I still don’t think anyone has made an amazing Superman movie, but at least Man of Steel made me believe that it’s possible.
After The Avengers and now Man of Steel, I think there needs to be a name for the phenomenon where a comic book movie attracts incredible production talent, who proceed to write some of the most inspired, creative, entertaining popcorn movie content ever created, only to be hamstrung in the end by their own nerdish worship of the weak source material. Back in writing workshop, there was a frequently repeated phrase you’d hear in critiques where people would point to the top of your piece and say “this feels like throat clearing.”
Basically, it means you had these germs of an idea or ideas at the beginning that sparked some connection in your brain that eventually lead to something so much better, and now you just need to go back and delete those half-formed origin thoughts. Man of Steel feels like Christopher Nolan and David Goyer and company were inspired by the idea of a showdown between Superman and General Zod, to create an even better story about what it means to be Superman. But in the end they just couldn’t bring themselves to cut those cables of homage to the initial inspiration. Thus we’re left with an inspiring, beautiful origin story grafted onto an anti-climactic hero/villain showdown, and all the the hackneyed tropes that go along with it.
Seriously, is there some rule I don’t know about where every superhero movie has to have a scene of the hero flying into the mouth of a giant laser pointed at Earth? Look, Drunk Randy Quaid in Independence Day is the best that scene’s ever going to get, so stop trying.
Man of Steel‘s most impressive accomplishment was to make me think, “Wow, Superman, huh? What a great story. Why hasn’t anyone been able to make an amazing movie out of this before?”