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June 17, 2013

Person of Highly Refined Iron ***SPOILERS***
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:59 AM * 35 comments

A new Superman movie is out. Folks want to talk about it. Here is a place where SPOILER warnings are not required, because everything inside is a great big fat honkin’ SPOILER.

Especially the laser-unicorns wearing Superman suits.

Comments on Person of Highly Refined Iron ***SPOILERS***:
#1 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 08:50 AM:

I want to get me one of those Gunmetal Bead Displays they have on Krypton.

Upon reflection, I believe they are intended to represent ferrofluids.

(Say, how come Jor-El's avatar keeps showing up in full color when all other displays are GBDs?)

#2 ::: Madeley ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 10:30 AM:

Was the Jor-El projection meant to be beamed right into the viewer's mind? I got the impression the other Kryptonians on the ship couldn't see him, although I might be wrong.

#3 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 11:05 AM:

I rewrote it all in my head so it's good now.

#4 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Well...if the iron were *highly* refined, it would have all of that dirty, smudgy carbon removed from it. And then he wouldn't be a man of steel at all.

I suspect a person of that refinement would be relatively soft, and wouldn't Rock well at all.

#5 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 12:43 PM:

I have never been to see a film involving laser-unicorns wearing Superman suits, and I ain't gonna start now!

#6 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 12:49 PM:

Apparently there is a new movie out about Stalin--the Man of Steel . . .

#7 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 01:03 PM:

If the movie does well, will the sequel be "Woman of Kleenex"?

#8 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 06:01 PM:

On Krypton, babies come from The Genesis Chamber.

Krypton exploded, though.

General Zod's sinister plot to bring Krypton back is going to require something like The Genesis Chamber.

Near the end of the movie, Zod enters the 20,000-year-old Kryptonian scoutship. He gains control; apparently he and the ghost of Jor-El are equally good at subverting each others' computers.

Suddenly Zod is arguing with Jor-El in front of a Genesis Chamber. I guess The Genesis Chamber was actually A Genesis Chamber. And that A Genesis Chamber is, though it has not been mentioned in the movie up to this point, standard equipment in scoutships. I found this (no artificial-womb pun intended) jarring.

#9 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 06:16 PM:

In most flavors of Regular Superman I've encountered, Jor-El has developed a spacecraft capable of ferrying an infant to Earth, but otherwise Kryptonians haven't mastered spaceflight.

In this version, the spacegoing people of Krypton explored, and established colonies, but abandoned spaceflight long ago.

Apparently they still have at least one working prison spaceship. And Jor-El and Lara have another one.

If they know their planet is doomed, why don't they un-abandon spaceflight, saving as many people as they can? If a reason is given for this in the film, I didn't catch it.

#10 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Bill Higgins... I haven't seen the movie yet, but the ads did have me wondering how they justified the villains having a starship and the rest of Krypton still having gone belly-up. I take it that they didn't bother.

#11 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 08:06 PM:

Carrie V @ 3... I for one would love to hear what your "Man of Steel" would have been like.

#12 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2013, 10:45 PM:

I did like the way they short-circuited one of the classic sources of conflict/stupidity in the mythos, by having Lois find out that Clark Kent = Superman even before "Superman" was a thing.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 12:10 AM:

One thing that bothered me: In the tornado sequence, they explicitly say that people should shelter under a highway underpass.


Millions of people will see this movie. Some number will believe hiding under a highway overpass is correct doctrine. They'll probably kill some people.

#14 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Am I the only one who was expecting Zod to get up and keep right on fighting after being left carelessly on the floor after the much-debated neck twist?

I mean, Kryptonians have ridiculous powers of super-healing -- as witness all the bad guys during the Smallville battle, plus Kal recovering from Kryptonite poisoning aboard the spaceship, plus Kal recovering enough superpower to push right through the energy beam and smash the world-engine. So Zod's healing factor really ought to have made short work of a mere broken neck....

In the circumstances, I fully expect to see a wholly recovered Zod in a future installment of the franchise, because there's just no way he's dead for good if that's all that was done to him.

#15 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 08:47 AM:

Jim McDonald @ #13:

Um. What? What would a highway under/overpass do to shelter you from a tornado? There are nothing, really, to protect you, there/. My understanding is that you want a really stable, fully enclosed, volume to protect you, both from pressure changes and (more importantly, I guess) from flying debris.

#16 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 09:23 AM:

Ingvar M #15

There's a urban legend, I guess you'd call it, that people should shelter under highway bridges in tornadoes. It apparently comes from one time when some people did shelter under a highway bridge and the tornado missed them entirely.

What really happens is that the bridge structure acts as a wind tunnel and the area under it gets scoured with dirt and debris.

Far more on this in our Tornado thread.

What Pa Kent should have done is just roll into the ditch and cover his head.

#17 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2013, 10:35 AM:

Watching the 1952 pilot episode of TV's The Adventures of Superman, James Nicoll has pointed out:

In this version, Jor El wanted to send Lara to Earth (sending Kal El almost seems an after-thought). What if she had accepted and accompanied her son on his trip?

James's commenters estimate that the rocket arrives in 1914 (if Superman is the same age in 1952 as the actor playing him).

#19 ::: Marian ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 06:21 PM:

My question is...where is the President in this movie? All defense appears to be handled by the Army/National Guard without ever talking to the civilian part of government.

#20 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 06:38 PM:

#18: Mark Waid, not Mark Ward.

#21 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2013, 06:44 PM:

Thanks, Glenn. I'll fix.

#22 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2013, 05:13 PM:

I have just seen the movie, and I wish to say that Kryptonian technology is *gorgeous*. I was thinking "Is this all Art Deco inspired?" and then Jor-El does his Art Deco info-dump in the middle and I just about swooned.

I love that we have an industry that manufactures full-screen, full-motion, full-detail worlds as story backdrop. Even if it's often as a backdrop to crappy storytelling. (This movie had pretty good storytelling.)

#23 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2013, 03:49 PM:

Mark Waid is spot-on in his review.

Some of the beautiful parts are extra-beautiful.

Bill Higgins@8, Jor-El showed Clark the Genesis chamber in the scout ship at the beginning. You were supposed to notice that he stopped showing him gun-metal holograms and showed him a full-color version and jump to... "because he sent Kal with the DNA to resurrect his race, and a genesis chamber to do it!"

Still, if they had a genesis chamber here, why didn't they survive?



Anyway, my biggest complaint, all said?

There was not a single gratuitous scene of Superman just being Superman and saving somebody because he had the power to do it.

There was the school bus at the beginning, as a child, when he got scolded. There was the oil rig.

But once he's in the suit it's all alien battles and stuff. No kitten-in-a-tree moment. Nothing.

Gratuitous swashbuckling kitten-saving should damned well be mandatory. He's Superman!

#24 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Well, I've been to see it. Color me unimpressed.

Whatever goodwill they built up in the beginning of the film, they shot to hell with having what felt like an hour's worth of fight scene.

I expect to come out of a superhero film happy. All this one did was leave me feeling drained. It's a pity, there were occasional flickers of a story I'd like to have seen there.

It was such a dud that I don't remember ANY of the music.

#25 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2013, 04:35 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 24... I haven't seen the full movie yet, but I snuck in while waiting for "Much Ado" to begin and I'm afraid that, when I see the whole affair, I'll feel the same way. I saw the death of Krypton and felt nothing. I saw Jonathan Kent chastise his kid for putting the saving of lives ahead of his own secret and I wondered how that kid grew up to be such a good person with that kind of attitude in his family.

#26 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Serge, I went in hoping to like the film...but there's only so much on-screen violence I can deal with -- and there was NOTHING in this film to lighten that.

There WERE likable characters, Lois (although she seemed too young to be a "Pulitzer prize winning reporter"), the Kents, even the Army guy -- but I got the feeling the director was making love to the 3-D unit rather than making a film.

#27 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2013, 10:08 AM:
but I got the feeling the director was making love to the 3-D unit rather than making a film.

Not to undermine your point, because you're spot-on, but this film was shot in 2-D. The 3-D was added later, in post (a process that will never, ever look as good as shooting in 3D).

But, yeah, Zack Snyder has always been a style-over-substance director. His movies are beautiful, but have no meaning. Watchmen was a prime example. Beautifully shot. Entirely missed the point of the comics it was based on.

#28 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2013, 12:01 PM:

Shot in 2-D, hmmm? The buildings crashing to the ground in ways that scream "CGI, shot to 'pop' in 3-D" is what killed my suspension of disbelief for this one.

If you're going to destroy buildings, model work produces a much more realistic shot. However, I'm guessing that CGI is cheaper than models and can be forced into more spectacular results.

I like to take movies apart to see what makes them tick, but that usually doesn't happen until after I've seen the film a few times.

#29 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2013, 10:11 PM:

Saw it a week or so ago, in a post PhD exam haze. It kept me amused, but I spent the whole movie waiting for "kneel before Zod," and felt let down when it didn't happen. Reboots, whatever else they are, are fan service - you have to throw the occasional bone.

#30 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2013, 02:26 PM:

Sarah @ 29, I was actually really glad that they didn't say "Kneel before Zod." They were clearly trying to make a non-goofy Superman movie, and it's hard to maintain that with callbacks to lines from goofier versions. I felt like it would have broken the tone and been out of character for this version of Zod. Sort of like if, in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, Batman had whipped out a can of Shark Repellent.

I found it kind of sad and disappointing that Pa Kent's main character trait was fear. But otherwise, I really appreciated the character-drama elements of the film. I felt like the first half was really strong because of that.

My biggest problem with the film was its pacing. The action scenes in the second half went on way, way, way too long. I was so incredibly bored by the scene where Superman was fighting the ferrofluid snake tentacle thing. It went on and on and on and on.

Lori Coulson @28, your comment made me realize just now that that scene was probably supposed to be 3-D bait. Ugh. (I saw the movie in 2-D, as is my preference. 3-D goggles give me a headache for the first half-hour as my eyes adjust, and everything is too dark, and the gimmicky 3-D effects are never worth anything close to the extra $4 it costs. We hates it, precious.)

Also, apparently we're crashing things into buildings in New York-analogues again now?

#31 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2013, 04:42 PM:

"You are not the President. No one who leads so many could possibly kneel so quickly."
- General Zod

#32 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2013, 07:55 PM:

I've idly wondered why "kneeling" as a sign of submission would be the same between two cultures light years apart. For instance, I would have loved it if Zod had commanded, "Turn and wiggle your tuchus before Zod!"

#33 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2013, 09:05 AM:

Steve C@32

One possibility is that Zod realizes that kneeling is a sign of submission in our culture. And since he wants us to acknowledge our submission he asks us to demonstrate it in a way that we understand.

#34 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2013, 01:21 PM:

#32 ::: Steve C.

Even more amusing if it had been "Raise your middle finger to Zod!"

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