Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man of Steel Follow-Up

I still have major concerns with the tone. And I don't like Pa Kent saying that "maybe" Clark should have let the kid die, and Pa Kent being the one saying Clark should hide himself. Pa Kent is supposed to be where Clark's morality comes from (not Jor-El), and frankly every version since (especially SMALLVILLE's) has come up really short next to Glenn Ford's brief perfect scene.

But! I must admit this trailer (like the Jor-El V/O teaser) stirred something in me.

I love the line where young Clark says "What was I supposed to do? Just let him die?" not in a "Am I doing the right thing?" way, but rather in the sense of a rhetorical question, as if saving the kid was something he didn't, and would never question, because it was the right thing to do.

That's the kind of ingrained morality and heroism Superman needs to have, and I hope has through the whole film.

If there needs to be the theme of "what is heroism?" etc. addressed, then the way I would hope it is approached is to have Superman be the sole voice for morality and heroism in a world that has lost faith in that kind of behaviour. To have everyone doubting Superman, rather than Superman doubting himself. Y'know, the Army being convinced he must be a scout for an Invasion (which, with Zod's arrival, would be a likely conclusion to jump to), and the reporters asking themselves "what's in it for him?" and everyone being stupified by the idea of someone doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. But Superman himself should never waver in his goodness. He should be the lone voice in the woods, calling for people to take a stand. And thereby become an inspiration to others. I can see the potential for that, and I hope it's what we get. Whereas RETURNS tried hamfistedly to address similar issues but failed to make it's hero a paragon of virtue and failed to demonstrate that the world did, in fact, need him. Supes in that film actually causes more harm than good by returning.

Since it's all shot digitally, I kinda wanna see a version where the colour saturation has been bumped in the other direction, just to see if I like that better. I feel like the dour visual styling is half my problem at this point.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Man of Steel

Here's a teaser poster for Zach Snyder's upcoming Superman reboot feature:

Now what's wrong with this picture? Well, for one -- why the hell is the U.S. army arresting Superman? And two -- why is everything so bleak? I mean the colour scheme. Look, fellas, I get that THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY was successful, but "grim n' gritty" is NOT Superman.

This is Superman, for me:

Superman is big. Superman is bright. He's primary colours, he's outrageous situations, he's heroism in the face of unyielding danger. He stands for hope and he stands for good, and his adventures are larger than life. And he can do all of these things and still be a badass. Because my Man of Steel is nothing if not a badass. If you want examples, you don't have to go any further than the original Siegel & Schuster Superman comics, where the Man of Tomorrow dispensed social justice with righteous fury:

Here's a quote from Snyder that I find telling:"We have great respect for the canon. I would say it is a clashing of stories and ideas. Superman is the king-daddy of all superheroes - to make him work is a big deal. The big challenge is if you can make people feel 'What would you do if you were Superman?' That's what we went out to do as far as we could. Superman's always been this kind of big blue boy-scout up on a throne that nobody can really touch, so we tried to make him relatable."

Superman CAN be relatable. But it's not in making him darker, or grittier, or angrier, or making him conflicted about who he is or why he does what he does. Clark knows that doing the right thing is the right thing to do. Simple as that. He knows that the best use for his powers is helping people. In the original comics from the 30s/40s, he knew that without even knowing he was from Krypton. He didn't discover his heritage until he'd been Superman for a while already.

Clark may be from Krypton, but he was raised on a farm in Kansas and that's how you make him relatable. He's a good person. Pure and simple. He's not a god, he's not a judge, he's an ideal. He leads by example. He's there to inspire us to believe that we can be better than we are. He's a champion of the oppressed, fighting a battle for truth, justice and the American Way and what's more American than the ideal of self-improvement? He fights that battle in and out of costume -- after all, freedom of the press is the 1st Amendment, and a reporter should stand for truth and justice.

Superman shouldn't be some all-powerful stone-faced god, but that doesn't mean you turn him into flawed, feeble, Peter Parker, either. All that navel gazing about "what makes a hero?" and "am I doing the right thing?" is for Marvel heroes. Superman knows what the right thing to do is. So does Batman -- even if his interpretation of "the right thing" is different from Clark's. That was one thing that bugged me about Nolan's Batman -- where was the grim determination? Where was the vow to war on crime? Nolan's Batman became a big sobby mess who wanted to give up once his childhood crush was killed.

I think the issue may be that the creative forces behind MAN OF STEEL have had their greatest success adapting the works of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, etc. Batman, Blade, Watchmen, 300, and so on. Those aren't exactly properties that speak to a great view of Superman. Granted, Bruce Timm was able to go from doing a great BATMAN to a great SUPERMAN, but generally speaking the techniques that work with one do not work with the other, unless that technique is "be true to who this character is".

And who is this character? From Superman #1, 1939:

He is the Champion of the Oppressed. He is a hero.

Granted, Bryan Singer claimed to be a huge Superman fan too, and also fucked up royally. But then, his Superman was just Donner's Superman with more CGI. 60% of the dialogue was just unironically cribbed from Mankiewicz. RETURNS was a nostalgia trip and what new elements it did bring to the table were questionable at best. But it sounds like Snyder & Co. are falling into the same trap: probably an hour and a half into the movie before we actually get some Superman I'm betting, with the first two acts just being Clark biding time having innner conflict while the audience grows restless, and then he'll fight a villain we've already seen before because heaven forbid a Superman movie use a villain from his comics rogues gallery that wasn't in one of the two Donner movies.

There is an animated Superman feature called SUPERMAN VS. THE ELITE, which is I think a great response to the whole foolhardy notion that Superman needs to be darker and more extreme to fit in with the 21st century. Here's a page from the original comic the feature was based on:

Snyder and co could do better than looking to Mark Waid's SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT for inspiration. That flawed origin/reboot doesn't hold a candle to what is the undisputed masterpiece of Superman comics. To me, someone looking for who Superman is should look no further than ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Morrison and Quitely.

This is Superman, for me:

He's a hero.

And he's hope.