Mindy Newell: Full Of Sound And Fury
First off, “I just think he’s hot.”
That’s a line from the end of Man Of Steel, which I watched again last night. And the captain who says it is right. Henry Cavill is – im-not-so-ho – hot. Extremely so. Perhaps more importantly, the man can act. Given a script that does not serve Mr. Cavill, in its, let’s say, frugality of characterization, exploration, and screen time of Kal-El alias Clark Kent actually being Kal-El alias Clark Kent, Mr. Cavill does a helluva job in conveying the confusion, loneliness, guilt, anger, and prickly emptiness inside this alien immigrant from Krypton.
The first time I saw it, I thought it sucked. This time, I thought, well, it doesn’t so much suck as it does come up empty, running on fumes instead of a full tank. And, no, it’s not because *gasp* Superman Kills Zod! *gasp* – which is what got so many bowels, including mine, in an uproar. Given the (truncated) emotional journey that Kal-El alias Clark Kent is on in the film, it’s – im-no-so-ho – the right action at the right time, for not only is Kal-El alias Clark Kent killing the warlord, he is also killing Kal-El the Kryptonian (and by inference, finally laying to rest the planet of Krypton) inside of him, killing the “otherness” that has haunted him all of his life. In that moment of final brutality, he transforms into Clark Kent alias Superman, born and raised in Kansas, U.S.A., and citizen of the planet Earth. As Clark Kent he will love Lois Lane; as Superman he will love Earth.
The problem with the film as I watched it the second time was that I had trouble staying awake to watch the very, very, very protracted battle scenes. Frankly, it got B-O-R-I-N-G. Director Zack Snyder, like George Lucas before him, is not interested in “what makes people tick.” He’s the toddler who knocks down his building blocks because it makes a big noise. He’s the kid with the Erector set building a giant John Deere crane that can knock down his Legos Empire State Building. He’s the adult ultimate SFX and CGI geek that is given a zillion dollars to play with.
And so in Man Of Steel we got an eternity of destruction played out before our eyes. We got IHOP and SEARS demolished real good. We got shockwaves of roiling dust clouds rolling across the Kansas plains. We got tidal waves sweeping across the Indian Ocean. We got F-16s and alien ships crashing to the ground. We got skyscrapers collapsing. We got pummeling and we got blood-and-guts – only there was very little blood and there was absolutely no guts. We got death without bodies.
It’s not really Zack Snyder’s fault. Nor is it the fault of so many young adults, mostly men, who have said to me, “Man Of Steel was so cool! The best part was the fight between Superman and Zod, and when Superman killed him, that was the best!” For they are all part of a generation that, as kids, saw the real towers fall down on television. Too young to really understand what was happening, too young to think about the political implications, too young to grasp the murky history of the Middle East and how it led to that moment, 9/11 and its aftermath, the televised “Shock and Awe,” was the ultimate video game, with explosions and lights, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.
They did not know that it was a tale told by an idiot.
And now Superman has a new power. An incredibly destructive and unstable power, to quote writer Geoff Johns. Because heat vision and telescopic vision and super-duper strength and invulnerability and x-ray vision and the ability to fly at super-sonic speeds and across space and into suns and to cross the time barrier just isn’t enough anymore.
Because, you know, all that stuff can get so B-O-R-I-N-G.