The new Superman flick seems to be as divisive as they come. Some love it, some hate it. I think that means they are doing something right, since the overwhelming reaction to the last Supes outing was apathy. Me? I’ve never been an enormous fan but I think it’s a pretty good movie. At the very least it’s a different take on the character, which has been sorely needed.
It’s not a perfect film. Yes, the fight scenes drag on too long. Yes, the over-the-top collateral damage brings to mind the opening of Team America: World Police (a parallel I’m quite sure Snyder and Co. did not intend.) But in the end they got more right than not. Golden Age tropes have always been Superman’s Kryptonite with modern audiences. Happily, this movie either jettisons or transforms the most egregious problems. The Kents are not just homespun yokels that serve as examples of Good Old Fashioned American Values; they take an active role in helping him deal with his powers. There’s a sense that being Superman is a chore, and he has to work out how to control his power. Best of all, Lois immediately figures out Superman’s true identity — which, let’s face it, is the only way to give her any credibility. The idea that a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist is fooled by a pair of chunky glasses is beyond silly. As a bonus, we finally experience what a true knockdown drag-out between WMD-level beings must feel like. The destruction does descend into borderline parody, but it gets the point across. How civil can a battle be when both opponents fly at supersonic speeds and punch like meteorites?
Nitpicks abound but I think it’s a good effort, if a bit overblown. It’s a version that takes risks, which is something DC has traditionally been quite timid about. J. Michael Straczynski had a golden opportunity to reboot Supes from scratch in the Superman: Earth One graphic novel, presumably to reach a new audience, and came away with an all new version of the character that kept almost all of the old tropes. (So Superman wore a hoodie and had a ‘what color is your parachute’ moment in adolescence. How is that outside the parameters of the old Kal-El?) If nothing else, this Superman serves as the antithesis of the sentimentality in Singer’s previous film. Perhaps the pendulum has swung a bit far in the other direction, but it’s a course correction that I think is in order.