“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 ?

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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.