Some Thoughts After Man of Steel

According to the trustworthy Declan Kelly, a PR firm is selling the new Superman movie as a sermon aid. I think his analysis is typically spot-on:

That a company like this exists is just further proof that western Christians are blind and numb to the ways that we try to serve both God and mammon.

After watching Man of Steel I am struck by a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, the only believable thing in the film is that Amy Adams was wonderful enough to convince a man to betray his entire species (or as the movie puts it “race”) to shack up with humanity.

Secondly, Amy Adams has the nicest voice of any voices in Hollywood.

Thirdly, I realise I am attracted to women in a large part based on how lovely their voices are.

Also, the evil Kryptonians are, allegedly, bound to win because they have “evolved beyond morality” or some such guff. But then they get morally offended when Superman/Man of Steel/Ka’al does the wrong thing in their eyes.

Evil alien lady says “Evolution always wins!” Evil alien lady loses. Is Intelligent Design a movement so insidious as to forsake academic journals and embrace instead comic-book movies?

The aliens are fascists, and there is allusion to them being religious fundamentalists (“Heretic!” shouts Zod at the beginning). The film ends with what was intended to be a charming scene where a man destroys a drone with force so as to better protect his interests, all the while asserting his credentials as a loyal citizen of the United States of America. Don’t worry though. Fascism, a militarised nationalism that over-awes the political through force is something that just happens in cartoon villains.

The film ends and you are sort of glad you went to see it. Then it turns out the film isn’t over. There is an extended twenty five minute trailer for the computer game version of the movie. This CGI extravaganza is the most egregious case of ninja-ballet since the Matrix sequels. Utterly impressive from a technological perspective but not only boring, alienating, from a narratival perspective.

By the way, Ninja-ballet is when movie makers put you through an intensive and extensive scene of fighting, choreographed perfectly by the cold, precise and inhuman efficiency of a computer graphics package. It is how all bad superhero movies end.

The ninja-ballet goes on for what feels like 3 hours and 50 minutes before the staff in the Daily Planet decide to leave the building. They are the dumbest and bravest people on Earth.

A good sequel would have no footage of Superman. It would just follow the lives of the bricklayers and welders who have to rebuild the destroyed Metropolis and mourn for their dead.

As every wag has surely pointed out already, it is unlikely that people in a major news office would first find out about the alien onslaught happening right outside their windows by congregating under a shared television. It is, admittedly, more likely than Clark Kent getting a job as a reporter.

Zod’s first broadcast to Earth dominates the television and radio feeds. “He’s also jamming RSS” says one unnamed person. Weeks before they shutter Reader, Google should take this as a warning, right?

Compared to the Avengers, the fatal flaw of Superm… I mean Man of Steel is a deep lack of humour. It is such a serious film, which is a serious problem when your material is so foundationally, fecking ontologically, unserious. The jokes are there, but bring no relief. Instead we find ourselves laughing at the po-faced scene chewing of Michael Shannon. Shannon is one of the great actors of our day. But he may be under the misapprehension that sincerity is the only way to dignify. Apart from Downey Jr., none of the Avengers could hold a candle to him, acting-wise. But Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson know they are making a movie that is meant to be fun.

Back to the PR firm selling this movie to Christian pastors: there is a scene with a priest. The priest says “What does your gut tell you?” That this is a believable line is another demonstration of the western Church’s capitulation to the apostasy of the age. Our guts, as Nick Hornby says, have shit for brains. Christians don’t respond to gut feeling. They keep in step with the Spirit. That this is seen more as a hunch, a vibe, an intuition or a gut-feeling than the disciplined path following the way the Master has walked demonstrates that pastors using bad movies to prop up sermons is not the core of our problem.

Finally, this film does not feature a type of Christ. It is instead the resurrection of Pelagius. One imagines that the grace of God is so wide that Pelagius will indeed enjoy resurrection and he will be all the more fun to hang out with in heaven because grace will mean all that more to him. To try and raise him ahead of that bright morning, in the form of a moral example that might teach humankind the right way, is not only bad and boring filmmaking, its theologically horrendous.

All in all, a two-star movie, which is an achievement when we remember what kind of movies Snyder has previously made.

Your Correspondent, Listen to the sound of his voice; it is an island that warns you off this movie

2 Replies to “Some Thoughts After Man of Steel”

  1. “Thirdly, I realise I am attracted to women in a large part based on how lovely their voices are.” Me too.

    The comments about Pelagius caught my eye. You said “To try and raise him ahead of that bright morning, in the form of a moral example that might teach humankind the right way, is not only bad and boring filmmaking, its theologically horrendous.” Because the worse thing that could happen theologically is for people to try and live moral lives. Oh no! I grow so weary of the antinomian legalism of Calvinists and other faith alonist types. In your supposed efforts to avoid a supposed legalism that says you have to check off certain commandments perfectly to be saved, you’ve create a reverse legalism that says living right is illegal. Where Paul said we should pursue certain virtues “Against such there is no law” you guys have made a law banning them. It sickens me.

    “Evil alien lady says “Evolution always wins!” Evil alien lady loses. Is Intelligent Design a movement so insidious as to forsake academic journals and embrace instead comic-book movies?”

    Comic books, Movies and TV shows are how philosophy is disseminated in the modern world.

  2. James, while I’m glad to bound with you over lovely voiced ladies, you have made a dreadful faux pas in your comment:

    “I grow so weary of the antinomian legalism of Calvinists and other faith alonist types. In your supposed efforts…”

    It looks like you are suggesting I have a case of “antinomian legalism”. It is true I am a Presbyterian and what’s more, I’m one of those Presbyterians who actually likes to read Calvin. But I am a baptised, communed and confirmed Roman Catholic, theologically trained by Catholics and married to an Aristotelian philosopher. There are many things I might be, or aspire to be, or accused of being, but reverse legalism is something I repudiate! There is no need for the “you guys” rhetoric and less need for you to suffer nausea.

    I still have a problem with Pelagius, even if he continues the long tradition of Irish heretics. That Man of Steel is Pelagian says more about what sells; or more specifically considering the link Declan Kelly discusses, what western pastors will buy. The “ideal to strive towards” is utterly boring from a dramatic perspective and theologically, the only interesting thing about it is that the ideal is an object utterly undefined; defined in fact by its non-definition.

    So in summation, thanks for commenting. I hope you feel less sick. 🙂

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