When it comes to certain properties, I carry a lot of baggage. Star Trek, the Muppets, A-Team…these are all things I’ve talked about before on the blog having a great passion for. And when Hollywood decides to delve into these passions of mine, I can get nervous and have concerns that they won’t treat the property with the level of faithfulness and respect it deserves. I find it very hard to leave that baggage at the door.
Superman is one such property that I carry a lot of baggage with. I was a long-time reader of the comic books, huge fan of the Donner movie and Christopher Reeve, and love much of the animated endeavors. Fortunately, with a 75-year history, Superman has proven himself capable of being interpreted in various ways. So I decided to leave the Superman baggage at the door and accept that this was its own thing…an Elseworlds it you will. (And unlike the last Superman movie, this was easier to do since there were no overt connections to previous tellings of the story.)
But based on feedback I’ve been seeing on social media and trusted friends who have seen it (such as Robert from To The Escape Hatch or DiGio from The Atomic Geeks), I was worried that leaving the baggage at the door would not be enough. Thankfully, that negativity either helped me adjust my expectations appropriately or I was just looking for a different Superman movie than they were.
I don’t know. I rather liked this movie. In fact, there’s not a whole lot I dislike. Maybe let’s start there.
• Property destruction. This was way off the scale and disconcerting to watch. I’d like to think that no one about the age of 16-18 or older can watch movies with buildings crumbling like this and not get taken back to September 11, 2001. I don’t know if we as a society are still dealing with it or trying to desensitize ourselves to it or what. But I still find it takes me out of the movies. This “cataclysm porn,” if you will, is something that I can do without.
• Amy Adams. Look, I like Amy Adams but I don’t think she was a great choice as Lois. She did a serviceable job and I don’t think she really detracts from the movie. I just don’t think she has the toughness that I admire about and associate with Lois.
• Dialogue. Goyer is not the best with dialogue. Never has been. Probably never will be. What he writes comes off flat, awkward, and not so clever. Fortunately for him, these super hero movies have a certain amount of expected clunky dialogue which masks his inadequacies.
• Origin story…again. There seemed to be no getting around it. We were getting an origin story whether we liked it or not. Can we all agree that this is enough for, I don’t know, 20 years? No more tellings of this origin in any medium unless done in opening credit flashback sequence. Thankfully, this was a freshened up telling and wasn’t horribly cumbersome.
• Killing Emil Hamilton. It was a worthy death, but I like Richard Schiff and am bummed we won’t see him again in his role as Superman’s science pal.
• Krypton sequence. This could have been a whole movie unto itself. Krypton looked amazing. Jor-El was great. The world seemed so rich and well-developed for such a short period of time. It really felt like you had walked in on the last few minutes of another movie.
• Out of sequence storytelling. I’ve seen this get some complaints, but I liked that the Smallville sequences were interspersed throughout the rest of the story. This helped distance it from previous tellings. And doing it this way helped break up what would have been a hard series of Smallville scenes to sit through. Donner’s movie only gives us one little anecdote that paints a picture for what Clark’s entire life must have been like. Here, we’re able to get more.
• Henry Cavill. You could say that any movie hinges on the ability of its lead to carry it. But I think Superman and other goody two shoes characters need to have someone who can sell it. Reeve did this before. Chris Evans did it with Captain America. Henry Cavill does it here.
• The score. Hans Zimmer knocks this out of the park. Spot on perfect score for this movie. It really helps bridge the sci-fi and down-to-Earth elements. And, it gives Superman the proper sense of majesty.
I said I left the baggage at the door, but it was there to pick up as I left. As I sorted through it, there were a few things that I thought could have bugged me.
• Lack of trunks. Trunks (not underwear) help break up the Superman costume and make it not so blue-heavy. I’ve had a while to get used to the lack of trunks, but wondered if it would get to me during the movie. Ultimately, this was a great costume and the blue did not seem overwhelming without trunks.
• The secret identity. I don’t mind that Lois knows the secret. I think it helps give her credibility that she figured it out before there even was a Superman. I thought it was vague, at best, how anyone in Smallville will not know that Clark is Superman. In fact, who in Smallville doesn’t know. This is a slight sticking point for me, but one I won’t concern myself with until Man of Steel 2.
• “Jenny.” I guess there was no Jimmy Olsen, but instead this “Jenny” character who was the Jimmy of this universe. Not really sure what the reason was for the change. This could be a non-issue if they decide to introduce Jimmy in the second one.
• Superman killing. The internet has thrown away “spoiler courtesy” for this movie so I knew going into this movie that this happened. Maybe that was a good thing. But this did not bother me like it seemed to bother so many other people. Maybe because there is comic book precedent for it. Maybe because I had the “Elseworlds” mentality for it. I don’t begrudge anyone who has a problem with it. In fact, I almost wish I did have a problem with it.
A light-hearted romp full of jokes and funny one-liners this is not. DC continues to be at disadvantage with their properties in relation to Marvel’s and have to do something different in order to not be accused of stealing. Trying to capitalize on the success of the grim and gritty Dark Knight Trilogy makes the most sense for them. Maybe that doesn’t make a perfect Superman movie, but in the end, I still rather liked it and look forward to more.
Be sure to check out Superman Week at the Cavalcade of Awesome and today’s Favorite Scene Friday at To The Escape Hatch.