Superman — The New Jesus?

There we are, hundreds of us, wearing our Buddy Holly glasses, not sure what to expect from the new Superman movie, but there’s something nicely circular about a cinema full of Clark Kent lookalikes watching Clark Kent on screen.  And then it turns out the film is solid, wall-to-wall entertainment.  Yay!!  Not much of a story admittedly, but who needs a story when you have the War on Terraforming?

Come on.  It’s escapism.  If I want a story, I’ll read War and Peace.  (Maybe).

Did I enjoy Man of Steel?  I certainly did.  Matter of fact, I enjoyed the shit out of it.  It’s great, and by great, I don’t mean it’s a tour de force of artistic endeavour.  I just mean that for a couple of average Joes like myself and the Bullet, it passed an enjoyable two hours and 23 minutes, and when we walked out of the cinema we agreed that we’d been to many far worse films during our cinephilic paterfilial partnership.

We both like the moving pictures and we sure liked this one, despite the transparent attempt to corner the American Christian market.

The what?

Well, you see, this Clark Kent guy is 33 years old. (Geddit?  Geddit?)  He’s been performing superhuman feats since he was a child.  His parents aren’t really his parents, except this time, neither of them had a part in his conception.  He loves to help people, even when it costs him dear, and he’s prepared to sacrifice his life to save humankind.   Not only that, but he was sent to Earth by his father from far, far away and his father was not only a great scientist, just like God, but also a great leader and fairly handy with his fists as well, Old Testament style.  Now that I think of it, Russell Crowe’s Jor-El is actually Maximus, but that’s Russell Crowe for you, since his Maximus was really Bud White.  What a shame Richard Harris isn’t here to play a doting old emperor.

Bizarrely, they even set up a website aimed at US bible-thumping pastors.  I kid you not.

Lucifer appears in lead supporting role as the execrable Zod, a name that must rank among the finest villain titles in history.  How could anyone called Zod be decent?  Michael Shannon’s Zod is a ball of cramped-up rage, resentment and extreme violence, with a little added piquancy coming from his vague facial resemblance to Malcolm McDowell and it’s true — he is a sort of galactic Caligula.  Or maybe Alex DeLarge would be a better comparison.

zod michael shannon man of steel

Never mind all that.  If I could make money out of the American Christian market, I’d be there too, so let’s not fling brickbats at Warner Brothers for seeking a slice of the action.  After all, what greater market is there for consumers of fantasy fiction than the religious one?

What’s the story?

What do you think the story is?  Kid gets sent from planet far away, lands on Earth. Raised by kind parents. Develops super powers.  Fights evil.  The end.

What more does anyone want?

That’s the story.  It works and don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.

Now, the treatment is an altogether different matter, since a film like this is all about the style, not the substance, and yes, from me they get the big thumbs up.  I haven’t read the reviews and I don’t care what they say.  Within its confines, this film does everything it promises to do.   It’s well paced, with one or two glaring exceptions.  The action sequences are both gripping and convincing.  Things that are intended to be huge — like great starships and planetary explosions — come across as gigantic, which is something film-makers often fail to achieve.

The bad guys are very bad, as you’d expect from a Superman movie.  The military leadership is bumbling, gung-ho and generally stupid, but with a heart of gold, just like all American generals, right?  And of course, in the end, it’s America that helps Superman to save the world, but again, that’s a thing they’ve been doing since the dawn of cinema.

Destruction?  Did you say destruction?  Jesus, don’t get in a fight with this Clark Kent guy if you want your city to be still standing at the end of it.  What he and his arch-enemy don’t knock down, the US airforce will flatten with their F-16s and their A10 Warthogs.   You thought it was only Afghan and Iraqi civilians they don’t care about?  Shit, no.  If you happen to live in Buttfuck, Arizona and one morning a gang of aliens turn up in the main street, my advice to you is get your ass into that old Chevy pickup right now and head for the town limits fast as you can.

Negatives?  Yes, there are many, not least the appalling information dump when Zod, for reasons known only to director Zack Snyder, explains exactly how he and his henchmen managed to escape.  It was like Sidney Greeenstreet holding a gun on Humphrey Bogart.    The fight scenes are too long and there’s too much special-effect action.  There are no laughs at all and the acting is uniformly wooden, despite the presence of Kevin Costner and Larry Fishburne, but that’s part of the superhero-movie tradition.

Look, it’s escapism.  Enjoy it for what it is: a romp.  The premise is ludicrous and some of the tropes are ridiculous though by now we’re used to Hollywood.  But it’s entertaining and what more can we ask?

Nobody ever said it was art.

(By the way, isn’t it amazing what a great disguise Buddy Holly glasses make?)


3 thoughts on “Superman — The New Jesus?

  1. I brought my nephews and niece to it reluctantly, at their request. I thought it was great.

  2. The lack of humour really bothered me. So po-faced and earnest. Isn’t Perry Smith supposed to do wisecracks? Could have used a Lex Luthor type for a bit of fun.

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