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Reel Thoughts: Steel Yourself for This One by Christie G and That Guy

 That Guy and I went out to the movies on Sunday, and being the huge comic geek that I am, I have been crazy to see Man of Steel. I have been excited and nervous about the possibilities with this movie: I am one of the few who actually adored Watchmen (maybe because I read the graphic novel before watching the movie so I knew what to expect) and the bits and pieces I had seen online had just increased my anticipation. I was nervous because the writers and directors had said that they were veering away from any and all comic book backstory- it was going to be an entirely new saga, just with familiar characters. OK, I thought to myself- they did that with the recent Batman trilogy with Christian Bale, and I really liked those, and they veered away from canon in Star Trek and I watch those over and over again, so take it with a grain of salt.
If I really like a movie, I will go see it with friends repeatedly. If I’m intrigued by it and need puzzles figured out (looking at you, Inception) then I’ll see it one more time in theaters. I’ve seen Star Trek: In Darkness and Iron Man 3 twice this summer, I will probably see World War Z twice, and Thor: The Dark World will definitely be a multiple viewing, as will Kick-Ass 2. However, Man of Steel was a once-and-done for me. 
I was blown away by Cavill, Crowe, and Shannon, but not so much by Adams.  I need a more kick-butt Lois for it to be believable and she never got there for me. I poked That Guy every time I saw an actor/actress that I had seen in a previous favorite series (Battlestar Galactica in the house!), or when things lined up with the original movie. And I chuckled every time I saw a Lexcorp logo, because I secretly love Lex in all of his screen incarnations (from Hackman to Spacey to Michael Rosenblaum), and I hope that he’s the ubervillain in the sequel.
I LOVED the nonlinear storytelling- I thought that every flashback fit in beautifully with what they were trying to show, and that Kal-El/Clark’s story was stronger for it. It didn’t bother me that it jumped back and forth; it made those flashback scenes matter all the more, which I believe was the intent. And the special effects were gorgeous! From the planet Kryton to the physics of the fighting and the threat Zod brings, the renditions were brilliant, and natural enough that they didn’t throw me out of the movie because they didn’t blend in (like the effects in the 2012 remake of Total Recall did).
What bothers me enough to put me off entirely from the movie happens in the last quarter of the film. If you’re curious, keep reading below the jump.
Will I buy it for my library collection? Yes. Will I show it to my teens for a program? Yes, if they want to see it (I always give them options when I’m planning movie programs). Will I buy it for my personal collection? Time will tell, and it depends on whether or not the sequel will redeem this first one.
WARNING:  MASSIVE SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE, DO NOT FOLLOW. If you have seen the movie, or you’re not going to bother to see the movie, feel free.

My problem with the movie is not in the casting, even though I think Lois was a bit unbelievable. My problem was with the last quarter of the movie.   In the beginning, Jor-El takes the Codex (the genetic maps of all the lines of the Kryptonian race [That Guy:  I thought they said it had the genetic information for all life forms on Krypton…but I’m not going to see it again to find out for sure.])  and puts it into his son so that it would be safe from General Zod, who basically wants to take over Krypton and mold it to his ideal of a perfect Krypton, destroying those bloodlines that Zod considers useless.  Jor-El then launches baby Kal-El away from Krypton so that he is safe, because the planet Krypton is destroying itself anyway.  The vast and intelligent race has destroyed its natural resources, and instead of exploring galaxies as their ancestors did, they killed off their own planet.  (That Guy:  Idiots.)
Gotcha. I’m OK with this so far.  
 Zod is pissed, swears vengeance on Kal-El, and vows to find the Codex and repopulate the people (which they have done artificially in pods for centuries [That Guy:  see also The Matrix and Brave New World]) while he’s sent to the Phantom Zone for punishment. And Krypton explodes because of their folly and no one survives except Kal-El and those in the Phantom Zone. (That Guy:  why didn’t they just get on their super high tech ships and leave?  Again, I say:  idiots.)
Gotcha. Still OK with this. And it’s remarkably similar to another movie I watched.
 So fast forward though most of the movie, and Zod and Kal-El are battling it out. Kal-El has destroyed the World Engine, which is what the Kryptonians used to terraform planets to make them hospitable for their own kind- and which would have destroyed all humans on the planet. Zod has taken control of the Kryptonian ship that had landed on Earth back in the ice age (discovered at the beginning of the film) and though it’s never explained clearly (or if it was, I missed it) Earth was going to be one of the outpost colonies for the Kryptonian race during the ice age. So not only does it have all the cool Kryptonian tech (That Guy:  which appears to be totally unchanged after 18000 years?  Really? Why can’t Sony and MIcrosoft do that backwards compatibility with their gaming systems…), it has a Genesis Chamber full of Kryptonian babies. Zod’s flying it back to his ship to start repopulating Earth once things are at a suitable Kryptonian level, and Kal-El is bent on stopping him, and he does. BY DESTROYING THE SHIP with his heat vision, saying “Krypton had its chance”.
Now, that’s the first part I have issues with: that Superman would destroy all those lives. I get that yes, he has the Codex of Krypton in his blood so that theoretically if Earth ever gets the tech, or he develops it, he can start producing Kryptonian babies. And I get that the whole movie is forcing the suffering figure of Kal-El/Clark into making the hardest choices and shaping the man that he must be, but having read a lot of the comics, I can’t believe that he would destroy the entirety of his race.  It’s such a huge part of his character that he’s always alone, and always searching for the possibility that someone else survived, so that when there are others that appear (his son, or his cousin, a clone, or anyone else in the various timelines) it’s treated by him as a miracle.   (That Guy:  given that Zod is attempting to commit genocide against humans, he chooses to commit genocide against Kryptonians instead?  Doesn’t that put him on similar moral ground with Zod?  Now it’s his own fault that he’s alone, too.) 
The other one is the death of Zod and the way that Kal-El was forced into it. You think that Zod is dead, either in the crash, or sucked into the Phantom Zone along with his warriors and Colonel Hardy and Dr. Hamilton, but then he reappears. That I can go with. Then we have huge, epic battles through Metropolis, smashing buildings, turning around gravity, and all sorts of nice battle scenes. I can go with that. Zod at some point tells Kal-El that he (Zod) was created for the sole purpose of protecting and serving Krypton and its people, and making sure they survive, and that Kal-El “stole [his] soul.”  More fighting ensues.
Then they crash in the train station, Kal-El gets Zod in a choke hold, and Zod starts using heat vision to try and kill humans. As the beam gets closer and closer, he taunts Kal-El, and finally Kal-El snaps his neck.  (That Guy:  although it is not explicitly shown, I think Zod managed to kill the family he was threatening before Kal-El killed him, which further complicates his psyche with the guilt of hesitation, perhaps, or of not being strong enough, on top of the genocide he has just committed.  It’s tough to be the “boy scout in blue tights” with such a heavy conscience, don’t you think?  I’m not sure the Superman in the movie is the same character as the Superman we have seen before.  They might share a name and some background, but they are making very different choices, and to me are simply not the same person.)

If it was a pair of humans, we’d call this suicide by cop. Zod lost his reason for being, and forced Kal-El to kill him, never reasoning that there could be any other life than the one that he had been given at birth. That sends a powerful message, especially when we do live in an unspoken caste society. We are sorted by a variety of factors, and those factors open some doors for us and close others. Here in Texas, our governor refuses to sign equal pay acts and is closing Planned Parenthood clinics. Elsewhere there are places where women cannot get birth control, where if you have any hint of an accent you shouldn’t even apply for a job.  Even if we don’t acknowledge it, the circumstances of our births do affect the opportunities that we have.

If it was just the death of Zod in the train station, I would have been able to say without hesitation that it was a really good movie and recommend it to others. However, the scene of the ship being destroyed just goes against what intrinsically I think Superman stands for.  I didn’t walk away from this movie on a high, saying, “Wow, I want to come back and see it again.”