One of the most anticipated movies of the year so far, what with the trailers, the teaser trailers, the teasers of the teaser trailers, the sneak peek to the teaser to the teaser to the teaser was the one that came to be known simply as MoS. There was so much FOMO built up around this movie that it had to open big. Which it did. The latest attempt to give the Superman story a “gritty reboot” opened at number one in the US box office in its launch week, and Ugandan cinema buffs flooded their halls to catch it.
The consensus seems to be half-half. If the social media chatter in the Ugandan facebooks and tweets are to be relied on Ugandans seem to agree with Rotten Tomatoes which gives an average of negative and positive reviews and comes up with a percentage, the percentage for Man Of Steel being 56.
Well, no surprise there.
Because it is beginning to look as if nobody knows how to make a movie about Superman that isn’t just fight scenes and cool CGI battles and 3D flying around. That was pretty much it for me when it came to Man of Steel. The parts when the actors were talking? Meh.
It really looks as if they don’t know how to make a movie about Superman that isn’t dull because he is just a boring superhero. Attacking Superman is like attacking the sea. You can’t hurt him. It’s no contest. Where is the suspense? Superman is just dull.
And this was confirmed last time they got us all excited about a reboot of Superman, Superman Returns, which was as exciting as watching toenails grow.
But if Superman is so dull, you object, how come Smallville was a top rated TV show for ten seasons and how come Lois And Clark was a hit for so many years?
Because those were not about Superman: they were about Clark Kent. Clark is far far more interesting than Superman. Dean Cain and Tom Welling were Clark before they were Superman.
The best superhero movies are really not about the guys and chicks in tights and capes, they are about the people inside. The success of Iron Man came from people loving the roguish Tony Stark, Spider Man movies rocked because we wanted the beleaguered Peter Parker to catch a break. Thor was lame because fuck Thor. Dark Knight was awesome because we knew that Batman was just a thing Bruce Wayne put on to battle his inner conflicts as well as his outer ones.
And that is the thing Zack Snyder and Bryan Singer got wrong when they made Man Of Steel and Superman Returns respectively. Okay, so the spectacle that was the awesome CGI fight scenes made up, to some, for the numbing drudgery of the first half, but these films won’t even come close to the Dark Knight trilogy or to Marvel’s best until these guys realize that.
Which is not to say that you can’t get a good story out of Superman. If you read the comics you will know that gifted men and women have used this character to tell mind-blowing stories—the implications of Superman are a goldmine for a clever storyteller. You think the Dark Knight was dark? Consider Superman’s issues—he is the ultimate outsider, the refugee, the orphan, the alien. He wants to belong but he knows he can’t. Every day he wakes up the first thing he has to do is remember to pretend to be someone he is not. He can never tell the people he loves the truth about who he is so no one ever loves the real him. He has the power to pretty much take over the entire world but something somewhere keeps him from even jaywalking. This should be a really bleak psychological thriller to make the Joker’s story seem like an episode of Teletubbies.
And yet instead all we see when we expect a gritty reboot of Superman is this, a screensaver.