Superman: Man of Meh

OK, before we start this, I’m not a huge fan of Superman.  I read comics, true, loved them, but they were, every last one of them, Marvel.  DC’s characters always seemed lame to me.  In a way, they kind of still do.

But I remember vividly Superman: The Movie from 1977.  I was 13 years old and I was home from school for some reason…illness or feigned illness.  But my parents took me to the movies to see Superman.  I thought, shrug, whatever.  Out of school for the day.

From the first moment of John Williams’ iconic score, I couldn’t catch my breath…literally.  That movie, as corny, as campy, as dated as it is, still remains the Superman movie.

Still.  Even after seeing Man of Steel tonight.

I had such high hopes…

Kevin Smith, the famous director, said after viewing Superman Returns, that he hoped to god the next director of a Superman movie would have the character punch something.  Because, let’s face it, those Christopher Reeves movies weren’t much on the action quotient.  It’s almost as if (the limits of 1970s special effects technology aside), the writers of those movies didn’t know how to handle a character so powerful he was literally almost godlike.

In Man of Steel, it’s as if the writers can’t figure out what to do with the character other than to punch things.

I found the movie strangely unaffecting and uninvolving, much like I did with this summer’s Iron Man 3.  This is a superhero movie with plenty of action–plenty of punching–but with no heart.  It’s joyless, relentlessly downbeat, devoid of any of the thrills of seeing (or for that matter, for the character himself, being) a super man.  Flying for the first time, he barely cracks a smile.

This movie is action packed.  Action. Packed.  Metropolis and other places on our world are pretty much reduced to rubble.  Things explode.  People are in peril, but of course they have the decency to die in droves off screen, where neither we nor Superman have to concern ourselves much about them.

All the while I watched this, I felt nothing.  Nothing.  No joy, no rooting for the hero when the nasty villains come and mess up our planet.  No fear when he gets his super ass handed to him on a plate by his fellow Kryptonians.  Nothing.  The only thing I thought was, “Gee, this is kind of an interesting film.  But it’s not a Superman film.”  This is similar to what I thought (and still think) when I saw the two new Abramsverse Star Trek films; interesting, fun to watch, great special effects and action sequences.  But it ain’t Star Trek.

Casting was great.  Cavill is Superman, but they don’t give him much to do.  Amy Adams was a fine Lois Lane.  Michael Shannon great as Zod, a bad guy with a fairly compelling reason for doing what he does…for a change.

And, yes, they did play fast and lose with the Superman mythos.  Now, if you can change the mythos and add something, some depth, some dimension to it, by all means, go ahead.  And, again, since I’m no Superman purist, I could care less.  But the changes to the mythos, to me at least, seemed just changes to be changing stuff.  Didn’t make it better, just different.  So why change it?  To make the screenwriters or the director feel like they’ve made their marks on the story?  I call bullshit.  If you’re just changing the story to change it, leave it alone.  And their changes added n0thing.  In fact, some of them, and I’m referring to the death of Jonathan Kent here, are stupid and pointless.

I’m sure they’ll make another of these, because it’s sucking in major coin right now.  I hope they get the next one right.  Otherwise, DC is screwed, because they’re relying on this to build the foundation for a Justice League franchise.

In my book, The Avengers is still the superhero movie to beat.  Point Marvel.

This is, like, the third disappointing summer movie for me.  Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and now Man of Steel.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  Hollywood, hire some fucking writers.


About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

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