Robot 6

Six ways to improve ‘Man of Steel’ (besides THAT one)

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SPOILERS for Man of Steel, obviously

I’m not here to talk about whether or not Superman would’ve done that. As many have pointed out, that was already settled for mass audiences in Superman II. Instead, I’d like to offer six things that could have made Man of Steel a much better movie, regardless of whose Superman it represents.

1. A more appropriate title

It’s perfectly fine not having Superman’s name in the title (or almost not even in the movie), but Man of Steel is not what this movie is about. This movie is clearly about the Last Son of Krypton. That should have been the name.

2. Clarify Jor-El’s intentions for the Codex

Jor-El makes it pretty clear that he intends for his son to bridge the gap between Kryptonians and humanity, but he never describes how that will happen. From a practical, scientific standpoint, Zod is actually right about how to accomplish this. It has to be physically separated from Superman’s cells. If Jor-El is thinking of bridging the gap in metaphorical terms, why go through the trouble of downloading the Codex into his son in the first place? With all the other exposition that made it into the script, a couple of lines explaining this would have been helpful.

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3. Clarify Jonathan Kent’s intentions for Clark

More important than Jor-El’s intentions for his son are Pa Kent’s. This is a crucial part of the story of Clark’s development into Superman, but Jonathan never says what it is that Clark should be waiting for. If saving his father from a tornado isn’t the right moment, when would be? I understand the idea of Clark’s using his powers for a Big Reason. That was also Pa Kent’s point in Superman: The Movie back in 1978. But this Jonathan makes such a huge deal out of it – to the extent of giving his own life – and then never helps Clark (or the audience) understand what he thinks that bigger reason is. That’s not just a failure of parenting, it’s a failure of the script.

4. More character moments

Superman’s dads aren’t the only problem. We could have used a lot more time getting to know some of the secondary characters and why they do what they do. For example, Antje Traue, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, and Rebecca Buller were great as – respectively – Faora-Ul, Dr. Hamilton, Col. Hardy, and Jenny. I would have loved more time with them. “But the movie’s already two-and-a-half hours long,” you say. Well…

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5. Less disaster porn

I agree with those who complain about what all the collateral damage says about Superman, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how – from a filmmaking standpoint – those scenes just went on way too long. In the same way that the final fight in the first Transformers movie went on too long. Or the way that all the parts of any Roland Emmerich movie go on way too long. If Zack Snyder had cut in half the number of shots of buildings falling down and used that time for more Richard Schiff or Rebecca Buller, Man of Steel would be a better film.

6. Make the right sequels

I’ve tried to make this list about what the movie is and not about what I want it to be. I’m sensitive to those who say this isn’t “their” Superman, because honestly, it’s not my Superman either. But even this could be rescued if the sequels go in the right direction. There’s a way of reading Man of Steel as being about the growth of Superman into the character so many fans want to see. This was his first time out as a superhero and boy did he ever make mistakes. If the next couple of movies were to show him learning from those mistakes, we could have the making of a terrific trilogy.

What if the next film featured Lex Luthor as the villain, pointing to the devastation of Metropolis and saying, “Look! We have to keep this from happening again!”? And what if he ponies up a lot of the money for the rebuild himself? That fits with motivations that have already been established for Luthor and deepens the character by giving the audience reason to think, “You know… he’s not wrong.” A film about Luthor’s trying to objectify Superman as a threat would be really powerful after this first one. And Man of Steel would have been a great title for it (see Item No. 1, above).

A third movie could show Superman’s ultimate transformation into the aspirational hero so many fans see him as: the Man of Tomorrow.

It’s just too bad that that rocket – like the others in this list – has already left the exploding planet.

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Comments

24 Comments

I agree with you on everything, but the first one is more than one can expect. The purpose of making it “Man of Steel” instead of “Superman” is so the punters wouldn’t be embarrassed to say it out loud, not for any thematic reasons. It’s simple, direct, contains nothing too far fetched sounding. Man. Steel. Very down to earth things, and it sends a clear message to the public that this thing isn’t like it was before.

“Last Son of Krypton” puts you right back in “Superman” territory. Sad to say, but the reality is “Man of Steel” just makes better sense from a marketing standpoint.

Stitch Tuesday

June 23, 2013 at 9:29 am

From the reactions everywhere— including this one— it’s pretty obvious how close Superman is to people’s hearts and how deeply people want the movie to succeed, not just financially, but critically. Which maybe ties in to the bigger picture of wanting a DC movie that’s actually good.

Meh, this is why we can’t have nice things.

While I enjoyed the film very much, I agree with a lot of what you suggest here. I was happy to read that someone in the media who didn’t love the film understood that this was Kal’s first time out, and it makes more sense that he would commit mistakes. I think this choice by the filmmakers makes Superman more relatable, and as you pointed out allows for interesting developments in future installments.

Okay, I agree with the vague father expectations and lack of character moments (I almost got the feeling that they were hiding Jenny because of the negative buzz about her being Jenny Olsen). And, I kind of understand the use of disaster porn here, though, it seems fill-in-the-blank porn is the new buzz word. I’ve heard not only disaster porn but torture porn, continuity porn, and so many other variations of this that the word porn has pretty much become meaningless. And, really, what are we bemoaning here? That a lot of buildings were destroyed and probably there were people in them, and so we feel sadness over the deaths of imaginary people we never see? To me, this did seem extreme in a movie, but comics do this all the time, in pretty much every single crossover event. Why don’t we bemoan the many deaths of the imaginary unseen people in the Avengers movie, which was pretty much just as colossal a disaster? I had one friend who had a problem with this, and I asked him why. His answer was that, “We should have seen scenes of him trying to save people while fighting Zod.” I couldn’t help thinking that maybe the filmmakers did, but, when viewing it, they realized this slowed down the action. And, let’s face it, we have become such an ultra critical society that I can hear people complaining, “Sure, he saved those people, but he didn’t save everyone.”
As for the sequel, I do like your idea, though I cannot help wondering: Does it have to be Lex Luthor? My biggest problem with the two main do-overs of Superman (this movie and Superman Returns) is that they just go back to the two old villains, Zod and Luthor. I liked the fact that in Batman Begins that the two villains, Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, were new to live action superhero movies, and the same was true with The Amazing Spider-Man, with the villain being the Lizard. Are Zod and Luthor really the only two interesting villains in the Superman universe? Actually, my one friend had an idea of what the sequel could be about, based on what we saw in the first movie. He pointed out that the codex was shaped like a metallic skull, and that Jor-El had a sentient computer that we both wished was named Brainiac. What if a scientist tried to get the codex by cloning Superman, and made Bizarro? And, what if, by opening the codex, Jor-El’s sentient computer is awakened, and becomes Brainiac? The Kryptonian ships looked like they had tentacles growing out of them, and Brainiac’s ship looks like a metallic skull with tentacles growing out of it, so there you go.

Pa Kent was the only thing thing that bugged me about the movie. I kinda knew that was going to my feeling when I saw the “Maybe” line in the trailer. So when he ran toward the giant tornado to get the old dog, I had to groan quietly.

And to nitpick, no freeze breath. What the hell?

i won’t agree with watch the movie again if you haven’t seen it properly, its clear in pa kent’s message what is the right moment where in point he will say you will know when the time is right , when zod threatened he understood the moment

“If saving his father from a tornado isn’t the right moment, when would be?”

When he has to save the entire planet.

Got to be doomsday or brainiac in the sequel with lex Luther a shadow part. Lex Luthers been tried and tested and let’s be honest it’s become pretty boring. If they make something different and fresh for Luther then maybe it could work, but the main villain as to be something from is own word or to do with the codex. Did anyone notice one of the 4 capsules was empty in the space craft he uses for the fortress of solitude? The other 3 had skeletons, interesting.
Another point is the next one has to break new ground and not just rehash the previous, I.e bad guy arrives trashes another major city, because there were treading in transformers terroty. Even tho I enjoyed the transformers series I found my self just getting bored of seeing the same old same old, bad guys turn up massive fight trash a city save the day. So superman sequel has to be different a more wider scope in action but a more personnel level to character development, I want to know more about kal el, his planets history and a bigger part for lois, perry etc.
Loved the film I think they’ve done an amazing job.

The problem with getting Doomsday and maybe even Brainiac: Another couple thousand dead citizens of Metropolis. I’ll assume that Goyer will want to elevate the threat that he and Snyder created in this movie and to a guy with Goyer’s writing sensibilities that probably means more collateral damage.

I’m sick of seeing Luthor. I’d rather see Brainiac or some other villain. I’d go so far as to say push Luthor to the 3rd or 4th movie. Keep him in the background on the second if you must put him in there.

Totally loved the movie, from beginning to end! One of my all time favorite movies!

This the superman movie that we all have been waiting for. After spiderman, ironman, batman etc etc, dying to see the king of superheros the ‘superman’ in action. And look, i got it. Loved the movie. A great reboot.

Villain wise, Intergang with Apokolips technology might be interesting. Also, Tom Williams nailed it, keep Luthor actively in the background for at least 2 movies and bring him into the forefront later.

Great Article Michael ! Don`t worry about the title. Everybody at the ticket booth asked for tickets to see SUPERMAN and not MAN OF STEEL. The ticket giver knew exactly who we were talking about. The title THE DARK KNIGHT worked. It still stands to reason they went along that kind of thinking for this film.
No. 2 and 3 you points are interesting. But for # 4 I`m happy they did show those other characters just the way they were shown in the movie. I myself was not interested to see more of them except maybe JENNY. What you call disaster porn I myself lapped up like candy. I couldn`t get enough. I just with wish LOIS LANE threw down with Faora like in superman 2.
Here`s food for thought :
Aliens come to earth and are about to destroy her. The people just discover about superman as well. They destroy SMALLVILLE and METROPOLIS Are the people really going to want accept and keep superman around. They don`t know what kind of other scenarios could happen with himself being alien. They don`t know if more ZOD`S will come around from KRYPTON. IN OTHER WORDS THEY WOULD BE SCARED SPITLESS AFTER WHAT THEY JUST SAW. Are they suppose to accept from this newbie that Krypton is really gone ?
But still I thought the movie was SUPER !!!

1. Actually kind of agree with you on this one. I get the sense Man Of Steel was chosen to emphasize his humanity and be a callback to the 1986 reboot which also made his humanity a primary focus. I think the movie does this well but needed more and it contrasts with how inhuman Krypton had become. The tragedy of Krypton follows Superman to Earth and that’s what he has to battle.

2. Honestly I read the Codex as kind of a more modern sci-fi version of the Kandor concept. I’m not sure if that is a valid interpretation that’s just what my mind did with it.

3. Johnathan doesn’t want Clark to reveal himself to the world until Clark himself has found out what his reason for being sent here is and can then make the choice about what kind of man he will be. I think the problem with Johnathan is that they killed him off. It would have been nice to see his point of view evolve.

4. I agree here to.

5. On this I sort of agree. I like the action but I think the fights were not bad so much as they suffer from being a bit careless in how they relate to what the character is about and yeah they needed some streamlining. This might be at the core of the problem some people had with the movie. To some extent it did trade one extreme, the “Superman lifts” lack of action from SR for another where the character stuff is hurried through to get to gobs of all flights, all fights.

6. I think people are forgetting that this is really part 1 of a bigger story and the tragedy of Krypton is what kicks it off. It’s not just a set up for the heroes powers, Krypton flows into the overall drama which makes sense when you are remembering Superman’s roots in sci-fi. I have no doubt that events from this film will play into the next and that Lex will be a HUGE part of that.

Why all the hoopla about the amount of deaths? If Zod was the victor there wouldn’t be any humans left on earth. It’s also about time we all saw Superman in mega action scenes. I don’t get the crying.

This article nailed it for me

I will give this movie props and say that this is the first time Martha Kent has actually felt like a part of the mythology. In pretty much every other version she’s just standing next to Jonathon and disappears after he dies but here she has some of the more touching moments in the flick,

Bizarrokilledzod

July 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

for the 2nd movie it would be better to find out that Bizarro killed zod, and not superman in that part of the show, then they could display how superman has a vow not to kill, also all those many people he didn’t save during the attack was Bizarro doing him fighting zod — that would fix the superman never kills problem, make him Bizarro instead of the real superman…..

Bizarrokilledzod

July 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm

or you could just say this is the the main earth but a different earth world like the comics with a alternative superman, since his costume is so different, and he is really Bizarro in a superman stable form… since he don’t seem to be clark kent no glasses till the end of movie, theirs only really the personality of superman or Bizarro’s mind in superman body during this whole movie.. and what happen to supermans fast running speed, he could of just super ran zod out of the room with the humans, but instead this Bizarro superman had to kill him instead, we all known the real superman has super speed , and can jump tall buildings in one jump…

Bizarrokilledzod

July 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

so the next movie, could be Bizarro superman against the hero Lex Luthor of this alternate reality superman series, I think they need two bad guys in the next superman movie, maybe alternate versions of superman two in the next movie would be cool, if they could pull it off right without too much action, they did over go the action at the end of it, also it wasn’t as funny as the old movies, had a bit more humor to them in the old but good ways still, I will amit they could of done better converting Superman 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 and superman returns to bluray the first one in the set is showing its age in quality but that’s the persons fault that converted them to blu ray in the first place otherwise the older movies are still better than man of steel, I don’t really like the new superman outfit, they chould of made it better , it looks ok, but the colors just are too dark , too much batman in the outfit dark color pick is really bad for superman, and the lack of a clark kent personality was bad too, you don’t feel his very showing is Clark Kent side, you just feel like he playing superman the whole time, he does great as superman but not so much as Clark Kent is missing from man of steel completely in my view of this movie…

Bizarrokilledzod

July 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Plus ever know they show cars with Lex Luthor Corp. logo on them doesn’t mean their during Lex for the next movie, since we could see superman or man of steel as he Bizarro is know called, could just snap Lex’s you know what I mean since Lex is the evil version could be doing bad things to people like zod, or Lex the good version, from the other comics could be the hero, and they could make superman the bad guy in the next version when he truly turns out too be real superman evil clone called Bizarro , since after all Bizarro has never show up in any movies against superman, in the beginning of the next movie we could see superman been away in his snowing home of of the cristal house he has up north, you know that place that superman does to talk to the ghosts of his parents , with both the ghosts of his mom and dad their, with his real superman outfit on , not the dark one that Bizarro used in the man of steel movie, so yes, they could do a twisted plot where the last movie you thought you was watching superman , or man of steel as he was known for but in reality he was really Bizarro supermans clone, and you never knew it until the next movie, of course I am guessing their going to do something like that if they don’t reboot superman again for the 2nd time in the next movie, like they did too superman returns, they could just wait a few more years and come out with another reboot version of superman, one reboot after another one maybe… the next movie, will have the smallville superman in it too.

Bizarrokilledzod

July 9, 2013 at 4:03 pm

yes it did seem like Zack Snyder forgot about superman’s other supers, like freeze breath, super speed , being able to jump tall buildings in one bit, he seems to be able to use his heat vision, and flight , no ex-ray vision or spinning drill power , where he spins into the ground to get to Lex luthor, super speed , being able to out run a train, or superman’s time travel he could of jumped thought time, like in the first movie, and went back and stopped himself from snapping zod’s to death and prevented humans being around zod, after all we get older versions of superman from the future in the comics’s interacting with current versions of superman in the present before at least in the comics from what I remember of them…. not sure if I forgot any of superman’s powers but the movie director Zack Snyder sure did forget on purpose or not about some of superman super human powers at least it seems like he forgot after the superman could or reverse time and undo what he did to zod… theirs no talk about that could happen in the next movie too, like he did to save lane from her rocky death , he time traveled to save a human before…

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