SupermanJust for fun.

Man of Steel: Five stars right up to the last moments and then the flight falters….a bit. I disagreed with the “thumbs down” reviewers in their assessment of most of the film, until the last few minutes and then I agreed with them: thus four stars out of five.

The first two hours of the film was a surprise and generally a delight. But the last 10 minutes had the feel of a film where the script, the direction and the production did not know how to close the deal with the viewer effectively. Here is where they went wrong: An overly long fight scene between Kal-El and Zod, an inexplicable death dealing neck twist, and the emergence of a completely undisguised Clark at the Planet left me and those I was with a bit let down.

The combat went on and on and on and on and was the same set of moves at different toppling skyscrapers. Lop five minutes off of it and it improves.

Superman does not intentionally kill others- that’s one of his DC Canon hallmarks. Why couldn’t there have been a “Kansas Farm Boy” bit of wisdom?…..have Kal-El warn Zod that just as super-hearing can overwhelm so can the other powers and then have Zod burn himself out overusing his heat vision. Kansas wisdom: take it slow, moderation in all things, know your field before you plow it.

And then Clark is “welcomed to the Planet” (a lame word play? in a city that is all but destroyed with a smoldering Smallville somewhere off in the distance) this whole things seemed surreal. How can EVERYONE NOT recognize him? His public presence during the face off with the Fascist Kryptonians certainly was filmed by someone in this day of ubiquitous camera phones. Why not dare to take the Martian Manhunter approach where his physical appearance as John Jones is completely different from J’onn J’onzz? What if Clark had altered features like Lemont Cranton, the Shadow, did? I suppose it is too much of a chance, too big of a gamble, too far a reach…but it would have gone a long way it making his so-called “secret identity” a bit more real.

Still I loved the origin story with all its angst. We loved the two dads (and saw hints of the borderline personality in Jor-El that we got used to in Smallville). Their combined presence (in his Kryptonian genes and his Kansas jeans) are evident. We loved his “I can’t help myself” heroism.

The Kryptonian science was interesting if not spectacular. Zod and gang were nasty enough. Lois was outstanding- a modern go-getter with as much drive as Kal-El but more certainty. She is Kal-El’s partner almost from the start. Indeed a common theme in the film, as in Smallville, is that despite all his power, Superman cannot do it without a little (and sometimes a lot) of help from his friends: Ma and Pa Kent, a clergyman, a general, a colonel, a scientist, and his “love at first sight” star crossed lover Lois.

Will there be a sequel? I sincerely hope so.

Afterthought- As I watched the film my mind wandered once or twice to a more serious interpretation of the films underlying themes. Jonathan Kent raises the issue of “being different” with Clark and worries that he will not be accepted, or worse, will be rejected and attacked, if his true nature becomes known. In our oh-so real world the question is not a new one. The danger posed by “aliens” who superficially look like us but unless they have been fully acculturated could bring us down and then replace us was played out. When key characters recognize that: “He is one of us.” It’s a turning point in the film. Could it be a turning point in our discussion of immigration, foreign policy, caring for the needy etc.  Hmmmm….

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Sorry for being a bit late to comment but I wanted to see Man of Steel first.

To begin, I did like the movie but there were parts that I wasn’t as crazy about, primarily the ending.

Really liked your review and I agree, I think the killing of Zod by Superman was a poor choice and actually seemed to weaken the film’s strength.

Killing is so simple minded as a solution to one’s problems, not reflective of a “better man”, let alone a Superman.

Yes, in some storylines in his history, Superman has killed but it was always with devastating effect to him emotionally. Here, he’s upset a little then he’s being cocky with the General after smashing a drone then he pops up happy as a clam as Clark Kent at The Daily Planet.

As a kid, I was a comic book fan so I know a bit about their back stories and what was at the heart of making these eternal characters.

When the right writers handle a character as omnipotent as Superman, they succeed in giving him a humanity as well as…intelligence.

Through most of Man of Steel, Clark/Superman seemed to be a very human and emotional character, even exhibiting some cleverness as he initially used his powers.

However, once he dons his costume, his only response to problems is to punch them.

Now, Superman as a character is a lot about power and punching but what elevated the character was his creativity and smarts in how he used his powers. Whether it was whipping up cyclones, “sewing” powerful enemies to the ground with heavy cable, on and on, it was the inventive application of power that made him a great character. When all he does is punch and snap necks, he is reduced to being little more than an attractive Hulk.

The principle of Superman not killing represents the kind of restraint that real human beings must use in their own lives so jetisoning that makes the character more simplistic even though the apparent intent was to complicate him by having him deal with the ultimate use of great power, killing one’s perceived enemies.

Superheroes originated as pulp-type characters in the 1930’s. Batman started out carrying a gun and Superman would beat the crap out of regular humans. So having either kill their enemies isn’t outrageous when looking at their origins but it does flout their evolution…along with the sensibilities of Americans.

Of all superheroes, Superman evolved into a kind of father-figure (a Christ-like figure in the opinions of some), the all-powerful man who loved humanity and was willing to sacrifice himself at any time to save them. He was very aware of how easy it would be to abuse the great power he had so it was necessary to maintain a degree of servitude to society.

This is of course a very topical theme, as the powerful in our society, even some who may have started off as altruistic, become tempted or corrupted by having such power.

One could argue that Superman’s killing of his enemy was what he had to do in the same way that one could argue that killing America’s enemies is what we have to do. Sometimes, it is true that there is no choice but to kill or be killed.

However, movies and myths are at their most powerful when they inspire so though it was an understandable choice to have Superman kill to make his character more conflicted and troubled, I think it was very unsatisfying and anticlimactic to see that the solution to a complex problem of threatening and irrational hatred was simply snapping the neck of the enemy.

BTW, the punching battle between Superman and Zod that tore apart the entire city and collapsed skyscrapers left and right had to have killed hundreds if not thousands of people and Superman showed no concern over those lives but the filmmakers instead make the contrived killing of a few people such an outrage that Superman must kill to protect them. Huh?

Superman is a modern day myth and myths are typically morality tales. Even though it was dark, the recent Batman movies were mythic and explored the issues of power and how subjective its righteous use is. Most of Man of Steel came off as mythic but it feels like the ending was a lost opportunity to explore or exemplify morality and the necessity of invention.

Couldn’t the most powerful man in the world use his just-as-powerful intellect to utilize his power in a such a smart way that he could accomplish his goals while preserving his principles? Wouldn’t that have been a greater test to have passed than just killing the enemy?

It’s just a movie about a comic book character, it’s not real life and death and in itself doesn’t represent an important sociological event but simply as an audience member, I would have liked to have walked out of the film thinking how affirming it was that this iconic character relied more on his smarts and principles over brute force to deal with a complicated conflict and how that is an example that others, especially politicians should follow.


Who needs Siskel and Ebert when you have Murph!


Murph, it is nice to read about the movie. I grew up with Superman and his fellow super heroes. When I was drafted and went in the army, my Mom (God love her) threw all my comic books and baseball cards away. She thought she was cleaning out the house. Today they would be worth a fortune.

Hindsight is 20-20, huh?

Great review Murph.


Well Murph – I had no idea you had the gift of reviews in you as well as everything else that is so excellent!

I normally would not go see this. You’ve rather piqued my curiosity though, so I might just give it a whirl. I think the analysis of the ending – the folks making the film did not seem to know how to ‘bring it home’ was accurate but sad. Film makers who don’t understand the profundity of “flyover country”‘s thoughts and values would not find the ending you did. Clark’s childhood in simple places, simple but loving households does not seem to be important to the makers of the film. Their loss I’d say.

Thank you for an offbeat post; it’s delicious NOT to be worrying about anything we’ve discussed over the past days but being able to think about the nuances of both film making and national myth. Thank you for making that well worth reading!


Very well done Murph. You have a talent for movie reviews. Mankind has a trait that isn’t the best of traits. Very often, people fear what they don’t understand. This is so evident among different races and cultures.
I can’t explain why this is, but it is definitely real.

Could this be a primal survival tool that is inherent within us? I certainly don’t have the answer, but as long as such fear and lack of understanding continues, our strife will also continues.

Man is an aggressive animal. It’s in our DNA, I think. Life has changed so drastically since our caveman days, that makes me wonder if such aggressiveness is still a necessary survival tool.