Man of Steel = Bizarro Superman

Some July 4th thoughts on Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Pardon my beating the dead horse – I hope this will be my last post on this topic. Previously I covered why I felt that Man of Steel wasn’t a good movie. Now I’d like to cover why this isn’t even a Superman story. Almost all of the characters come from a bizarro Superman world where they say and do things antithetical to their nature.

Bizarro Superman
* Watch Jor-El ride an insect dinosaur!

* Gasp at Lara’s hesitation over whether to save their infant son!

* Listen to Jonathan Kent argue the merits of letting children die!

* See Martha Kent risk her husband’s life because they left the family dog in the car!

* Witness Superboy irradiate his teacher and classmates giving them cancer!

* Feel Superman’s rage outweigh his common sense!

* Wonder as you find out that the ‘S’ does not stand for Superman!

* Marvel as Jor-El and Superman argue FOR genocide!

* Yawn as Perry White speaks against journalistic integrity!

* Cha-ching! at all the in-your-face product placement, from Nikon to Nokia, IHOP to Sears!

* Gape as Superman deliberately endangers the lives of everyone in Smallville – repeatedly!

I would also like to make the argument that Zod is actually the tragic hero of the story, desperately trying to save his people. First he fights against the corrupt and decadent government, just as Jor-El does, then Zod tries to uphold the law and prevent Jor-El from stealing Krypton’s heritage. He tries to help Kryptonian outposts after the destruction of Krypton. Unlike Jor-El, he respects his foe and has regrets. Everything he does is to try and save his people.

There are plenty more reasons for my above arguments but I don’t post spoilers. Man of Steel is not egregiously bad and the fight scenes are fun. I just had to vent some more.

Man of Cartoon Steel

Sadly, none of the five Superman movies (six if you count Supergirl) are available on instant Netflix or Amazon Prime. Neither are Smallville or Lois & Clark. Instant Netflix does have a number of animated adventures with our caped superhero.

All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman (2011) – Rated PG

“After Lex Luthor tricks Superman into prolonged exposure to radiation, the Man of Steel is left with only weeks to live, and his powers are waning. As he prepares for his demise, Superman has scores to settle and must stop Luthor’s diabolical scheme.”

Superman Cartoons (1942) – Rated TV-PG

“This collection of early Superman cartoons from the 1940s follows the iconic Man of Steel — and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent — through an array of classic adventures and romantic run-ins with his lady love, Lois Lane. From his extraordinary boyhood in Smallville to his adult life as a seemingly ordinary newsman to his battles with a variety of villains, it’s animated escapism at its best.”

A sampling of the Fleischer classics.

Superman vs. The Elite

Superman vs. The Elite (2012) – Rated PG-13

Tensions between Superman and the Elite, a team of superpowered antiheros, finally culminate in a mass showdown on Jupiter’s moons, when Superman is forced to prove that violence is never the answer.”

Justice League (2001-3) – Rated TV-Y7

“Anything’s possible in this animated series when world-famous superheroes — including Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Batman and Robin — band together to fight crime as the Justice League of America.”

Justice League Unlimited (2004-5) – Rated TV-Y7

“As humanity faces threats from all kinds of new and vile villains, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and a dozens of other animated superheroes create a league from which they form small, specialized teams to combat each new menace.”

Rich Superman, Poor Superman

Rich Superman: Superman (1978) became Warner Bros. biggest selling film of all time (since surpassed) and spawned four sequels. Well, not unexpectedly, the reboot Man of Steel did record-setting business over the Father’s Day holiday ($125 million for the weekend – biggest June opening) and Man of Steel II has already been greenlit.

Man of Steel

I was a very small part of that. Jenny and I caught it at Biltmore Grande’s super deluxe RPX theater on Sunday. I used a FREE ticket from my Cinnamon Toast Crunch for hers and upgraded a FREE Regal Crown ticket to RPX ($5.50 even though the actual difference in ticket price is $4, go figure) for mine. The machine spat out a FREE popcorn (woohoo!) and Jenny and I both used their $3 off a soda mobile coupon of the week. Woot! $11 for two large sodas, a small popcorn, and two RPX tickets – score! Plus the tickets also spat out a FREE advance showing of The Heat on Tuesday evening for RCC members.


Speaking of RPX, the picture and sound quality are undeniably awesome. However, one of the major benefits is not listed on their advertisement. Because the base price for an RPX ticket is an additional $4, the theater is sparsely populated while the regular ones are full. Still I couldn’t imagine buying multiple $12 – $15.50 tickets without the various offers I take advantage of.

Poor Superman: Well, that would be Man of Steel in a nutshell but first, what happened after Superman?

Superman II (1980) was really just a continuation of Superman (especially as much of it was filmed at the same time) and was quite good. Many consider it better than Superman and there are two versions on home video – one by Richard Donner and one by Richard Lester.

Superman III (1983) was pretty bad – No Zod, no Luthor, no Brainiac, our villain is just a businessman. Worse, Superman essentially shares top-billing with a computer hacker played by Richard Pryor. Worse again, Lois receives less than five minutes of screen time. The only thing likely to make you forget how bad Superman 3 is…

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987): Yay for bringing back Hackman as Luthor and Kidder as Lois Lane but this movie is just awful. The special effects are horrendous, the story (co-written by Christopher Reeve) is just as ridiculous as Superman III (though more heartfelt), and only Christopher Reeve seems to want to be in this.

Superman Returns (2006): Almost two decades since the last sequel, they got the brilliant idea to have Bryan Singer helm this. Strangely, this was disastrous on two fronts. First, because Singer was helming this, directorship of X-Men: The Last Stand fell to Brett Ratner. Second, Singer, a marvelous director and clearly skilled at handling comic book movies, decided to slavishly ape the first two Superman movies. Themes that worked in the first two Superman movies had become trite and cornball in the new century.

Kevin Spacey was a good choice to replace Hackman as Luthor though he wasn’t able to do much with the role. Luthor again is an egomaniacal real estate tycoon (as in Superman) – making the plot feel stale. Adding to the staleness is the return of Marlon Brando as Jor-El in some previously unused footage. A salient plot point revealed late in the film is obvious to everyone from the beginning, except, apparently, Superman.

Superman Returns was not a disaster – it just wasn’t good. It wisely ignores the events of Superman III and IV and you can ignore it.

Man of Steel: Tomorrow