Hey Geeklings! Our good friend Eric Landro has returned to I Am Geek with a brand new post, and I must say, this is some of his best work yet. There’s a lot of passion here and one of the best things about Eric writing for us is watching him grow with a writer. Looking forward to posting more of his stuff. This is exactly the type of thing I was looking for when I first started I Am Geek.
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Before I became consumed by the red and blue jersey of the New York Rangers, my true obsession was the man in the red and blue costume. One of my first memories was watching Superman: The Movie with my dad and being absolutely mesmerized by the different colors jumping onto the screen during the title sequence. I remember the barely audible trumpets pulsating in the background, in rhythm with my own anxious heartbeat, anticipating what was to come. The crescendo seemed to take an eternity, as names entered and exited the screen, mirroring my interest in reading each one. Before I knew it, as the score erupted, in sharp, repetitive staccato, the red and yellow symbol that shaped my entire childhood filled the screen.
So, when Man of Steel came out, I was genuinely excited to see whether Zack Snyder could capture the blend of innocence and excitement the early Richard Donner films (I and II) evoked (that first trailer floored me). However, there was a possibility the newest offering could just as easily fall to the level of subsequent efforts; either Superman IV or willfully dark Superman Returns. It was inevitable that there were going to be some things I wasn’t going to like. I didn’t hate the film, like many did, but it just didn’t feel like a Superman film. Here are just a few things that really irked me about Snyder’s take and why I also feel the DC cinematic universe is in big trouble (in quality only; they will continue stealing my money and time).
Disparity of Clark Kent/Superman:
One of the most definable qualities Clark Kent has is his lack of confidence and charisma, especially around Lois Lane. So, in the classic, when Kent parted his hair, donned the iconic glasses, and mumbled and bumbled every time he was around Lois, he not only distanced himself further from his true self, but embodied the self-conscious man we all feel like from time to time. Every time a beautiful girl starts talking to me and all the words I mutter lose their vowels, I always think about Clark Kent and how regrettably similar I am to him. Others feel the same with Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It’s such an important contrast to have in comics and Richard Donner made it a point to capture the disparity and show it continuously throughout the film. It was obvious that Zack Snyder didn’t feel it necessary to really separate the two identities in the reboot, leaving us with a monotonous, almost robotic Clark Kent, who if you saw walking down the street could be a Calvin Klein model. Not buying it Snyder, not buying it.
A Beacon of Light, Not A Symbol of Darkness
Since the end of the 90’s, there has been a cultural shift in storytelling. Audiences have come to embrace the flawed, anti-hero. We’ve seen crooked cops like Vic Mackey, a conflicted mobster in Tony Soprano, and a cancer stricken chemistry teacher turned meth cook Walter White, all garnering praise from audiences for their complexity, depth and the capacity to surprise. We have seen Marvel and DC dip their toe in this world, giving us amazing films such as The Dark Knight Trilogy, Deadpool, and Logan, which have all been perceived as some of the greatest comic book movies of all-time. That being said, as DC sets up their own universe combative to Marvel’s, I feel Superman feels out of place in the dark, grizzly world DC has created. A Superman movie should feel like a tabloid during the 1940s, where Uncle Sam chooses you to fight for glory and pride in the USA, and Batman should be New York City at night during the 1970s, walking passed the Travis Bickles returning from Vietnam. These characters were sketched in a different light. Their roots don’t intertwine. Man of Steel just felt too dark to be a Superman movie for me.
The Death of Jonathan Kent
This is probably my biggest gripe with Man of Steel. In the 1978 film, Jonathan Kent races a teenaged Clark down a field when he suddenly experiences a heart attack. In the reboot, Jonathan Kent forbids Clark to save him, just before he is carried away by a tornado, in which Clark complies. Before I say anything else, it was obvious what Snyder was doing. Every trailer that came out for Man of Steel emphasized acceptance. Will the world accept this alien as one of their own or will he be rejected? This has always been an issue Superman wrestled with but Snyder wanted this to really be the driving force of the film, so the Jonathan Kent death was done to elevate that theme to the highest possible level. But, Superman has always been a character who lives a strict, moral code. There is absolutely no way he would just let that happen. Superman is the embodiment of hope. And Jonathan Kent is a big reason why that is. Martha and Jon instilled platitudes time and time again throughout Clark’s life, so risking the lives of civilians in fear of rejection is just crazy to me.
Lois and Clark
Christopher Reeve’s kind, sincere portrayal of Clark Kent, along with Margot Kidder’s empowering, no nonsense portrayal of Lois Lane, sparked a relationship so genuine and warm that it elevated the entire film completely. Kidder exuded strength, independence and really was the supporting character that set the tempo for Metropolis, a fast-paced, in your face world. Clark was so sensitive, thoughtful and deeply fragile that we the audience sympathized with him and rooted for the couple to succeed. Even though Lois was in awe of Superman, there was this real, grounded love between Lois and Clark. Reeve and Kidder had such a strong chemistry, they even ended up being life-long friends all the way until the unfortunate end to Reeve’s life. So when the cast of Man of Steel came out, I didn’t like the choice of Amy Adams as Lois, but she didn’t have a fair shot at proving me wrong because the Lois role in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman was so one-dimensional and basically, a complete after-thought. The fiery, sharp Lois Lane I fell in love with as a kid wasn’t there. She was watered down, and she carried no weight to the film. The relationship between Lois and Clark didn’t surface until Batman V Superman, but even then, it was minimal. Seeing Amy Adams working at the Daily Planet helped a bit in getting a Lois Lane vibe but the writing simply wasn’t there for her. She didn’t have that quick wit, sharp tongue and tenacious attitude that defines her as a character. A movie over-stuffed with sub-plots couldn’t squeeze a bit more Lois Lane and Clark Kent? Come on.
After viewing Man of Steel for the first time, I walked out of the theater with an overwhelming sense of confusion. I thought about the colors jumping out from the screen as a kid, along with flashes of Henry Cavill breaking General Zod’s neck. There was a gloom in the air, and not once did I feel a sense of excitement when Supes entered a scene. Overall, I don’t think Zack Snyder understands these characters. The more the DC cinematic universe begins to grow, the more worried I become. Every single trailer released by DC (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League) had me thinking they finally got it right. But to my dismay, there hasn’t been any indication they are headed in the right direction. It’s not an easy task, but all I ask is to stay true to the character. As upset as I was when watching Man of Steel, I am happy to be living in a time where comic book movies are thriving, and I hope DC takes time with Superman and l can see growth, and maybe, just maybe, see the Superman I loved as a kid once again.
If you’re looking for more Eric Landro’s I Am Geek work then just click here, here, and here. If this happens to be your first time at I Am Geek why not go to the homepage and have a look around. There is tons of content for you guys to sort through, and while you’re at it check out the newest episode of our podcast.