Spoilers and strange politics ahead. . . .
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So Superman breaks the bad guy’s neck, huh?* That’s the best you could come up with? Not only was it an awkward little scene that made no sense to watch (was Zod trying to turn his spontaneous heat vision toward those people and Superman wouldn’t let him, or. . ?), the end of Superman’s battle with Zod saw him actually killing his enemy to finish a fight. That is not Superman’s way, man.
But I guess if he’s killing to save lives it’s OK?
Sigh. . . .
We were talking after “Man of Steel” about how the government approves scripts before it’ll let filmmakers use their equipment. If you want to put the army in your movie, the thinking goes, you better not make the army look bad. I thought it was strange that the government would let Superman smash a drone at the end of “Man of Steel,” and tell off a federal general for spying on him.
But Obama will pretend he doesn’t like drones. What Obama won’t say, ever, is that it was wrong of him to take out any of the many enemies he’s killed as president. “Man of Steel” was great for the U.S. government, because it demonstrated that even Superman has to end an evildoer’s life when innocents are at stake. His actions say killing is justified.
“Man of Steel” is an awesome movie because of its actors, directors, effects. . . a lot of things. But not its screenplay. And not just because it’s a sell-out; David S. Goyer wrote the script and in those rare moments when the movie relied on him, he completely whiffed.
Henry Cavill and Amy Adams had great chemistry as Superman and Lois Lane, but it was up to Goyer to write the lines they say after their big first kiss. The cheesy exchange hit with an embarrassing thud.
And it was surely a challenge figuring out how to end a fight between two invulnerable supermen. But that’s when you have to step up as a writer. Zod starts shooting heat vision from his eyes, and Superman grabs his head, and these two guys who were just exchanging huge blows above Metropolis are suddenly struggling over a slow neck turn. Superman asks Zod to stop slowly moving his eye lasers toward a family, and then he breaks Zod’s neck and screams. This resolution is a stain, and it will always be the worst thing about “Man of Steel.”
Goyer Boner No. 3: He had Michael Shannon as Zod and gave him nothing fun to do. Terence Stamp’s Zod in Superman II (in 1980) was a hoot. “So this is planet Hooston?” Shannon was great at making Zod twitchy, scary, and oddly sympathetic. But he was not funny, or any fun.
There’s already a sequel in the works, and apparently Goyer’s writing it. Bad idea. Let someone else take a crack. The only thing about “Man of Steel” that wasn’t great was the writing.
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And if they’re making a trilogy, the next one — “Superman,” I’m guessing — has gotta have Lex Luthor. Then Part III is the Doomsday fight that killed Superman, since that was the biggest thing to ever happen in comics. Problem is, the Doomsday fight was so amazing because of its vast destruction of Metropolis, and how desperate Superman was to end the destruction because so many people were getting hurt all around them.
Superman’s fight with Zod in “Man of Steel,” though, has skyscrapers toppling into each other like dominoes. I guess you’ve gotta just accept that the lives you see within the actual frame of shots are the only ones that exist in this universe, because otherwise we’re watching the worst tragedy in modern American history.
And if that’s so, the epic fist fight with Doomsday doesn’t carry emotional heft, because there isn’t an entire huge city of civilians’ lives at stake.
Maybe this new Zack Snyder Superman just wants to fight, though, and doesn’t care who gets hurt.
*If you’re gonna get wet, go swimming. Superman shoulda ripped Zod’s head off.