With the release of Man of Steel, I think it is very clear to my mind about the fundamental differences between DC Comics and Marvel Comics super-heroes.
DC Heroes are like modern-day Gods while Marvel’s heroes are like every day joes who fight alongside the ordinary man. Is that good or bad?
Not at all. There’s something about how they adapted Alex Ross’ stirring paintings of these heroes hovering in the sky that’s both majestic and terrifying. Then again, remember the old JLA satellite was in orbit miles and miles above the earth.
Having said that modern-day comics book movies owe a lot to retcons and to Michael Bay. For those who do not read comic books, “retcons” means “retroactive continuity” or the updating of previously established stories or simply put, rewriting history. This is done so that comic books are kept fresh for modern audiences.
Obviously, that is why you have reboots. Now since these reboots are set today, they are darker in tone. Hence, the Michael Bay (see Armageddon, Transformers etc) larger than life scenes of destruction and the use of US military hardware.
Man of Steel is also obviously influenced by the first Richard Donner-Superman film, Alex Ross’ portrayal of Big Blue, the recent stories by Grant Morrison, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
What I liked about this reboot?
1) The casting. Henry Cavill is Superman. Finally, there’s an heir to Christopher Reeve who can carry the torch. Amy Adams has the right charm for Lois Lane without being tomboyish. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are perfect as the Kents. I can even dig Laurence Fishburne as Perry White! For real. But what’s with the change --- first we see Nick Fury turn from Caucasian to African American. Now it’s Perry White! Nevertheless, great casting.
2) I can understand mining Superman’s Kryptonian origins into something richer. It’s now a lot more plausible to have more Kryptonians out there. In the original origin (now that sounds weird, right), Kal-El was the original and only survivor of the explosion of Krypton. But as years went by, he wasn’t the only one. Soon enough, there were a lot of Kryptonians all over the place. Having space expansion makes more sense.
I have to admit that when I think of Jor-El, I think of Marlon Brando’s screen version in the first Christopher Reeve film. Is that now in danger of being toppled by Russell Crowe’s version? Not sure but Crowe does a good Jor-El.
3) General Zod. Totally badass zealot. One of my recollections of the first Superman film was some government guy exclaiming, “Oh, my God.” To which the general replies, “Not God. Zod.”
In this film, this line is epic: “I was bred for this. I was trained all my life to be a warrior! Where did you train? A farm?” Awesome.
4) The fight scenes. Spectacular. Love ‘em.
What I didn’t like about the reboot?
1) The US Military, the people of Kansas and Lois Lane know that Clark Kent is Superman? Surely you jest. Might as well put Ma Kent in the Fortress of Solitude. Didn’t Pa Kent tell him to be careful with his secret identity? Funny. And then he joins the Daily Planet where still you think you can fool people with the eye glasses for a disguise?
The guys who wrote the screenplay would have read the DC limited series Identity Crisis. This isn’t kosher by any stretch of the imagination.
2) Smallville. The scenes from Smallville in the first Christopher Reeve film are still more riveting and painful (especially when Clark leaves to find his destiny).
3) The fight scenes. Clark wasn’t trained to be a warrior. Where did he learn how to fight? How did he know how to snap Zod’s neck?
4) Just like the Batman movies, the carnage in Man of Steel is terrifying. After the first Batman film, I would have moved out of Gotham. I mean the Batman trilogy is great but the ineptness of the police in taking on these criminals? I would have moved to Kansas!
After the attack of the Kryptonians and Metropolis is nearly and totally destroyed, every armed force in the world would want to prepare for more space invasions.
It’s a darn good film. I know with sci-fi and superhero films, you have to suspend you disbelief. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be airtight.
In spite of that, I enjoyed Man of Steel. It’s worth seeing again and getting the DVD/Blu-Ray discs for my collection. Furthermore, it revitalizes Superman not only for the comic book community but also for the general public. Is it better than Iron Man of The Avengers? Or even The Dark Knight? No, it’s not. But it’s real close. And that is the least that you can ask for in a terrific summer movie.
-- Rick Olivares