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This video contains some language that may be considered NSFW. Spoilers for Man of Steel begin at about the 3:20 mark.
It's looking like Man of Steel will become one of the most polarizing superhero movies of our time. While early buzz on the film was resoundingly positive, the latest Superman movie's theatrical release brought a fast and fervent backlash from critics, which caused the now all-too-familiar outcry from fans including many insults and some death threats. Still, audiences turned out in force, giving Man of Steel a very impressive opening weekend box office of $116 million. However, with those numbers dropping down to $41 million in its second week it seems the word of mouth among fans is less enthusiastic than even they might have expected.
Here at Cinema Blend we too are divided, both on our staff and our comment boards. But another noteworthy Superman fan has come out to explain why he takes issue with Man of Steel. Quiet Earth (via Film Drunk) tipped the vid above, where screenwriter of the 2012 superhero drama Chronicle, Max Landis, explains at length what makes the character of Superman so worthwhile, and how Man of Steel failed to live up to Supe's legacy. It's nine minutes and change and is sure to incite plenty of nerd rage (Spider-Man a "narcissistic bully"? Batman "a cold sociopath"?), but it's worth listening to in full as Landis's reasoning and conviction are pretty compelling. Nonetheless, here are some highlights.
"What’s special about Superman, is that his parents didn’t f*cking die. He’s not a selfish, post-traumatic sissy who needed to have his parents shot to death in front of him to understand that maybe you should help people and that crime is wrong and murder is bad. His Uncle Ben didn’t need to be killed in front of him basically by his own hand to drive the point home that if you have superpowers you should use them to help people…[more examples/potential superhero slander follow]
Some of these reasons above are what our own Katey Rich has cited as why she, who has little to no interest in reading comic books, has always harbored an appreciation for Superman. So, okay, Landis loves Superman. What's his beef with Man of Steel? Well, if you read the review of Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid, you probably have some idea already. But SPOILERS AHEAD for Man of Steel.
"I go into a movie like 2012 to see a city be destroyed. You know where a city shouldn't be being destroyed? In the fucking Superman movie. And I kind of loved the way it looked when it was getting destroyed, but Superman shouldn't be allowing that to happen. People get mad because he kills Zod at the end…he snaps his neck because Lord knows those four people in the train station needed to be saved after hundreds of thousands of people have died on camera in such direct 9/11 corollaries that [I was jaw-dropped shocked]…What it comes down to is I don't mind if Superman kills people because he has no reason not kill people. I know that one of the tenants of the character is that he doesn't, but the reason that he doesn't is because having that much power makes you responsible for weaker people…Superman when he goes after someone is essentially not trying to beat them, he is trying to save them from themselves…You're looking at a God who walks amongst men!"
It's exactly Superman's strength that made the film's finale skyline-annihilating battle sequence between Superman and Zod so infuriating to Landis. He believes Superman should have killed Zod, and he should have done it right away, saving the aforementioned hundreds of thousands of victims that were ultimately slaughtered in their punching fest showdown. "Because he's not responsible for Zod," Landis explains. They should have fought in space or on the moon, away from the helpless people of Earth Superman has chosen to protect, but in this instance does so wildly ineffectively. While admitting his own superhero feature ends in a minor metro melee, he surmises:
"I guess what I'm saying isn't so much an opinion on the Man of Steel. It's more about the way superhero movies have become... at the end of all of these movies, all I'm seeing is fire and death. And that confuses the living shit out of me, because everybody's going to these movies and they're all making so much money. And at the end, a hero stands tall as all of society crumbles behind him. That isn't a superhero to me, a guy who stands there when everyone else is dead. That's like a rock star. I don't want to see movies about rock stars. Put the hero back in the super hero movies, because I think 'super' might have taken over."
For a better sense of what Landis likes in his Superman, check out this comedic short he wrote and directed titled "The Death and Return of Superman."