Have you all seen Superman – Man of Steel?
I didn’t care whether Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman survived or not. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I cared whether earth survived. Though I did think Faora could kick some super-butt, and wouldn’t mind seeing a whole movie centered around her.
How can you not admire this?
So, okay, I didn’t care for the characters.
For me, the narration – the flow – was disjointed.
The movie starts out on the planet Krypton, where we are treated with a visual cornucopia of that dying world and to the first natural-born Kryptonian in centuries – Kal-El. After his birth, Jor-El, Kal’s father, denounces the ruling council, steals the all-important growth codex, implants it into his son’s DNA, and readies to launch him to our planet. General Zod, the protector of the codex, has other plans and thus ensues a massive battle to re-capture the codex from Jor-El.
Kal-El gets away, of course, and ends up…
…on the Bearing Sea in a fishing boat – all grown up. That’s nice and all, but what the heck does that have to do with the mini-movie we just saw? Where’s the freakin’ baby? What’s gonna happen when General Zod and his posse get out of the black hole?
Okay, never mind gotta keep up, because this movie moves.
Kal-El, using some pseudonym (Joe?), then quickly goes out to save a bunch of guys trapped on a burning oil rig (after showing his utter ineptitude on the fishing ship’s deck). Okay, that’s expected, and a bit cliché, but whatever, Joe is in the freezing water now and we got to keep going because then we get to a…
Yup, one of several. In my opinion, this first one is horribly misplaced because it has absolutely nothing to do with the previous scene. This particular flashback is about his hearing and vision going all super and how hard it was for little Clark Kent to tame those beasts.
Then we end up back with Joe, or whatever, as he gets to shore and steals some clothes (he was near naked after saving those folks on the Bearing Sea – keep up!). During this, he’s reminded (by a randomly passing school bus) about his own childhood school bus and we go into a…
This time, this one sort of makes sense, because it sort of relates to the previous scene. There’s a school bus, he has a school bus memory, but…isn’t that sort of stupid? I mean, so every time the adult Clark sees a school bus he thinks back on that particular school bus day?
Anyway, after that flashback in which Clark saves a kid that had bullied him, we then cut back to what I assume is present day and Joe (or Clark) is at a bar, where he just happens to over hear something about an alien ship out in the arctic. Of course, that means it’s time for another…
…you guessed it…
Actually, no. We end up somewhere in the arctic, seeing the military alien-ship-investigation operation from Lois Lane’s perspective.
Ah…we’re you not paying attention? Did you just get side-swiped? Who the hell is Lois Lane?! And why is she measuring dicks?
Of course, we all know who Lois Lane is. And we know Clark Kent. And we know his origin stories. There have been so many superman movies, just about everybody knows his story. But that doesn’t mean you can hack it to pieces, throw the story elements up in the air, and allow them to land in a jumble.
And this is just the beginning, folks!
As it is, the Man of Steel jumps from one story line to another and back to flashbacks before taking us down the CGI-never-never-land of super-fights (which, on their own, I enjoyed, but within the context of the movie, the carnage didn’t make sense). We are never given a moment to pause and follow the one story we all want to see – Kal-El’s struggle to save us.
For me, the story has to make sense and flow from one scene to another in some logical fashion. While the Man of Steel may work for younger audiences with attention spans smaller than a gnat, it didn’t work for me.
Now…what if I had all the awesome scenes of the Man of Steel laid out before, how would I re-cut this film?
First – Start with the Main Character
I’d start the story from Kal-El’s perspective, and give the audience time to bond with the younger – and older – versions of that character. Give us some time to care about him and figure out why he’s enamored with us.
Because, in this movie, humans come in two versions: bullies (even Lois seems to be emotionally void), or fodder for Faroa.
That’s the range of characters this movie provides for us humans. I mean, since the audience doesn’t have any one human character to latch onto, we really can’t care too much about them, can we? So, why is it that Superman wants to save us so badly when all we’ve ever done is bully him or stood on the sidelines?
After establishing that we are worthy of saving, then I’d launch into the bit where General Zod comes in to take over the world.
Second – Kill the Prologue
While it is kick-ass in terms of visual appeal and story (would love to see a whole movie on Jor-El’s and Lara Lor-Van’s struggle to have their baby), it distracts from Superman’s story. This movie is about Kal/Clark/Superman deciding whether to fight General Zod to death. While the end of Krypton is the start of Superman’s story, it is not his story. It’s his father’s, Jor-El’s, story. Use it for flashbacks, if you must have a flashback, but otherwise, make another movie.
Third – Give Antje Traue More Screen Time
No joke. She’s just too awesome, and her facial expressions could tell an entire movie-worth of story, right?
So, that’s how I would re-cut a block-buster hit movie. Do you agree? What would you do?
Exercise: Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you do like?
- Pixar on the Art of Storytelling, Part Two (nothingbutcomics.wordpress.com)
- Pixar’s guide to story writing (brianmurphyvis425.wordpress.com)
- PIXAR’S 22 Tips for Storytelling (elizajonescourand.wordpress.com)
- GIFs courtesy of Craig’s Pillar of Justice blog.