Man of Spandex—– Zach Snyder’s Superman

Zach Snyder, the man who brought graphic novels like Watchman, and also works like 300 to the silver screen, has now turned the philosophy ‘nothing succeeds like excess’ to the Superman franchise. Let’s talk positives first. This move has some excellent actors in it—- Russell Crowe plays Jor-el, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Pa and Ma Kent, Amy Adams plays Loise Lane, Lawrence Fishburne plays Perry White (o.k… a little humor in that choice), Toby from West Wing shows up as a Einstein like scientist, and then they found a hunk from the island of Jersey, Mr. Henry Cavill to play Superman. Never has anyone looked so ripped in spandex as this guy. Holy Smokes Batman. And the suit is awesome in itself.

Secondly, the cinematography is grand, especially in the pastoral scenes, and during the scenes with close ups and interesting camera angles. The movie is two hours and twenty eight minutes long, and for about 100 or so of those minutes, the film is fine. We saw it in real 3D, and honestly, the CG didn’t look much better that way than seeing it without special glasses. The problem with this movie comes in the fight scenes….. which go on, and on, and on, and on…. and on……. and frankly it is just way too much, especially in the last third of the film. One leaves this film feeling like one has been run over by a 16 wheeler, about 30 times. Contributing to this feeling of having been taken out to the whipping shed and beaten to a pulp is the loud pounding relentless sound track by Hans Zimmer. More Zizzle, less Zimmer next time. And finally there is the issue of the alien space crafts— they look like giant molars with four prominent roots!!
Come on guys, you can do better.

This film has been marketed by Grace Hill Media, with special showings for Christian ministers, to churches. Supposedly, we are supposed to see the parallels between Superman and Christ. This of course is a stretch since Jesus saves the world by dying for it, whereas Superman saves the world by violence and mayhem and flying around. But there has been, and is a certain innocence, even naivete to the character of Superman which gives him some charm, compared to the always very flawed, very fraught, very damaged super-heroes in the Marvel epics.

In the movie’s best scenes, for instance the encounters between Clark and his earthly parents, there is a simplicity and beauty to the story. Likewise in the scenes with Lois and Superman, there is once more a likeable electricity that doesn’t involve endless violence. We could have used more of these scenes, and less of the rest. We could also have used more clarity…. for example, how exactly does Superman finally beat the bad guys. Even with all the graphic pictures, this is unclear.

If there is a sequel, after all those bad reviews but great box office, one hopes that something is learned along the way… namely it’s not always excess which leads to success in a movie.

  • Reel Parables

    There are a lot of online sites that show (or try to show) some comparisons between Jesus and Superman. Some are good. Some are a stretch.

    That said, I did find the church scene quite specific.

    The Church scene seemed to me to be Clark’s “garden of Gethsemane.”

    This is the most obvious and blatant use of the biblical narrative (Reel Parable) in Man of Steel.

    The stained glass in this scene shows
    Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while Clark admits that he is
    the one Zod is looking for.

    He also admits that he does not know if he trusts humans or if he should turn himself in, etc.

    As with Jesus praying for this “cup to pass” this is Clark’s same struggle.

    Will he, like Jesus, offer himself as a sacrifice?

    I thought it was a nice nod to the “religious” heritage of the Superman storyline…

  • Rick

    “compared to the always very flawed, very fraught, very damaged super-heroes in the Marvel epics”

    Not Captain America. He and Superman have similar traits.

  • BenW3

    You’re mostly right about that Rick. I had forgotten about his back story. BW3

  • terry fry

    One must remember that Captain America is part of the golden age comics time period. In those days heroes were heroes without emotional/mental problems. The Marvel epics are mostly with characters from the silver age time period.

  • Rick

    It’s nice to have Cap and Sup as representatives of a character trait that seeks to do good, simply because that is who they are. They help set the bar a little higher in that genre.

  • Todd Ransom

    My reactions were not necessarily to the same things, but I also came away with severe disappointment. I think Snyder has a beautiful lens and was excited about the choice. In that chair he did fine, despite the awful pacing issues. My main concern, as I mentioned to you, was the Script. There were not great lines and every attempt to make something memorable fell flat. Jonathan Kent was awful as a character. That tornado scene, though I like the ideas behind it, was one of the dumbest things I have ever watched. He is suppose to be the exemplar for Superman. Like Christ, Superman is suppose to exemplify the highest form of humanity on a macro level. He is to be our inspiration and a symbol of who humanity can be. Jonathan is suppose to already embody that, though he need not be totally perfect, as a mortal, inspiring and teaching Clark. Only one scene looked anything like this (with the bullies), but was overshadowed by the scene were Jonathan suggest Clark should have let a bunch of school kids drown in a bus. More could be said of that though, but all one needs to do is watch the teaser for Returns.

    Secondly, Jonathan looks like an idiot, because humanity is never given the opportunity to reject or accept him. The military does very military things, but doesn’t exemplify humanities choice. Where was the cold rejection and the hot embrace. Everyone is static. No one develops, except maybe Clark, but only on the minutest of levels.

    Many more problems exist, but those are the ones that continue to disappoint me. I’m a very generous optimist when it comes to movies, especially superhero movies, but I thought this take was a disaster! Goyer is only an idea man. Where was Jonathan Nolan? Did Christopher even read the script?

    I hope I never know…

  • CalebBoone

    Dear Patheos Readers:

    Superman is not Jesus.

    Superman is not like Jesus and cannot be compared to Jesus.

    Superman does not have his origins in Christianity.

    Superman derives from the German Uber-Mensch or Zarathustra:

    Zarathustra derives from Zoroaster:

    Those who compare Superman to Jesus have either forgotten or have chosen to ignore the well-known historical, philosophical, literary and religious origins of Superman.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

  • Ronald

    Interesting scene: Superman goes to priest for guidance before making a life-changing decision. Behind the priest is a cross. Behind Superman is a stained-glass of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. This time, Superman is less metaphorical Christ, as he is another created being who needs the help of Christ the Creator.

  • Ronald

    The character was created by two Jewish-Americans. I believe they were inspired by Moses being adrift on the river in a based. Superman is adrift in a sea of stars aboard a star ship to become Earth’s deliverer. The name Superman was a wordplay on the Nazi idea of the Ubermenschen. This Superman would capture the criminal Hitler and bring him to justice.

  • CalebBoone

    Dear Ronald:

    We agree.

    The two modern creators of Superman drew upon their knowledge of Friedrich Nietzsche’s work entitled “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from which the Nazi German Ubermensch was derived. I quote the following paragraph from the Wikipedia Article on Ubermensch:

    “The term Übermensch was used frequently by Hitler and the Nazi regime to describe their idea of an Aryan master race; a form of Nietzsche’s Übermensch became a philosophical foundation for the National Socialist ideas. Their conception of the Übermensch, however, was racial in nature. The Nazi notion of the master race also spawned the idea of ‘inferior humans’ (Untermenschen) which could be dominated and enslaved; this term does not originate with Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself was critical of both antisemitism and German nationalism. In defiance of these doctrines, he claimed that himself and Germany were great only because of ‘Polish blood in their veins’, and that he would be ‘having all anti-semites shot’ as an answer to his stance on anti-semitism. Nietzsche also was one of the earliest intellectuals to call racism a hoax.” [Footnotes Omitted.]

    I am aware that, as described above, Nietzsche disagreed with Nazism and dissociated himself from Nazism.

    However, Nazis borrowed directly from Nietzsche’s writings on Zarathustra. Of course they then warped the concept to suit their own ends.

    Even if the use of Ubermensch by the two creators of Superman was a play on words, still, they borrowed the concept from Nietzsche, who in turn borrowed it from Zoroastrianism’s concepts, which have been dated, by some, to as early as about 6,000 B.C.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.