Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's Not an S (anticipating MAN OF STEEL)

As of this writing, it’s a few days until the premiere of, and a few more until I plan to see Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, MAN OF STEEL. And I’m doing everything I can in my (decidedly non-super) powers to refrain from being excited. Because last time, I got burned. Bad.

Oh, I put on a happy face and did as much as I could to mitigate the problems with Bryan Singer’s 2006 film, SUPERMAN RETURNS, both in public and in my own geeky brain. But, as with Tim Burton’s BATMAN (and, to a much lesser extent, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), despite my fervent attempts to convince myself SUPERMAN RETURNS was a good movie, in time, I had to admit that it was, in fact, pretty crappy.

Rather than reiterate the entire history of my relationship with the last time the my favorite fictional character appeared on the big screen, here are some links to the evolution of my thoughts…

The first of a five-part series I wrote for anticipating the movie, explaining why Superman matters (to me personally, as well as in the larger context). Please forgive the clichéd “Webster defines…” opening. I was young. Well, not young, but… oh, screw it, I have no excuse.

The final installment of that series, explaining how even if SUPERMAN RETURNS turned out to be lousy, it wouldn’t do lasting harm to a character that’s proved to be ultimately invulnerable to bad media adaptations.

My too-forgiving original review of SUPERMAN RETURNS, written after seeing the movie a few times (note the alternate Lois Lane casting suggestions… ahem).

A February 2010 open letter to Christopher Nolan, written for, upon the announcement of his producing MAN OF STEEL, with a more honest appraisal of what went wrong in SUPERMAN RETURNS and notes on how not to fuck it up.

• And a 2011 blog post upon the announcement of DC Comics’ Superman reboot about how Superman doesn’t really need to be “rebooted.”


It’s funny now to think of how worked up fanboys (myself included) got over the reveal of Brandon Routh’s darker Superman costume in RETURNS in contrast with the relatively small outcry over the far more radical redesign for MoS. Personally, I’m not a fan of Cavill’s supersuit… again, it’s way too dark, with too many little details, that stupid rubber accenting, and a ridiculously long cape (Superman ain’t Batman, kids). And of course, the red shorts are nowhere to be found. But I like the \S/ shield, which harkens back to the comics’ Golden Age, and the boots are good… I’m reserving final judgment until I see it in context. And, to be honest, I think a lot of us Supernerds are more forgiving because it’s actually better than the armored monstrosity the character currently wears in the comic books.

Of course, I’ve followed the development of the movie since it got under way three years ago, and there’s been much trepidation. While Nolan knew what to do with Batman (at least until that final stumble), would his sensibility be able to translate to the much lighter Superman, or would this just be a better made iteration of Tim Burton’s thankfully-aborted Man of Angst movie from the late ‘90s?

I was mollified a little bit when director Zack Snyder started saying some of the right things early in the process, assuring fans that he wasn’t going to make a “Dark Superman” movie and that Henry Cavill was cast in the title role in part because he possessed an “innocence” that was necessary for the character. And I was happy with the casting pretty much across the board (if a black Perry White bothers you, you have problems, while the supposed “Jenny Olsen” seems a pointless do-over). Still, screenwriter David Goyer’s résumé doesn’t have a lot of lightness on it, so my skepticism remained (especially after seeing that shot of Superman drowning in a sea of skulls).

I’m thankful that Warner Bros. (side note, bloggers: it’s not “Brothers”) held back the media onslaught until a mere handful of weeks before the film’s release (regardless of their motives). A few trailers and some discomfiting Walmart tie-ins aside, there wasn’t a lot of content out there to fill the spoiler bags. I went into SUPERMAN RETURNS knowing much in advance, and with too many carefully crafted teasers raising my expectations way too high. Way.

Still, even with just a fistful of trailers and three or four clips, it’s not that hard to figure out the plot of MAN OF STEEL, and it’s not even really spoilery (altho’ if you haven’t thought about it at all, you may wanna skip to the next paragraph): Zod and Jor-El battle on Krypton, Zod and fellow insurgents are sent to Phantom Zone, Krypton is destroyed and Kal-El is sent to Earth, found & raised by the Kents, Clark discovers his true heritage, travels the world trying to figure out his place, secretly using his powers to help people while being tracked by investigative reporter Lois Lane, Zod escapes from Phantom Zone and tracks Kal-El to Earth, ensuing giant threat forces Clark to adopt Superman mantle and go public, Superman defeats Zod, and then maybe at the end, puts on glasses and gets a job at the Daily Planet.

Or something like that.

Going into the movie with expectations about the story is kind of hard to avoid with a reboot of a character I know like my own family. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m more worried about how this thing is going to play out.

I’m nervous that, despite claims that Superman himself isn’t dark (even if the context is), that Henry Cavill’s Kal-El will turn out to be another ill-advised take on this character that means so much to me. Although I doubt he’ll use his x-ray vision to spy on ex-girlfriends with whom he sired a bastard child (seriously, what the fuck was Bryan Singer thinking?), there remains a decent chance that this Kal-El will be angsty and mopey like his most recent cinematic predecessor.

And, based on the mixed reviews the movie is getting (I’ve only scanned the headlines, again to avoid spoilers), I’m also nervous about director Zack Snyder’s tendency to overload his movies with visual dazzle in the place of story and character development. And there’s so much damn character to develop, too.

Anyway. This time, I’m being good. My expectations are measured (even if I have already purchased the deluxe version of the soundtrack and five action figures in advance of seeing the darn thing). I’m prepared to not like the movie. Still, I have to cling to what that Kryptonian glyph (it’s not an S) on Superman’s chest means: Hope.

Either way, I will let you all know next week.

1 comment:

Precious said...

This is fantastic!