Man of Steel's inhumanity to man

Eventually I'm going to realise that comic book films and me are never truly going to get along but that money-saving moment hasn't arrived yet, so I went to see Man of Steel today. Here's a spoiler-free summary: bang, crash, fly, crash, bang, fly, gruff-voice moral imperative, fly, crash, bang, bang (repeat ad nauseum).

I find it troublingly repetitive that movies like this have such large-scale physical destruction in them*. There was a time after 9/11 when you couldn't do this sort of thing (aircraft fly into office blocks here) because reality was too horribly soon. That's no longer the case, which is bad for two reasons.

The first is that it's lazy film-making. Javier Bardem's assassin in No Country For Old Men and Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight are two frightening and fascinating examples of how more interesting it is to consider an enemy face-to-face, rather than solely by their trail of destruction. They were required to act, with a script in which dialogue was important and therefore had to be thought about. Man of Steel attempts this far too late, offering a single line from General Zod about how he was made to be how he is. Less than 30 seconds of dialogue is rather outweighed by the near-constant violence Zod causes, which might keep the CGI teams busy but doesn't have the same impact on our imaginations.

The second reason is simply that it remains distasteful to make slaughter an accessory to entertainment. There's a ham-fisted attempt in Man of Steel to create an emotional connection with some of the ’real’ people caught up in this battle of alien titans but essentially the crowds are only there to run and/or die: who they are doesn't matter at all. What matters is that it looks cool when a building staggers down on top of them. This feeds our narcissistic impulse to see others only in relation to ourselves, precisely the opposite of what any treatment of the idea of a super-man should be aiming for.

* As noted by Devin Feraci, via Nat Smith.