Apathy towards superfluity

If I had to write a list of things which my town could do with having, I reckon I could come up with a reasonable selection. I am pretty certain however that “another Costa coffee shop” would not be anywhere on the list. This town is little more than pubs, coffee shops and charity stores these days (almost all chain stores, I hasten to add).

Where are the independent retailers? Where are the family run diners? They’re nowhere. However, there’s no need to panic, because we have a new Costa coffee shop! and it’s LESS THAN A HUNDRED METRES FROM THE EXISTING ONE. This in itself wouldn’t bother me, but the fact that nobody seems to care has raised my hackles somewhat.

But it’s not just my town centre in which this apathy towards superfluity exists. Oh no. You see, I went to the cinema last night. And I watched Man of Steel. And I can draw parallels.

Man of Steel is yet another Superman reboot. Directed by Zack Snyder, the man who took all the credit for Frank Miller’s work on 300, and completely missed the point of Watchmen, Man of Steel is essentially a remake of Superman II. You can dress it up all you like, but that’s what it is. Except once again, Zack MISSES THE POINT.

Now, a quick bit of background for those unfamiliar with the general silliness of the comics. On Krypton – Superman’s home planet – the people are pretty technologically advanced, but they’re not “super” like Superman. What makes Superman Super is the proximity to our yellow sun. That’s it. The Sun makes Superman Super, gives him super strength, x-ray vision and the power of flight and all that. I don’t care how preposterous that sounds, I’m willing to go along with it, because generally, comics don’t need to make sense. They DO, however, need to remain consistent in their silliness.

So Supes has been on Earth for thirty odd years, and has learned to adapt to his super powers. Took him a long time, but he did it, and now he’s pretty much in full control. Because of the Sun, remember? The Sun. Not the atmosphere. The Sun. Not the air or oxygen or nitrogen or any other gases Superman breathes, but the Sun. We’re clear on that point, aren’t we? The Sun. Remember that. I’ll come back to it shortly.

Now, in Man of Steel, as in Superman II, Supes must do battle with General Zod and his cronies who were banished to The Phantom Zone for crimes against Krypton, etc. etc. They somehow escape The Phantom Zone and make their way to earth, where they generally want to cause mayhem and do bad things to us humans. Of course, Zod and pals are Kryptonian, and so are also enhanced by their proximity to our Sun, giving them super powers. However, Superman has had thirty years to master his power. Zod’s crew have had thirty minutes. So in theory, Superman should be more than a match for all of them.

In Superman II, Superman is much more than a match for Zod’s forces, but he has a problem – he used some weird crystal ice chamber thing to make himself human (again, don’t argue with the silliness, just roll with it). This was a crucial point – if he was super he could deal with these pests easily, but he would remain an outsider on Earth. if he was human, he’d be one with the population, but would be powerless to stop them. The focus of the movie was about that difficult choice; does Superman sacrifice his humanity to SAVE humanity? Tough call, right? In Man of Steel, all we get is a massive Superfight, in which Supes shows such a callous disregard for people’s lives and property that you sometimes wonder if the world would be better off without him anyway.

So that’s at least one point Mr. Snyder missed.

“But,” I hear you cry, “When Superman’s defeating the World Engine he does get a bit weaker!” Yes, he does. But he’s still super. Thanks for mentioning that though, as it leads me onto my next point. Cast your mind back a few paragraphs and see if you can remember what it is that makes Superman super. Remember? That’s right! Earth’s yellow Sun. So why, oh why oh why, does superman lose his powers when he’s exposed to “a different atmosphere” aboard Zod’s spaceship and around the World Engine? What has the atmosphere got to do with his powers? If Superman loses his powers when he’s in a non-earth-like atmosphere, why doesn’t he lose them when he flies out into space? Would it REALLY have been so hard to just introduce Kryptonite into the equation? At least that would have maintained some semblance of consistency, no matter how clunky its inclusion.

The final point is about Zod managing to master his control over his newly discovered powers in a matter of seconds, while Supes took years. It’s just lazy storytelling. There is, however, a way it could have been avoided. Ditch the origin story. Superman has been well known for over half a century. We know who he is, we know where he come from, it’s been told time and again in TV shows, Movies, comic books. WE KNOW. What is wrong with making a superman movie that starts with the assumption that Superman is there and always has been?

It’s a bugbear of mine with most superhero movies. We don’t need to know how these people originated in order to follow a decent story. How many other genres does this happen in? In A Fistful of Dollars, do we find out WHY The Man with No Name is drifting into town? No. The fact that we never find out just adds to the intrigue. We don’t need to know people’s life history to enjoy the story their telling at any given point in their lives. Just stop it.

So here’s a non-exhaustive list of things we do not need now or ever:

  • More chain coffee stores in Rugby Town centre
  • More Superman reboots
  • More comic book adaptations directed by Zack Snyder
  • More movies which contain pointless origin stories

Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

There are a few minor quibbles with the film, such as Clark Kent’s secret identity being pretty much blown from the get-go, or the actress playing Lois Lane not really looking or behaving anything like Lois Lane (although she is pretty cute), but really they’re too minor to expound upon. So I’ll just say “Man of Steel kinda sucked,” and leave it at that.

Much like the coffee shop though, I fully expect nobody to care.

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2 comments

  1. jediwannabeuk

    Superman is one character that has NEVER interested me, ever. I think I used to watch the TV series with Dean Cain in it, but only because it was on – and I still never gave a shit about him. He is, in my opinion, the least interesting super-hero in the world, and here’s why…

    He’s not human. He is special because he was born on another planet, and the Sun makes him powerful – that’s something that none of us can ever aspire to be. We can’t ever hope to become Superman ourselves, because we’re just puny humans – and that’s why it’s hard to relate to him.

    For almost every other super hero, they are humans that gain their power through accident or experimentation, and have to suddenly deal with the responsibility that comes with their new powers. We can relate to the idea that something might one day happen to us that makes us a super-hero. That’s a good character.

    In the case of Batman and Iron Man, arguably now the most popular two icons from DC and Marvel, they take things one step further, by giving them no special powers whatsoever. They are entirely human and mortal, and every bit as flawed and weak as any normal person – but they attain super-hero status through hard-work, training, and a shit-load of inherited money. We can all aspire to be successful, so in theory, anyone could be Batman or Iron Man – that’s a pretty good role model for a comic book character, and makes for a much more interesting story in my opinion.

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