Come one, come all! Step right up and hear what Renegade Cinema staffers have to say about Superman’s triumphant return to the big screen in this Man of Steel Roundtable.
More specifically, five questions were posed, and in most cases five questions were answered. Things range from general to specific, and beware as there may be SPOILERS ahead!
Let’s get things started with question #1…
1. What are your overall thoughts on the film?
Aidan Green: A comic book film for the ages – a masterwork of superhero cinema, and a welcome reinvention of the Man of Tomorrow. Zack Snyder & co. have crafted something mythic, emotional, and just plain fun.
Tony Beaulieu: Great effects, but that’s about it. The way the plot was structured felt disjointed and thus empty of any emotional impact it may have had. Man of Steel is a cold, cold film devoid of any “hope” whatsoever. Goyer and Amy Adams’ handling of Lois Lane is laughable at best. Goyer having written lines that Adams simply can’t deliver, and that Lois Lane would never say anyway (something about measuring dicks? PLEASE, I almost spit my Mr.Pibb on the people sitting in front of me.) Would have liked to have seen an entire film on Krypton as that was the only satisfying part of the film.
Jesse Blume: Good flick over all, but it needed a better screenplay and a hell of a lot more hope, optimism and fun. I’m sure they’ll get more of that the next time around.
Derek Ciapala: Outstanding effects, and really nice easter eggs on Smallville and Lex Luthor. The camera work was wonderful. Cavill was outstanding. Too much action, too little character development between one of the iconic couples in comic book lore. I wish we would have seen a little more of how Kal El was raised with the morality he lived by. It also bothered me that he killed Zod. Not even Batman has killed in any of the films, but Supes outright kills Zod in this movie. I didn’t care for that.
Shawn S. Lealos: I thought it was really well done. Some of the camera movements was kind of jarring, but overall I liked it. I thought a lot of the nitpicking I have been seeing on Facebook and Twitter are a bit overblown. For example, the death of Zod was a necessary evil for Superman, and it was obvious it killed him to do it, but he had to in order to save the people. Zod said he would not stop until he was dead. I also liked the Easter eggs and thought it was a great re-introduction to Superman.
Rick Tym: From an overall perspective, I really liked Superman’s return to the cinematic universe. And for my money, the first half of the film is nearly perfect, with just the right blend of action and drama. I really felt Clark’s growing pains, and the interactions between him and his father (a terrific Kevin Costner) really resonated. The second half of the movie was a testament to effects and action, something that was missing in Singer’s Returns. All of the actors from Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon to Lawrence Fishburne and Christopher Meloni did the absolute best with the screenplay they were handed. Since seeing it, I’ve been referring to Man of Steel as Superman Begins, because to me it’s just like Nolan’s first Batman film: a bit flawed but ultimately solid and effective, with nowhere to go but up from here.
2. Which character/actor besides Superman/Cavill was your favorite?
Aidan Green: Zod. Michael Shannon plays the film’s antagonist with an intangible, raw, understated intensity that permeates the film’s spirit – he’s vicious and powerful as all hell, but his motive is oddly sympathetic and out of his control. Like Kal-El, he has a mission, and is essentially hard-wired to stop at nothing in its execution.
Tony Beaulieu: Not much to choose from here other than Cavill, I suppose Shannon was appropriately menacing.
Jesse Blume: Cavill was easily my favorite actor/character in the movie, but other than him, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, it was Kevin Costner’s version of Jonathan next. I was very intrigued how fearful this new version was that the world would reject Clark. On the other hand, I was pleased to see that he did still have that hope and optimism that Clark could be a great influence on the world. In fact, Costner’s scenes with the young Clark were the ones that made me tear up both times I saw the movie. I’ll always say that John Schneider’s version of Jonathan Kent was the best, but I never expected Kevin Costner to move me to the point of tears.
Derek Ciapala: Russell Crowe was outstanding as Jor-El. Amy Adams was a poor choice for Lois Lane.
Shawn S. Lealos: I really liked Michael Shannon’s General Zod. I thought he brought a great pathos with him, as he was someone who wanted to protect his people at all costs. He really believed that what he was doing was right and that made him a very dangerous foe.
Rick Tym: It’s a toss-up between Michael Shannon’s Zod and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El for me, and in the end, for as fantastic as Crowe was (with much more screen time than I anticipated to boot), I have to go with Michael Shannon’s Zod on this one. Shannon continues to impress in all of the roles he’s taken on, and he was certainly more than able and deserving to hoist the mantle of what may be the biggest summer movie villain of 2013. As Shawn says above, there is a great sense of poignancy to Shannon’s Zod. He was bred and raised to do one thing, no matter the cost: protect and preserve Krypton. Was he really a villain? By all typical constructs, yes. In terms of societal upbringing and sense of absolute purpose? Well… At any rate, a simply marvelous job by Shannon in this role. It’s a shame – necessary given the film’s narrative, but still a shame – that we won’t be seeing Zod bust out of the Phantom Zone for another 12 rounds with Cavill’s Supes.
3. General Zod: perfect choice for villain given this reincarnation of Supes on the big screen? Search your feelings, and let everyone know if you would’ve liked to see a different antagonist.
Aidan Green: Like Ra’s Al Ghul in the similarly-toned BATMAN BEGINS, Zod was the perfect – and only sensible – adversary to square off against Superman in MAN OF STEEL. Screenwriter David Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan have always vocally preached against “picking a villain” – that is, they allow the story arc to bring about a villain organically. Whatever needs to happen thematically dictates the film’s main threat, and in doing so, MAN OF STEEL’s hero/villain clash feels far more natural than most comic book cinema fare. Not only that, but a Kryptonian antagonist makes for the powerhouse action scenes that audiences have craved for decades.
Tony Beaulieu: I mean, yeah I guess. The only villain I can think of who may have been better was Brainiac. I thought it was surprising to use Zod for the first film and just blow the Krypton load in the first movie. I feel that is something that really had to be built towards in the previous films and in the comic books. But they certainly didn’t pull any punches with it, which was nice.
Jesse Blume: Zod was the best villain for the theme of the movie. I thought that Shannon did a very good job with the material. He made Zod a bit more empathetic. He was certainly a megalomaniacal bastard, but you could see his motivations and understand why they were important. You just didn’t want to see his species become extinct.
Derek Ciapala: Zod was a good choice, but again, they could have done a better job telling his story.
Shawn S. Lealos: General Zod was the only villain that could have been used in this case. This was an introduction to Superman and showed how he needed to discover who he is supposed to be. By putting him against the version of Krypton that he did not want to be, it made the perfect counterpoint to show how good he really was. It was the only real way to show he was there to protect earth.
Rick Tym: See my glowing remarks above re: Michael Shannon’s work as Zod. Zod as a villain, given the actor that played him, was the best selection here. What else were Snyder and company going to do, introduce a dopey Lex Luthor real estate scam again? And the ‘reboot’ of Superman is too early to introduce a Darkseid or Brainiac. I say it was the perfect choice, especially given this interpretation of the General and his purpose for finding and battling Kal-El.
4. Pacing preferences: Did Zack Snyder and company accomplish the proper mix of drama and action?
Aidan Green: Absolutely. While the beginning of the film is a bit jarring – executing the “intercut flashback” technique less smoothly than BATMAN BEGINS did – it quickly picks up, maintaining a steadily serious tone throughout. The film’s back end is loaded with massive action set pieces (somewhat disproportionally so), but seeing Superman in full-on action has been such a long time coming that I am far from complaining. Every punch carries weight, and not a fight scene goes by that isn’t rife with emotional tension.
Tony Beaulieu: I didn’t not like the way the film was structured, as said before. I understand that they had to jam a lot of stuff in there. It’s a difficult task but it just didn’t connect for me. The scene of Young Clark and Old Clark felt completely disconnected from one another — like I was watching two different films and neither film had enough time to make me give a shit about the characters or their dramatic conflict.
Jesse Blume: I did feel that the pacing in this movie was off. It seems like it was divided between two halves of the movie. The first half was the drama half, and the second half was the action. The action we did get also could’ve used a lot more drama behind it.
Derek Ciapala: No. (Roundtable emcee note: Simple and straight to the point. I like it.)
Shawn S. Lealos: Yes. Sure, there was a ton of action but I thought that by structuring the movie with the flashback scenes in between the action, it really helped show Superman’s personal journey while never stopping the action itself. I thought Diane Lane and Kevin Costner were fantastic as his parents and those scenes breaking the action made it feel more than just a non-stop action movie.
Rick Tym: This is really the only problem I had with the film. I can take other stuff and nitpick, like Pa Kent’s somewhat silly death/sacrifice (c’mon, a tornado? Why not a disease like cancer or a heart condition that Superman can’t cure?) or Lois Lane being on a bomber plane approaching an alien threat for no real credible reason (maybe because she’s a Pulitzer prize winning reporter who’s covered battle? I don’t know, still seems silly to think Lois would be riding shotgun no matter what her connection to Supes or her press credentials). But I just can’t seem to forgive the nonstop action and frenetic pace of the second half of Man of Steel. Part of that is because the audience seemed to need a breather somewhere in there with everything going on. But the major reason I feel this way is because the first half of the movie, paralleling growing of age flashbacks with current day action beats , proved to resonate more than any other superhero flick since The Dark Night. It’s almost like Snyder and company managed to grab the brass ring on the carousel but then dropped it before cashing it in for another go around.
5. Where would you like to see the now guaranteed sequel go next?
Aidan Green: I’ve never liked Lex Luthor (Superman seems to be above a bald, middle-aged real estate tycoon), but it seems inevitable. I’m afraid they might have shot their wad in MAN OF STEEL regarding action – almost as if the original IRON MAN film had ended in an AVENGERS-sized battle – but, again, seeing Kal-El in full-on badass mode was so cinematically cathartic that I don’t care. They came up with this movie, I am sure they’re hard at work to make the next one even bigger and badder. Superhero sequels for the most part (X2, SPIDER-MAN 2, BLADE II) surpass their originals in quality and pacing, so consider my ticket bought for the midnight showing.
Tony Beaulieu:I am looking forward to the sequel, now that they have the messy origin out of the way they can form a more cohesive second installment — like Batman Begins vs. Dark Knight. I have to say it would be cool to see Lex step in now and have Superman try and negotiate with the people he’s supposedly protecting. That or Mr.Mxyzptlk.
Jesse Blume: I would like to see the next movie detail Superman’s interaction with the public. Then we can see the true public face of Superman that we all know and love so much, because we got next to none of it in this movie. Superman is the world’s upstanding and inspiring protector; Clark Kent is the mild-mannered but determined journalist focusing on inner-city social justice. Both of these two personas eventually come into conflict with Lex Luthor. Luthor would be straight from the books of Jon Byrne and Mark Waid, a brilliant but arrogant billionaire scientist who does want to help the world, but he also wants them to worship him for it. Basically I’d like to see them go full Frank Capra with it.
Derek Ciapala: I’d like to see Brainiac next. I’d also like to see more balance. The movie had a few nice touches, but overall I agree with the other guys…Superman is about hope….and there was little of it.
Shawn S. Lealos: I have heard that it will be called Man of Tomorrow, and I really don’t want them to use that comic’s storyline yet. I think it is time to introduce Lex Luthor as the man who tries to turn the population against Superman. Luthor as the president was awesome in the comics and if they use him as a political manipulator, it will be a lot better than the original Superman movie’s version of Lex. That can also bring Superman in conflict with another hero, maybe Batman, who also doesn’t know if he is good or not. Once Superman finishes that journey, he is solidly a hero and can move on to bigger villains, like possibly Brainiac down the line.
Rick Tym: See RC founder Shawn Lealos’ response above, as it coincides pretty much exactly with what I’m thinking. With all the references sprinkled throughout Man of Steel, it seems a given that Lex will be showing up in the sequel that is already being referred to as Man of Tomorrow. Time to take the hand off the throttle ever so slightly and have Superman deal with those that may be persuaded to doubt his allegiance to his adopted planet. I think that Luthor’s desire to own some cool and possibly wealth-creating alien tech will play a part in his quest to unravel Superman’s identity. And just when Lex is beaten, with ‘Merica (and the rest of the world) firmly behind the red and blue again, in pops Brainiac as a foil to round out the first trilogy.
One other big debate that’s been making its way around the interwebs and is the amount of collateral damage that Metropolis sustains during the climactic fight between Superman and Zod. Many are arguing that the Superman of old (i.e. “their” Superman) would have lured Zod out to a less populated/barren landscape to do battle, thus ensuring that innocent civilians didn’t lose their lives as the Kryptonians knocked the super-snot out of each other. Even though this wasn’t a roundtable question it should be noted that these points were not lost on the RC staff, and lively debate continues. For me, I side with those that think that this is actually Superman’s first rodeo, and that Supes will grow a more competent tactician over time. I firmly believe that aspects like this, as well as the impact of Kal-El having to kill the last remaining Kryptonian — the last link to his true home — to save his adopted planet will also be explored in future installments. The impact of these formative circumstances will resonate throughout this new Superman universe, and even with our individual problems with the film, we here at Renegade all seem to be looking forward to it.
Thanks to the RC staff for participating in this Man of Steel Roundtable, and to you, our readers, for tuning in. Please take some time and chime in with any and all of your Man of Steel related thoughts below.