. What should he do? “What does your gut tell you?”, the priest asks. “Zod can’t be trusted…but neither can the human race, ” Clark answers. Then the priest gives him some rote priest-y advise that sometimes you have to put it to faith first, and the trust will come later. I’m not clear on what this scene means, or why its there, outside of pushing the previous Christian symbolism filling the rest of the film (and don’t worry, there is more to come), and making it into a a huge Christ-size sledgehammer to hit us in the head… just in case we haven’t gotten it yet.
So, Superman turns himself in “to the people of Earth”, leaving his destiny to them. He appears to them in the desert, hovering above them in a Christ-like pose. He lowers down and asks the officials for Lois Lane. “How do you know we have her?” Superman mocks their question — as if he actually knows that Lois Lane is there? Was he following the Interwebs and caught her probably secret arrest? Did he use his XRay vision to find her at the remote desert military location? If so, why is she there? So many questions.
So they get Lois, and then they lead him in cuffs into an interrogation room so that Lois can have a brief conversation with him. In it, she asks about the S on his chest. He smiles at her naivete. “Silly human woman… that’s not an S. On my planet… it means hope” OK — again…We as the audience were there when Jor-El tells him this little tidbit of information. DON’T TELL US AGAIN!!!! WE GOT IT THE FIRST TIME!!! Then Superman reveals that the handcuffs mean nothing by snapping them and that he can see everything and everyone behind the glass. The officials have been ordered to give up Superman to Zod. Superman’s answer: “Do what you must.” — another very Christlike behavior of giving himself to the authorities. BTW — this is also part of a bizarre trend in blockbuster films of heroes and/or villains giving themselves to incarceration only to escape in some crazy, implausibly thought through plans that indicate their superior intellect — The Joker, Loki, Kahn, the list keeps growing. Weird.
Lois looks with jawline-entranced eyes, And then, suddenly, we cut to Superman and Lois standing in the middle of the desert staring longingly into each others’ eyes with Lois in 4″ stilettos to make her tall enough to see his eyes. They have some forgettable dialog, and then he barks at her to go when he detects that the alien scout ship is one its way. The ship comes down in the reverse of the way that it will always leave, and spins around and lands. Faora climbs down the steps and greets Superman, then goes to the Army guys and demands that Lois come with them??? The Colonel gets all in her face, which leads me to think that he may have some woman issues. But Lois volunteers. This would be amazing and surprisingly forward thinking of Zod if he actually used Lois to gain some kind of strategic leverage over Superman because of his feelings for her. After all, she walked out into the middle of the desert in 4″ heels for Superman. They must care about one another. But no — as we will soon find out, Zod uses her for nothing.
Superman slyly passes his Superkey to Lois. Not sure why he would do this. If he’s trying to keep it from Zod, shouldn’t he have left his keys back in the Supermobile at home? Rather than bring it along and give it to the OTHER prisoner in Zod’s ship? What was his plan if Lois didn’t come along? Whatever…They are led into the ship and Lois is given a breathing helmet because she can’t deal with the Krypton atmosphere in the ship. This also contributes to not only making Superman sick (he is used to Earth’s atmosphere), but also removes his power. Its a bit convoluted because Jor-El explained to Kal-El during his leaping-around-in-the-snow training that he has absorbed radiation from the earth sun and benefited from the thinner atmosphere — or something to that effect. Regardless, its an interesting attempt to remove Kryptonite as Superman’s Achilles Heel. A good try — I’m not convinced that its successful. Regardless, we get more information about how he and his crew escaped the Phantom Zone and reconfigured the Phantom Drive to make it into a ship to go and try and find him, and after years and years they finally receive the signal from the ship he activated, thus leading them to him.
Superman gets sick and passes out. Zod provides non-essential exposition about him getting sick because of the Krypton atmosphere. Why non-essential? Because Faora talked about it not 90 seconds ago!!.. Superman goes unconscious, and finds himself in a Kansas field in the backyard he grew up in facing Zod. Zod explains that he is planning on terraforming the planet Earth and making a new Krypton on the bones of the human race. And he invites Superman to join him. He just needs the codex. Superman sinks into a sea of skulls, crying out like the little bitch Jonathan raised him to be. In the background, a ship flies down and impacts the earth and starts churning smoke into the air, wiping out the wheat fields and the scene.
Superman wakes, tethered to a table, and asks an Indiana Jones Nazi movie extra what is happening, which prompts the Kryptonian Dr. Mengele to explain YET AGAIN that the Krypton atmosphere makes him as weak as a human. At that point he sticks Superman and takes a blood sample.
The military tracks ships descending from mothership and figure out they are heading toward Kansas and refusing to answer their hails. Obviously, birds are scrambled.
Cut back to Lois in her prison on the mothership. She sees a control panel, Ohhhhhhh THAT is why Superman gave her the key. So, she would know to use it to make her escape in a ship that he has no knowledge about. She puts the Key in and an Obi-Wan Jor-El appears and addresses her by name somehow. Even if he is a hologram, he only holds the knowledge and feelings of the Jor-El before he died — and not the name of Superman’s current girlfriend. He explains that he designed the ship and the Phantom Drive — and that he can teach her what to do to defeat Zod…and then she can, in turn, teach Superman what to do. So — if I’m not too off the mark here, it sounds to me like the only reason Lois is aboard the ship is to save the screenwriters the trouble of figuring out how to empart Jor-El’s knowledge to Superman so he can save Earth. A couple thoughts on that subject: #1) Maybe have Jor-El TELL Superman — or maybe that’s too complicated. Better to have Zod want Lois on board, negotiate that whole thing, have Superman surreptitiously pass her the Superkey, and have Lois figure out how to use the Superkey. Or #2) Take a queue from the original Superman movie and have Jor-El’s Hologram teach Kal-El all the knowledge on the journey to Earth.
Alright. So, Lois now has key knowledge to defeat Zod. Jor-El, who is now in full control of the ship, changes the atmosphere of the ship to Earth’s so Lois can breath. Then, when Zod’s army starts coming after her Jor-El helps her get an alien laser weapon, which she uses expertly against an elite troop of trained soldiers. He also guides her to an escape pod, which is damaged on ejection by Faora. So now she is plummeting to Earth in a broken pod which is sure to burn up in the atmosphere — along with the information on how to stop Zod.
With the atmosphere of the ship changed to Earth’s (oddly enough the Zod crew remain unaffected by the change), Superman gains his strength and breaks his bonds. But Kryptonian Dr Mengele escapes. Jor-El appears to Superman and tells him to break the hull of the ship. Beyond, Superman sees Lois plummeting. Jor-El lets Superman know that “You can save her. You can save them all”. Obviously Jor-El hasn’t seen Act 3 of the movie as millions of Metropolis citizens die under crushed buildings due to Superman’s lack of foresight.
So, Superman steps backward into the vacuum of space, with hands outstretched in the most brazen Christ visual metaphor yet. And with that message pushed onto the audience, Superman turns and flies to Lois to save her.
Before we get too far away from this set of events on Zod’s ship with HoloJor-El. Let’s investigate an interesting hole in the storyline. Jor-El designed the ship along with the Phantom Drive. He can control the atmosphere of the ship. He controls the doors. The escape hatches. He can be anywhere in the ship at any time. So rather than passing on critical information to a reporter with probably minimal knowledge in advanced physics, much less alien technologies, how about simply shutting down all the systems in the ship and letting Earth’s gravity pull it down through the atmosphere and destroy itself. How is this not a thing? Granted, it affects the “Superman” part of the Superman movie. So, why bring up these contrivances in the first place? Why do all of this bullshit “getting captured” stuff?
OK — back to the action. Superman grabs Lois’ pod as it burns up in the atmosphere, rips of the glass lid and pulls her out just before impact. And they slowly circle around one another lovingly into a Kansas corn field. “You’ll be safe here”, he tells Lois, and flies off. He knows the deal with Zod and the fact that he intends to annihilate the human race — so either he’s lying to make her not worry, or he’s simply dense.
Back at Martha Kent’s house, Zod’s scout ship lands and he and his troops climb down and ask Martha where the codex is. I have no idea if Martha knows or cares what a “codex” is, but regardless, she tells Zod to “Go to Hell”. Those words. The bad guys seem to know what this means and it offends them greatly. Zod grabs her by the jaw, and she gives up the location of Kal-El’s ship with an “unconscious” glance. And which point, Faora LEAPS into the air, SMASHES through the roof and floor into the hidden hidey-hole where the ship is. She forces the ship open, and then immediately LEAPS back through the hole she came in to report its not there. The total waste of energy is akin to asking your child to go get the mail, and on the way she jumps onto your car, flips off the end like a pommel horse, and does cartwheels down the driveway, and then juggles the letters on the way back. Why do all this JUMPING and LEAPING? Save your energy for important things, “soldier”. But regardless, this makes Zod angry and he lifts up a truck and throws it through the roof of the house. At which point, Superman plows into Zod, and quite literally uses him to plow the field, punching Zod in the face all the way, while they skip across the ground like a rock on a lake — through grain silos, cars, buildings and ending up on Main St in Smallville. Zod’s breathing mask flickers and sputters as it malfunctions. Zod chokes and gasps as he breathes the Earth atmosphere. And along with those symptoms, he exhibits the same problems Superman had as a Kindergartener (and probably before). All of his senses are being bombarded with over-stimulation. OH NO!!! He can’t handle it. But have no fear, Zod. Superman will TELL YOU the technique his parents used to get him through those hard times. I quite expected Zod to scream, “THE WORLD IS SO BIG!!!”, and Superman to coo, “Well, make it small, Zod. Listen to my voice…”
With Zod now internally processing Superman’s sage advice about how to overcome his possible ONLY weakness, a ship comes down and saves him and takes off, leaving behind Faora and some huge CG animated Zod-soldier to face Superman. They walk down the middle of town like the preface to a gun fight. Superman looks over to the onlooking townsfolk and says “Get inside. It’s not safe.” I wonder if after this upcoming fight, Superman thinks back on it and says to himself “Yeah, me advising people to get inside their stores and lock their deadbolts was probably useless.” Indeed. Closeup shots of people locking deadbolts. These people have already witnessed quite a bit of destruction with Superman and Zod blasting into town. And now there is Superman and two MORE of these people. And the townfolk think that locking themselves inside a building is going to save them.
So now we have the first mammoth battle between characters that are, quite literally, invincible. Nothing can hurt them. They aren’t going to die. So, who really gives a rat’s ass? There are no stakes. Nothing to win. Nothing to lose. The only losers are the people who die in collapsing buildings and invincible aliens accidentally crushing them under cars, train engines and such. — oh, and the army guys who are flying in with helicopters and A-10’s to deal with the situation. Ah, and they are being led by Colonel Christopher Meloni. Is this guy part of every frickin mission? Do Colonel’s even ride into battle in helicopters anymore?
Well, the orders are to kill all targets! “OH NO!” the filmmakers must think the audience is saying. “They think Superman is a bad guy TOO. SUPERMAN IS IN DANGER!!” News for you, guys. The audience is not thinking this. They are thinking, “Do I have time for a nap? Because frankly, I’m not going to miss anything here. No one of any importance in the story is in danger — of anything.”
Well, the A-10’s fly in and shoot up the road, causing Superman and Faora to evade as hyperspeeds. Why? The rounds wouldn’t even phase them. The planes fly around for another pass and the big dude LEAPS through the air, lands on the canopy of the jet and starts ripping it apart. If the sentence were out of context, would you be able to tell which movie I was talking about between The Avengers and Man of Steel? I thought not.
Buildings are destroyed. Cars are smashed and hurled through the air. Helicopters crash. Superheros and super-villains speed around implausibly and pound each other into the ground. And none of it with any consequence whatsoever. An absolutely deadly hole in the entire foundation of the Superman character or any other invincible superhero. Without Kryptonite, Superman’s only weakness is his moral code. This is even touched on during a conversation between Superman and Faora, which she points out that he’s weak. “You have a sense of morality and we do not.”, she quips.” And that gives us an Evolutionary Advantage. And if there’s one thing that History teaches us it’s that Evolution always wins.” ZING!!! But, as we can surmise, Superman will eventually win — score another one for Alien Jesus and Creationists throughout Middle America.
During all of this incredibly boring fight, Colonel Koteas-Meloni has to face down Faora who tells him that “a good death is its own reward” He knows he’ll die in this knife fight, but plans to go down in a blaze of glory. But, at the last minute, predictably, Superman flies in and takes out Faora. I’m unclear why this attack is more effective than the last 15 minutes, but Faora acts like she’s hurt. Superman, in turn gets smashed by a train engine, and a Zod ship comes down and picks up Faora and the Big Bad Guy.
But WAIT! Superman is ALIVE! Shocking!!! He comes out and the Colonel finally proclaims that Superman is NOT their enemy.
We just got through ten minutes of super-beings zipping around at hyperspeeds. I’ll give it to Snyder that there have hardly been ANY super-slow motion shots. I can’t think of one. But to keep the Snyder world of ridiculous filmmaking in balance — he has replaced the lack of slow motion with HUNDREDS of super fast motion shots. Well played, Zack. Well played. ::::sigh::::
Rather than try to immediately deal with Zod and his crew, now that they’ve exhibited that they cannot be trusted and Superman knows Zod’s intentions, Superman instead goes back home to hang with Martha, who is going back through family albums — just… because. She points out to not worry about the truck in the living room — it’s all replaceable. “But you aren’t, ” Superman wisely states. Perhaps he should go back to all the dead people on main street and explain it to all of their families. But if he started that trend, by the end of the movie, he would be apologizing for the rest of his alien life. During this conversation, Lois runs up to let Superman proclaiming, “I KNOW HOW TO STOP HIM!!”
Zod is all crabby now and barks at his minions that Superman simply revealed an unforeseen weakness — too bad he didn’t say “but don’t worry, Kal-El taught me how HE dealt with it growing up, so we’re all good.” All is not lost for Zod though, because Kryptonian Dr. Mengele has figured out that there was no codex in the ship after all. Jor-El actually injected all the DNA information into the cells of Kal-El. So essentially, Superman is a database for all of the citizen’s of Krypton. I can’t imagine the havok that must have played on Superman’s genetic make-up. But whatever, it’s kind of an interesting concept. Zod checks to see if Superman must be alive to retrieve the data. And with a confirmation that he does NOT — Zod says “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!” Or at something to that effect. They actually RELEASE THE WORLD MACHINE!!!! World Machine? Really? OK. Well, maybe the Kryptonians weren’t all that clever with language.
The “World Machine” breaks away from the Phantom Zone ship, and with that in order, Zod runs off to meet up with and old friend (aka Jor-El’s Holographic Soul.) The military is all over it and tracking where the second piece is heading — the Indian Ocean. And the main ship is heading to — Oh NO! Metropolis!!!.. And to make sure you know — the military has an elevation view of Metropolis and the ship descending down on it. Cut to: Ship descending over Metropolis. People milling about the city, stop and look on in wonderment at the ship whose alien pilots were not even a day ago threatening the world if they didn’t get Kal-El. And now that the ship is actually coming down, people are watching it with a look of, “Well, this isn’t something you see every day. I think I shall watch and see what comes next. Surely, there is no downside.”
In the South Indian Ocean the World Machine lands with a huge splash — because that’s the FX du Jour — big splashes (Battleship, Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness, and, of course, the upcoming Pacific Rim). Then, a bright beam slams into the Earth and water and fish and stuff start rising into the air, and then SLAMS down, accompanied by MASSIVE sound design work. And back in Metropolis, a sister beam FIRES from underside the ship, SLAMMING into the Earth and streets of Metropolis, raising cars, signs, and people, and SMASHING them into the ground. And then, back at military central headquarters, wherever that is, exposition SMASHES into our face. Pseudo-scientist specialist (Richard Shiff) comes in. I guess they keep him close by for these kinds of alien invasion emergencies. Anyway, he looks up at the huge display showing the two ships on either side of the world, shooting waves back and forth through the Earth core. From this simple presentation that has the detail of Atari’s Tempest arcade game, the doctor sees that the density of the Earth is increasing and particles are being released in the atmosphere. His eyes go wide, realizing that the ships are terraforming!!! And some lady who I think is the General’s assistance asks the question “So what happens to us?” The doctor responds, “From these readings, there won’t be an ‘us'” Again, providing redundant information as we have now been shown, multiple times that this is Zod’s plan – through discussions with Krypton counsel, liquid metal diaramas, induced hallucinations, discussions with Holograms with Souls, and now — explicit dialogue. Thanks Goyer, for assuming we are idiots.
Now before leaving this scene of strictly dialogue, just let me point out that we don’t even have technology to specifically determine much below a few miles into the Earth — a lot of it is pure theory, albeit theory based on careful measurements by smart people. I don’t think the military has a real-time system monitoring the core of the Earth, or changes in atmospheric particulate levels from devices that started mere minutes before. But good on you Doc, for bringing the term ‘terraforming’ to the masses.
In walks some soldier guy to inform the General et al that Lois Lane has returned with Superman in tow — first time Superman is referred to by this name in the movie. I’m guessing we are nearing the 100 minute mark. So, we go outside to talk with Superman who explains to everyone what the Chinook military helicopter is lowering to the ground behind him. Why is a military cargo helicopter moving Kal-El’s ship? Wouldn’t it have been faster for Superman to just grab it and fly it at faster than the speed of sound to the army base? With Lois tucked under his arm? Anyway, Superman reveals his plan (I don’t think he gave Lois credit, but whatever). You see, the ship was designed by his father and has the same Phantom Drive technology that Zod’s ship has, and if you active the drive and slam it into Zod’s ship, then particles and vortex and singularity and black hole then magic. And so there you have it. The perfect plan. Colonel Meloni steps up and says “Well, we can just load it onto a C-117 and fly it into the ship and drop the payload of the Krypton ship onto the enemy thing. They’ll never see us coming — I mean, it isn’t like these aliens have handed our ass to us every time we try to engage. I love this plan!” Superman says “TERRIFIC, I’ll let you fly slowly toward the most densely populated city in America, and I’ll fly into the middle of the Indian Ocean where most of the predicted deaths will be that of fish and possibly some sea mammals. Catch YOU on the flip side!” But before he leaves, Lois expresses her concern that “the atmosphere around the World Machine will be like Krypton — won’t it hurt you?” I seem to remember him saying, “Maybe…” and then flies off.
Zod finds Superman’s ship in the Arctic and goes in to take it over. But Jor-El’s soul has to talk with him and we find out once again that protecting Krypton’s citizen’s is what Zod was designed for. And that is his prime directive. No matter what. Blah blah blah — Yeah, Zod. We know. Jor-El takes a last jab by telling Zod that Kal-El will finish what has been started. You can count on it. — PA-ZIIIING!!! Well — that got Zod’s goat. And so, he shuts off the hologram. Well played, Zod. That showed that soulless image of a man long since dead. At that point, I just noticed that behind them are all these embryos. like the pool on Krypton in the prologue. And this ship was referred to as a Genesis Ship or something. Are these viable embryos? Are they just imagery? If there are Kyptonian embryos that have survived for 20,000 years, does Zod need Superman’s cells? I am so confused….
And I shall not find solace very soon. Superman gets to the World Machine which sends out pinboard-y liquid metal tentacles out to try and stop him. And just to let us know that the atmosphere is affecting him and that MAYBE he won’t be able to deal with this, Superman coughs with the conviction of an 8 year old trying to convince his mom that he should stay home from school. And then he goes zipping around at high speeds, breaking metal tentacles. And then coughs a bit more.
Not to get bored by the Indian Ocean scene, we cut to Metropolis where Zod’s ship is progressively smashing more and more people and property. The air force flies in. Gosh, maybe this WILL end well!!! The jets escort the C-117 — PILOTED BY COLONEL MELONI!!! This guy has his fingers in so many military pies!!! He’s in charge of the Arctic — part of government intelligence — consultant in the war room — riding in helicopters on the front lines of a military attack — AND he can fly a C-117!!! Was the Air Force low on pilots? They couldn’t get anyone else in on short notice? Maybe it was a bank holiday. Not only that, but Lois comes into the cockpit — in flight gear!!! They let her on this suicide mission? And Superman was fine with this? Is she on the plane because she has Superman’s key to activate the Phantom Engine? That couldn’t have been passed on to a soldier with the instructions, “When Superman saves all the fish in the Indian Ocean, push this key into the hole that is shaped like the key. Bing Bang Boom. Job done.” That couldn’t have happened? Keeping Lois safe? And not only that, but the primary scientist consultant is ALSO aboard the plane!!!
In front of the C-117 escort, jets flies in close to the massive gravity generating thing, which a junior high kid after his science fair project could have ascertained that it probably might have strong magnetic fields around. But the pilots are shocked when their avionics don’t work. And their missiles fly all over the place, killing more bystanders who haven’t bothered to try and leave the area. One jet even spirals downward, flying past the windows of the Daily Planet building and blowing up another building, which begins to collapse. At THAT point, Perry White decides it would be a good idea to leave the tall, glass building. 15 minutes AFTER an alien ship descends from the heavens and blasts a gravity ray into the center of town. Danger hasn’t reached a tipping point until jets are plummeting and blowing up buildings. Perry White needs to be fired from ANY position requiring rational thought.
Random shots of people running and dying.
Cut to: Asthmatic Superman gets hurled by metal tentacles into the gravity beam. But he doesn’t give in! He fights against the beam and plows up through the World Machine, and blowing it up!! Immediately, Colonel Meloni informs Lois that Superman succeeded!!! I suppose Sri Lankans in nearby boats were live-tweeting and Colonel Meloni was following them. Lois runs to the back and the plane and tries to put the SuperKey into the hole, but is having difficulty. “It’s not working” she whines. Fortunately, the top military science consultant is right there to push the woman aside and say “Let me take a look at this alien technology. I’m a man, I know about these things. Maybe we need a hammer.” But then the C-117 is attacked from behind by ZOD — DRIVING THE GENESIS SHIP!!! He’s ready to fire on them, but Superman smashes through the side and knocks the ship away enough to miss the C-117. Inside, Superman skids to a stop and his eyes are firey. Zod, never one for mincing words, cries out “IF YOU DESTROY THE SHIP YOU DESTROY KRYPTON!!!” — because, as we have been told over and over from the beginning of the film, this is what Zod does. But Superman and his red vision yell, “KRYPTON HAD IT’S CHANCE”, and then he screams and cuts the ship in half with his heat vision. The ship careens to the side. So, not only does Superman end up contributing to the death of millions of humans, he doesn’t really care about the Kryptonians either. Really, Superman just doesn’t give a shit about life — except for his mom, his dog, and Lois Lane. What a dick.
While all this is happening, down on the ground, Perry White and two people from the Daily Planet who I had no idea had any importance has been running from a falling building, when one, “Jenny”, is caught in a building behind a bunch of rebar and concrete. She cries for help. Perry turns to comfort her and says they’ll stay behind to help! The other unknown employee sighs and grabs a street sign to try and help. I have no idea who this Jenny is. I don’t care who she is. I don’t care about her personal plight when thousands if not millions are being smashed by gravity rays and buildings. Why is Perry White staying behind to save her? But she cries as they hopelessly try to bend rebar using an aluminum pole in a poorly utilized attempt at suspense as we cross cut between them and the C-117 fight currently taking place.
But, not to make things easy, Faora bursts through the floor of the C-117 and speeds around killing random guys. And then she sees her arch-nemesis Colonel Meloni, who retreats back to the cockpit — luring her away from the important people. Lois and Shiff’s Scientist. Lois stumbles around like a stereotypical heroine in distress, while the scientist figures out the problem with the drive — which ends up being that some twisting component of the ship was out of place like a radio dial when you are a little off the station. But being the intelligent man he is, he sees the problem, and rectifies it by lining up the pieces — a woman certainly couldn’t have handled that. It requires many doctorates and smartness. He shoves in the key. The engine activates. And in the cockpit, Colonel Meloni has his revenge on Faora, by repeated back to her, “You’re right: a good death is its own reward.” She looks quizzically at him, as he pushing the control yoke forward, causing the plane to dive in toward Zod’s ship. Which causes Lois to fall out the back hatch of the plane. Superman, recovering from the crash of the other ship, immediately senses that she’s in danger — through the horrific screams of death and pain that must be currently filling the city. He handily saves Lois…AGAIN!
Particles. Singularity. Black Hole. Magic.
Superman musters all of his powers to not get sucked into the black hole, which for some reason isn’t strong enough to suck in anything more — like, for instance, Metropolis and all its citizens. Superman and Lois land. They kiss with some odd joke about everything being downhill after the first kiss. I guess I’m supposed to believe that these two are falling in love with their only relationship consisting of Lois in danger and Superman saving her. Isn’t that some kind of co-dependent thing? And oh, BTW, JENNY IS SAFE!!! Thanks GOD!!! I would have never rested well if some unknown character had lost their life in this debacle.
The movie should be over now. But no. Zod stumbles out of the remains of his ship, which has probably killed another 20 or so people in the crash. And he ONCE AGAIN, has to state that his mission was only in the best interest of the people of Krypton — so basically “DON’T JUDGE ME!!!” And then Superman and Zod go head to head. And I’m long past the point of saying, “GOOD LORD!!!! Can we end this already?!?! Yet another battle!?!?!”
So, the forward thinking and humane Kryptonian that Kal-El is, he decides to take on Zod right in the middle of town. Superman already knows what happens when shit goes down. He couldn’t possibly think to take this fight “outside?” Maybe out in the middle of the ocean? Earth’s lower atmosphere? The moon? I don’t care — the Atacama desert? Antarctica? The Himalayas? There are SO MANY OPTIONS!!! Just somewhere to stop the rampant collateral damage.
But, sigh…. no. This final battle takes place downtown, which all the buildings that have yet to fall actually being destroyed. And initially, Zod leaps around like a frog, but quickly he remembers Superman’s sage advise passed on from Martha and gains control of all of his powers with Zod yelling and spitting again that he has trained all his life to be a warrior and control his body — and where did Superman train? ON A FARM?!?!?” I have no idea what that means, maybe Zod is upset that he didn’t get trained on a farm? And in a fight that is probably 10 minutes and feels like at least 10 years, they end up in Metropolis’ equivalent of Grand Central station with Superman restraining Zod in a choke hold. A CHOKE HOLD!!! Zod has trained all his life to be a warrior, and he can’t get out of a choke hold? It looks like Zod simply resigns. “Well, it’s my own fault. I was lured into a choke hold. But I’m not tappin’ out dammit!” And so instead of trying to get out of it, Zod threatens, “If you love these people so much, YOU CAN MOURN FOR THEM!” And he releases his heat vision at four actors from Central Casting. And for Superman, this is going too far. Enough is enough. Victim 2,756,008 through 2,756012 are simply TOO MUCH. Superman tries to craftily convince Zod to spare these people by saying “You don’t have to do this, Zod” — deep into understanding psychology this Superman is. And Zod continues to slowly move his laser beam vision closer and closer to the cowering extras. I’m sure that in his frustration that Zod failed to realize that his eyes move independently of his head, and that Superman’s restraining hold doesn’t really prevent him from simply glancing at the victims and they will be blown to ash. But, I mean. Maybe he was tired, and just wasn’t thinking right.
Ultimately, Superman must make a choice, let four more unknown people die or kill Zod, and despite the struggle, he snaps Zod’s neck. Is this right? The invulnerable guy can have his neck snapped? Even by the other invulnerable guy? But the physiological assessment of whether or not Superman COULD snap Zod’s neck would camouflage the much deeper and far more troubling choice of having Superman kill him in the first place. This is not who Superman is. Superman lives on a higher ethical plane than anyone on the planet. He does not take a life on purpose. Period. And from what I’ve read, Nolan and Goyer know this. And director Snyder pushed to have Superman kill Zod. And this simple fact — with the myriad of other flaws running willy-nilly through this film — this key moment, is why this movie fails. It fails to understand who Superman is — and what he means symbolically. What he stands for. And with all the Christ imagery throughout that parallel Superman as a savior to Jesus Christ as a savior, how can a competent director POSSIBLY ask at this moment, “What would Jesus do?” And come back with the answer, “Jesus would snap his neck.” And BTW — Superman yelling in grief that he has killed someone, doesn’t make up for it.
Fortunately, Lois arrives, which her innate ability to be everywhere at all times.
FINALLY we have reached the epilogue, and maybe the post successful part of the film. Clark explains to Martha in V.O. about why he should go into the city and work at the Daily Planet, where we get to see him in Clark Kent specs and stuff. We get to give the Daily Planet people we didn’t care about earlier a little bit of dialogue, and hint toward more movies — which I hope to Superman-Alien-Jesus that Zack Snyder isn’t directing.
And one last note: With the outrageously successful marketing scheme from Marvel to plant and connect their different super hero franchises together with teasers of each meeting Nick Fury, a fervor was built over at least 4 years as rumors and excitement grew while the Avengers was being prepared by a far superior filmmaker than Snyder. This ensured that the film would open huge and bring in WAY over a billion dollars worldwide. For some reason, Warner Brothers and DC couldn’t use that template to place a 30 second button on the end after the credits which would begin the build-up to the Avenger’s DC doppleganger, Justice League. How can you not to this, Warner Brothers and DC? Do you simply want to lose money? Well, based on Green Lantern, I guess I have my answer.