Ah, Fandom. We Are a Fickle Bunch
Fresh off of my Man of Steel viewing, I enjoyed a mix of emotions as Hans Zimmer’s score played over the credits (which were totally worth watching despite no post-credits-Marvel-style tease scene. Boo!):
-Relief that the movie wasn’t a Green Lantern level of horrible. In fact, while flawed, it was a highly enjoyable movie.
-Pride that Henry Cavill — a dicey choice when his casting was first announced — nailed the role of Superman. Reeve was my first Supes, and Dean Cain and Tom Welling hold a special place in my heart, but Cavill acquitted himself stupendously to shut a lot of his naysayers up. Including me.
-Surprise that I can not completely hate Lois Lane 100% of the time in every incarnation. A big credit to Amy Adams that I only hated Lois about 60% of the time in this film. I just really don’t see what Clark sees in her.
-Amusement that Russell Crowe — who played Jor-El, Clark’s Kryptonian Dad — shall be known in fandom now as ‘Rus-El’. Thank you collective internet.
-Glee that some nice Easter eggs were worked into the movie for those keeping watch (e.g., Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne definitely exist in this universe).
-Anticipation for the sequel, which has already been greenlit. Woo hoo!
-Belief that Man of Steel was a solid beginning for the spawning of a DC Comic Book movie franchise to complete with Marvel. DC still has a ways to go to flesh out the world, but a decent base has been set.
Unlike when I left the theater after Spider-Man , where I had to re-evaluate why I believe in anything, Man of Steel had me thinking of all the possible ways the sequels and spin-off franchises could go. Wonder Woman! The Flash! Justice League! For the first time in a long time I was excited about what was coming up next from the DC Comics movieverse. Then I went online to read reviews and reactions and you would’ve thought Man of Steel director Zach Snyder had spit in the world’s Cheerios with his ruination of Superman. Now, yes, the movie had its flaws (Pa Kent I’m looking at you), but they were nothing compared to those in the head scratching Watchmen or Sucker Punch. Man of Steel actually has a story that holds up despite its nonlinear storytelling and extended action scenes. This was not Zach Snyder at his worst by any means.
However, the ire that many have for the film is not for it as a whole, but centers around the final confrontation between our hero and the evil General Zod (nicely played by Michael Shannon). I will refrain from completely spoiling the movie for those who have yet to see it, but what has a lot of people in a tizzy is that Superman does something that goes very much against his comic book interpretation. Very against it. And, as someone familiar with the comic book Superman, I admit I was taken aback by the moment in the film, but in the end I was (for lack of a better word) okay with it.
Yes, the ending is something you don’t expect from the big blue Boy Scout, but you know what? The moment was SO earned and the immediate aftermath of it all was showed in a gut wrenching way. I totally get the arguments of Superman loyalists and the protectiveness we all feel for the character, but c’mon, we knew going in that this was going to be a darker, grimmer Superman interpretation. It has Christopher ‘Dark Knight’ Nolan as a Producer. The same Nolan who allowed Batman to ‘not kill, but not save’ Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins, which for many Batman diehards was a big no-no and is now accepted as part of a successful, classic interpretation of Batman. With Nolan’s name on this project, Superman was going to be tested and challenged in more complex ways that he’s been before to prove his mettle as an iconic hero.
I appreciated that Snyder didn’t hew close to the source material. He took a chance. Had he been too slavishly loyal to the comic book Superman we know and love we’d have been hearing how boring this movie was, how it didn’t take risks and that it wasn’t his own interpretation. These are the criticisms that Chris Columbus took for his early Harry Potter films, being ‘too much like it was described in the book’, or JJ Abrams is receiving with the current Star Trek franchise, not taking enough risks (except for the Spock and Uhura storyline).
So who is right? The fans who want the envelope pushed or the fans who want everything to stay the same? How is a filmmaker to know what’s too far and what is an edgy interpretation of a character done ‘the right way’?
Given that Man of Steel made over $110 million domestic for the weekend and the sequel is already greenlit, the movie was successful for some (meaning a LOT of) people. And for those where it was a pile of poo, ultimately, it’s Snyder’s interpretation. What happened in this film is not set in stone for future Superman movies nor does it retroactively corrupt all of Big Blue’s comic book continuity. Like Superman Returns, one can curse it and then forget about it to wait for the next Superman movie reboot coming down the pike.
Believe me, I get that huge chunk of the Superman fandom’s pain and am in no way trying to tell people to get over it. If JJ Abrams decided to have Luke, or his kin, talk smack about the late Obi-Wan Kenobi as some demented, clueless chump in Star Wars Episode VII, I’d totally want to throw Tauntaun poo at his head for forever and a day. But still, I ask for a little less fire breathing across the interwebs and more concession that sometimes you don’t get what you ask for (in this case a modern, faithful Superman film). Filmmakers aren’t perfect. If they were, we’d never have horrible-classic-so-bad-they-are-good films like Showgirls to make fun of on boring nights.
Man of Steel