Sunday, 9 February 2014

So, about that Man of Steel Ending...

WARNING: The Following Blog-Post has MAJOR SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL - duh!

So as you may have noticed you're one of the three total people who read this epic blog of awesome crap, I did not write a Top 5 Things I HATE about Man of Steel. This is for two, almost opposing reasons and a third, which I'll explain now. I felt like I couldn't narrow it down to just five reasons, I really hated this movie, but at the same time those dozens (yes, dozens, I counted) of reasons, all circled back to the same point. This movie lacked hope, fun, enjoyment and inspiration - which can be fine and all but it's not what the character is supposed to represent, no arguments about adaptation here, the movie even says so. But even The Dark Knight was more hopefully and inspirational than the movie about a man who has a symbol for hope sprayed across his chest. The third and final reason was that simply, I just hated the movie so much that trying to write about what I hated about it was not bringing me any joy either, I just felt so drained and let down by a movie that so badly misrepresented the character, who has literally been an inspiration and guiding light in my life in the way that he is supposed to be in the movies. To paraphrase General Zod in Man of Steel; my soul, that is what this movie has taken from me.

A tad over dramatic? Yep, but that's me. I speak almost exclusively in hyperbole. But this movie did really emotionally affect me. And truth be told many people point out the ending of Man of Steel as a low point, how Superman is forced to kill General Zod, and then worse, the destruction and death and his neck snapping is just thrown under the rug at the end because apparently they couldn't spare five more minutes of run-time to show a city in recovery or Superman feeling guilty. This ending has been debated to death and I'm not going to even begin to say how much I hated it (though it's not my only issue with the movie); and how much of an absolute betrayal of the character it was. Superman does not kill - end of story. Has he done it before? Yes, it was bad writing then it is bad writing now. But that is also not the point. I never considered the ending of Superman II as a kill either, just a severe beating (even if it's a deleted scene, it clearly shows the creators intention). But at least Superman II had earned it up until that point Man of Steel had not. One day I will probably do a "What I Would Have Changed" about Man of Steel, but I'm just not there yet, in order to do that, I should probably watch the movie in it's entirety again. 

And here is where I do this. All the problems can be summed up in the ending, the lack of hope, inspiration, the lack of joy, all there. Many of my other problems too, a lack of character depth, a lack of growth or story arc, a lack of real meaning to the story other than mindless destruction. It's all there. Superman is young and inexperienced, but he learns nothing and the audience is taught nothing either. The flashbacks serve no reason but to disjoint the story, and Jonathan Kent just comes off like an asshole frankly. Protective of his son, but still a douchebag. So what do the flashbacks have to do with the ending? Bearing in mind hindsight is 20:20 or X-Ray vision in this case, and I do not purport to be a better writer than Goyer, Snyder or Nolan - they're totally out of my league. But picture this:

The Final Battle: Superman vs. Zod is raging all around Metropolis. They go up into space now are plumetting, as in the movie, Superman gets the upper hand and is forcing Zod down to the ground. A few hundred feet before they hit the station, Superman draws his fist back and in a blast of rage and anger and SLAMS it into Zod's face. Zod crashes into the station leaving a crater where he hit. Superman on the other hand gracefully glides in. Zod begins to rise to his feet, he's clearly dazed and beaten, there's even blood on his nose and swelling around his face from bruises forming. Before Zod can even react, Superman BLASTS HIM with his heat vision pinning him further into the crater. We see the rage and madness of an angry God in Superman, he teeth gritted his flared eyes glowing. 

He's pounding Zod with a continual beam of heat. Zod screaming in pain. Superman lets his heat vision go, he jump up and POUNDS DOWN onto Zod. The crater in the hall gets even bigger. Superman wants to kill Zod, it's obvious, people are terrified of the fight. Zod looks helpless now and Superman just starts PUNCHING HIM over and over and over and over with rage in his eyes. Now, Lois walks in, she see him, shes horrified and screams out his name "Clark!". Clark Kent realises who he is again and where he is, he looks down at Zod, now beaten to a bloody pulp, face messed up, Superman's knuckles covered in blood.

Except instead of this scene as in the movie continuing on, it starts at "Clark... you have to keep this side of yourself a secret..." "What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?" "Maybe..."

Momentarily cuts back to Superman looking down at his beaten opponent. The piano music showing the vulnerable, emotional side of Superman begins playing. It cuts back to Jonathan Kent now sitting on the car with his son.

"I don't have all the answers, son. I know you can't just let people die... I know it's hard with all your power and ability. I know you can't just stay on the sidelines forever, Clark. You might be this world's greatest hero one day... One day you'll have to make a decision for what kind of man you want to be Clark. I've tried my best to raise you right, to be a good man and do the right thing. And I trust that when the time comes for you to step out into the light, you'll do the right thing - and save them."

Remembering his father's words, and Jor-El his birth father's words from earlier, "You can save them, Kal, you can save them all." Superman stops. Zod slumps down. He's beaten and out cold. Lois runs up to to him and they embrace.

"I thought you were going to kill him..." Superman shakes his head, confirmed in his decision not to kill him. There's been enough death for one day, and he won't be responsible for any more. From now on he will do his best to save them all. He does not kill, he learns not to kill, no matter how much he wanted to. He has become a Superman. 

So what does this do for the movie? Well it establishes Superman as Superman, not just the alien who came and let everyone die, or punched shit up. It establishes him as Superman, the man who will do his best to save everyone to always find another way. The easy way out is to kill, the hard way is to be the example. The hard way is to be, Superman to shoulder that responsibility. He can now be an inspiration to people, they have seen him not kill, they have seen him save the world.

Following scenes in my mind include Superman literally stepping out into the light and hundreds of Metropolis citizens seeing the man who saved them, who stopped the evil General Zod and did not kill him, setting an example. He flies off with people cheering him and watching him in awe.

Zod now in a Kryptonian prison chamber de-powered by a Kryptonian atmosphere is sent back to the Phantom Zone using the same technology, but not vowing to Superman that he will return and kill everyone he loves that Zod should have killed him (as that is what Zod wanted, he wanted Superman to kill and Zod would have won, as in the movie). Superman accepts this responsibility for protecting Earth. He accepts it knowing it will not be easy, but that if he is to be the inspiration to humanity, he need to be a paragon of human kindness, compassion, forgiveness - y'know all that stuff in the Bible and what not that the film oh-so subtly presented to us with symbolic imagery.

Metropolis is on the mend, people debate about it, the death toll was high but limited. Superman saved those he could. Now we have a hopeful ending, one that says "bad things happen" but we can rebuilt, we can overcome and now we have a true hero for truth, justice, all that stuff. 

And that is the story arc Clark has, he is as powerful as a God but he knows he needs to be an inspiration and a symbol of hope. His story up until now the one we saw in the movie, has not been an easy one but it has let him to become: Superman.