I remember a conversation I had last night while hanging out with some friends of mine. We were discussing the summer 2013 lineup of movies, and among such flicks as Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, and The Great Gatsby, we ended up on the topic of Man of Steel.
Little contextual side note: My friends are huge comic-book fans, and I myself used to be, though these days I have grown rather…well, “less-than-enthralled” at the veritable legion of same-y superhero stories that populate much of the blockbuster lineup.
My friends were obviously looking forward with great anticipation to the Man of Steel movie, and I posed my qualms about it: it seemed to be of a similar breed to the mountain of content that already existed.
I then went on said that I was looking forward to Pacific Rim a lot more, which elicited a very interesting reaction:
Apparently, I have garnered a bit of a reputation!
Maybe I’m supposed to be the stereotypical person that hates all big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, only praising some random niche of movie; cult flicks, art-house films, or something of that nature?
I could also surmise that perhaps Man of Steel and Pacific Rim were seen by them as similar movies, both big affairs with the fate of the world at stake, which was the reason for their surprise.
In any case, I found that to be enough of a reason to contrast why exactly I’m really looking forward to one and almost not at all to the other.
Alright, let us start with the iconic figure that has become the ubiquitous symbol of the word “superhero”. Picture these potential plot lines:
Superman struggles to find his place in the world, with people in both awe and fear of him; but his love of humanity remains strong. Then…
1 – Some villain puts civilians (or just Lois Lane, interchangeably) in danger, and he is forced to make some difficult ethical decision about how he can save everyone on the planet.
2 – He comes too near some kryptonite (often disguised as something else) and then gets the crap beaten out of him. Near to death, the kryptonite is somehow removed from the equation, and then he comes back to save the day.
3 – The population decides they don’t need him or are too fearful of him for whatever reason, and so they ostracize him, only to have him finally prove himself to them at the end.
4 – Any combination of the above.
That’s because collectively they represent almost every Superman plot ever. Most Superman stories can be boiled down to one of those options (I’m sure the legion of comics out there has more variety than that, but I’m equally sure that even so a large majority of the stories are still going to be in that format).
Now, I know that isn’t really fair at a surface level. I mean, ever superhero has their thing, right? The X-men will probably always be stories of discrimination and acceptance. Spider-man will always be about the balance between responsibility and living the life you’d like to.
But regardless of how many ways they present this story, it does get old.
I’m basing this opinion purely on what I see to be the plots of both respective films from trailers and articles, which are the only references available at the time of this writing; BUT with trailers being the things that help you determine which movies you want to see and which you don’t, I imagine it is legitimate enough. I still plan to watch both these movies, mind you, but I don’t really expect Man of Steel to be all that groundbreaking.
From the trailers, it just seems like another “the world is in danger and only Superman can save us!” to me. Giving himself up to the authorities so they can turn him over to the bad guys in an act of self-sacrifice (which is what I assume happens) has a ring of familiarity to it, probably due to the fact that he does this every time the world is in peril and someone actually poses a threat to humanity.
Could this movie be incredible? Could be it be a completely fresh twist on classic Superman tropes? Yes! Does it look like it will be, however?
Not so much.
There are points in one trailer where it says:
“He’ll be a God to them.”
“For some, he was a guardian angel, for others, a ghost, who never quite fit in.”
“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards, they will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall, but in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”
Now here’s an idea: What if there was a movie not about Superman, but about the people around him? Just random people on the street, a minister, a homeless person, etcetc, and the movie is about their lives reacting to the things Superman does. Following his example, trying to solve the conflicts in their lives with the same benevolence and love for humanity, seeing him as an idol, a symbol of hope, a god. Mob mentality ensues, and maybe a cult formed around Superman starts doing horrible things in his name. He needs to stop them, but he can’t just go kill them all or even try to lock them up – they were, after all, just misguided, doing what they thought “Superman would do”.
I don’t know. That’s just off the top of my head, and it clearly needs tweaking. But seriously, do we really need to just have him sacrificing himself on the altar of humanity’s future intermingled with various scenes of him punching people out of the sky and a childhood that can be summed up with “BWAA?!? I’m adopted?!? And an alien?!?”
Every. Single. Time.
Well, admittedly, the plot will probably not be so simple as that. I hope. I’m sure Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer know what they are doing.
But I digress.
It seems to be just another movie about robots fighting aliens, lots of visual effects, and all the general stuff that happens in those kind of movies, right?
I don’t think so.
The premise is fairly simple, yes. But look at what else that trailer is telling you.
There are two pilots for these robot soldiers, and when they pilot, they must both work together AND share all their memories and experiences. Just imagine all the places they could go with just that alone!
Opening yourself entirely to another person would be quite a harrowing experience. But on top of that, you have to work together with this person to pilot a giant behemoth and battle alien beings from deep beneath the Earth’s surface?
-The drama that can ensue by revealing all your personal demons to another person who now knows you better than anyone else.
-Learning to work in a perfect trio: Man, Woman, and Machine.
-One of them is a former pilot, and the other an inexperienced trainee.
-What if one of them dies while they are linked, or is seriously injured? (let’s face it, it’ll probably happen at some point in the movie) How does that affect the other?
-The two protagonists could potentially have some sort of love story by getting to know each other, OR (much more interestingly) what if one of them is married or in a relationship and the fact that the two share an intimate neural link while piloting wreaks havoc on their personal lives?
Obviously that last one was 100% speculation, but I hope you see what I’m saying. So many places this thing could go, so much story that could be told.
And if you aren’t convinced yet, just remember that at one point they use this Jaeger robot to bat an alien with a supertanker.
But anyway, I’ve written over 1000 words on my first impressions of these movies. It’s probably time to stop.
In conclusion, could Man of Steel be some incredible film that defies all the stereotypes and does something really new and interesting?
Could Pacific Rim end up just being another alien movie with giant robots thrown in?
Yes, to both.
But from what I’ve seen so far, Pacific Rim is much more engaging, original, and inventive.
Brendon “who wants to team up and pilot and giant robot?!?” Regier