Monday, 17 June 2013

Man of Steel - Repercussions

By now Man of Steel has been out for a few days and people are starting to make up their minds. The overall Superman fanbase hasn't so much broken in two over it as i'd thought as it has shattered. 
Some think that how Superman dealt with the villain went too far, others said it was fine. 
Some have argued that the first half of the film was too disjointed to enjoy, others that the film only went bad after Zod turned up on Earth. 
Some think Superman wasn't enough of a boyscout, while others think that the character was a complete betrayal of the anti-hero he truly is. 
Your guess is as good as mine to where that last view came from.

The point is that many think the film had problems, but the strongest views originated from the last few minutes and the battles with the kryptonians. People have both criticised and praised how things were handled, but the bigger question is where things will go next? The events in Metropolis and Kansas were both metaphorically and literally earth-shattering, with Superman's actions having far reaching consequences. They cannot simply be ignored and if the film is to have a sequel, obvious problems and issues need to be addressed.

Obviously there's no way to discuss this without spoiling the ending so here is the film's final moments:

Managing to halt the terraformer device and prevent Earth becoming warped into a New Krypton, Superman is forced to fight Zod. As the only survivor of his unit, with all hope seemingly gone, Zod attacks Superman and they fight across the city. Already damaged from the terraformer, with entire city blocks in ruins, the fight between the two only causes further damage with Zod quickly mastering his powers. In the final moments of their battle, Zod uses his heat vision to try and murder a group of bystanders and Superman is forced to kill him, snapping Zod's neck. Visibly pained at having been forced to take a life and potentially the only other survivor of his race gone, Superman lets out a cry of anguish.
When next seen, he is attempting to convince the military not to follow him while trying to make a new start as Clarke Kent in the Daily Planet. Attempting to take on some modicum of a normal life while finding a way to continue being Earth's protector.

While any number of plotlines and core themes could be built upon these final moments, two need to be focused upon above all: 
Superman taking the life of another, and the level of collateral damage done in their final battle.

Killing someone, even to save another, is an act which will always stay with him now. He's crossed a line he can never come back from and that's something which needs to be recognised. Superman is now a killer, one known to the public so there will be far more distrust for him than we saw during the Christopher Reeve films. Perhaps even more so considering the amount of damage his people caused and the fact that, even though he stopped them, they killed countless soldiers and civilians alike.
People are going to see a killer as much as they would any rescuer following that, and writers can't just pretend it never happened. It's a weakness the next villain or his critics can use against him, a flaw in his character which will rob him of trust and something which will likely still affect him for some time. While Man of Steel did show him reeling from his actions it was only for a few brief moments. The sequel needs to show that it deeply impacted upon him and that he can move past him.

Let's say that the next film offers a villain of similar power, or even Luthor manipulating Superman and trying to force him into murdering again, it needs to show him having the chance to do so. Having for one brief moment the opportunity to end it again, to take another life and permanently make sure a villain will never come back to threaten people, but stopping. Finding a way to take him down non-lethally without murder and without causalities, even if like before he is being threatened with the deaths of others.

The Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy featured Batman initially killing his first arch-foe (and yes it was killing), but rising above that. Taking the Joker alive and resisting the temptation to simply murder others in the name of justice, even after Bane almost cripples him. This needs to be repeated again to prove that Superman is a hero and one who can ultimately defend Metropolis.

Defending Metropolis and serving as its protector is the next area which needs to be focused upon. Man of Steel showed that Superman was a powerhouse within his own right, capable of outdoing even the assembled Avengers in raw strength and abilities, and could fight even the greatest of threats. What they need to do now is show him using that power for good. Despite the introduction to him using his powers and his long history, much of the film showed him fighting rather than outright saving others. It needs to show him dealing with small scale criminals as much as full-blown supervillains and preventing further damage. We've seen what Superman is like when using his full strength in a fist fight, now let's see him using it on smaller levels. Being conscious of the collateral damage he could cause and avoiding repeating the catastrophic destruction he created fighting Zod, perhaps even helping to repair it. He does need a city to be a protector of after all, and if the films keep repeating things like that last fight it won't be there for long.

Of course it should show him dealing with criminals but that should be in small quick ways. The sequel needs to have more scenes like the one from Detective Comics #877 (thank you Solkir) which showed him quickly dealing with criminals in small ways. Not with some massive public demonstration, not with him ripping entire city blocks to bits, but a personal one which was enough to make a point.

Man of Steel showed Kal-El evolving into becoming Superman. Moving out of the shadows and avoiding overtly using his power, showing audiences why he had lived that way and eventually coming to accept his more public role. Its sequels need to keep building upon that, showing him capable of being a hero moving past his flaws and learning from his mistakes. Becoming more and more of the hero people recognise and taking on the methods, lessons and attitudes which made him the icon he is.
Still, i'm sure that many reading this have their own ideas for what the second film should build upon and where the film series should go. Please feel free to give your own thoughts in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. The dismay at Superman taking a life is one that I have seen a lot over the last few days all over the web. The truth is that Superman has always been a reflection of who we are as a society (worldwide). It is possible that this incarnation of him could have avoided visibly and directly killing anyone, but my feeling is that today's society would have rejected him as unrealistic. The previous versions of Superman catered to a society that was much more genteel and easily entertained. Today's audiences demand blood. Also I say directly and visibly killing because the reality is that his body count is significantly much higher when one considers the number of buildings and structures he demolished. They could not have possibly ALL been vacant.

    As for the trust factor, his powers alone would have prevented him from being fully trusted... Ever! But the fact that he killed possibly the last surviving member of his kind lets humans know without a doubt where his loyalties lie.

    The film was exceptionally executed for action junkies. For my money, I could have done with 30 minutes less of the pointless punching and building smashing in favor of more story, even if it had to be in flashback form. At some point I remember asking myself 'are we far enough from 9/11 for this?'Most action films rely heavily on the action because the actors are often not up to snuff, but this was not the challenge for this cast. Rather not having enough time on screen was. Superman was so little on screen that the film could be very easily retitled 'Man of Steel-ish'

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent ;-)