The newest film incarnation of Superman has been making tons of money, and I was part of that, having gone to see Man of Steel on its first midnight showing that was possible. Though I didn’t find the movie to be that great, it looks set to make the film franchise with Supes pay off again (no thanks to Superman IV).
But I was a bit surprised by the review of the movie by Focus on the Family (FotF), a well-known evangelical/fundamentalist Christian organization that is a major component of the Religious Right in the US. They found the movie to be 3.5 out of 5 on the family-friendly metric they have, which means that a lot of that violence is effectively OK for everyone to watch (and there is lots of destruction, though strangely little blood).
[Spoiler Alert] When it came to the violence, there are two things that I found odd in that review. One was that they were only minorly phased by Kal-El (aka Superman) snapping General Zod’s neck. Sure, Kal feels bad about it, but it was hardly something that I think of as a minor thing for kids to see. Now, the audience I saw it with applauded when that happened, and that took me aback. The situation Supes found himself in did seem to require drastic action, but but such focused homicide doesn’t seem heroic or worth applauding. Just compare to how Superman defeats Zod and his helpers in Superman II: he uses his mind and tricks them into losing their powers, and their defeat is easy (even Lois takes on of them out). That lack of thoughtfulness by the Man of Steel only made him seem brutish and not the hero we have come to know.
But what I was really surprised about what how FotF didn’t wasn’t phased by the scene in which a ship being piloted by Zod was taken down by Kal. This was a ship Kal had earlier found, and it was an only exploration/colonization ship used by the Kryptonians. In a major chamber of that ship was a water-filled room full of Kryptonian fetuses. In the last centuries of the Kryptonians, their resources dwindled and had to use population control, so all births were done in a mechanical way, preparing babies for certain roles in life (Zod was born to be a warrior). So when Superman took down the ship with all the Krytonian fetuses in it, in effect that was abortion at a massive level. And that phased no one at FotF? Is it OK now to kill alien babies? And considering how much they want to compare Kal-El to Jesus, is now super-abortion Christlike?
Now, I’m not going to do a full review of the movie, just to say that I found Kal to be more a brute rather than a hero; when you watch Superman (1978) or even hear the John Williams soundtrack, you want to put on a cape and fly, but for this film I did not feel that at all. This figure didn’t show any great empathy or romance, and one scene with his human mother showed him completely unable to understand her tears. And now that FotF thinks this sort of thing is alright for the family (with parental supervision), I don’t know what to feel.
And don’t get me started on the scientific inaccuracies…