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Saturday On The Farm

The Kent farm, that is.

All week long, I’ve been fielding questions– mostly from non-fan types– about how excited I must be about the new Batman vs. Superman blockbuster now in theaters. And over and over, I see them walk away vaguely disappointed when I confess that I’m not.

But really, well, I’m just… not. Not feeling it, guys. Sorry.

I wish I was. I would love nothing more than to have a big DC hit movie that I was really excited about. The DC heroes were my gateway to comics in the first place, and especially Superman. I grew up on Superman Giants. I probably am more familiar with the geography of Krypton than I am with the geography of Earth. And a couple of weeks back I wrote about what I loved about the seventies version of Superman. I should be thrilled that AT LAST we are getting a ‘serious’ Superman in the movies. But I’m not.

When fans ask me about the movie I get an even weirder response– a great many of them act as though I am letting the side down by admitting that I am not interested. As though I am failing in my task as an ambassador for comics in general and DC in particular. And when I explain that this version of Superman just leaves me cold, the vitriol ramps up. What the hell did I EXPECT of the Super-battles in Man of Steel? Of course there would be broken buildings and mass casualties! Of course Superman had to kill Zod! And anyway that moral ambiguity is what drives the new movie, Batman’s worried about those same things, I should give it a chance!

But, see… none of that is my problem.

Adam-Troy Castro, a very fine superhero writer in his own right (If you haven’t read his Spider-Man prose novels, you are missing a treat) said it online a few days ago, and it hit me right between the eyes. Yeah, that’s it. That was the problem.

All the other things– the destruction, the weird motivations, the fact of Superman killing an adversary– all those things I can forgive or excuse. There’s even precedent in the comics. (Whether or not you think they’re GOOD comics is a different argument. They’re there, they’re part of Superman lore.)

No, Adam’s and my issue with Henry Cavill’s Superman is really simple, but it makes pretty much everything else in Man of Steel invalid. That version ruined Jonathan and Martha Kent. Jonathan, especially.

Look, here is MY Jonathan Kent. From Elliott Maggin’s brilliant novel Miracle Monday:

Jonathan was a strong man, Martha knew. Underneath his glasses, his mild manners, his sheepish grin was the boy who had spirited her off in his buggy to a justice of the peace when he couldn’t convince her father he could support a wife; the man who had taken a hundred twenty acres of the rockiest thicket in Kansas and twisted it into a wheatfield and a home; the husband in whose face she found love and prayer and hope when she had despaired over being unable to give birth. Middle-aged and childless, Martha Clark Kent grew to want no more from life than to grow old in the company of this unshakably good man. Then, as happened to Abraham’s aged wife Sarah, the Heavens gave her a son.

Someday soon she would learn the origin of her son, the toddler she and Jonathan had found in an object she thought was a falling star one afternoon when they were on their way to look over a used tractor. She would learn of his flight from a dying planet, cast off into space by his parents. She would even learn the name of the planet—Krypton—and the names of the parents – Jor-El and Lara. But for most of the time she knew her adopted son, Martha Kent would know no more about him than that the boy had had, when she first saw him, the most angelic face she had ever seen. She wondered if all angels rode falling stars when they came to Earth.

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Before Jonathan closed the gate of the picket fence, Martha had already flown out the door and into his arms with a “Jonathan! Jonathan!”

“Now what’s all this about the boy being sick?” he asked as he fairly carried her back through the door.

“He won’t talk to me. He may be delirious. He made his way home all right, he’s just shivering and his face is so hot you could scramble an egg on his forehead. I’m scared for him, Jonathan.”

“Now now dear, he’s got a tougher skin than we do. Why don’t you fix us a cup of tea and I’ll see what the boy looks like?”

“All right.” He was the kind of man—and they were scarce indeed—who quietly watched life most of the time, but when those he was watching seemed unable to handle things, he stepped in and shone with confidence.

Jonathan was in Clark’s room for three or four minutes, not long enough even for the water in the kettle to think about boiling, before he came out. He wasn’t smiling, but the confidence was still there.

“Growing pains, I warrant,” he told her.

“Growing pains? With a fever and the shivers?

“That’s what I’d call it. Nothing a good man-to-man talk won’t cure.”

“Jonathan, the boy’s ill. I never had growing pains like that.”

“I did.”

“Do tell?”

“First time I came calling on you. I was so worried I’d made a bad impression I had to stay home from school for two days.”

Martha thought a moment. Then her eyes widened and she said, “Sakes alive, Jonathan. It’s not little Lana. Not at their age, is it?”

“Oh no, Martha. Nothing like that. That’ll come too, soon enough, but not yet. There’s a lot of hurting a boy goes through if he wants to be a man. And when a boy wants to be a special kind of man like Clark’ll be—well, that’s a lot of hurting. I left the store open and there were three robberies in town last year. You run off now and tend to that and don’t worry. I’ll tell you all about it later.”

“Oh men!” And she left, no longer the least bit worried.

Jonathan Kent is the guy Superman respects more than any other man on Earth, living or dead. That’s the whole point of his character.

And yeah, Man of Steel held true to that. (Even to the point that the kid with super-speed let his father die rather than pull off a simple rescue that… oh well, I’m not going to get into litigating that again.)

But here’s the thing. Kevin Costner played that role to the best of his ability and both he and Cavill did their best to sell it– but that version of Jonathan Kent is a self-centered coward. He’s willing to sacrifice the lives of strangers to protect his own home and family.

To put it the nicest possible way, that is emphatically not the guy I grew up reading about.

Nor is it the guy I’ve seen in any interpretation over the years. Silver Age, groovy seventies, TV, movies, whatever. No version of Jonathan Kent EVER advised Clark Kent to duck and cover rather than help people who needed him. Period the end. It’s wrong.

My idea of Jonathan Kent is that he is the guy who gave Superman his values. Truth and justice and decency. There were lots of things I disagreed with during John Byrne’s tenure on Superman but he nailed it when he said Superman was raised as a midwestern American and that’s how he sees himself. Yeah.

And he learned all that from his folks. From Jonathan and Martha Kent.

It was what I loved about the early seasons of Smallville and why I hung in there with that show far longer than I should have… because John Schneider’s portrayal of Jonathan Kent was exactly how I saw him.

From the moment in the pilot where Clark explains that young Lex Luthor has sent over a new truck as thanks for saving him from drowning and Schneider snaps, “What, so you get a prize?” I was completely on board with his Jonathan.

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Same with most of the other ones I’ve seen over the years. They all understand the idea that being helpful and altruistic is something that decent people are. It’s baked into Jonathan and Martha’s DNA.

Whichever version is yours– most people identify with one or another– that’s been a constant.

Even shows like Lois & Clark got that. That particular Jonathan worried about Clark getting captured by the government or something, but never to the point where he flat-out said, “No, don’t help people, Clark.” That was never on the table.

The newer versions have been pretty consistent about their portrayal of the Kents. Some worry more than others but they all are on board with the idea that Clark’s special abilities must be used to help people. Must. Be. To the point where maybe Clark himself has to make sacrifices.

That is, until Man of Steel. That version of Jonathan Kent, where he argues against any kind of personal sacrifice, where he encourages Clark to hide his abilities no matter what and even berates him for saving a school bus full of drowning children, is frankly reprehensible.

You can argue and justify it all you want. But I don’t care what the in-story logic is for the choice. It’s a bad choice. It is a case of not just missing the point but missing it SPECTACULARLY. By miles and miles.

I don’t trust any moviemakers that think that’s a valid portrayal of Jonathan Kent. I especially don’t like the idea of a version of Superman that is raised to NOT trust humanity, to ASSUME THE WORST UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE. That simply is not who Superman should be. Anyone who thinks it is, well, they shouldn’t be making Superman movies.

You know what’s really kind of frustrating about the whole thing? Ben Affleck has gotten a raft of shit for being Batman but honestly, I kind of like what is shown in the clips I’ve seen. The version of Batman I’m seeing is valid. Batman probably would worry about the potential for danger to humanity, he’d work out a contingency plan in case Superman went bad, he’d have paranoid nightmares about it. All solid choices. That idea of Batman seems defensible to me.

But this version of Superman simply is not. The mistakes Man of Steel made persuaded me that this new effort is not a movie I need to rush out to catch in theaters. At all. I’m happy to settle in with the two dozen other versions I have here in the house, in prose and comics and film. It’s not like there’s a shortage. But this new one… sorry. They lost me with the Kents, and I don’t trust any studio with that bad a grasp on the characters to make a movie I want to see. I’m certainly not spending money to see if they figured it out.

Look, I get that you can have multiple versions and updates and all of that stuff. But I think you owe something to the established history of the character, no matter how ‘corny’ or ‘outdated’ you think it might be. I believe that Chris Evans has shown us with his Captain America that it’s possible to make a good-guy hero interesting and relatable to modern moviegoers. I never get the feeling that Marvel Studios, in its secret heart of hearts, doesn’t like Cap or believe in him. But I get that feeling with DC and Superman a lot, especially with these new movies.

Shame really. But at least all of us ‘corny,’ ‘old-school’ Super-fans have Supergirl on television.

I’m perfectly happy to settle for that while the rest of you are at the movies.

See you next week.

82 Comments

Chaos McKenzie

March 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Thanks so much. This has been my problem since day one – – Man of Steel’s only serious sin was the way Jonathan Kent was characterized/portrayed. It was the cardinal sin.

This this this: ” I especially don’t like the idea of a version of Superman that is raised to NOT trust humanity, to ASSUME THE WORST UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE. That simply is not who Superman should be. Anyone who thinks it is, well, they shouldn’t be making Superman movies.”
I’m putting this on an index card in my wallet and bringing it out every time someone wants to argue with me about the damned Man of Steel movie. That’s not Superman. So I’m not interested.

I’m with you. Jonathan Kent is one of the main reasons I hated Man of Steel (though I hated loads of other things about it too). And the trailer for BvS did it no favours with Martha Kent saying “you don’t owe them anything” Wow. Clark Kent has some major a-holes for role models.

They do not get Superman. At all. It’s cynical and dark and everything I don’t want in a superhero I’ve loved since I was 3.

I’m sure others will see it and enjoy it. I wish them well. But Warner are not getting my money this weekend.

I saw the movie last night, Greg. You’re not missing a damn thing.

This new movie tries to rewrite history by saying it was Jonathan’s dream for Clark to be Superman, which is a flat out lie. It’s not even consistent with a later scene, where a vision of Jonathan relates a story that reaffirms his position of “heroism always has bad consequences and you’re better off not even bothering.”

Maybe I’m being unfair and letting my dislike of Ayn Rand get the better of me, but when I heard that Zack Snyder was a fan of Rand and was working on The Fountainhead, suddenly a lot of things clicked for me.

I suddenly understood what bothered me about the Watchmen movie despite enjoying a lot of it. It bothered me that Snyder seemed to celebrate violence, and the camera all but roots for the Comedian when he is punching and kicking the crap out of the leftist demonstrators, while Alan Moore would show violence with a sort of distanced and analytical disgust. When I heard Snyder was a Rand fan, I nodded in understanding.

Same thing with Jonathan Kent telling Clark to not be altrustic, because altruism only ruins things. And everything that is “unique”, like Superman, must be sheltered from the mediocrity of the masses.

And I was not the first to jump to this connection:

http://www.salon.com/2016/03/18/ayn_rands_warped_superheroes_of_course_zack_snyders_vision_of_greatness_owes_everything_to_the_fountainhead/

Yeah this sounds horrible.

The MoS interpretation of Jonathan Kent seemed borked to me, and subtly borked the movie around him. So, I completely agree – up to the point in that scan: “bullies don’t like being bullied back”. That doesn’t sit right with me as an example of Jonathan or Clark’s values, and even seems like a strange, slightly bitter digression in a eulogy. (For brit TV viewers, like Father Ted’s Golden Cleric speech, or Alan Partridge’s “needless to say, I had the last laugh”) A bit too… ‘eye for an eye’. A bit too much like a schoolkid revenge fantasy. Not the first time I’ve seen it expressed in modern comics, and it makes me wonder about the issues of some writers.

Anyways, I’m off to read Rene’s Salon link. Sounds interesting. I’ll bet Snyder *loved* Rorschach, and it makes a little more sense to a small change or two at the climax of that movie.

I’m so glad you wrote this. People online seem to always bring up the “Superman doesn’t kill” thing but over look how terrible the Kents were. That was the biggest flaw in Man of Steel.

That being said, I saw Batman v Superman yesterday and I liked it. It wasn’t perfect but it was way better than the reviews would indicate.

Jeff Nettleton

March 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Pretty much nailed it on the head. I can accept Superman killing, if every attempt to stop Zod has failed and innocent people paid the price of those failures, leaving Clark no choice but to put a final end to Zod. That’s what Jonathan Kent, the one I knew and the one that Maggin so eloquently wrote about, would teach him.

@Rene,
That theory pretty mcuh tallies with my take on the Watchmen movie, especially since it seems to portray Rorschach as the truly heroic one of the bunch. I’ve always said Snyder may have duplicated Dave Gibbons’ panels; but, he certainly didn’t capture Alan Moore’s writing; especially the subtext.

The Super Mates Podcast (over at fireandwaterpodcast.com) just covered the World’s Finest movie crossover, from the Batman and Superman animated series and that is still the benchmark for these two characters in confrontation, cinematically.

It’s amazing how much Warner has gotten right, via the people who are doing their tv shows; but, not so much their movie people. I still say if they want a hit ovie franchise, they need to go to the guy who helped usher a hit tv franchise: Bruce Timm. He understands what makes the characters work and delivers a great experience, working with an excellent crew of people. Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder? Ugh! Screen Junkies said it well in their Honest Trailer, for Man of Steel, “God forbid a Superman movie be any fun!”

@Warren B.

I agree with you that the “eye for an eye” streak in many superhero comics is problematic at best and distasteful at worst. But I’d like to perhaps suggest that’s not what’s going on in the All-Star Superman pages you referenced.

I think Jonathan did teach Clark that “bullies don’t like being bullied back”—which is certainly true—but I don’t think Jonathan taught Clark to actually bully the bullies. It seems to me that nearly everything about Clark’s eulogy is relevant to Lex Luthor and who Lex is and what he does during the course of All-Star Superman. (Thematically, I mean; I don’t think Clark is actually referencing Lex in his eulogy.) And it’s important to note that Superman defeats Lex not through punching or being physically stronger or more dominating but by being compassionate. He grants Lex’ fondest wish, absolute power, and it’s Lex’ inability to cope with that power that ultimately defeats him.

So that “bullies” line is, I think, an insight Jonathan gave Clark rather than a way to act. And it’s that insight that allows Clark to defeat Lex.

At least, that’s how I read it. (I hope that makes sense!)

Great article Greg. Superman getting his morality from his parents is probably hand-in hand the most quixotic and human aspects of his character, and I mean that in a good way. It’s pretty straight forward and operates on a child like view of the world to have your best morals derived from your parents, do your best and help other people, and follow that to the letter as an adult, yet it works for a character so emblematic and I’d like to think those philosophies can work in the real world as well.
@ I don’t read that eulogy scene entirely as an “eye for an eye” sort of thing. I tend to view it as understanding that most bullies do it out of a place of hurt and that ultimately no one likes to get bullied.

Warren and Jeff –

The Salon article is interesting, though I am not sure I agree with all of the dude’s ideas. I mean, I obviously agree with him that Snyder seems to be a Objectivist that either misunderstood or willingly twisted Watchmen and Superman. But the guy suggested that Snyder saw Adrian Veidt as a Randian hero, and I think the opposite. The Watchmen movie made Veidt far more unsympathetic and borderline pathetic. In the comic book, he is always dignified and melancholic and remote. In the movie he is smirking and mincing and effeminate. No, I’m not saying being effeminate is bad, but I’m saying that it would be expected that a Randian Conservative like Snyder would think being effeminate is a good trait for a villain.

You hit the nail on the head, Greg. Nicely said.

Boy, oh, boy, would I have a lot to say! I’m afraid that once I get started, I just will rant on and on. – And on. But, basically, Greg and most of you already did say much of essentially what I would have. Being as fair and honest as it’s possible for me to be, however, I will add just this, that a long-ago writer/editor at DC once noted: “Each generation of creative people has the right to do with [their characters] whatever they want.” It may suck… but it’s the truth. I take solace that so many of you feel and express a lot of what I feel, and express some of what I would like to.

All of this. Seriously. MoS was an Ayn Randian nightmare sequence, right down to the awful bleak color desaturation. The only thing I feel compelled to add is that these films are destroying the Superman franchise.

I have a mug. It’s a Superman mug in bright blue and red and yellow with the classic “S” logo on the side. I love that mug, and it represents that I am going to kick ass while also making the world a better place. The entire reason that I have that mug is because of those very altruistic and endearing and boy scout qualities that Superman has. Captain America is the same. That’s why I also love Cap.

Now when I use this mug, I wonder what others may think about why I’m using this mug. What kinds of messages I’m sending out with that big “S” surrounding my tea. I hope that they’ll see the classic logo and realize that I’m representing for the classic Supes that we all love and respect. My fear is that they’ll think I’m in favor of mass destruction, killing enemies, and selfishness.

On a more practical note… it’s entirely possible that this new, terrible Superman is a result of the recent copyright lawsuit which returned the original Superman back to his creators. DC is trying to hold onto “their” Superman by changing everything that makes him him.

“You’ll delight millions with something like Dances With Wolves, then you give them a Waterworld and suddenly you’re dogshit on their shoe. So fuck ‘em, Clark.”

For me, if you want this vision of DC, I think it can work if you play it like an Injustice riff (or just do an Injustice film and be done with it; that to me, between the comics and game, is the definitive Bats vs. Supes struggle). That way the questionable morality and violence feels more organic. Or maybe, as someone else noted elsewhere, we’re just seeing the formation of the Justice Lords as it’s pretty clear we have the multiverse in play here.

In any case, I’d love to see your thoughts further on contrasting the films with Supergirl, which I think absolutely nails what wearing the S is supposed to mean. Aside from the elephant in the room of why Kal-El doesn’t intervene more (y’know, with the army of Kryptonians hanging around or that time Kara turned evil and publicly terrorized a city on a rampage), the show is getting stronger weekly and I’m looking forward to the crossover this week.
Also, my one hope is that Marvel decides to troll DC at the end of Civil War by having the stinger be “Elsewhere” followed by a pull back to two shadowy figures watching the events of Civil War on a monitor. The monitor stops and one turns to the other:

Figure 1: “Thoughts?”
Figure 2:”They’re reckless, don’t care about collateral damage, endanger civilians, and terrorize the people they’re supposed to be saving. They need to be straightened out. Now.”
Figure 1: “I agree.”
Camera closes up to Hyperion and Nighthawk.
Hyperion: “Gather the rest of the Squadron. We’re going to save their world.”

And thus we have Squadron Supreme (JLA) vs. Avengers for after everything with Thanos so that Marvel can show DC how to do a JLA film.

This resonates with lots of feelings about Jonathan Kent and “Man of Steel” in general, although my feelings are less intense than yours. I’ll still watch the new movie when I can because on the whole I’d rather there be more movies about Superman then less.

But I agree about the role that Jonathan Kent should have (and almost always has had) in Superman’s story, and that the Man of Steel version was a disappointment. It was especially during the tornado scene that I saw my hope in that movie being as good as I wanted crumble before me.

What’s amusing to me about it all is that as far as I can tell, Clark ultimately fails to learn any sort of lesson from Jonathan Kent in “Man of Steel” at all, in spite of the fact that he says he does. He ultimately goes on to disregard the lesson to keep his powers hidden, and to thus suffer all the consequences that Jonathan predicted (Lois tracks down his identity and could have exposed him, etc). Can you imagine if the movie had introduced Clark by showing him choose to let all those guys on the oil rig die for fear of revealing himself before his appointed time?

Yeah, this is a wonderfully written column, Greg, and needless to say, I agree with every word.
Otherwise, as to that Salon piece, I saw it a few days ago, and remember thinking right away that having someone who adheres, or is at least partial to Rand’s pseudo-philosophy has to be the absolute worst choice for director (or screen-writer, etc.) of movies about superheroes, who by definition use their special powers and talents for altruistic purposes.

Jeff: I’d team him up with Paul Dini, too!

CS: it does help, thanks. Context is everything! To be honest I haven’t read All-Star Superman (yet) and going by that scan, I thought it was Jonathan’s eulogy! Makes much more sense if it’s Lex’s.

Rene: after reading that article, I agree with you. Adrian seems more like a Randian hero in the original comic (with Dan all but quietly accepting his genocidal plan) and a more traditional face-heel turn in the movie. (With Dan bloodying his face for his trouble) In either case he’s not tearing Jon down as a ‘false, undeserving hero’, but subtly removing the one man with the ability and perception to see what Adrian has planned. The Salon author doesn’t seem to get it.

No, you were right, Warren, that is Jonathan’s eulogy, but CS is saying that Clark is referring to Lex with the bullies comment.

Wow, you really said it perfectly. Nicely done!

Greg, I agree with you entirely about MoS’s Jonathan. To me, he’s as much the villain of the film as Zod, because Clark has to *reject* everything Jonathan teaches him in order to become a hero. And that’s an inversion of what Jonathan’s role should be.

But here’s where I have to defend MoS’s Clark (I hesitate to call him Superman, a name he didn’t quite earn in the film) — because he *did* reject Jonathan’s teachings. He went on stubbornly trying to help people despite all of Jonathan’s efforts to teach him selfishness and callousness, and that’s a heroic feat in itself. If anything, I choose to interpret Jonathan’s stupid, pointless sacrifice as an Uncle Ben moment for Clark, because it drove home to him the fatal consequences of inaction and convinced him to make sure he didn’t fail to help anyone ever again. And thus, MoS’s Clark had the good sense to recognize that Jor-El (the real hero of the film, really) was a better moral compass than Jonathan had ever been.

So I think that if you cut out the dreadful excess of MoS’s third act, you could have had a decent Elseworlds tale showing how Kal-El’s intrinsic benevolence would still emerge even if he were raised by someone much worse than the Pa Kent we know. Sure, that works against Jonathan’s classic role as the person who shaped Superman’s values, but I do think Clark himself came off pretty well.

That said, although I haven’t seen BvS (and will not be seeing it until it comes out on home video), the reviews seem to agree that it fails to build on the (admittedly flawed) potential that MoS’s Superman had. And that’s a shame.

One other thing I’ll add is that, although I hated the way MoS’s Jonathan was written, I actually found Kevin Costner watchable for once. I usually find him to be a total void of charisma and talent, a negative space where an actor should be, an anti-presence that my attention inevitably drifts away from as if he were emitting a low-level Somebody Else’s Problem field. In MoS, though, he actually managed to be… there. Not much more than that, certainly not in comparison to the always-captivating Diane Lane, but for once he actually managed to register as a presence.

That’s as excellent a review of why MOS was rotten at its very core as any I’ve ever read. I completely agree!

I agree one hundred percent with Rene. It was a huge mistake to hand Superman over to an Ayn Rand devotee like Zack Snyder. Objectivism, with its celebration of selfishness and it’s condemnation of altruism as a soul-rotting evil, is the complete & total antithesis of Superman.

I am with Rene. Everything about Zach Snyder clicks into place once you realize that he is an Objectivist.

In a weird way, it made Batman vs. Superman more pleasurable. His choices are not “wrong”, so much advancing a philosophy that is a poor with the character he is adapting. Superman is the poster boy for the New Deal Liberalism that Rand detested. Snyder cannot bring himself to Clark Kent be the bad guy in his own movie. So, we get Ma and Pa Kent teaching dime store Objectivism, Clark ignoring them and disastrous consequences ensuing.

Whatever. At least the fight scenes are good.

Batman is honestly worse. BvS is so enamored with bringing panels from The Dark Knight Returns to life that it lets Bruce Wayne seem like an idiot to get there. Bruce grabs the idiot ball soon after a strong opening scene and never put it down until the last scene. The only reason that he isn’t the villain is that he is too dumb to merit the title.

This is a well written article, Greg and I respect your position on this, but I have to disagree. I never got the impression that Man Of Steel’s Jonathan was a “selfish coward.” It seemed to me that Jonathan was simply afraid of exposing Clark’s abilities too soon, for fear of losing him, or worse, like if he ever started abusing his superpowers.

And this was certainly true of Jonathan in Smallville as well. On multiple occasions, Jonathan tried to convince Clark to lay low at the cost of saving others (especially anyone named Luthor). And more than once he came close to killing to keep Clark’s secret (see “Vortex,” and “Reckoning”). On Smallville, although Jonathan influenced Clark, Clark also influenced him to be a better man and not give into rage and fear.

But back to MOS, Let’s talk about Jonathan’s death scene. I know it irritated a lot of people, they say it was stupid for him to not let Clark save his life. But MOS Jonathan knew that Clark was destined to have a huge impact on the world, and he spent every scene trying to prepare him for that destiny, without sacrificing Clark’s chance to have a normal childhood. Clark says, “I let my father die because I trusted him, because he was convinced that I had to wait, that the world was not ready.” I think Jonathan was right, and BvS further proves it. It’s not easy being Superman. He has to make choices no mere mortal can make. The world wasn’t ready, and neither was Clark at the time. Jonathan’s duty as a parent was to at least let Clark grow to adulthood before having to take on those burdens.

Their prior argument in the car brought up the idea that maybe Jonathan, as a simple farmer, wasn’t the right role model for Clark. Maybe in that moment, Jonathan doubted himself as well. After all, later on, it did take chance encounters with Jor-El and Zod for Clark to start understanding his true destiny. But Jonathan’s actions during the tornado proved that he was indeed a good role model for Clark. Jonathan went out a hero, putting others first and saving lives. Perhaps he was trying to teach Clark the most important lesson he ever could: that when his time comes, he should do the same. In his own way, MOS Jonathan taught Clark the compassion and humility he needed to become Superman.

I’m a big fan of John Schneider’s Jonathan too.

Thanks for this, Greg.

I just re-watched Man of Steel. I am still ‘way put out by Jonathan’s “…Maybe…” No matter how hesitantly he said it, when Clark asked him if he should have let a bus full of kids die (and then be left to explain to Smallville why he was the only one who didn’t, never mind the moral imperatives), and Clark obeying Jonathan when he gestured to Clark to let him die in the tornado (after he, himself, had just rescued their dog), but it seemed to me that the movie thoroughly repudiated the Ayn [pronounced “Ann,” by the way, not “Eye’n” or anything like “A-N”] Rand “philosophy.” I won’t get into any of my other gripes with the movie (or any of the super-hero movies of recent decades, like their sudden “requirement” to wear quilted/plastic/leather/armored/over-“gadgeted” and generally over-tinkered-with costumes), or any of my more overly subjective, considerably less legitimate things that come from having lived many generations with these characters; so, overall, the movie otherwise was not really all that bad. Hey, Norm! How you doin’? Good to know you’re still in there fightin’ the battles!

Elliot!! Your comment was not there when I’d sent my previous one. So good to see YOU still fightin’ the battles, too! One of the many things that I’d thought to note in Greg’s column was my love for both “Last Son of Krypton” and “Miracle Monday” (which I’d read three times, each; and both still have an honored place in my bookshelves) but edited out my thoughts. I really do tend to go on, so forced myself to limit myself to the “Man of Steel” interpretation of Jonathan Kent (and those drive-by’s about costumes and none of the characters being *this* “grandfather’s” characters). What I would have noted was how I loved your novels, but that I’d told you that I’d disapproved of your having inserted Albert Einstein into the first one. I don’t recall if I ever told you that I’d changed my mind at the second reading. But I never could get used to the Schneider “Jonathan” or O’Toole “Martha.” Again, the generational thing. They were not the aging “Pa ‘n’ Ma” I’d “known.” More of a discordant note to me than George Reeves’ “Sarah ‘n’ Eben Kent.” All these younger Kents still hit the wrong note with me. But to again paraphrase Mike Barr: “Each generation has its right.” Be well, Ol’ Pal!

Whenever someone asks “what was wrong with MAN OF STEEL”, people need to post the link to this excellent article. NUFF SAID.

I have to agree as well. I’d even argue that the lack of this vital underpinning ends up undermining all that Superman is supposed to be in these two movies! Without that kind of role modeling, without those moral values, Kal El is lost, confused, unsure of himself.

Mr. A is an Objectivist character created by Steve Ditko (himself an Objectivist) upon whom Alan Moore based Rorschach. So it turns out that Objectivist content creators can create interesting superhero comics. I think the bigger issue with Zack Snyder is that he consistently and spectacularly misunderstands source texts. His philosophical principles might impact the consequence of how he misunderstands things but I don’t think they are the root cause.

tom fitzpatrick

March 29, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Despite all the pros and cons of both movies, I think most people have most problem with the director, Zack Snyder.

Every movie he had made since the WATCHMEN have the critically panned and reviled by comic fans. The 300 was good which came before the Watchmen.

Still, you have to give Snyder credit for not giving up on trying. That, and making truckloads of money.

You know, it would make a good plot point for a future movie down the road to fix this sore spot. They could use the Flash battle a backwards time traveling villain from Apokolips that attacks defining moments of various JLA members. In this case, the Flash could save Johnathan from the tornado, and change his views about Clark using his powers to help people, making him see that he should be encouraging and instilling the traditional Johnathan Kent views (and give us back the non brooding beacon of hope Superman).

Huh. I didn’t like MoS, but hadn’t thought about it in enough detail to recognize this foundational flaw. Thanks for pointing it out! Another complete mis-characterization, while arguably not as critical to the whole premise and tone of the movie, was that of Lois Lane. I love Amy Adams, but the script gave us a Lois Lane who was afraid. “My” Lois, and a far more worthy friend or partner for Superman / Clark, is too busy fighting to be afraid.

NOBODY CARES THAT YOU HATE ‘BATMAN V SUPERMAN’
http://oneperfectshotdb.com/2016/03/nobody-cares-that-you-hate-batman-v-superman/

Take one of the most common refrains: that Zack Snyder gets the characters wrong. What this actually means is Snyder’s interpretation doesn’t match the image you have.

I totally agree with you regarding the debasement of Jonathan Kent. For me it goes even deeper.

In the classic Superman mythos, alien child Clark Kent becomes a hero by accepting and aspiring to live up to his adoptive father’s teaching. He is who he is because he models his conduct on Jonathan Kent’s.

In Man of Steel, Superman becomes a hero by realizing that his adoptive father was wrong, by rejecting his father’s teaching, and by choosing to be a better, less selfish, less frightened man than Jonathan Kent.

I taught my children to be as much like Jonathan Kent as I could manage.When I left for work in the mornings, I didn’t say “be good,” I said “be brave, noble and heroic.” I wanted them to be good people who stood up to defend others, who tried to be helpful, who didn’t let their fears dictate their choices. I told them ‘any time you make a decision based on fear, you’re probably wrong.” So far they’ve not told me I was full of it. In fact, more than once, they’ve called me out for not living up to the lessons I taught them.

As a father, which version should I prefer?

As an aside, I’ll just mention that I can’t see the Iron Giant wanting to emulate the Snyder version. Hard to believe WB made both movies. Brad Bird’s masterful film is everything lacking from the most recent DC offerings.

Carlos –

While I appreciate the guy’s point that there are endless ways of re-interpreting any character, this argument that there is no “right” and “wrong” in this is obviously mistaken. You only need to take it to an extreme to test it. Make “Superman” an one-armed accountant with no superpowers, for instance. You could call him “Superman” and make the greatest drama ever made, but it would just not be the character from the comics. Okay, I exaggerate to get the point made, but where do you draw the line that separates interesting re-interpretation from reckless deviation from the source material? Everybody has different thoughts about this (I thought Peter Parker’s organic web in the first Spider-Man movie was totally okay, other fans went berserk about it), but when a large portion of the fandom despises the changes, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.

Nicholas martens

March 29, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for this article. The way Jonathan Kent was portrayed in Man of Steel was what turned me off of the movie from the first viewing. It’s the main thing my wife and I talked about coming out of the theater. It angered me, it offended me. One of my favorite things about Superman has always been the fact that he has these god-like powers and yet uses them completely selflessly. And he learned that from his parents, especially his dad. (I also preferred Pa Kent’s death in the original Superman to MoS, but that’s another rant.) To change that about Pa Kent, to me, would be like changing Uncle Ben from “with great power comes great responsibility” to “great power, huh? You oughta go knock over a bank or two!”
I also wasn’t sure if I was the only one who caught the line in BvS where Clark says, “Superman was the dream of a farmer from Kansas.” When I heard that in the theater, I thought to myself, “I wonder who he’s talking about? A neighbor or uncle? Because that sure wasn’t his father’s dream, I’ll tell you that much.”

I have been trying to figure out how to make this point.

THANK YOU for doing so most excellently!

I agree with you 100%. In fact, I’ve made these same comments on message boards and reviews of MoS from day one.

The thing is this: without the decency and altruism of the Kents, there is no Superman. There is no plausible way to get from the fear and selfishness that MoS Jonathan teaches to Clark to the Superman of legend. Superman is not a threat to humanity and is a decent person because of the lessons taught by his parents. The lack of this moral compass may well explain why poor Henry Cavill’s Superman is such a douche. And a dangerous douche at that. Snyder’s utter failure to understand Jonathan Kent is also why I have so little faith in his vision of the DCU. From the trailers, it looks like he is now doing the same to Martha as well. (I have not seen the new film yet).

Also, glad for your comment on how stupid it was for Clark to let Jonathan die when his superspeed and the confusion caused by the tornado should have made rescuing his father easy.

Pa Kent was also an issue I had. I’m not sure if this is what the creators intended or if it is my own justification but Pa Kent comes across as scared about losing his son and comes across as angry/selfish because he’s trying to put on a brave face. For example, I don’t think he actually meant the “maybe” line but couldn’t bring himself to admit aloud that Clark should have exposed himself.

In either case I think the filmmakers should have made this more clear.

I find it funny that the article includes a pic of Pa from Superman: the Movie when people seem to forget that in that movie Pa also told Clark to hide his powers because he was afraid that the world would fear and hate him. The MOS version of Pa Kents is just a more expanded vision of that interpretation IMO.

I don’t care for MOS’ script choices with respect to Jonathan Kent, but, I think calling the character a self-centered coward is a bridge too far. He’s just not a hero, which creates dissonance with (literally every) other portrayal of the character. But while a man who values his own over the lives of others is not laudable, neither is he contemptible. He’s just a man. Ordinary. Unfortunately, most of us who grew up with Superman expect more from Jonathan Kent than ordinary.

You said, “No version of Jonathan Kent EVER advised Clark Kent to duck and cover rather than help people who needed him. Period the end. It’s wrong.”

http://www.superman-through-the-ages.com/portal/origins/1939a.php

But Superman #1, page 1, from 1939, has Jonathan Kent saying, “Now listen to me, Clark! This great power of yours — you’ve got to hide it from people or they’ll be scared of you!”

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’m even going to bother seeing BVS. DC is killing it on TV right now so it’s not like my DC fix can’t be met other ways. And the Flash/Supergirl crossover was certainly enough of a team up to make me happy. And the Super-books don’t seem to know what they’re doing right now. So maybe going back and binge watching Smallville might not be a bad idea.

I tried to explain the problem to non comic fans and it does get difficult. But then I hit on something that (Mark Waid?) succinctly explained the two characters way back when.

Bruce Wayne is the mask Batman wears. Superman is the mask that Clark Kent wears.

It’s short, simple and on the nose. All characteristics flow from that. Even some like Snyder (whose understanding of the characters is clearly derived from reading Wikipedia entries and little else) can wrap their heads around that.

From that understanding all things flow. So the man that becomes super? How does any good person get created? That mix of innate goodness combined with parental (and others) influence. So from that it’s an easy leap to assume the vital importance of the parents and honor it accordingly. Which the movies failed to do. Really both movies about Supes show a clear lack of understanding. They didn’t and continue to not get the characters despite 10s of thousands of stories to help them. It’s inexcusable.

Wow in all the years I’ve been reading CBR I dln’t ever recall agreeing so completely with someone’s pov. Pa & Ma Kent are so essential to the Superman mythos. Wish DC would stop killing them off in the comics too.

You’re article is spot on. I’ve been saying this about Man of Steel since it came out. DC needs to figure out how to fix their movies. If a Marvel movie comes on the TV, I’ll stare at it like a geeky fan boy regardless of what’s on. I’ll even watch Daredevil over and over, but a DC movie comes on and I’ll see what else is on before I come back to that channel.

I think there’s a big difference between being an Objectivist and being afraid that your only son is going to end up like Jesus.

Consider the full dialogue from the “Maybe” scene:

“What was I supposed to do? Just let them die? ”

“Maybe..but there’s more at stake here than our lives or the lives of those around us. When the world… When the world finds out what you can do, it’s gonna change everything; our… our beliefs, our notions of what it means to be human… everything. You saw how Pete’s mom reacted, right? She was scared, Clark.”

“Why? ”

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand. ”

That’s not cynicism – that is the world that we live in. The only problem with Snyder’s Superman is that’s it’s set in a world that resembles our own. The fantasy of Superman just doesn’t work when you plop it down in a world full of hoopleheads.

Mark J. Hayman

March 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Thank you, Greg, nicely argued. And thank you, Rene, for more important points to ponder. I didn’t care enough about Snyder to know of his Objectivist leanings, but so much about his work makes that much more sense, now. The sad thing is that the drooling masses seem to have ensured that BvS will be a super-mega-hit, promising more of the same from both Snyder and the studio. Alas.

John –

Sure, Objectivists can create interesting superhero comics. My point was just that a devoted Objectivist would be a strange choice for helming a major adaptation of comics that are the opposite philosophically of Objectivism, like classic Superman.

What is the best of all Zack Snyder’s comic book adaptations? 300. And I think that is because it is much more in keeping with Snyder’s own outlook. The Spartans reinvented by Frank Miller are a small band of ultra-manly, indomitable, self-created, non-superstitious supermen against a horde of inhuman, superstitious, tyranical mobs. Snyder adapted it lovingly, maybe because it was already sort of Randian.

Hi Greg,

I enjoyed MoS and also BvS but I agree that Jonathan Kent’s portrayal in the movies have been a mistake and when SPOILERS Clark mentions that Superman was just a dream of a farmer in Kansas in BvS it just doesn’t ring true for me after what they did in MoS. Although berating is kind of a strong word to use to describe that scene. Jonathan merely discussed his point of view of the situation to young Clark, I don’t remember Costner’s Pa Kent yelling at Clark not to save those kids.

I don’t really disagree with how you feel about kents being portrayed in MOS, but I do disagree with some of your conclusions/interpretations.

I do think they did over do the hide your powers thing. I also think that this might have been something that changed with Jonathan over years as well. He did go from saying that Clark would do great things etc. To trying to keep him on the farm. Maybe it was just an old man not wanting to lose the closeness he had with his son, who knows. But yes they did over emphasize the hide the powers mentality. You thought it was bad in the movie, imagine if he knew something like project Cadmus existed on their earth, and how much he would insist on hiding Clark and his powers.

One of your favourites, the Johnathan from Smallville, is only a couple degrees off from MOS. I wonder how many times he told Clark to hide who he was or what he was capable of doing.

I also don’t think he taught Clark to be a coward, if anything he knew how strong Clark had to be not to lash out at others. I don’t think that a boy with super strength easily beating up some bullies proves how honourable and courageous he would be.

By the way, there was nothing shown in the movie that Clark had true Super speed or that he had the awareness of this capability until after his meeting with Jor-el on the scout ship

I don’t really care if any particular person liked MOS or not, I am not even arguing that you are wrong with how you feel about the the character portrayals, I just think that blaming it on the portrayal of the Kents seems flimsy given what you actually said and how that corresponds with the film

First of all, I watched Batman v Superman twice, and I rated it 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5. Not a bad movie nor a masterpiece for me. Just GOOD.

Second, I agree with the author here. I can sympathize some of the whining of the old guards regarding how Man of Steel was done, including how Jonathan Kent was portrayed. Yes, Kevin Costner did a fine job as the mortal father, but his characterization was twisted to modern-viewers’ sensibilities. The sense of relativism (the keyword is “maybe”) was so strong actually. Old Jonathan (pre-Man of Steel) was definite, absolutist, and black-and-white high sense of morality in the most positive way. Now, Kent was shown as a relativist, a bit cynical but at least realist to most degree. Perhaps, change is something not expected nor anticipated in Man of Steel portrayal.

Yes, I did enjoy Man of Steel but same with Batman v Superman, I understand the critics’ rants.

Can we just AGREE TO DISAGREE here?

Definitely agree with you on this, Greg!

I highly recommend Agent 9’s Fan edit of Man of steel it gets rid of some lame ” non” superman moments and remove the silly don’t save me scene. its worth a look.

Thank you Greg, I couldn’t agree more.
I’m more Marvel than DC, but I love classic Superman. For the same reason I love classic Captain America, I guess (and I’m not even American): they’re old-fashioned noble heroes who know that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Some can call this corny, but I don’t care. Snyder’s Superman is not corny, but he’s not inspiring neither. He’s a hollow icon. I’m just glad I can show my kids the wonderful first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve.
Besides, I think that what plagues DC movies nowadays is the so-called “realism”. Batman and Superman don’t have to be realistic: they’re not. Even Batman. He belongs in a fantasy world. That’s why I feel Nolan got it wrong, and I was way more satisfied with Burton’s twisted gothic version.
These characters, unlike Marvel’s ones, should live in a universe very different than ours: a parallel 20th century, with retro-futuristic and expressionist influences. That’s how the DCCU could have (should have) distinguished itself from the MCU.

Sooo… “wah wah wah, this isn’t ‘my’ Pa Kent and I hate everything”, right? :D

Funny thing is, JK was by far my favorite character in MoS… because he’s an interesting character… That’s all I’m concerned with.

But sure, keep on hating Snyder and watching that horrible, badly written, badly acted, teenager drivel that is Supergirl. Have fun!

Jesus Christ have you stopped “not muh”ing long enough to consider that THE ENTIRE POINT was to artistically chose to explore a Superman that had a cynical upbringing?
I thought the entire point of remakes and reboots was to try new and different things?

And there is NOTHING reprehensible about considering the thousands of lives that could be lost in the social upheavals if Clark was revealed before considering a handful of immediate lives in danger.
Pa was NOT being selfish, his exact words “There is more at stake then our lives & the lives around us Clark”
HE WAS BEING THE OPPOSITE OF BEING SELFISH!
There are things out there called the greater good and the bigger picture and they bloody matter!

Charly –

The problem with Burton’s version was that his Batman lacked any charisma, IMO. It felt like a Batman movie with no Batman. I much prefer Christian Bale’s version, even with the silly voice. But I agree with you about the DCU being a less realistic Earth, and a Gotham City with gothic and expressionist influences being ideal.

I have to agree. What makes Superman, Clark Kent, who he is, is his parents. Specifically his father. I was totally excited when Kevin Costner was cast at Jonathan Kent. I was totally let down with the portrayal of him. It’s not Jonathan Kent. And to anyone who says this is whining, bite me. You’re in the wrong. No one fundamentally changes Batman. When it comes to Superman though, no one cares.

Yeah, MoS Jonathan Kent was a completely wrong portrayal and there was really nothing likable about him. until this article, I didn’t realize how much. What I did rail against was “Action Jor-El” on Krypton and how that was handled. It was a little off for me. Strangely, I didn’t mind the “Force spirit Obi-Wan Kenobi Jor-El” in the later act. Go figure.

Thank you for this piece. Completely agree and due to this flaw in the conceptualization of the MOS Superman the whole thing limps along distorted, uneven and ultimately damaged.

Contrarian depictions often help to highlight what’s important about a thing. Unfortunately when a contrarian portrayal is taken at face value or the punchline never gets delivered, so to speak, then that contrarian view will constantly be in competition with an established orthodoxy creating dissonance, divisiveness and contention.

I think the Superman concept is strong enough to eventually expel this version that I thought was just a product of creative bankruptcy and uninformed flight of fancy by its creators and audience schadenfreude in these troubled times (Trump for President anyone?) but this new revelation about Snyder’s philosophical leanings explains so very much.

I do find myself ultimately feeling sorry for people who need to overwhelm the purely altruistic ideal of Superman with suspicion, xenophobia and craven bloodlust. Superman is a powerful character/concept that has the potential to enlighten, uplift and aspire to but there seems to be too many people yearning for the mud these days.

MoS has not ruined Pa Kent. It gave us a better interpretation, much more realistic and more protective over Clark.

Seriously, you people made a huge fuss about his sacrifice in MoS, labeling it stupid, but I didn’t have any problem with that. I even found it a very moving scene.

Whatever, your loss! Stick to the juvenile Reeve’s movies and mediocre comic books. I can’t wait to watch the 3hr cut of BvS!

I agree 100% with this article!!

It is what I have been saying since I saw Man of Steel (which I did not like).

I grew up with Superman from the late 60’s to the late 80’s.

Man of Steel’s Jonathan Kent was not the Jonathan Kent in the comics I read as a kid.

My constant complaint about Man of Steel was that this was not the mid-western values that Superman was brought up with in the comics! And Jonathan telling a young Clark that he should not have saved that bus load of children…I almost screamed out “You have got to be kidding me!”

Great article Greg, great article!

@Rene
You’re right, in Burton’s movies, Batman wasn’t as interesting as the world he lived in. All in all, nothing tops Batman: the animated series and the Justice League cartoon. Bruce Timm should have been in the DCCU’s Kevin Feige.

Superconnectivity

March 30, 2016 at 7:46 am

Interestingly enough, one of the oddest things about Batman Vs. Superman is how much they walk back the idea of Jonathan Kent as someone who doesn’t want Superman to get involved. To the point where they out and out say that Superman was Jonathan’s idea (which Clark is now rejecting as his destiny I suppose, I don’t know the film is a muddled mess).

Regardless of your take on the versions of the characters shown in the film, I think it has a failing not in those choices, but in it’s communication of why those choices make sense.

As an example, the ultra violent Batman is a very real choice, the problem lies with his reaction to the violence of the Kryptonians. The Batman of this film uses violence to solve the problems that normal persons cannot, Superman is forced to do exactly the same thing. Not being able to differentiate Superman from Zod is the story telling equivalent of not being able to differentiate the Batman from the Joker. Though to be fair, it does seem that Superman has the same sort of violent blind spot.

As I said the film is quite muddled on motivations.

I pretty much agree… but just for fun, I’m going to counterpoint. Maybe they were trying to make Jonathan Kent more human and relatable. Sure the person that always does the right thing and always has the right answers is awesome, but it’s not realistic. When Jonathan says “maybe”, he’s thinking about how Clark will have to make choices, he can’t save everyone all the time. I don’t think he’s saying ‘don’t save a bus full of drowning kids’, but more ‘with your powers, you always have to consider what you are about to do before doing it’. And Superman can’t ABS… always be saving. He has to eat, sleep, and selfishly, have some kind of life as Clark Kent. So he is trying to instill in Clark that it’s okay to be human, even if you are a god. Because if anyone, human or god, is 100% altruistic, they will go mad and end up resenting and hating everyone.

Well done, I agree completely.

Indy24LA –

But it was always a given that Superman would still have a life. I don’t remember if there are any incarnations of the character that are on call 24/7. There is Samaritan, in Astro City, that is a take on this problem, however.

One of the many reasons why I dislike philosophies like Ayn Rand’s is that they seem to reduce a very complex situation, a paradox, to an easy dilemma, with only two possible choices. Individualism x Collectivism, Selfishness x Altruism. As if thinking about your community and being altruistic would necessarily imply total self-denial. It’s not a dilemma, it’s a balancing act that healthy human beings must perform.

And that not even going into the possibility that connecting with other people and being concerned about their well-being IS a part of self-actualization in sane human beings.

This is going to be tl;dr

Yeah, every time I rewatch it (I bought it, and after not sure why, so just try and get my money out of it before BvS comes on so I can compare) I find while the whole killing/destruction thing bothers me, the Kents end up bothering me more and more. And while I didn’t hate BvS, I don’t really love it either. Which is sad for a movie that has Batman and Superman (AND Wonder Woman!) on screen together for the first time. It has it’s entertaining parts, though it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. And rather than correct course errors from MoS it seems to double down on them. I mean, he basically has the Kents reappear just to say “yeah, we’re dicks.”

Definitely an interesting read Rene, but I think your interpretation of Snyder’s views was better than the Salon author’s. He seems to misunderstand Watchmen quite a bit. There’s a lot to like or dislike about the film interpretation, but his examples aren’t great ones. The sex scene isn’t any more sensual in the comic book; in fact it’s even more awkward and mechanical. And sorry, but violence isn’t just a necessary act in the book, it’s as stylized and porn’d as much as anything. Is there an underlying nature of maybe we should feel guilty for liking it? Sure, but that’s true of any medium depth adapted to the screen. It always feels more gratuitous on the big screen.

And the end change had little to do with politics, and more to do with how ridiculous the squid alien was even in the comics, and how to put that on the big screen without looking even more so. Now do I wish they had gone balls to the wall and done it, haters be damned? Yeah, but I understand WHY they did it.

I also agree that the biggest problem with the movie was Veidt. He basically should have been Chris Evans…all American beloved by everyone, and doing it for the greater good. That actually would have fit with the philosophy more than the way they portrayed him. Horrible mistake giving him the German accent. One, it paints him as BAD GUY in a mystery. Second, there’s no way a guy who controls everything especially himself so well hasn’t learned to get rid of that accent to appeal to the masses. Especially in that time frame coming post WWII. It makes him way too cartoony.

@Jeff- continuing, I don’t think it was the movie that made Rorshach the hero…that’s straight from the comic. It maybe more ironic that the dislikeable ,maybe despicable, character is the only one who will stand up for the truth, in the comic, but he’s definitely the one who steps up as the hero, intended or not. But you’re right, how they haven’t just handed over everything to Bruce Timm is silly. Though I still blame all them for not having Conroy do the voice in the Dark Knight Returns adaptation. ;-)

Well, Superwillers, your mug stands for Hope. Though it is funny after making that the big line in MoS Superman seems to stand for anything but hope.

@Dean- I thought, if MoS hadn’t done a good enough job, the beginning of BvS does a GREAT job of painting Superman as the super villain of the movie. Don’t know if they felt they had to justify Batman’s position, or just double down on the “Superman just don’t care” attitude of the first, but I wanted him to be taken down more than Luthor after the first 20 minutes. Totally doesn’t get the Batman and Superman issues.

Freddy, Man of Steel’s death scene was stupid because, as pointed out, he didn’t need to die. Beyond the fact that the movie doesn’t sell it any more than the Zod death as there being “no other way out” it makes no sense as internal motivation. First, he risks leaving his child without a father to save the dog. I’m sorry, I love animals, but if you’re not worried about leaving your kid without a parental figure more than the family pet, you’re a shitty parent. Even if it was a spur of the moment mistake, forget giving up your life for your son, if you think not letting him find a way to save you is more important than not subjecting him the pain of watching his father die in front of him, and the guilt trips that will put on him, not to mention removing him as a love and mentor for years to come….you’re a selfish shitty parent.

@Carlos, if you have a point to make, make it, don’t just clickbait.

@Nicholas- your view of the differing film deaths of Pa Kent made me realize how Snyder the MoS scene is. Pa Kent can’t just die of a heart attack, or hit by a car, or whatever. He’s has to die in a frickin’ CGI TORNADO. The most normal guy in the world needs to die in spectacle.

@Jon “But sure, keep on hating Snyder and watching that horrible, badly written, badly acted, teenager drivel that is Supergirl. Have fun!”

Calling something badly written and acted (and teenage drivel) in comparison to a Snyder flick….wow, talk about a lack of awareness.

But this was obviously a well written article to get so much interesting commentary back and forth on it.

You stated your fallacy & don’t even know it.
It’s not YOUR pa Kent & are penalizing it for not adhering to YOUR opinion of how it should be.
The same reason reviewers are hacking off points because it’s not copying the ‘MCU fun.’

He understands to consequences of doing the right thing, he never told Clark to hide & never help, same as for his entire history never said just because he has these powers he MUST help but that it’s his choice.

You are the one that missed the point by miles.

M-Wolverine –

Yeah, I definitely agree that changing the ending of WATCHMEN had nothing to do with politics. It was just pragmatism. And the change actually didn’t bother me at all. It’s like giving Peter Parker organic webbing. It just streamlines the story. Of course, some streamlining resulted in bad decisions (“let’s make Doctor Doom involved in the FF accident”), but using Doctor Manhattan as a scapegoat actually makes sense.

As for Rorschach in the movie… I think the movie removed most of the complexity and ambiguity of Rorschach. In the comics he is this splendid character with many layers. In the movie he is more or less another angry, badass anti-hero, even with Jackie Earle Haley giving an excellent performance. However, I’m inclined to be lenient with Snyder here. It would be hard to make Rorschach as complex as in the comic, in the context of a movie with 2-3 hours.

Still, there is more of a wallowing in violence in the movie, IMO. In that, I sorta disagree with you. Or maybe not. It’s not that violence isn’t stylized in the comic. It’s that the comic draws on a different kind of cinematic violence. The comic is more like Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, or the original Mad Max movie. That sort of late-1970s violence. It’s a bit more… sobering. The movie is… well… it’s Snyder. When you read the comic, you feel a bit sick and Rorschach is awe-inspiring. When you watch the movie, you feel like laughing and Rorschach comes accross as a very dark comic relief.

But maybe that is simply because we’re all much more used to violence in movies now. In 1986, it was still awe-inspiring. Now there is nothing in Watchmen that you didn’t see last night on HBO.

No, I think you’re right, the verbiage is just different. I think they both embrace the violence, but it’s more stylized in the movie. Making it more “pretty.” And I think there is more of a 70’s, real, Taxi Driver/Scorsese style going with the comic book’s violence. It’s just that it seems a bit stylized in that the art is so beautiful, even if it’s going for something more real. However, while that is also his style, I also thinks he realizes he can’t do better than the art in the original and copied it slavishly, trying to get his look to mimic the printed page in style, if it unknowingly causes it to have a different theme because of the difference in the mediums.

I think the article speaks for itself, and the back-and-forth has been illuminating for the most part… but I’d simply point out that most of the angry responses are exactly along the lines of the how-dare-you fan response I mentioned up at the top. I honestly don’t understand that part. Especially since it seems to come from people who are then going on to sneer at stuff THEY don’t care for. The defensiveness about liking a movie I didn’t? I really have no idea what your problem is with that, folks. People make decisions to buy this thing, and not buy that thing, all the time. I assure you Time-Warner will get along fine without my ten bucks and I made a specific point of saying if YOU liked it, more power to you. I am not interested and explained why: I think if you get far enough away from the original property you are adapting, you really shouldn’t expect to trade on the affection those of us have for the original.

That’s really it. Everything else, all the Zack Snyder stuff and the possible Objectivist undertones and so on, that’s all you guys. By all means keep on, clearly it’s provoked a lot of interesting discussion, but for crying out loud, just showing up to shriek at me that I’m an old fuddy-duddy that has no idea what Superman is REALLY about strikes me as ridiculous. This isn’t the playground and no bullies are picking on you for liking superheroes. Lighten up. It really is possible for you to enjoy a movie that I didn’t care for without interpreting a difference in taste being some sort of slur on your character.

But I know something about Superman and his history. I maintain that the Henry Cavill version is missing most of the things that the majority of people enjoy about that character. Particularly a hopeful, less-suspicious outlook. It’s telling that the folks disagreeing are dismissing that as ‘juvenile’ and ‘corny’ and ‘not realistic.’ I wish we could at least put that last one to rest. There is NOTHING realistic about these movies. That’s kind of the point. The more realistic you make a Superman story, the more you invite people to poke holes in it.

The trouble with DC– and this is not just Snyder, this has been going on since Frank Miller and Dark Knight– has nothing to do with ‘realism.’ The problem is that they keep trying to make Superman cooler. The implication is always that Batman is badass and cool and Superman is childish and naive. I don’t think that’s the case but whatever, if that’s your starting point the way to fix it isn’t to make Superman just as grim and ultraviolent as Batman. You look at what works about the character, you find a way to present it in a modern context. I maintain that Man of Steel threw away some of the most important stuff about Superman. As a result, I’m not interested in seeing more movies about that version of him. Period. Where that morphs into a violation of your fannish honor, or whatever is provoking the vitriol in some of these responses, I really have no idea. For God’s sake, it made a pantload of money, you’ll get lots more. The fact that I’m not really into it is no threat to you. Knock yourselves out.

EDITED TO ADD- I forgot to mention that the commenters seething with spit-spraying rage are clearly in the minority, and I really do appreciate the thoughtfulness most of you are bringing to it.

I was making this very point about Jonathan Kent to a friend a few weeks ago. Costner’s version is downright EVIL. The film’s writers betrayed everything about the SUPERMAN mythos.

And almost as bad, they made JOR-EL evil as well.

What the Hell, DC / WB?

Greg –

I don’t get annoyed by non-fan types. Just the other day, my wife was asking me jokingly if I was rooting for Superman or Batman. I didn’t quite have the nerve to tell her that I wasn’t too excited about the movie. :) It’s just natural for them to expect that a big superhero fan would be excited.

But fans acting as if we all had a duty to support any superhero movie is annoying. It’s as if we were still living 20 years ago. Guys, nowadays there are so many superhero movies, TV shows, and cartoons, that lack of support for any one movie isn’t going to affect the pop cultural juggernaut that superheroess have become. Unlike Steven Spielberg, I don’t believe superheroes are going away anytime soon.

Yeah, my wife asked me if we were excited to go see the movie and I had to tell her actually it was getting pretty awful reviews. But tying into part 2 of your comment, she was like “you don’t have to go see it then” but besides tickets already being bought….I want to see Batman and Superman up on the screen together. And hope they got it right. They didn’t, but I don’t know that they got it as wrong as a lot of people said beforehand.

But at this point supporting because you want it to be good, and because you want it to succeed are two different things. We should support things we approve of, but not those we don’t. If you went to see the FF movie because it was a comic book movie, and not because you wanted to give it a try, you made a mistake. It bombing helped show what fans want from their movies. Just as Deadpool breaking records did too.

Now, there has to be something bad or really unappealing like that for me to not go at all. But it’s the back end they’re losing on (where often the profits are greater). Will I see a bad movie twice? Of course not. But there was a time that the completist in me, as well as the “will watch again” part of me would buy the Blu-ray or download or whatever to some pretty unappealing movies. Thus me having MoS to rewatch (which actually isn’t a complete disaster of a movie…it just has HUGE flaws). But things like Amazing Spiderman 2 and upcoming ones…I’m just not buying them. Heck, AMS2 I didn’t even rewatch when it was making the rounds on cable. I didn’t enjoy it that much the first time, probably won’t again….wouldn’t I rather be watching something else?

I was glad to watch MoS because it had been awhile, and it leads into the new one quite a bit (his continuity was pretty good if nothing else). But yeah, I won’t rewatch that before the JL movie comes out, like I’m going to pick the Cap and Avengers movies to watch before Civil War again. But I ENJOY those.

BvS was always going to make a lot of money the first weekend. Most of these tentpole flicks do. The question is how much will it make this weekend, and the next, and in the aftermarket? Maybe not as much as Deadpool. Which would be embarrassing, because no matter how good a job they did, Deadpool is Deadpool and Superman and Batman are SUPERMAN AND BATMAN.

As I’ve said a number of times on this site, probably the thing that pisses me off the most in any interaction (online or not) is the whole “ascribing motivations” thing. Hell, it was perhaps my number one rule in starting this site – not to have that happen here.

So a long, well-argued article about why you think Pa Kent was done poorly in Man of Steel should never get a negative response beyond, “Here is why I think you are wrong about Pa Kent being done poorly.” Which, obviously, Greg would never take personally.

However, of course (of course), instead we get “You’re just saying that because (fill in “hidden motivation” person ascribed to you).” Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck those guys.

Andrew Gilbertson

April 6, 2016 at 9:33 am

This entire article is so very, VERY well said. I agree completely and 100%. And I think that end point- ‘But I think you owe something to the established history of the character, no matter how ‘corny’ or ‘outdated’ you think it might be’- is right on the money, and something WAY too many prequel/reboot/remake/sequel-makers in the last few decades have ignored. Bravo for this entire article (including the love for Supergirl!)

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