“Man of Steel” movie explained

So last night we watched “Batman v Superman”. This got me thinking about the prequel : “Man of Steel”. I just rewatched it and found that it is in fact a very good movie. Let me tell you why.

superman
Man of Steel

Superman has always been one of my favorite characters. This is not to say that I have watched and enjoyed every version of Superman in existence. In fact, I may not even like some incarnations of this character. But the fact remains that the essence of the Superman story is very interesting. So I am always surprised to find that many people dislike Superman deeply.

One reason I have heard for this strange phenomenon is that they think Superman is too powerful. He seems invincible. It is true that a story would be uninteresting if the hero had no chance of losing or if he was pitted against a weak villain ( “Merlin” TV series anyone ? ). This is not the case for “Man of Steel”. Zod is every bit as powerful as Superman. It is in fact a vital part of the story that Superman is outgunned and outnumbered in this fight. He has to fight many Kryptonians who are just as strong as him but born and bred to be soldiers. These Kryptonians trained their entire life to be warriors and you can see Superman struggling to match them. The truly awesome power of Superman is the hook for the story. But this does not make it dull if he spends the majority of his time standing up to guys a lot stronger than himself.

A lot of people are angry that at the end of the movie Superman kills Zod. I think it is an important plot point : this implies that Superman was never invincible to Zod, Kryptonians can kill other Kryptonians on Earth with their bare hands. The fight could very much have ended with the death of Superman, it is unclear how he survived at all. Maybe Zod was still distraught over losing his purpose and his people. Maybe his heart wasn’t fully in the fight. Maybe it was just plain luck.

I think it is very brave that a simple farm boy is willing to take up such dreadful odds to do the right thing. He didn’t sign up for any of this.

Superman Flying
Superman is a reluctant hero

There is also another aspect to this story. When Zod asks Superman to join him, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to say ‘Yes’. The movie depicts throughout, the loneliness that Clark feels. He feels like an outsider, a freak. It would have been a welcome relief to live on the ‘New Krypton’ and feel belonged. So why does he say ‘No’ ?

The simplest answer would be to say that he didn’t want to kill all those humans. But he did finish off the Kryptonian race ( his own ) in the process. Is it any better ? This is where the back story kicks in again. Every Kryptonian’s life is predestined, every man and woman born to a single predefined purpose. There is no place for chance or choice. With such a system, the ‘New Krypton’ would inevitably meet the original Krypton’s fate : infinite self-destruction. This is why Jor-El does not leave Krypton with Kal-El. When a race is doomed, it can only be wiped out so that a new one can have a hope of survival. This point, however cruel is a fact in the story universe.

Human beings may not make the same mistakes Kryptonians made, which means they have a shot at survival and expansion, not the infinite destruction that Kryptonians face. This is also why Jor-El was OK with sending Kal-El away from Krypton : he was a natural birth. He is not part of the system. Jor-El may have tried to bargain with Zod to let the Kryptonians live alongside humans in a last ditch attempt, but he knew that only humans have a serious chance.

Humans lead by Superman
Superman is willing to defend human capacity for good

Finally, I also want to make the point that it may not be Superman a lot of people hate. This point has been argued before, but I think we find it difficult to accept even a fictional character who is both good and successful. The reason for this is that he reminds us of our own shortcomings. We feel that we are justified in doing evil, so that we can be successful or happy. We feel it is impossible to live in this unjust and unfair world by being good. It is this lie that we tell ourselves that is challenged when we watch a Superman movie. We are not angry at Superman, we are angry at ourselves. Sometimes we project this anger towards all that is good. If that is true, we have to do better than that, don’t you think ?

Do you happen to like the movie “The Prodigal Son”?

One of my favorite Kung-Fu movies is “The Prodigal Son”. I have shown this movie to others and they have said they like it, but nobody has told me they enjoy it very well. So I got to thinking why I like it so much. Before getting to that let me explain the plot of “The Prodigal Son”.

The Hero of the story is a dim but likable man called Leung Chang, the only heir of a wealthy family in a town called Foshan. Leung Chang, thinks he is a great martial artist and calls himself “Kung-Fu King”. In reality though, his fights have been fixed by his close companion under the orders of his father. Through some bizarre turn of events, The Hero ( Leung Chang ) comes to fight Leung Yee-Tai ( The Master ) who reveals to The Hero that he is inept at Kung-Fu and beats him in a humiliating manner.

After this horrible defeat, The Hero wakes up and discovers the truth. The Hero comes back to The Master ( Leung Yee-Tai ) and begs him to teach The Hero some Kung-Fu. The Master refuses and The Hero follows him around for six months asking him to teach The Hero. The Master delivers varying degrees of humiliations and beating ups to The Hero in an effort to deter The Hero from following The Master around. The Hero also asks his close companion to attack The Hero unexpectedly to improve The Hero’s reflexes and The Hero suffers getting beaten up occasionally by his own companion. Then there are a side-stories of The Hero getting beaten up by a local Kung-Fu master because he thought The Hero slept with his wife, getting beaten up by The Master’s brother because he thought The Hero molested his daughter etc. Basically, throughout the movie The Hero’s job is to get beaten up by various people.

Another side-story goes about The Villain, who is the son of a duke. The Villain is a very good Kung-Fu fighter. He is ruthless but honorable. He travels across China looking for worthy opponents to fight and if he beats them, he maims them. Unknown to The Villain, his father has instructed his body-guards to kill anyone who might harm The Villain.

Finally, The Hero convinces The Master to teach him and he slowly attains proficiency in Kung-Fu with the help from The Master and The Master’s brother. The Villain fights The Master but The Villain stops the fight since The Master is unwell, thinking it would be wasteful to fight such a good fighter when he is sick. The Villain’s body-guards murder The Master, and this reveals their dark plans to The Villain who turns around and executes his body-guards.

Overcome with grief over loosing The Master, The Hero disobeys his master’s orders and challenges The Villain to a fight.

This is the only fight in whole the movie that The Hero wins. In this finale fight, The Hero beats The Villain into a pulp and as The Villain lays there defeated, he shouts : “LEUNG CHAAAAANG…. KUNG-FUUUUU KIIIING”. And that is the end of the movie.

Why do I like this movie so much ? Obviously it has some exciting martial arts moves, but it also tells an interesting story. It tells the story of a man, initially stupid, through dedication and hard work attains something awesome. That appeals to me in a deep manner. I know it is stupid, since in the real world, there is no guarantee that dedicated individuals will win. This is why I feel the kind of entertainment that we have will affect our value system and we must be careful to select what we spend our free time upon.

If you have to keep telling people how real you are, its probably because you’re fake

I would like to share with you something that happened to me when I was coming back from Bangalore yesterday. I was walking from Railway Station to the Bus Stand at Kottayam and while I was walking one guy who was telling fortunes stopped me and invited me to take a session with him. He insisted very much and made a huge fuss about not needing to pay anything that caught me by surprise. I went to talk to him and I found something interesting. Even though he initially said he didn’t want any money he asked for some money (amount of my choice) to be given. He said you can think of it as helping an old guy out and so I gave him 10 bucks 🙂 . Then he insisted that he be given money for a Meal (“Not a Biryani, an Ordinary one” 🙂 ). So I gave him 10 more to see where this was going. I have touched upon the advantages of forcing the price upon the other person before.

Now let me first of all say that I do believe that there can be extra ordinary stuff happening in this world that science cannot explain.

Some stuff he said was right. But they were too general to have impressed me.  Some of them were:

“Your hand says you are technical”

Well, I was wearing jeans and a shirt that people usually wear in technical field. I doubt if he would have made that statement if I was wearing more traditional attire.

“Three letters in name of mother in Malayalam.”

This was correct, but it was too general. If he had named the exact name of my mother, I would have been impressed.

Then there were some random statements:

“Looking at your forehead, you studied LLB. You just did not complete it by action.”

Erm… What?

“You will live till 85 years. Have 3 Kids”

Now, it was when he started trying to predict stuff that I caught his bullshit.

“You are living in a house, which is under construction.”

This was not correct. First of all, I am living in a flat in Bangalore, which is fully constructed, and I am living at my home in Kerala which is also fully constructed. When I informed he was incorrect he asked how many floors it was. I said one and he said that is what he meant. It will be reconstructed to add more floors. Well, then he should have said that shouldn’t he? At this point he correctly predicted that the house occupied a large piece of land, but define large? How large is big enough? Does he mean the length of the house is big or breadth? That statement would simply statistically have worked on a large number of people.

“Tell me a number greater than 7”

I said “2 00 000”

“Now think about a number between 1 and 5. Is it 3?”

When informed I thought of 1, he said he wanted a number not including the limits (?)

Now be very careful of the deception here. First he asked me a number greater than 7 and here I unfortunately gave away my intentions by saying a number that goes beyond what would usually be said. So he realized that I was going to test him and reduced my intervals to 1 – 5. If I had just said something like 10 he probably would have given me a longer interval. Also I think that first he asked me to tell him a random number to test how my mind works. He probably could have got some information that would have improved his chances of guessing my number correctly.

“Think of a flower. Is it Rose?”

Now here I was careful to think of an exotic flower. When I said no and told him the name of the flower, he emphasized he was correct in his guess and said something about colors. Here he really blew it. I don’t think he knew how many colors my choice of flower came in and quickly moved on to something else trying to invoke my Confirmation Bias.

Now here comes his masterpiece.

“You loved a girl, but the hearts never matched.

Some girl is watching your moves and she wants to make contact.

If I say her name will you happily pay me Rs 1000? Other boys like you would usually give 5000.”

I said “No” and he said “You do have the money, but it is set aside for something else”.

I said “No. I just don’t believe in all this”.

Now he was very careful to add more details and advice to his deception like “Do not tell anyone when you call her over the phone, exchange letters etc”.

Now look at the deception here. First he notices my unshaven chin, my loose clothing and takes a guess about my life that would have fit well with a lot of folks that dress like me: love failure. Many of my friends and cousins have joked this about me. Now, he adds hope into the equation by saying that all is not lost; some other girl is watching me, longing for me and wants to make contact. Then he asks for Rs 1000 for her name, but it’s OK, because others would already have happily given him Rs 5000. Ha!

He said that he knew I was not an atheist. Well, duh. I was wearing my rosary and it was visible through the top of my shirt.

Now when all this failed he tried to extract at least Rs 100 from me by using a Bible. He realized that he was in a Christian majority district and had a Bible ready for use when needed.

I probably came of as an easy prey when he saw me walking by: with my loose clothing, unbuttoned shirt, rosary, unshaven chin and everything.

He probably wasn’t expecting someone with least bit critical thinking.

Well, at the end of the day despite losing 20 bucks I learned two things

1. These kind of very smart deceptive people exist.

2. I am not conventional 🙂