Man of Steel Chat with Dan Wells, Part 2

Man of Steel Chat with Dan Wells, Part 2

It took a long time to figure out how to post this one. Plus I’m pretty lazy so it took a while to edit it. Part 1 was a clear discussion that stood apart. But Man of Steel had so much to it. We really loved it. And in this chat we didn’t even get to talk how deeply, deeply subversive the end-of-film scene is when Superman confronts the general. That said, we’ve trimmed it down and thrown the various segments here. Hope it entertains and gives you some food for thought.

Quantum Fairy: Highly enjoyed the movie. Thought the whole thing was amazing, some fantastic writing overall. Some flaws with Superman’s character and apathetic reactions to mass innocent death, but otherwise great.
Ninja Monkey: This movie was fun in an actiony way. Almost nonstop, and not in a silly way. the writing is solid, only failing me once. I said it before. I wanted and I got a full-on superman unleashed sort of thing. And nothing could be more gratifying about this movie than that. It far outweighs any complaints.
And I felt like Pete Ross’s portrayal was justified revenge for the comics letting him be elected as Lex Luthor’s Vice President.
Dan Wells: This is easily my favorite Supes movie. I’m so glad to finally see a movie that gives Superman a real villain and lets him loose to the full range of his powers
Clockwork Gnome: I love comic book based movies. I think they have some of the best plots and characters.
Dan Wells: These days, sure, but we can never forget the long, Daredevil-esque wasteland of how comic book movies USED to be.
CG: hmmm.. like what?
Dan Wells: Daredevil and Elektra. both Fantastic Fours. Half of the old Batman movies. Half of the old Superman movies, for that matter. Punisher, Ghost Rider. Now I’m just depressing myself.
CG: eew… Ghost Rider.
NM: Steel
CG: I loved Unbreakable though

QF: I really liked the intro on Krypton and how it set up that whole relationship
Dan Wells: The Krypton intro was great — the technology on display, particularly the hovering bots and the tentacles at the end, made me very excited for a future movie with Brainiac or Metallo.
QF: Zod was not just Chaotic Evil for the sake of it, he had a goal that seemed admirable on the face of it – saving Krypton. He just had some brutal ways of accomplishing that goal.
NM: Krypton was pulled off well, not too long, which was my worry.
On the other hand, there’s the church scene. My wife really liked it. I found it pretty pointless.
CG: OMG! I loved the church scene! the whole preacher in half light.. the stained glass window behind Clark.. it was epic.
NM: Even the “HEY LUUK! ITZ JEZUSSSS!” shot?
CG: Yes! I think that was one point where I laughed out loud. I thought for sure the priest was going to call him in.
QF: Agreed it was a little set up, Eric, but even as a non-church-goer I liked the conversation.
NM: What was the point of that conversation? I didn’t take anything from the scene at all
QF: I think it grounded Superman’s human side. He’s an alien. We, in our very blinders-on society assume that if there is alien life out there, they’re atheist or something.
Dan Wells: The “hey look Jesus” shot was overdoing it. As was the shot when Supes leaves the ship to go back to Earth, and floats backwards in a crucifix pose. We get it movie; he’s a savior.
NM: Eh, I think you read too much into that pose as he falls out. I didn’t even notice it
CG: I totally noticed it. I loved that they made it so blatant. I don’t think they ever have before… in a movie.
NM: Jen, go rewatch Superman Returns. He’s even dead for three days before coming back in Superman Returns.
Dan Wells: Superman Returns was, I admit, way more Christ-heavy than this one. But the pose called so much attention to itself because it was needless. He has to go save Lois now, he doesn’t have time to float gently away. Taking the time to perfectly frame the cross pose had to be a stylistic choice.
NM: I guess.
CG: It had to be.
Why don’t you accept Superman as a savior, Ninja Monkey? Why?
Dan Wells: Superman has been a Christ figure ever since Christians didn’t realize he was a Moses figure, so this movie didn’t add it, it just really played it up.
NM: There have been subtler allusions for his Christ figure analogy before. Like this one:
Superman As Jesus
Clear without “I will beat you over the head with symbolism!”
Dan Wells: Yay Kingdom Come! one of my favorite Superman stories.
NM: In my opinion, one of the best written superhero stories ever written.
QF: Yeah I think I might actually prefer my gods as comic book characters directly.

NM: When tweeting about our last movie chat, I accidentally coined the phrase “flawed awesome.” I’m going to go ahead and apply it to Man of Steel as well. Because I really enjoyed the movie, but there’s at least one major, fundamental problem I think hurts the film in a big way.
Dan Wells: ooh, I’m excited to hear this. I almost feel bad about how much I liked it, because I have no major complaints
CG: Me too
QF: Was it Russell Crowe’s singing voice? Because people need to let that go.
NM: Well, let me background it by saying that at least since Superman Returns I’ve wanted Superman to have a well-filmed, full-on, drag-out, knock-down fight. Superman II failed us in that regard, I think. But Man of Steel gave us a villain Supes could really throw down with, it is exactly what I wanted. However, Superman doesn’t do much (or any) saving the civilians in this.
QF: Bingo. That was my #1 complaint: Supes was an ass in this movie.
CG: I was surprised at home much civilian crushing went on
CG: You really thought he came off as an ass?
QF: He was a total ####.
CG: Maybe I have the classic ‘girl falls for ass’ issue going on here.
QF: Don’t get me wrong, he saves humanity from Space Dwight Schrute, blah blah, but the collateral damage? C’mon.
NM: Now, it’s true that, storytelling wise, he doesn’t have time. Zod doesn’t let up, nor should he, that’s what I wanted. I wouldn’t change the structure or events. But, I think that’s Superman’s real biggest weakness. He doesn’t ever have any thoughts of “I really need to get this done so I can stop the stuff from blowing up on people.” And that thematic element has turned off some of the biggest comic geek writers I follow. Just a moment of regret or pain that so much destruction was going on would have gone a long way for me.
Dan Wells: True. But seeing it, that didn’t bother me nearly as much as the many complaints made me think I would. I disagree with you strongly on this.
QF: He literally throws Zod into a gas station and blows it up while people scramble to get out of the way.
NM: That shot was the most disturbing for me
Dan Wells: That was also, literally, the very first shot in the fight, while he’s blinded by the rage of them hurting his mother. It was the first time he may have ever, certainly in the movie and probably in his life, let loose with the full extent of his powers. The fact that he caused some collateral damage is incredibly forgiveable in that situation.
CG: I thought the whole essence of the movie was that you can’t save everyone?
NM: Well, that’s a major theme, but you fail to deliver that theme if you don’t try to save everyone.
CG: I agree with Dan on this one.
NM: I can definitely excuse the moment. It was disturbing, but also understandable, but he’d have regret.
CG: I saw his fight scenes as a part of trying to find his identity. Do I kill bad guys or not? Do I save good guys and let bad guys get away? Or not?
QF: I agree with the blind rage thing Dan, but it still was disturbing, like Eric is saying, that he never showed regret about what was going on with the destruction and implied death of innocents. When he’s throwing down in town, people are looking to him for help, and he’s like “go inside and lock your doors.” Yeah, that was helpful since half the buildings got leveled.
Zack Snyder did do an excellent job of showing that real people are very much in danger. Maybe too good of a job, and that’s why it bothered me that there was so much destruction.
Dan Wells: In the fight scene in Smallville, the destruction is pretty well contained. He could have done more to get the bad guys out of town, but he does an admirable job of keeping the fight smaller than it could have been. That sequence is also full of him doing things to save other people, notably the military guys.
QF: That is true, he did do his best to save the military guys
CG: He had to get the military guys on his side, so they would trust the alien.
Dan Wells: By the time the fight got to Metropolis, I’m not sure what else he could have done?
NM: The only facet that made the Doomsday/Death of Superman comic storyline readable was this: the whole time he’s cutting loose without restraint because he has no other option, he is going into the fight saying “I wish I had other options.”
In Man of Steel when he destroys the Kryptonian shuttle, when he fights the machine on the other side of the world, and when he fights Zod, the only time there’s any thought of restraint is when he has Zod in a headlock.
QF: Well, the machine in the South Indian Ocean or whatever, the fisherman that we saw in the shot before was screwed already.
CG: He was too busy trying to save the planet.
NM: Yes, he was too busy. And I’m fine with his ultimate decision. I know there’s no other choice, but the interesting thing about Superman is when he’s forced into an action like that, and he at least regrets it.
As far as events of the plot go, i think that’s good, but he never has to think about it and never has any emotional consequences, or looked like he wished he could have stopped it. He just zips on to the next thing.
The only thing Supes regrets is breaking Zod’s neck
Dan Wells: Aha. I see what you’re saying, and I think I’ve been arguing the wrong thing here. Your main concern isn’t that he should have prevented the damage, but that he should have looked like he felt bad about it. I was just answering generic twitter complaints instead of you.
NM: I just want to see him think “crap, I have to do X which means I do Y to protect Z, but I can’t do Y because of X!”
Dan Wells: So, in response to what you’re actually saying…I can see your point, but it never bothered me.
Even with all the fighting and symbolism and loss of innocent life and questionable casting decisions, nothing in this movie bugged me more than the over-the-top product placement .
QF: yes. It was as blatant as “Let’s get kicked out of an Applebee’s!”
CG: Ah… so true.. and IHOP.
QF: Who was the other blatant sponsor? Sears? I remember being surprised that they even had money left to sponsor the movie.

QF: Okay, so when Supes snaps Zod’s neck, my wife and I debated. She thinks the family survived, I say at least the dad if not more of them died, and that is why Superman’s reaction was so sad.
CG: Which family? The one huddled in the corner?
QF: Yes, in the subway station.
Dan Wells: The fact that we don’t know what happened — that the movie outright refused to show us whether the family lived or died — was the most interesting part of the movie, from a storytelling standpoint. Especially as regards the moral questions.
QF: I agree Dan, I thought it was very poignant. I like the fact that it left us hanging. I’m just curious on opinions.
NM: I see it as grief as the second to last Kryptonian in the universe dying, there is now zero chance of ever meeting more kin. (At least till Kara escapes Argo City and comes to earth to be sequestered in an orphanage away from most human contact.) But for me that emphasized the lack of hesitation at destroying the shuttle.
Zod forces Kal-El to kill him, and in doing so he kills “Kal-El” too. He’s lost half of himself. There is no more Krypton in any way anymore. he’s forced Superman to choose between Krypton and Earth with finality.
CG: I read it as Supes being sad he had to kill his own as well. I don’t think he was bothered with the family much.
QF: Interesting. I thought it was the family that had him bothered more, and the fact that he had never killed anyone. He’s not a sociopath.
Dan Wells: The big problem with the family and the neck snap and the whole morality of the fight is that the movie never really told us what the character arc was supposed to be. Based purely on the way the movie set up its questions — speaking of straight-up narrative theory — the arc was one of accepting or rejecting his origins. Which means the climactic character moment of killing Zod was an answer to either: “Am I human or Kryptonian?” or “What kind of man will I be?” I don’t know if the ignored destruction of the city allows that final moment to be about the latter.
QF: Oh, that’s an interesting point.
CG: I thought it was Supes trying to decide what to do with his powers then ultimately using them to kill his own kind being a major downer. I look to the sequel opening with him in a bar and in a beard again (please, please bring back the beard!!!).
NM: They don’t look at it very much, but Superman and Batman are the only two superheros i can recall that have an explicit oath never to take life. So it is a defining moment in that way too. Is your honor more important than saving lives?
That decision being the resolution of multiple conflict is one reason that despite my problem earlier I still geeked out a lot on this film.
That was some good writing.
Dan Wells: The movie sets up a really neat arc with his father, especially the scene where the boys are trying to bully him into fighting, and after his father says “Decide what kind of man you want to be, good character or bad, because that man is going to change the world.”
That was one of my favorite moments/lines, by the way.
QF: That is true, and I thought the “growing up” scenes did a ton to help the character. Superman is such an invincible superhero that is so hard for a lot of people to relate to, I think that showing emotion as a weakness and not Kryptonite was much more interesting.
Dan Wells: Anyway, the movie sets all that up, and the neck snap feels like it’s a close to that loop, where he’s finally forced to hit back, and go all the way, and do what needs to be done even though it means he has to hurt people.
But after we’ve spent an hour watching him hurt people, I don’t think the neck snap matters as much to that arc anymore.
QF: Exactly. I felt like he’s already thrown his lot in with Earth when he started fighting Zod and the other Kryptonians at all.
CG: Except that he is crossing the line and actually killing Zod.
NM: Well, there’s “hurt” and “not protect” but it is significant that this is his first deliberate slaying of a sentient being.
Dan Wells: It is his first deliberate death.
NM: He’s chosen to stand with earth, but that’s different than destroying Krypton, so I think there is still a big choice there.
Dan Wells: There is.
QF: True.
NM: Though I would have liked that choice a touch more if he had made it in the shuttle, but that would have been really hard to write.
Dan Wells: To me it ended up feeling like a wonderful close to the “choose a planet” thread, but only a passable close to the violence dilemma. I agree about the shuttle. They could have spent just a couple of seconds showing him redirecting the shuttle’s fall into the bay, and then SO MUCH of this other stuff would have worked.
NM: It’s a very Dances with Wolves thing. I mean, in that Costner has chosen the natives, but it’s not the same thing as being against his former government, until the end.
And speaking of Costner. I didn’t think Superman was a dick, but I did think Pa Kent was.
Dan Wells: Really? I loved Pa Kent.
CG: I hate Kevin Costner so I probably shouldn’t comment.
NM: It’s hard for me. I think it’s mostly he’s just not characterized as I expected.
Dan Wells: His moment of telling Clark that maybe sometimes you have to let the school bus drown felt like it came from an incredibly painful part of him/
NM: I did like the wisdom he dispensed, and I thought it was a nice touch that he didn’t have all the answers, but he seemed so wishy-washy much of the time. The problem with telling him maybe to sacrifice the bus is the only thing letting all those people die would protect was his secret identity. To me that’s a no-brainer. Even if I die because of this choice, that’s better than a bus full of kids dying.
The scene you mentioned earlier, where he resists fighting the bullies, that was a great scene.
CG: Yah. That was a great scene. Costner is just such a whimpy actor in my book. Maybe it was a good fit to Supe’s superness.
QF: Jonathan and Martha were the ones originally who taught Superman (in the comics) to use his powers for good, so it was a little canon-breaking, but I thought that it worked really well with the story line. The scene was very predictable – as soon as I saw a tornado and a dog, I knew someone was going to die – where he seals his conviction to help his alien son stay “safe” and “normal” with his own life was pretty powerful. He may be close to invicible, but he still was making a choice to save the kids at the risk to himself.
CG: I think superman chosing to follow his Dad’s instructions even though it meant letting him die was amajor building block for him though.=
Dan Wells: With Pa it worked for me — he’s a good man, and he raised his obscenely powerful son to be a good man, but without losing sight of his love for his son.
NM: I was the tiniest bit irked about Pa dying at all. That’s the “canon” established in the films, so it’s what most people know, so I know why it happened. There’s just a lot of brilliantly “human” moments in modern comics when Clark talks to Jonathan.
QF: I didn’t care that much that Jonathan died in the film, but I thought it was great writing.
NM: It worked, story-wise, and I guess what I wanted was more sentimentality. And I should admit that it wouldn’t have been a better film to do it my way.
So, what I’m saying is I wanted something else, but it was far from a flaw in the film.
CG: I liked that they didn’t spend a ton of time with his childhood. The few flashbacks worked well without us having to revisit that whole story line again
Dan Wells: I agree about the flashbacks. Giving his childhood all out of order was a better choice than doing it sequentially. It allowed Pa to die but still to be there when we needed him, especially in the final scene where little Clark plays with a pretend cape.
NM: Ok, yeah, I almost cried for that.
CG: Ha ha ha!
Dan Wells: Yep, it was a huge emotional tearjerker moment for every father in the audience, and it played me like a piano.
CG: The lense flair got in my eye!
NM: I didn’t realize J.J. Abrams was directing a Star Trek film in here!
Dan Wells: He was just directing one nearby, and it was so bright it kept screwing this one up.

CG: Ok. Can we talk about Amy Adams?
NM: Like, why did her nose look so pointy?
CG: Who picked her and how did she end up everywhere that Clark was? Every time? She was so distracting. Especially during the fight scenes. All the sudden… Hey! There’s Amy! It happened at least five times
NM: Well, it was pretty rational, actually. It’s semi-coincidence in the Arctic. But then she’s deliberately taken to the ship.
Dan Wells: The only weird coincidence with her was that she plummeted from space to land in Kansas, but we can forgive that if we assume Supes directed the fall a bit.
NM: And she had to land somewhere. Then she went back to the Daily Planet, and that’s where the fight is.
Dan Wells: Her making it to the train station in time to watch the neck snap was a stretch, but hardly a coincidence. She saw him fall and ran to find him.
QF: I just kept expecting Muppets to show up behind her.
CG: Chris – Yes.
QF: She was not a strong enough lead for that character.
CG: I was hoping for someone a little less Disney for that part She’s sassy enough, but I’m just a bit fickle about recycled actors. She’s always the spunky girl who needs saving.
NM: It sounds to me like you’re conflating your overall impression of Amy Adams with her portrayal in the film.
Dan Wells: Really? I thought she was great. Easily my favorite Lois of any movie I could believe her as an equal, which meant I could believe their romance.
CG: Maybe that’s the problem. I’m not sure any woman on earth could be his equal in the eyes of women from earth.
NM: Yeah, I like her better than Margot Kidder, but I think I like Erica Durance better.
Dan Wells: I never got into Smallville, so I couldn’t say.
QF: Yeah I think I’ve seen three episodes. What about Terri Hatcher?
CG: I liked Terri much better.
NM: See, I was never into Lois and Clark.
QF: My mom watched and recorded every single episode of Lois and Clark on VHS.
Dan Wells: Hatcher was a fun Lois, but not a Lois I ever really respected, if that makes sense.
CG: I keep trying to think of someone who would be a better Lois but I’m so out of touch with actors right now. I pretty much just know who I don’t like. I think I mostly expect Lois to be a strong brunette type.
NM: Molly Ringwald!
CG: A bit old, but not bad! I found Adams a bit insipid and … well… yah. Maybe I thought I would be a better Lois.
QF: You just want to be close to Henry Cavill.
CG: Of course I want to be closer to Henry Cavill. What straight woman doesn’t? What gay man doesn’t? My word. He was so inhumanly perfect it was perfect.
Dan Wells: Adams made me believe that Lois was a smart, capable woman with her own career and life — someone Supes would fall for instead of just the other way around. she was fantastic, and strong, and so on.
If I was forced to recast, I’d pick Lynn Collins from John Carter.
CG: We will have to disagree on this point. The only movie I really liked her in was Drop Dead Gorgeous. Perfect type casting.
Dan Wells: On the subject of acting, back to Pa Kent for a bit. Whatever you think of the character, Costner as an actor acted circles around everyone else in that movie
CG: He did do a pretty good job in this one, even if he’s not my fav.
NM: Yeah, I worried about the choice, but like Michael Keaton as Batman, he did dang good.
Dan Wells: Diane Lane was good too.
CG: Loved Diane Lane.
CG: Did anyone else think Bill Hader everytime Zod made his angry face? I think it’s Bill Hader’s big, beefy, alien cousin.
Dan Wells: The guy playing Zod was weird. Maybe it was his haircut. I never really bought him as a big scary villain. He didn’t look big and imposing, or sharp and sinister, or whatever.
CG: Maybe it was the armor.
QF: The only face I could see when Zod made any face was Dwight Schrute.
Dan Wells: He just kind of was there. He was charismatic enough, I guess.
CG: But he had so many great bad guy lines.
QF: He did, and the character was very interesting.
Dan Wells: Definitely. The part was written well, just cast oddly. His final speech about losing his soul was the first time he really clicked for me.
CG: I really like Russel Crowe. I really like that he magically appeared later so we could look at him and listen to him and Henry Cavil at the same time!!! Henry Cavil and Russel Crowe need to make another movie together. One where Russel isn’t dead for most of it, and where Henry has a five o’clock shadow the entire movie.
NM: And omigosh Laurence Fishburne! Best choice for Perry White? Or best conceivable choice for Perry White? i know, a minor part, but he nails it
QF: Oh. I loved him as Perry
Dan Wells: Fishburne was a good Perry, but he was wasted in a movie that only gave him one meaningful scene.
NM: I wanted him to have more screen time too, but there’s gonna be a sequel, so we can hope they give him more time.
Dan Wells: I’m going to say that my favorite part of the movie was the mini-Battlestar Galactica reunion. I really wish they’d gotten Colonel Tigh in there somewhere. as a general or something.

And it’s about that point we ran out of time. There’s so much left to discuss. Like similarities with Avengers or the political undertones, or a half dozen other subjects. What do you have to say about it?

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