Friday, June 07, 2013

"Man of Steel": predictions, speculations, and ruminations

I've heard that the upcoming revamped, rebooted Superman movie "Man of Steel," which comes out next week on Friday, June 14, is going to have a very different mythology and metaphysics when it comes to Krypton and kryptonite—or so says one of my students. This student claims that kryptonite won't even be a factor for Superman, which leaves me to wonder what, exactly, Superman's Achilles' heel will be. At a guess, if this new Superman feels great compassion for all the little humans of the earth, then even the death of a single human will cause him great suffering. Assuming Superman, despite being an alien, still thinks and feels the way humans do, then he's capable of descending into a hell of his own making, an inferno inside his own head. Perhaps guilt will be the new Superman's point faible. If so, then the way for Superman's enemies to defeat him is simple: take hostages, and force Superman to fly into the center of the sun.

Like many people of my age group, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best with this new film. The preview trailers have all looked very good (even the one that, in a corny move, used a snatch of music from The Lord of the Rings as background). We're all placing our vulnerable hopes on Zack Snyder's inconsistent shoulders.

I, for one, am optimistic. Snyder, when left to his own devices, produces awful cinema like "Sucker Punch." That movie was totally his baby, and thus totally his fault. But when Snyder is paired up with a great story created by other hands, he usually delivers: he shows great sensitivity and respect for the original concept, and his interpretive style generally matches the grandiose scales of the stories he's called upon to tell. He is, in a sense, a real-life Edna Mode: I designed for GODS! Snyder's filmic sensibility is tailor-made for godlike struggle, which I think makes him the perfect director for this, someone else's concept of Superman.

It's hilarious to me that the wild-eyed, adrenaline-jacked Snyder is backed by quiet, cerebral Christopher Nolan, whose films are all PK Dick-style meditations on identity and interiority. I can't imagine a more contrastive pair of people working together, and it makes me wonder: was this a harmonious, complementary collaboration, or was it a bloody battlefield of raging egos and rival creative concepts? If the latter, then "Man of Steel" will betray this fact through uneven tone, poor pacing, and an inconsistent creative vision. It'll be "Alien 3" all over again. If the former, then we ought to be treated to a truly amazing story that balances character with action, all while exploring just who Superman is, and who he sees himself to be. Snyder was responsible for "Sucker Punch," yes, but he was also the man who helmed Frank Miller's "300" and Alan Moore's "Watchmen."*

From what we've seen through the preview trailers, "Man of Steel" looks to be a combination of 1978's "Superman" and 1980's "Superman 2." It will tell the classic origin story for Superman, and will also include Superman's struggle with fellow Kryptonians General Zod and his henchmen, femme fatale Faora and some other dude (Tor-An?), who stand in as replacements for henchmen Ursa and Non, respectively, from the 1980 film. I suppose that combining two old films into one new movie is consistent with our ever-accelerating modern culture and its obsession with compact packaging. The recent Star Trek movies did much the same: "Star Trek Into Darkness" combines elements of "Star Trek 2" and "Star Trek 3."

A hero needs villains of equal power. A powerful hero needs powerful villains to fight; "Man of Steel" would be boring if Superman spent all of his time basically mopping up human criminals, Batman-style. I look forward to the titanic conflict in "Man of Steel," although I wonder whether Lex Luthor will even play a role: I haven't seen old Lex in any of the preview trailers. No matter: there's a preview-trailer scene, which lasts for only an instant, that shows Superman being sucked backward or downward into a pile of skulls while he reaches for freedom and shouts in desperation. That moment alone, very iconic and symbolic—Superman as the force of life surrounded and consumed by death—might be worth the price of admission.

*Let's not dwell on that ludicrous sex scene inside the Owlship.


1 comment:

  1. Wow--your asterisk at the bottom was exactly what I was thinking when I saw the mention of "Watchmen."



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