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Man of Steel Facebook roundtable

Posted by msunyata on Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I see movies.  I’m also on Facebook.  Sometimes, the two worlds collide, and I end up shooting the shit about movies with others on Facebook.

Some of these others are of the more interesting sort, whether by background or disposition (or, in some very special cases, both) – and they certainly came out of the woodwork to discuss last week’s giant release, the long-awaited Man of Steel.  When I started to voice my uneasiness with the film’s now-infamous ending, an involved (for social media) and, dare I say, interesting conversation ensued.  Given the people involved, what they said, and the simple fact that Corona Coming Attractions never published a review on the film, I thought it might be worthwhile to share with others here.

Just who are these fine chaps, anyway?  Josh Esenwine was voted the Ultimate Smallville Fan (and is even on the season six DVD extras to prove it); Beau Watkins is the insomniac nerd who occasionally pens some articles for the site; Brian Gesing goes by the handle Ipsilon here on the boards; and Patrick Sauriol is some Canadian bloke that you may have heard of before.

Two brief, tangientally-important notes.  Firstly, the retrofitted roundtable has been (slightly) edited and (partially) reorganized to make it less reflect the typo-laden, nonlinear unreality of Facebook and more the proper, cogent world of online article writn’ (though we did keep the smilies, but of course :D).  Secondly – and needless to say – there are SPOILERS for the movie.  Proceed with Kryptonian caution.


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

Some very interesting thoughts and observations here.  Patrick, Beau, Brian, and Josh, I think you'll find this especially interesting.


Beau Watkins:

It's interesting that an Entertainment Weekly article is being critical of the movie's ending, since Time Warner owns it and DC.  Then again, they're constantly trying to prove to people that they have the chutzpah to be critical of Warner-owned properties.


Josh Esenwine:

Zod was a punk ass!  Though I don't think Supes had much choice.  Either innocents die or Zod dies.  Either way, it was against what he stands for.


Patrick Sauriol:

Superman and Batman, when they first debuted, did kill people.  It was during the comics code brouhaha that they were sanitized and cleaned up.

If the creators of Man of Steel are intent on grounding Superman in the real world, then it is conceivable that he would be placed in such a situation as to kill Zod.

The character is typically in service to the story, and if the story is to give us a Superman that today's modern world demands, then that is what is given.


Brian Gesing:

That ending was just a culmination of the errors – both technical and story – up to that point.  Goyer (and maybe Snyder) have "given Batman a gun," as I'm so fond of saying.

I think Nolan had about as much to do with this as Gene Roddenberry had to do with Star Trek: Voyager.

I like and agree with this article.


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

Um, he has a “story by” credit, Brian.


Brian Gesing:

Nolan could literally write one line and get a story credit, no?


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

I highly doubt WGA arbitration would allow that.  =)


Brian Gesing:

You’re an arbitration.


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

Patrick – you think a modern story necessitates Supes killing people?  Interesting.

And I don't mean that pejoratively, for the record.  That really is interesting.


Patrick Sauriol:

My own personal feelings are a mixture of two thoughts.  First, Superman is a product owned by a corporation, and, as such, they will do whatever the elected powers that be decide will make their shareholders maximum value.  Their decisions are not driven by a canonistic, faithful-to-the-source-material approach that serious fans of the character have.  These interpretations get rebooted, built upon, deconstructed, and then erased, only to be rebooted again, time and time again.  Man of Steel is just the latest attempt to give Superman a 2013 grounding.

Second point:  while I agree that Superman has largely been a character that maintains a no-kill rule, the problem with that approach is that you can never truly ground him in a realistic world.  That's why he works so well as a big Boy Scout and purveyor of the American Way of life, two romanticized interpretations of American values.  The real America is a place where terrorist leaders are killed by Navy SEAL teams and their bodies disposed off-camera into the ocean.  If you want to bring Superman more in terms of a relatable being to a modern, 2013 cinema-goer, then, logically, you must open the door to the concept of death.  If Superman doesn't kill, but by inaction he allows Zod to incinerate innocents, then Man of Steel would open a grey door of doubt that couldn't be closed neatly within the film's running time.  Thus, it makes sense that he takes Zod's life and that's it – move on.

Superman is different than a character like Batman, whose mantra of no-kill is at the heart of his creation.  Batman can't kill because then he would become exactly like the criminal that killed his parents, whereas Clark/Superman doesn't have that emotional baggage.  The Superman in Man of Steel can take a life.


Beau Watkins:

Everybody realizes Superman “didn't have much choice” because the script painted Superman into that corner, right?  Everybody also realizes that Superman had beaten Zod down, had him in a headlock, and could have simply:  (a) pivoted Zod's body (and head) into another direction, (b) used his amazing, wonderful, and dare-I-say super powers of flight to fly Zod and himself elsewhere, (c) given Zod a swift punch to the temple to render him unconscious, or (d) cupped his hands over Zod's eyes, right?

I brought this up on Corona, but I have less problem with the death than with the lazy writing aspect of it.  Killing him off is easy.  It's a superhero movie staple at this point.  It's a tidy, all-too-convenient way not to have to deal with things at the end of the movie.  You know what's more interesting than making it so that one character has no choice but to kill another character?  Having enough balls, patience, and talent to figure out some other way to deal with the character, despite it appearing that there is no other way to deal with the character.

Supervillains get killed left and right in comics movies.  It's a running joke at this point.  With Nolan's Batman trilogy, you even have a guy whose “one rule” is not to kill.  It's rubbed in the viewer's face to an almost humorous degree.  Still, most of the villains die.  Scarecrow doesn't, and the Joker doesn't.  Most of the rest of them don't fare so well.  (Granted, Batman isn't directly responsible for killing most of them.)

Haven't read the article yet.  I'll get around to it.

I don't remember any pre-CCA (that's the Comics Code Authority, and not Corona Coming Attractions [I already made this joke on the boards, but who reads the boards these days?]) instances of Superman killing people.  Not offhand, anyway.  The Fleischer version might have.  I remember John Byrne having the post-Crisis Superman kill a pocket universe version of Zod & Co.  I think it was in the second year of his Superman run.

Again, I don't have a huge problem with him killing.  The problem is with the laziness of going that route with the writing, and with putting him in a contrived situation he could have dealt with any number of ways.

I should mention that I am aware the scene was symbolic of the threat Zod posed to kill more than that specific family.  (Not that it was subtly symbolic, since Goyer doesn't really do that.  He more or less has Zod announce it.)  Still, though, there were plenty of options to ensure the family's safety.  The family, itself, might have considered ducking.  Instead, they acted like they were lashed to a log making its way down a conveyor belt toward a spinning saw.

It reminded me of the characters in Prometheus running down the path of the giant shower ring instead of turning and running to the left or right.


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

I forgot to post this earlier:  it's Mark Waid's review of Man of Steel.

Needless to say, I agree with most of it.


Brian Gesing:

Yes. Exactly.

My favorite sentence: “Seriously, back in Metropolis, entire skyscrapers are toppling in slo-mo and the city is a smoking, gray ruin for miles in every direction, it’s Hiroshima, and Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich are somewhere muttering, ‘Too far, man, too far’..”


Marc N. Kleinhenz:

There are some great response articles to this online now.


[Marc N. Kleinhenz writes articles (for 20 sites and running!), books, and flash fiction.  Oh, he also likes mittens.]

The Swollen Goi...
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Posted: 4 years 13 weeks ago

I feel like I've been wiretapped. Marc is the NSA.