Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Film Crit Hulk Smash: THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAMATIZING CHARACTER

Film Crit Hulk takes on THE MAN OF STEEL. 

Film Crit Hulk Smash: THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAMATIZING CHARACTER

PART ONE - A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE INTRODUCTIONS

PLEASE NOTE: THIS ESSAY WILL DISCUSS THE ENTIRE PLOT OF MAN OF STEEL IN DEPTH.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: THIS ESSAY HAS FOUR DIFFERENT INTRODUCTIONS. SORRY BOUT THAT, IT'S JUST THAT WE'RE ULTIMATELY GOING TO NEED THEM ALL.

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INTRO #1

EVERY SUMMER PEOPLE ASK WHY HULK IS SUDDENLY BEING ALL CYNICAL AND NEGATIVE AND JUNK. THEY WORRY THIS DISPOSITION IS SOMEHOW A NEW TREND AND THAT HULK HAS SUDDENLY BECOME "ANOTHER JADED MOVIE CRITIC" OR SOMETHING. OTHERS EVEN CLAIM THAT HULK IS JUST BEING SNOTTY AND PRETENTIOUS AND LOOKING DOWN ON "REGULAR MOVIES." THE TRUTH IS THAT NEITHER OF THESE EVALUATIONS IS ACCURATE AT ALL. IN FACT, THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THAT HULK ACTUALLY LOVES SUMMER MOVIES A WHOOOOOLE BUNCH. SERIOUSLY, HULK JUST LOVES EM. FOR A GOOD POPCORN MOVIE IS FUN, THRILLING, HILARIOUS, AND CAN HONESTLY GET AT SOME OF THE BASIC HUMAN LIFE LESSONS AS WELL AS A HIGH-MINDED ART FILM. IT IS THAT VERY BROADNESS THAT MAKES POPCORN MOVIES SO DAMN IMPORTANT. THEY ARE THE FILMS EVERYONE SEES AND RALLIES AROUND. FROM THERE, THEY HAVE THE CHANCE TO BECOME LARGER NATIONAL CONVERSATIONS. AND WHETHER WE ARE AWARE OF IT OR NOT, THEY TEND TO REFLECT SOME PART OF OUR HUMAN ETHOS AND PERSPECTIVE. BECAUSE OF THAT, THEY BECOME OUR PROVERBIAL CAMPFIRE.

SO THE REASON HULK ALWAYS SEEMS TO GET SO NEGATIVE DURING THE SUMMER MOVIE SEASON IS THAT LITERALLY HALF OF THESE "CULTURAL CAMPFIRES" NOT ONLY REFLECT SO POORLY ON OUR CULTURAL ETHOS, BUT THEY SOMEHOW MANAGE TO FAIL SO SPECTACULARLY AT STORYTELLING 101.

AND THERE'S JUST NO GOOD REASON FOR IT.

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INTRO #2

IT SOUNDS SILLY, BUT HULK SPENDS ALL DAY THINKING ABOUT STORIES.

REALLY. ALL DAMN DAY. BUT THAT'S JUST BECAUSE IT'S LITERALLY ONE OF HULK'S JOBS TO THINK ABOUT STORY FUNCTION AND COME UP WITH SOLUTIONS. AND NOT JUST FOR HULK'S OWN PERSONAL STORIES, BUT LOTS OF DIFFERENT STORIES THAT BELONG TO OTHER PEOPLE. AND THESE STORIES COMPRISE ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT GENRES, WITH ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT CAPACITIES AND ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT PURPOSES. THIS MEANS THAT HULK HAS TO HAVE A MALLEABLE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT "WORKS" AND ALSO NEEDS TO DEPERSONALIZE ALL OF IT, FOR THE VERY POINT OF THIS JOB IS TO HELP. NOT TO GET IN THE WAY, NOR CLOG UP THE CREATIVE WORKS, NOR TRY TO PUT HULK'S STAMP ON IT. NO, THE PURPOSE IS TO HELP MAKE THE STORY BETTER. AND THAT MEANS HELPING PEOPLE BETTER UNDERSTAND THE STORY THEY WANT TO TELL AND BEING ABLE TO TALK ABOUT IT OPENLY.

ON A NUTS 'N' BOLTS LEVEL, DOING THIS JOB WELL TAKES A RATHER STUDIOUS UNDERSTANDING OF DRAMA: THE MECHANISMS. THE MEDIUMS. THE MODES. THE AFFECTATION. YOU NAME IT. AND FAR FROM THERE BEING ONE SET LOGIC TO STORYTELLING ON THE WHOLE, INSTEAD WE HAVE A SERIES OF A THOUSAND MINI-STORYTELLING DEVICES THAT ALL HAVE SPECIFIC PURPOSES. AND THE BETTER YOU ASSEMBLE THEM, THE MORE CLEARLY YOU CAN ARTICULATE 1) WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY AND 2) HOW BEST TO DRAMATIZE IT. MEANING THE KNOW-HOW OF TELLING A STORY IS SECRETLY LIKE ANY OTHER PRACTICAL ENGINEERING. YOU CAN'T JUST KNOW HOW TO SOLVE ONE KIND OF PROBLEM. YOU WOULD HAVE TO KNOW ALL THE VARIOUS FORMS AND TOTALITY OF MATHEMATICS AND WHEN A PARTICULAR PROBLEM COMES ALONG, YOU CAN APPLY THE MATHEMATICAL RULES WHICH BEST FIT. LIKE ALL THINGS, GETTING GOOD AT THIS REQUIRES PRACTICE, TIME AND A GREAT DEAL OF EFFORT. THE PROBLEM IS, UNLIKE MATHEMATICS WHERE THE SPECIFICITY OF LANGUAGE TENDS TO BLOCK PEOPLE OUT, MOST PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY CAN TALK ABOUT STORIES. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY TRY TO TALK ABOUT STORY USING THEIR VAGUE, POORLY INTUITIVE OR LIMITED KNOWLEDGE BASE. EVEN WITHIN THE INDUSTRY. FROM THERE THEY WILL THEN TRY TO BULLY THEIR SOLUTIONS INTO PLACE REGARDLESS IF THEY FIT. THAT'S WHY SO MANY PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT "THE STUDIO PROCESS." FOR EVERY TRULY GREAT PERSON IN THAT SYSTEM, THERE ARE TWO STORY BULLIES AND THEY ARE NOT DOING ANYONE ANY FAVORS. BUT THE SOLUTION IS RIGHT THERE. WE HAVE TO IDENTIFY PROBLEMS IN A CLEAR AND MEANINGFUL WAY AND THEN ZERO IN ON THE SOLUTIONS TOGETHER, WHICH MEANS COMMUNICATION SKILLS ARE PARAMOUNT TO MAKING ANY STORY WORK.

AND SO THE ONE THING THAT HULK HAS DISCOVERED IN THIS JOB IS THAT THE BEST WAY OF COMMUNICATING AND GETTING AT THE HEART OF PROBLEMS IS BY ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, START WITH "THE BIG SEVEN":

WHAT DOES THIS CHARACTER WANT?

WHAT DOES THIS CHARACTER NEED?

HOW DO THOSE WANTS AND NEEDS CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER WITHIN THE CHARACTER?

HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD?

HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH OTHER CHARACTERS?

HOW DOES THE CHARACTER CHANGE THROUGH THOSE CONFLICTS AND HOW DOES THE RESOLUTION AFFECT THEM?

WHAT IMPACT DOES THAT CHANGE HAVE ON EVERYONE ELSE?

THOSE ARE THE 7 BASIC QUESTIONS OF NARRATIVE DRAMA AND THEY ARE THE ONES THAT HULK ALWAYS STARTS WITH ANY TIME THAT HULK READS A SCRIPT. YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, IT'S NOT AS IF THEY ARE THE BE-ALL-END-ALL OF STORY COHESION, BUT THEY REALLY DO A GREAT JOB OF IMMEDIATELY IDENTIFYING THE MOST BASIC PROBLEMS OF ANY NARRATIVE AND THAT'S BECAUSE THOSE QUESTIONS ARE THE ONES THAT THAT MOST ILLUMINATE 1) CHARACTER MOTIVATION AND 2) CHARACTER-CENTRIC CONFLICT... WHICH, YA KNOW, HAPPEN TO BE THE BASIS OF GOOD STORYTELLING. AND SO, THESE 7 QUESTIONS ARE SUCH A GREAT PLACE TO START FOR ANY STORY DIAGNOSTICIAN.

AND YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED BY HOW MANY MAINSTREAM MOVIES FAIL TO ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS WHATSOEVER.

... OKAY, MAYBE THAT DOESN'T SURPRISE YOU AT ALL.

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INTRO #3

HULK HAS SPENT THE LAST FEW WEEKS THINKING, READING AND LISTENING.

YOU SEE, HULK WENT AND SAW MAN OF STEEL'S OPENING MIDNIGHT SHOW WITH AN EXCITED AUDIENCE AND, WELL, HULK THOUGHT IT WAS NOT SO GOOD. SURE, IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S GOOD STUFF IN THERE, BUT IF WE ARE JUST TALKING ABOUT IT ON THE PUREST STORY LEVEL (AKA THE MOST IMPORTANT PART), HULK THOUGHT IT FAILED SO SPECTACULARLY. AFTER THE CREDITS ROLLED HULK JUST SAT THERE WITH BETTY FOR A MOMENT AS WE STARED IN BEWILDERMENT AT EVERYONE ELSE. HALF THE AUDIENCE WAS TALKING EXCITEDLY. THE OTHER HALF WAS YELLING ANGRILY. THEN WE WENT OUTSIDE AND TALKED WITH SOME OF HULK'S INDUSTRY FRIENDS AND EVERYONE WAS IN COMPLETE AGREEMENT AS TO THE NOT-SO-GOODNESS OF THE FILM. IT ACTUALLY GOT PRETTY HEATED. BUT THEN HULK DID THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ONE CAN DO AT A MOMENT LIKE THAT AND THAT IS HULK TRIED TO SUBVERT THE INCLINATION TOWARD FEELING "THIS IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION!" SO HULK WENT HOME AND STARTED READING OTHER CRITICS AND FRIENDS WHO PRAISED IT. THE REASON FOR DOING SO ISN'T JUST ABOUT THE HUMANE "NEVER HATE A MOVIE" MANTRA, NOR IS IT EXPRESSLY ABOUT THE ETHICS OF WANTING TO HARSH SOMEONE'S BUZZ. IT'S ABOUT THE PROCESS OF COMING TO GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW MOVIES AFFECT PEOPLE.

SEE THE THING ABOUT BEING A STORY DIAGNOSTICIAN, UNLIKE A CRITIC, IS THE JOB DOESN'T REQUIRE YOU TO SAY WHAT YOU THINK AND REFLECT THE EXPERIENCE FOR YOURSELF (THEREBY ASSUMING YOUR VOICE IS JUST LENDING TO THE PLURALITY OF GREATER CONSENSUS). INSTEAD, THE JOB IS TO ACTIVELY TRY AND UNDERSTAND WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WILL THINK AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHY THEY THINK IT. WE DO NOT DO THIS BECAUSE THEIR OPINION IS INHERENTLY "RIGHT" (WE'LL GET TO THAT NEXT), BUT BECAUSE THEIR OPINIONS (EVEN POORLY FORMED ONES) WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MOVIES WORK ON A MACRO LEVEL, FAR OUTSIDE YOUR OWN MYOPIA. YOUR JOB IS NOT TO ADHERE TO EVERYONE'S SPECIFIC WANTS, BUT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT STORY CHOICES ARE SECRETLY AFFECTING PEOPLE, MAYBE WITHOUT THEIR REALIZING IT. AND THAT REALLY MEANS YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO HOW PEOPLE TALK AND WHAT THEIR MOTIVATIONS WERE. YOU HAVE TO ASK THE POINTED QUESTIONS: DID THIS WORK FOR YOU? WHY DID IT WORK FOR YOU? HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FAULTS? HOW DID YOU FEEL THE FILM OVERCAME THOSE FAULTS? WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF THIS MOVIE? HOW COULD IT HAVE WORKED BETTER FOR YOU? HOW COULD IT HAVE WORKED FOR US BOTH? AND THEN YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TAKE YOUR TIME WITH IT AND MEDITATE ON THOSE ANSWERS, FOR IMMEDIACY BREEDS SINGULARITY. YOU HAVE TO FORCE YOURSELF TO BE OPEN AND CONSTANTLY CURIOUS, FOR THIS PROCESS HAS TO BE TREATED AS AN ONGOING SCHOLARLY ONE. A STORY DIAGNOSTICIAN HAS TO BE THE ETERNAL STUDENT.

AND IN ALL THAT TIME HULK REALIZED WHAT MANY OTHERS REALIZED AFTER THEIR INITIAL SCREENING: THAT MAN OF STEEL MIGHT BE ONE OF THE MOST DIVISIVE BLOCKBUSTERS IN RECENT MEMORY. SOME OF THIS IS DUE TO STRICT ISSUES OF PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION AND HISTORY WITH THE EXTREMELY POPULAR CHARACTER OF SUPERMAN, BUT THE DIVISION WAS JUST AS EVENLY SPLIT EVEN AMONG THE NON-RABID, NORMAL CINEMA-GOERS AS WELL. SO WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED? WHY IS THE MOVIE CAUSING SUCH A SPLIT? WHY DO ALL THE OPINIONS SEEM TO BE SO VARIED? WELL, AFTER ALL THAT THINKING, READING AND LISTENING, HULK HAS REALIZED ONE UNIFYING THING:

MAN OF STEEL REVEALS A WHOLE BUNCH ABOUT HOW WE WATCH MOVIES.

AND SOME OF IT ISN'T GOOD.

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INTRO #4

HULK'S TALKED ABOUT IT BEFORE IN AN OLD-AS-HELL ESSAY, BUT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO UNDERSTAND IN THE FIELD OF CRITICISM (OR ANYTHING REALLY) IS THE "THE TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY." TO EXPLAIN: WE KNOW IN OUR GUT IF WE LIKE OR DISLIKE SOMETHING WHEN WE WATCH IT, BUT WHEN IT COMES TIME TO ACTUALLY EXPLAIN WHY WE LIKE OR DISLIKE SOMETHING, WE JUST END UP GIVING OUR REASONS BASED ON OUR RELATIVE LEVEL UNDERSTANDING OF THE THING ITSELF.

FOR INSTANCE, HULK DOESN'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT CARS.

STILL, HULK DRIVES A CAR EVERY DAY (JUMPING AROUND IS TIRING). HULK KNOWS WHAT CARS HULK THINKS LOOK COOL (1963 CHEVY STINGRAYS). HULK CAN GET IN A CAR AND TELL YOU IF IT FEELS GOOD TO DRIVE OR NOT. WHICH ALL MEANS THAT HULK BUYS AND CONSUMES CARS IN A TOTALLY FUNCTIONAL STATE. BUT HULK DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THEM. HULK COULDN'T TELL YOU HOW THEY WORK OR WHAT IS WHAT IN AN ENGINE. AND SO HULK'S OPINION ON WHETHER OR NOT A CAR IS "GOOD OR NOT" SHOULDN'T REALLY BE CONSIDERED WITH THE SAME VALIDITY AS SOMEONE WHO CAN ACTUALLY ENGINEER OR PROPERLY FIX A CAR. THEY SIMPLY KNOW WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD CAR. BUT THE THING IS THAT WE ALL HAVE OUR RELATIVE AREAS OF EXPERTISE. MEANING THAT SAME MECHANIC CAN WATCH A MOVIE AND GO "that fucking sucked cause I hated his stupid face!" AND YET THEY CAN SIMPLY HEAR HULK'S ENGINE AND IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM FROM THE SOUND IT MAKES ALONE. IT IS ABOUT EXPERTISE IN A FIELD.

BUT THE PROBLEM IS THAT WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIES WE HAVE THIS ODD HABIT OF THINKING THAT:

1) WE ALL HAVE A LEVEL OF EXPERTISE JUST BECAUSE WE ARE AVID CONSUMERS.

2) ACTUAL EXPERTS DON'T EXIST.

AND NEITHER OF WHICH IS ALL THAT TRUE. IT'S THE SAME REASON SO MANY PEOPLE JUST ASSUME THEY CAN WRITE A SCRIPT / STORY OR BE AN ACTOR WITHOUT MUCH EXPERIENCE (HINT: THAT DOESN'T WORK OUT VERY OFTEN). AND IT'S JUST A FAILURE TO SEE HOW MUCH OF WHAT THEY ARE ENGAGING IS ACTUALLY TECHNICAL OR BUILT ON EXPERIENCE. WHAT MAKES IT SO FUNNY IS THAT IT'S THE KIND OF THINKING YOU RARELY SEE IN SPORTS. NOBODY ASSUMES THEY CAN JUST RUN OUT ON THE FIELD AND STRIKE OUT THE SIDE (IF YOU DON'T LIKE BASEBALL, THAT MEANS "DO REALLY GOOD"). PEOPLE DRIVE EVERYDAY, BUT NO ONE ASSUMES THEY CAN JUST HOP INTO THE DAYTONA 500 AND COMPETE. BUT FOR SOME REASON WE DO MAKE THIS ASSUMPTION WITH MOVIES ALL THE TIME. WE ASSUME THAT JUST BECAUSE WE KNOW THE END RESULT OF HOW A MEDIA EXPERIENCE AFFECTS US, WE THEREFORE UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKED ON US. AND IT GIVES RISE TO ONGOING HABITS OF OPINION THAT MAY BE TOTALLY JUSTIFIED ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL, BUT THEY ARE NOT "RIGHT" IN THE WAY THEY ARE DIAGNOSING WHAT IS GOOD AND BAD. FOR INSTANCE, SOMEONE CAN DISLIKE SOPHIE'S CHOICE BECAUSE IT MADE THEM SAD, BUT THAT DOES NOT VALIDATE THEIR OPINION THAT IT IS "A BAD MOVIE." IT DEPENDS ON A CRUCIAL UNDERSTANDING OF FUNCTION, NOT MERE EFFECT.

AGAIN, THE THING ABOUT TANGIBLE DETAILS IS THAT WE ALL HAVE OUR RELATIVE CAPACITIES TO PERCEIVE BEYOND THEM OR FALL VICTIM TO THEM. FOR INSTANCE, TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE MAY WATCH NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN AND BOTH LIKE IT, BUT ONE WILL JUSTIFY IT WITH SOMETHING SIMPLE LIKE "It was awesome they had the gunfight in the hotel!" WHEREAS THE OTHER COULD HAVE MORE THEMATIC, NUANCED LEANINGS AND SAY: "The ending is just a perfect encapsulation of how one essentially 'retires' from the world of material pursuits when they've seen the cost of those pursuits and the cavernous loss that it creates! The constancy of death is haunting!" BOTH CAME TO THE SAME EVALUATION OF "GOOD" THROUGH RADICALLY DIFFERENT MEANS. THE SAME WOULD BE TRUE FOR PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE. ONE PERSON CAN JUSTIFY THEIR DISLIKE BY SAYING "I thought the ending was stupid! I didn't get it! I wish we saw him get killed!" WHEREAS SOMEONE ELSE CAN SAY "I have a long-winded explanation for how the approach to the ending does not satisfy me on a cathartic level, even though that's totally the point of this movie and it builds to that message beautifully!" ...OKAY SOMEONE WOULD NEVER SAY IT LIKE THAT, BUT HULK LOVES THAT MOVIE SO DEAL WITH IT.

THE POINT IS THAT WE COULD JUST CHALK THESE DIFFERENCES IN OPINION OVER THE MOVIE UP TO A MATTER OF DRUTHERS, BUT WHILE EVERYONE IS CERTAINLY ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINION THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINION BEING RIGHT. THAT'S SIMPLY NOT WHAT SUBJECTIVITY IS ABOUT, YET WE MAKE THIS MISTAKE ALL THE TIME. JUST BECAUSE OPINIONS AREN'T FACTS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SOME OPINIONS AREN'T MORE COHERENT, HELPFUL AND PRODUCTIVE THAN OTHERS. AND THE OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "The gun fight is awesome!" AND THE "perfect encapsulation of..." IS THE QUALITY OF INSIGHT. IT'S THE ABILITY TO ENGAGE THE TEXT FOR ITS EXPRESSED PURPOSE, AND THEN THEIR RESPECTIVE ABILITIES TO PROVIDE AN EDUCATIONAL PROCESS TO THE READER, FAR BEYOND THE LAME CONCLUSION OF BAD/GOOD WITHIN THE OPINION ITSELF.

THAT'S WHY HULK COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT THE ONGOING CRITICAL DISCUSSION OF "AGREEMENT" AND "WORTH." YOU ALWAYS SEE ARGUMENTS LIKE "Oh, I love that critic! I always agree with them!" (WHICH ONLY MAKES SENSE AS A BUYING GUIDE, NOT FOR INSIGHT) OR "That critic thought that movie was the best of the year!? What an idiot! It's clearly only the 8th best movie of the year!" THAT STUFF ACTUALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MOVIES OR HOW THEY WORK OR ANYTHING THAT IS HELPFUL TO YOU. INSTEAD, HULK WANTS TO READ A CRITIC TO SEE HOW THEIR MIND MOVES. HULK WANTS RECOMMENDATIONS OR PRO-MOVIE ARGUMENTS THAT HULK HAS NEVER SEEN BEFORE. HULK DOESN'T JUST WANT TO KNOW ANOTHER OPINION EXISTS, HULK WANTS TO EXPAND HULK'S MIND AND GAIN UNDERSTANDING OF CINEMA HISTORY OR HOW IT WORKS. SUBJECTIVITY IS ONLY REALLY MEANT TO BE A CAUTIONING REMINDER OVER OUR CERTAINTY AND A WAY TO ENCOURAGE GROWTH. SUBJECTIVITY IS WHY WE HAVE TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER AND NOT BE 100% SURE OF OUR OWN OPINIONS, BUT IT IS NOT WHAT MAKES US ALL EQUALLY RIGHT. SURE, MOVIES ARE THESE GRAND ARTISTIC THINGS THAT WE ALL HAVE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS TO, BUT THERE REALLY ARE THINGS LIKE CRAFT, COHESION, PURPOSE AND THE EFFECT ON THE AUDIENCE, WHICH THEN MEANS IT'S ABOUT OUR ABILITY TO CONTEXTUALIZE AND EXPLAIN TO THEM THAT MATTERS, NOT THE SHOUTS OF "This is what I thought, dammit!!!" SERIOUSLY, JUST BECAUSE WE CAN'T COME TO DEFINITIVE CONCLUSIVE STATEMENTS WITH ART DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T DO OUR DAMNEDEST TO ESTABLISH A FIRMER GRIP ON THE NOT-SO-TANGIBLE DETAILS THAT HIDE BENEATH THE SURFACE AND UNVEIL THE REAL ENGINEERING OF MOVIES.

HULK FEELS LIKE THAT SIMPLE FACT GETS LOST ALL THE TIME: MOVIES ARE METICULOUSLY ENGINEERED. THEY TAKE YEARS TO DEVELOP AND HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE TO CRAFT THEM (WHICH MEANS THE FAULT OF BAD MOVIES IS OFTEN DUE TO LARGER CONCEPTUAL MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF PURPOSE AND EFFECT AND NOT PURE INABILITY). THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS INHERENTLY LAYERED BENEATH THE TANGIBLE DETAILS. AND SINCE THEY ARE CRAFTED IN SUCH A WAY, HULK ARGUES IT IS NOT ONLY FAIR TO ENGAGE THEM ON THE LEVEL OF SAID METICULOUS CRAFT, BUT SHOULD ULTIMATELY BE REQUIRED IN A WAY. FOR THE MORE YOU ENGAGE THE MOVIE ON ALL THE TERMS IT'S TRYING TO ENGAGE YOU, THE MORE COMPLETE AND ACCURATE THE EVALUATION!

OKAY, BREATHE HULKY.

SO.

BEYOND THE PUSH-PULL OF THE RELATIVITY OF OPINIONS, HERE'S THE REAL REASON THE TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY MATTERS: IF THERE IS NOTHING ON THE SURFACE THAT IS SO OBVIOUSLY BAD, THEN THE NON-EXPERT CAN'T TELL IF THERE'S SOMETHING ACTUALLY WRONG.

IF HULK DOESN'T ACTUALLY NOTICE A PROBLEM WITH HULK'S CAR THEN HULK IS JUST GOING TO ASSUME IT'S WORKING FINE! (THAT'S EXACTLY WHY HULK ISN'T A MECHANIC.) LIKEWISE, IF A CINEMA-GOER IS NEVER ABJECTLY BORED IN A MOVIE AND DOESN'T NOTICE ANYTHING OBVIOUSLY + TANGIBLY BAD IN IT (MEANING IF THEY CAN'T POINT TO ANYTHING SPECIFIC IN THE MOMENT AND GO "That totally sucks!") THEN THE MOVIE BECOMES EASY TO SHRUG IT OFF OR GIVE A PASS. IT BECOMES EASY TO SAY "I definitely watched a thing for two hours and it didn't offend me!" WHICH IS EXACTLY THE REASON THESE DAYS WE HAVE SO MANY SINGULAR-TONED, WELL-CONSTRUCTED, WELL-ACTED, RAPID-CUTTING, EMPTY SHELLS OF MEANINGLESS BLOCKBUSTERS THAT FAIL TO REALLY RESONATE OR ENGINEER THEIR STORIES PROPERLY. THE STRATEGY IS NOT TO COMPEL THE AUDIENCE, BUT TO PACIFY THEM. STUDIOS HAVE REALIZED THAT PEOPLE WILL READILY ACCEPT A MOVIE AT FACE VALUE AND NOT SEE THE FAULTY ENGINEERING IMMEDIATELY (REALLY, THEY TALK OPENLY ABOUT THIS). LIKEWISE, THESE SAME MOVIEGOERS WILL SEE A CRITIC'S COMPLAINTS AND NO MATTER HOW WELL-RATIONALIZED OF JUSTIFIED THEY WILL BE, THE OPINION WILL STILL COME AS AN AFFRONT TO THEIR "OBVIOUSLY TRUE" GUT FEELING. THE DYNAMIC IS OFTEN NO DIFFERENT THAN THAT WITH THE PROVERBIAL MECHANIC, "What my car, works just fine! What do you know? You're just trying to sell me shit I don't need!!!" AND THEY LEAVE IN A HUFF... ONLY THREE WEEKS LATER THEIR CAR IS BACK IN THE SHOP.

THAT'S WHY HULK HAS SORT OF DEVOTED HULK'S LIFE TO UNDERSTANDING THE UNSPOKEN THINGS THAT PUT MOVIES "BACK IN THE SHOP THREE WEEKS LATER" IF THAT MAKES SENSE. WHAT MAKES A MOVIE LIKE JAWS LAST FOR GENERATIONS AND WHAT MAKES A SEEMINGLY INOFFENSIVE POPCORN MOVIE GO IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER? HULK'S DRIVE TO UNDERSTAND THIS IS NOT BORN OUT OF ANY DESIRE TO BE AUTHORITATIVE, NOR TO BE SINGULAR. IT IS BORN FROM THE DESIRE TO FIGURE OUT HOW MOVIES REALLY WORK. IT IS THE DRIVE TO UNDERSTAND THE "WHAT WE REALLY MEAN" IN A WORLD WHERE WE TALK ABOUT MOVIES IN RADICALLY DIFFERENT WAYS.

AND THOSE THINGS FEED INTO THE DRIVE TO DELIVER BETTER MOVIES FOR EVERYONE.

AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHY IT'S TIME TO FINALLY TALK ABOUT MAN OF STEEL, WHICH MIGHT BE A PERFECT MOVIE TO EXAMINE BECAUSE IT HAS DEEPLY ANGERED HALF OF ITS INTENDED AUDIENCE, WHILE THE OTHER HALF SINGS ITS PRAISES AND CLAIMS THEY HAVE FINALLY GOTTEN THE SUPERMAN MOVIE THEY ALWAYS WANTED. THE TWO GROUPS HAVE SEEMINGLY WATCHED DIFFERENT MOVIES. AND IF WE BELIEVED IN SUBJECTIVITY-AS-LAW, WE COULD JUST CHALK THIS UP TO A MATTER OF DRUTHERS... OR WE CAN TRY TO FIGURE HOW THE HELL THIS POPCORN MOVIE MANAGED TO CREATE SUCH A SCHISM.

SO LET'S TRY AND FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED.

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PART TWO - THE ART OF PERTINENT QUESTIONS

LET US FIRST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MAN OF STEEL DOES SOME THINGS RIGHT.

HENRY CAVILL IS NOT ONLY, LIKE, SMOKIN' HOT (SERIOUSLY, COME ON. IT'S ACTUALLY SILLY), BUT HULK THOUGHT HE MADE FOR A PRETTY DARN GOOD SUPERMAN TOO. YOU DON'T DOUBT HIS PHYSICALITY, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY HE RADIATES THE SENSE OF DECENCY AND STRAIGHTFORWARD CHARM THAT'S NECESSARY TO MAKE THE CHARACTER "FEEL RIGHT." IN FACT, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT ALL THE ACTORS IN THIS FILM ARE SOLID AND CAN TOTALLY DELIVER WHAT THEY ARE ASKED TO DO (WHICH ISN'T A LOT, BUT WE WILL GET TO THAT). THEY SUCCEED BECAUSE NOTHING ABOUT THEIR EMOTIONAL DELIVERY OR HUMANE QUALITIES EVER FEEL OFF BASE. AS FOR THE FILM ITSELF, IT'S FULL OF ALL THESE WELL-COMPOSED SHOTS AND SWELLS OF COMPELLING MUSIC (EVEN IF IT IS OVERTLY BLUDGEONING YOU), WHICH ADDS UP TO WHAT WOULD WE COULD CALL "PROPERLY CONSTRUCTED CINEMA" AND A DECENT CONTROL OF TONE (SNYDER REALLY IS A GOOD AESTHETICIST). THE FILM EVEN HAS SOME MORE PERSONABLE QUALITIES, LIKE HOW THERE ARE A LOT OF GOOD LITTLE MOMENTS BETWEEN CHARACTERS IN THERE THAT LEND HUMANITY. THEY'RE SORT OF ALL MICRO-MOMENTS, THINGS LIKE KNOWING GESTURES BETWEEN LEADS OR A PENSIVE MOMENT ALONE. THESE ARE THE KIND OF DETAILS THAT CAN USUALLY MAKE A SOLID FILM SOAR, BUT HERE THEY JUST SORT OF MAKE A NOT-SO-GOOD MOVIE SEEM BEST DESIGNED FOR TUMBLR. BUT MORE TO ITS CREDIT, THE MOVIE WAS NOT SHY ABOUT AIMING FOR THE GRAND SPECTACLE OF SUPERMAN THAT YOUR CHILDLIKE IMAGINATION MAY HAVE CRAVED. THE ACTION, THE SCOPE, IT ALL COMES OUT SWINGING AND REALLY DOES WANT TO WOW US. THERE IS AN ADMIRABLE AMBITION TO THAT AND JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE SURFACE OF THIS FILM.

NOW... THE THING IS THAT THERE'S ACTUALLY TWO NOT-SO-GREAT CHARACTERISTICS THAT BIND ALL THE STRONG ELEMENTS LISTED ABOVE TOGETHER. THE FIRST OF WHICH IS SOMETHING THAT HULK WILL CIRCLE BACK TO AT THE END OF THIS ESSAY. BUT THE OTHER IS HOW WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THESE OBSERVATIONS ALL FALL UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF OUR AFOREMENTIONED "TANGIBLE DETAILS" THEORY. MEANING ALL THE THINGS LISTED ABOVE ARE THE KINDS OF SURFACE DETAILS THAT EVERYONE USUALLY NOTICES, SO THAT MEANS THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT THE FILM THAT WOULD READILY STICK OUT AS BEING OFFENSIVE AND / OR NOTICEABLY BAD TO THE REGULAR MOVIEGOER, RIGHT? THERE'S NOTHING THAT WOULD REALLY MAKE YOU GO "Oh, that part was awful!" SO ON THE SURFACE OF MAN OF STEEL, ALL SEEMS TO BE WELL.

BUT UNDER THE SURFACE, THE STORY / CHARACTERIZATION TRULY DOES NOT WORK ON ANY ACCEPTABLE LEVEL.

Huh????

... OKAY, TAKE A SEAT BECAUSE THIS IS GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME.

* * *

A FEW WEEKS AGO, HULK WROTE A PIECE ABOUT THE CONVOLUTION OF THE MODERN BLOCKBUSTER ON THE PLOT LEVEL AND, YES, THAT IS A CERTAINLY A CONCERN OF THIS FILM TOO: THERE'S THE OVERT MACGUFFINY CODEX THING THAT'S ONLY THERE SO THE BAD GUY HAS A REASON TO CHASE DOWN SUPES, BUT DOESN'T REALLY MEAN MUCH OF ANYTHING TO OUR OTHER MAIN CHARACTERS. AND WHEN ONE STARTS DOING THE LOGISTICAL JUMPING JACKS IN RELATION TO JOR-EL'S PLAN, THE WHOLE THING BASICALLY IMPLODES. PERHAPS IT WOULDN'T SEEM SO BAD IF THE STORY ITSELF WEREN'T SO GEARED AROUND A LOT OF BIG, SILLY PROPER NOUNS LIKE WORLD ENGINES! AND GENESIS CHAMBERS! AND WHILE THEIR FUNCTION IS NOT TOO COMPLICATED, IT'S STILL TOTALLY EXTRANEOUS IN TERMS OF THEIR NEED TO BE EXPLAINED (MEANING THE EXPLANATION DOES NOTHING LARGER FOR THE STORY). BUT AS HULK ALWAYS INSISTS, HULK COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT THESE DUMB LOGIC QUESTIONS. THE FAR MORE CRITICAL ISSUE IS HOW OFTEN THESE THINGS GET IN THE WAY OF A LOT OF EMOTIONAL STUFF AND CLARITY THAT WOULD WORK MUCH BETTER. WHICH JUST MAKES THE FACT THAT MAN OF STEEL TRIES SO HARD TO EXPLAIN ALL THESE NONSENSICAL THINGS ALL THE MORE PARALYZING (ESPECIALLY WHEN IT EFFECTIVELY SKIMPS ON THE GENETIC PREDESTINATION STUFF, WHICH WOULD BE WAY MORE IMPORTANT FOR CHARACTER MOTIVATION). PUT IT THIS WAY: WE ARE TOLD WHY ALL THESE THINGS MATTER REPEATEDLY, BUT WE WERE NEVER REALLY GIVEN A GOOD REASON TO FEEL LIKE THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT TO US. WHICH SORT OF HINTS AT THE CAPITAL-P PROBLEM WITH THE FILM. THE KIND OF CLARITY THAT HULK IS CONCERNED WITH IN MAN OF STEEL IS NOT THE PLOT CLARITY.

... IT'S THE CHARACTER CLARITY.

AND BOY HOWDY IS THAT A PROBLEM.

* * *

A "HOW TO" ON CHARACTER & DRAMA

FIRST OFF, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO IGNORE THE LARGER CULTURAL CONVERSATION ABOUT SUPERMAN'S IDENTITY AND ETHOS FOR THE MOMENT, FOR WHAT WE ARE PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH IS THE CHARACTERIZATION WITHIN THE NARRATIVE. IT'S NOT REALLY ABOUT "WHO WE THINK SUPERMAN SHOULD BE," BUT "THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS SUPERMAN AS HE EXISTS IN THIS PARTICULAR STORY." DOES THAT DIFFERENCE MAKE SENSE?

COOL.

NOW, TO EXPLAIN THIS WHOLE ISSUE OF CHARACTER CLARITY HULK IS GOING TO FIRST TURN TO AN OLD SAYING IN STORYTELLING THAT "CHARACTER IS KING." WHILE THAT PHRASE IS SOMETHING A LOT OF PEOPLE HEAR, NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND IT. THE SAYING IS NOT ONLY MEANT TO IMPLY THAT CHARACTERS ARE "THE MOST IMPORTANT THING" IN YOUR NARRATIVE, BUT WE ARE MEANT TO TAKE THE ANALOGY EVEN FURTHER TO IMPLY: EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR STORY SHOULD BE DICTATED FROM CHARACTER. MEANING THEY'RE NOT JUST IMPORTANT, BUT THAT THEIR ACTIONS SHOULD SPECIFICALLY CONTROL AND SHAPE YOUR PLOT. FURTHERMORE, THE DECISIONS OR ETHOS OF YOUR CHARACTER SHOULD DICTATE ALMOST EVERYTHING THAT IS CONTAINED WITHIN THE MOVIE ITSELF. WHICH ISN'T TO SAY YOU CAN'T FUDGE THAT LINE SOMETIMES AND HAVE FUN DIVERSIONS AND MOMENTS OF LEFT-FIELD INCLUSION, BUT YOU WOULD BE SHOCKED HOW MANY FILMS JUST DO THE OPPOSITE AND HAVE THEIR CHARACTERS REACTING TO THE PLOT AT ALL TIMES. SERIOUSLY. EVEN THE NON-DECISIONS OF PASSIVE CHARACTERS SHOULD HAVE A SHAPING EFFECT. AND SINCE CHARACTER DICTATES STORY, IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT BAD MOVIES TEND TO GEAR THEIR STORIES AROUND A SERIES OF LOGIC-BASED MECHANISMS (THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, BUT THAT'S A WHOLE OTHER CONVERSATION) AND GOOD MOVIES GEAR THEIR STORIES AROUND THOSE LITTLE THINGS WE CALL "CHARACTER ARCS" I.E. THE WAY THE CHARACTER NOTICEABLY CHANGES OVER THE COURSE OF THE NARRATIVE, AS THEY ARE SHAPED BY THE EVENTS AND CHOICES THEY MAKE.

GOT IT? DOUBLE COOL.

THE SECOND OLD SAYING THAT APPLIES TO OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT MAN OF STEEL IS "SHOW, DON'T TELL." THIS POINT MATTERS BECAUSE WE EXPERIENCE STORIES AS EMOTIONAL BEINGS. NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE TEND TO HARP ON THE FAILURES OF LOGIC, IT IS THE EMOTIONAL RESONANCE OF A STORY THAT ACTUALLY CONNECTS TO US. THEREFORE OUR SENSE OF TIME & PRESENCE WITHIN A NARRATIVE IS SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO EXIST FOR US SO THAT WE CAN BEST EXPERIENCE THE STORY IN THE SAME WAY THE CHARACTERS DO. MEANING THE MORE OF THE STORY WE EXPERIENCE FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE AT THE SAME TIME THEY DO, THE BETTER WE CAN RELATE TO THEIR SITUATION. IT SIMPLY MAKES FOR THE BEST EMOTIONAL TRANSFERENCE. FOR EXAMPLE, YOU CAN HAVE A HERO GIVE A SPEECH ABOUT HOW THEY SUFFERED SOME HORRIFIC TRAGEDY OR SOMETHING AND THAT'S WHY THEY'RE SAID, BUT IF YOU DRAMATIZE THAT PAIN (I.E. LET THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE THE THING INSTEAD OF JUST EXPLAINING IT) THEN YOU CAN COMMUNICATE WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THE A CHARACTER ON AN INTRINSIC EMOTIONAL LEVEL, WHICH ALWAYS HAS FAR MORE MEANING AND EFFECT (AND TENDS TO LEAD TO BETTER CATHARSIS).

THAT'S WHAT "DRAMATIZING" ACTUALLY MEANS. YOU ARE FINDING AN IN-THE-MOMENT, CONFLICT-RIDDEN WAY TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE SOMETHING AS IF IT HAPPENED TO THEM... AND TO DO THAT BEST YOU REALLY NEED TIME AND EXPERIENCE TO BUILD ON.

JUSTIFYING EXAMPLE #1

WHEN HULK WATCHES A HOMELESS PERSON ON THE STREET WHO IS SAD, HULK GETS SAD TOO. IT'S HARD NOT TO, RIGHT? THAT HOMELESS PERSON IS A PERSON TOO AND THEY ARE SUFFERING AND IT WOULD TAKE THE LEAST GRACIOUS AND THE COLDEST AMONG US NOT TO FEEL AT LEAST SOMETHING FOR THEM. BUT STILL, THERE IS A WAY THAT WE CAN ALL TRANSCEND PAST THAT AS HUMAN BEINGS. AND IT'S OFTEN BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW THE PERSON. AND USUALLY OUR SADNESS IS NOT ABOUT "THEM" BUT BECAUSE WE PROJECT OUR FEELINGS AND LIVES ONTO THE HOMELESS PERSON. INSTEAD OF "Oh, no! That other person I don't know!" WE PROJECT AND ASK "What if that was me? What if that was someone I cared about?" AND YES IT CAN AFFECT US, BUT NO MATTER HOW SAD IT MAY BE IT IS STILL SOMETHING SEPARATE FROM US.

MEANWHILE, WHEN HULK WATCHES A LOVED ONE WHO IS SAD ABOUT EVEN THE MOST TRIVIAL OF THINGS, IT HAS THE ABILITY TO BREAK HULK'S HEART IMMEDIATELY (ESPECIALLY IF THAT PERSON IS NORMALLY STOIC).

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? THE HOMELESS PERSON'S PLIGHT IS OBVIOUSLY MUCH MORE SERIOUS, RIGHT? BUT THAT ISN'T WHAT MATTERS TO HUMAN BEINGS. IT IS BECAUSE HULK ACTUALLY HAS A DEEP CONNECTION TO THE LOVED ONE. HULK HAS YEARS OF LOVE AND SUPPORT AND KINDNESS. WE ARE ATTACHED ON THE MOST BASIC LEVEL BECAUSE WE HAVE HISTORY AND UNDERSTANDING. WE'VE GONE THROUGH THE DRAMA OF LIFE TOGETHER AND THUS WE CAN FEEL EVERY EMOTION WITH THEM IN A HEIGHTENED STATE. WE INTRINSICALLY UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE SAD AND EMPATHIZE, FOR PERHAPS THAT LOVED ONE IS CARRYING A BURDEN FROM A PREVIOUS EVENT. THEY SIMPLY FEEL LIKE THEY ARE A PART OF US. THEREFORE, WE ROOT FOR WHAT THAT PERSON WANTS AND NEEDS.

AND THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT MOST BLOCKBUSTERS FAIL TO UNDERSTAND.

THEY ALWAYS FALL FOR EMPHASIZING THE "SCALE" OF THE CONFLICT EVEN WITHOUT TRYING TO MAKE IT EVER FEEL INTIMATE, PERSONAL OR EVEN EARNED. THEY FAIL TO REALIZE THAT ANY PROBLEM CAN FEEL LIKE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN THE WORLD IF IT IS YOURS. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY YOU HAVE TO BUILD UP A RELATIONSHIP AND A CONNECTION.

THESE BLOCKBUSTERS DON'T REALIZE YOU HAVE TO CREATE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL ENOUGH THAT COULD ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE WE ARE LOSING SOMETHING WHEN IT GOES AWAY.

THAT MEANS CREATING RELATIONSHIPS WE UNDERSTAND AND FEEL FOR, JUST LIKE WE HAVE WITH OUR FAMILY MEMBERS. IT IS COMPLETELY WITHIN A MOVIE'S INTEREST TO DO SO. SO WHY DO SO MANY REACH OUT FOR THE TANGENTIAL CONNECTION? WHY DO SO MANY RELY ON SCALE AND FALLING BUILDINGS? WHY DO SO MANY THROW SCORES OF STRANGERS' FACES AT YOU AS THEY PERISH? WHY IS IT ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS A PLOT ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD WHEN THEY NEVER BOTHER TO EXPLAIN WHY IT'S A WORLD WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT? AND WHY DO GOOD FILMMAKERS ALWAYS TRY TO SOLELY RELY ON THE FILMMAKING CRAFT OF A GOOD MUSIC CUE AND A PRETTY IMAGE TO CLAW AT YOUR EMOTIONS THAN BUILDING SOMETHING REAL? LIKE THE HOMELESS PERSON, THEY WANT YOU TO PROJECT YOURSELF ONTO AN UNKNOWN TRAGEDY RATHER THAN JUST BE YOUR FRIEND. THEY FAIL TO REALIZE THAT YOU CAN SHOW THE SADDEST DEATH IN THE WORLD WITH THE MOST HEARTBREAKING MUSIC CUE, BUT IF THERE'S NO REAL MEANING. SERIOUSLY, IF WE DON'T FEEL LIKE WE ACTUALLY LOST SOMETHING, THEN WHAT DOES IT MATTER?

THAT'S EXACTLY WHY DRAMATIZATION MATTERS SO MUCH. WHEN AN EXPERIENCE IS SHOWN AND FELT AND SHARED, IT DIRECTLY EFFECTS HOW YOU FEEL WHEN THAT RELATIONSHIP IS PUT IN JEOPARDY.

WANT A GOOD EXAMPLE?

JUSTIFYING EXAMPLE #2

THE OPENING OF PIXAR'S UP WANTS TO ESTABLISH THAT CARL IS A SAD, LONELY, CURMUDGEONLY PERSON WHO HAS SUFFERED GREAT LOSS. THAT'S THE ONLY INFORMATION WE NEED TO GET HIS DYNAMIC AND MIND STATE, RIGHT?

WHICH MEANS THE MOVIE COULD HAVE VERY WELL JUST SHOWN A SCENE WITH CARL ALONE AT THE FUNERAL HOME AFTER HIS WIFE ELIE HAD DIED. HE THEN COULD HAVE GIVEN A SPEECH TO HER GRAVE ABOUT WHAT SHE MEANT AND ALL THE AMAZING THINGS THEY WANTED TO DO. AND WE WOULD GET THE SAME INFORMATION, RIGHT? AND BECAUSE IT'S PIXAR IT WOULD HAVE HAD GREAT FILMMAKING AND MUSIC CUES AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN RATHER SAD INDEED.

BUT INSTEAD, THEY GIVE US SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY. WE FIRST GET A SIX MINUTE SCENE OF THE TWO OF THEM MEETING AS KIDS AND HAVING FUN PLAYING ADVENTURE. THE FILM THEN INSTANTLY JUMP CUTS TO THE TWO OF THEM GETTING MARRIED, FOLLOWED BY ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE FOUR MINUTE MONTAGES IN MOVIE HISTORY. IT TELLS A COMPLETE STORY AND ARC OF THEIR LIVES, EACH TRANSITION BUILDING INTO THE NEXT, SOME MOMENTS FULL OF JOY, SOME MOMENTS INCREDIBLY SAD, BUT IT'S ALL PURPOSEFULLY TO THE SAME INEVITABLE CONCLUSION OF LOSS...

GO AHEAD. WATCH IT AGAIN AND SEE WHAT THEY BUILT IN SUCH A SHORT TIME...

*HANDS YOU TISSUE*

THE TAKEAWAY IS SIMPLE: WE DON'T FEEL SAD BECAUSE SHE DIES...

WE FEEL SAD BECAUSE WE SAW HOW THE TWO OF THEM LIVED.

THIS IS EXACTLY WHY YOU HAVE TO DRAMATIZE YOUR ARCS. YOU HAVE TO PRESENT CHARACTERS WITH JOYS AND WANTS AND THEN PUT THOSE JOYS AND WANTS IN CONFLICT. AND THEN YOU HAVE TO SHOW THE EMOTIONAL RESULTS OF THAT CONFLICT. AND AS UP PROVES, YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY A WORD AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE ALL THAT MUCH TIME. YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS WAX PHILOSOPHICAL OR DIRECTLY ENGAGE A DEEP THEME OR HAVE THEM SPEAK TO A GRAVE. YOU HAVE TO JUST SHOW WHO THEY ARE FIRST. NOW, YOU HAVE TO HAVE TACT AND JUST CAN'T BE CHEAP ABOUT IT. YOU HAVE TO MEAN IT. YOU HAVE TO SHOW THEIR LIVES IN AWAY THAT LETS THE AUDIENCES NOT JUST HAVE A PEEK, BUT FULLY EXPERIENCE IT. AND IN DOING THAT, AUDIENCES ACROSS THE BOARD WILL JUST FUCKING GET IT. THE STORY AND ITS CONFLICT WILL SPEAK TO THEIR SOULS. AND FROM THERE YOU CAN TAKE THEM ON ON A JOURNEY FULL OF ALL KINDS OF CHANGES AND TRANSITIONS, NEARLY EVERY FACET AND CAPACITY OF LIFE.

WITH UP, WE WON'T ACTUALLY CRY JUST BECAUSE CARL'S WIFE HAS DIED, WE CRY BECAUSE ELLIE DIED. AND ELLIE WAS A CHARACTER WE KNEW AND UNDERSTOOD BECAUSE WE WATCHED HER GROW AND UNDERSTOOD HER AS IT ALL UNFOLDED. WE TRULY FELT LIKE WE KNEW HER FROM JUST 4 DAMN MINUTES OF SCREEN TIME.

FOR BOTH CARL AND ELLIE, THAT IS PERFECT CHARACTERIZATION.

AND HULK ARGUES THAT EVEN THE MOST TEPID FOLLOW-THROUGH OF DRAMATIZATION AND EARNING THE POTENTIAL OF LOSS WILL YIELD SOLID AND MEANINGFUL RESULTS. FOR FILMS THAT CAN ACHIEVE INTIMACY OF CHARACTERS WITHIN THE STORY ALWAYS SEEM TO BE THE ONES THAT RESONATE WHEN THE CONFLICTS COME TO FRUITION...

WHICH MEANS THE BIG FAILURE OF MAN OF STEEL IS THAT IT SEEMS TO HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DRAMATIZE EVEN THE MOST BASIC CHARACTERIZATION... ON ANY LEVEL... FOR, LIKE, ANYONE.

SO LET'S START ASKING SOME PERTINENT QUESTIONS.

* * *

PERTINENT QUESTION #1:

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUPERMAN / CLARK WHEN HE MAKES HIS FINAL CHOICE TO SAVE THE FAMILY FROM ZOD'S HEAT VISION VERSUS WHO HE WAS WHEN DECIDES TO SAVE THE SCHOOL BUS AS A KID?

THE HONEST ANSWER IS THAT THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. NOT REALLY. FOR ALL THE MORAL RESERVATION ABOUT "WHAT TO DO" THAT HE TALKS ABOUT AT TIMES, CLARK IS THE SAME EXACT GUY PRETTY MUCH DOING THE SAME EXACT THING FOR THE ENTIRE MOVIE. JUST BECAUSE WE SEE HIS LITERAL BIRTH VS. HIM WHEN HE'S OLDER DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN WE SEE CHARACTER GROWTH. HE IS ALWAYS THE SAME PERSON TO US. MORE IMPORTANTLY, HE IS MAKING THE SAME EXACT CHOICE OVER AND OVER AGAIN AT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. SURE, HE SAYS HE FEELS CONFLICTED ABOUT IT SOMETIMES, BUT HE DOES NOT ACTUALLY WAFFLE, NOR DO ANYTHING THAT IMPLIES THAT HE IS WAFFLING, NOR DO ANY EVENTS SEEM TO AFFECT HIS DIRECTION AFTERWARD, NOR DOES HE REALLY CHANGE AS A RESULT... HE SIMPLY IS.

WE CALL THIS "NOT HAVING A FUCKING CHARACTER ARC" AND IT IS A SURE-FIRE SIGN OF INERT WRITING. NOW, ALL THIS MIGHT STRIKE YOU AS WRONG AND YOU MIGHT ARGUE THAT HE TOTALLY HAS A CHARACTER ARC, BUT YOUR DEFINITION WOULD HAVE TO BE CENTERED AROUND "THE LEVEL" OF THE THINGS HE DOES, NOT WHO HE IS. IT WOULD HAVE TO BE SOMETHING LIKE: "His arc is first is lifting buses and then he put on a suit and lifted heavier things and then he graduates to punching the biggest things!!!" WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT YOU ARE MISUNDERSTANDING A CORE PRINCIPAL: A CHARACTER ARC IS BASED ON A CHANGE IN ETHOS, NOT A CHANGE IN SCALE (THIS IS ALSO WHY HULK HATES WHEN MOST STORY MODELS USE THE TERM "RISE IN CONFLICT" INSTEAD OF "CHANGE IN CONFLICT" WHICH IS WAY MORE HELPFUL). IT'S LIKE WE HAVE SUDDENLY SWITCHED TO USING A VIDEO GAME BASED LEVELING-UP SYSTEM OF CHARACTERIZATION ("Sweet! Superman just got +1 to flight!"). EVEN THIS WOULD BE FINE IF IT WAS ACCOMPANIED BY, YOU KNOW, ACTUAL GROWTH AND CHANGE, BUT SO OFTEN IT IS NOT.

WHICH LEADS US TO AN WHAT HULK FINDS TO BE AN IRREFUTABLE CONCLUSION: THE FILMMAKERS MUST HAVE THOUGHT THIS WAS A CHARACTER ARC... OR THEY DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER. MAYBE THEY THOUGHT IT WAS GROWTH BECAUSE OF THE CHANGE IN SCALE, BUT IN REALITY THEY JUST CREATED A SISYPHEAN PLOT EXERCISE OF SUPERMAN SAVING PEOPLE AND PUNCHING THINGS. WHAT MAKES THAT REALITY FEEL SO BIPOLAR IS THE MOVIE IS CONSTANTLY THROWING SCENES AT US WHERE CLARK SEEMS CONFLICTED ABOUT HIS CHOICES. THIS ONLY GIVES US THE ILLUSION OF CHANGE. THE ILLUSION OF CONFLICT. THE ILLUSION OF CHARACTERIZATION. HOW CAN IT BE REAL WHEN WE'VE NEVER REALLY BEEN GIVEN A DRAMATIC JUSTIFICATION THAT ACTUALLY MADE SENSE?

IT'S AS IF THE STORYTELLERS ARE AT COMPLETE DRAMATIC ODDS WITH HOW TO DEAL WITH WHO SUPERMAN IS AND HOW HIS ETHOS IMPACTS A DRAMATIC STORY AND THE ONLY WAY THEY CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE SUPERMAN SEEM CONFLICTED ABOUT HIS PERSONHOOD IS TO HAVE HIM TALK ABOUT IT AD NAUSEUM WITHOUT DRAMATIZING... WHICH IS A PROBLEM BECAUSE HE'S THE MAIN CHARACTER AND, YOU KNOW, PRETTY MUCH IN EVERY SCENE. HONESTLY, IT JUST FEELS LIKE THEY JUST WANTED TO BE OFF TO THE RACES WITH THE FULLY-FORMED CHARACTER AND HAVE HIM PUNCH THINGS, WHICH COULD HAVE MAYBE OKAY-ISH IF THEY HAD THE GUMPTION TO JUST TELL A DAMN INDEPENDENT STORY AROUND HIM, BUT NO DICE. THEY GOT CAUGHT IN REBOOT LAND. THEY COULDN'T JUST GO OFF WITH WHAT THEY WANTED TO INDULGENTLY DO, SO THEY TRIED TO CRAM IN SOME WEIGHT AND MEANING REGARDLESS IF A) IT WORKED OR B) IT WAS ANTITHETICAL TO THE MEANING OF WHAT THEY WANTED.

WHAT'S CURIOUS IS THIS IS ALSO THE EXACT CATCH 22 OF SNYDER'S PREVIOUS FILM SUCKER PUNCH, A MOVIE THAT SO GLORIOUSLY WANTS TO INDULGE IN PRETTY, INFANTILIZED SCHOOLGIRLS KICKING ROBOT SAMURAI ASS, BUT IT KNOWS THAT INSTINCT IS WRONG, SO IT TRIES TO WORK BACKWARDS AND JUSTIFY THIS INDULGENCE WITH A HALF BAKED CONSTRUCTION OF FEMINISM OR SOMETHING. THEY WENT HALVSIES AND PAID FOR IT DEARLY. AND WHAT'S ODD IS MAN OF STEEL IS NO DIFFERENT. THEY WANTED TO MAKE A KICK-ASS SUPE, BUT THEY WENT HALVSIES ON THE ORIGIN STORY BY INTRODUCING A LOT OF NEW CONVOLUTED, POLITICAL SCI-FI NONSENSE AND REFERENCING THE TEXTURE OF HIS CHILDHOOD TO MAKE IT FEEL LIKE A JOURNEY, INSTEAD OF JUST DRAMATIZING IT WITH A, B, C STORYTELLING. THEN ULTIMATELY SETTLED FOR A SERIES OF LOOSE "TELL DON'T SHOW" CONVERSATIONS, WHICH COULD HOPEFULLY EXPLAIN ALL THE INCONSISTENCY AWAY.

AND GIVEN EVERYTHING HULK JUST EXPLAINED BEFORE, IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS WHY IT ALL FEELS SO DEAD ON ARRIVAL. THE FILM HAS NO INTEREST IN DRAMATIZING HIS ETHOS IN A COHERENT MANNER. IT JUST TALKS ABOUT THE CONFLICT THEY SHOULD BE EXPRESSING. THEY ONLY SEEM TO WANT THE RESULT OF THAT UNEARNED CONFLICT A.K.A. THE HIGH OF SUPERMAN BREAKING FREE AND KICKING BUTT, WHICH THEY EXECUTE AGAIN AND AGAIN TO DIMINISHING RESULTS.

THERE IS NO CHARACTER ARC BECAUSE THEY WANTED THE EFFECT OF ONE WITHOUT DOING ANY OF THE ACTUAL WORK.

PERTINENT QUESTION #2

WHY DOES SUPERMAN WANT TO SAVE HUMANITY?

YOU COULD HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF ANSWERS FOR HULK: "Because he's a good person! Because, duh, those guys are evil! Because everyone's going to die! Because it is the right thing to do!" BUT AREN'T ALL THOSE FEELINGS JUST PROJECTIONS OF OUR OWN ETHICS? THAT'S NOT WHAT MAKES SOMETHING COMPELLING OR FEEL DRAMATIC TO US. SERIOUSLY. IGNORING HIS INHERENT GOODNESS, LET'S MAKE THAT CENTRAL QUESTION MORE FOCUSED:

WHY DOES HUMANITY MATTER TO CLARK?

WHAT IS IT ABOUT HUMANS THAT MAKES HIM LOVE THEM? IS IT SIMPLY BECAUSE HE HAS HUMAN PARENTS AND HE LIVES IN KANSAS? BUT WHAT DID WE SEE THAT CONFIRMS THAT LOVE? WHY WOULD WE FEEL ESPECIALLY BONDED TO THOSE PARENTS? (ASIDE THAT SHE LIKE CAN HELP HIM NOT SEE LAYERS OF THINGS OR SOMETHING). DID WE SEE ANY OF THEIR LIVES TOGETHER AND EXPERIENCE THEIR STORY? WE ARE EFFECTIVELY GIVEN NOTHING ON THE DRAMATIC LEVEL TO MAKE US BELIEVE IN HIS CONNECTION. AND ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, WE ARE LIKEWISE NOT GIVEN ANYTHING THAT WOULD DIRECTLY MAKE US FEEL LIKE HE WOULD WANT TO ESCAPE HUMANITY TO FIND HIS ALIEN FAMILY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT HIS KENT FAMILY THAT IS SO INADEQUATE? DOES HE HAVE THAT INCLINATION SIMPLY BECAUSE HE'S AN ALIEN? AND THEN BY MAKING HIM SO ALIEN AND ALONE AS A MAN ON THE RUN FOR SO MUCH OF THE RUNNING TIME, WHAT HAS ACTUALLY TETHERED HIM TO THE PEOPLE OF EARTH? WHAT IS IT ABOUT EARTH THAT HAS MADE HIM WANT TO LOVE AND SAVE IT? PROJECT AN ANSWER ALL YOU LIKE, BUT WE NEVER REALLY SEE THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS DRAMATIZED COHERENTLY. HUMANITY IS A MERE ABSTRACTION FOR THE MOST PART, A BIPOLAR EXPERIENCE FOR HIM.

MEANING WE NEVER GET THE REASONS HE REALLY CARES FOR HUMANITY OR HIS FAMILY BEFORE THE SUPPOSEDLY MEANINGFUL THREAT OF THEIR LOSS.

WE NEVER ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THE REASON TO CARE.

HULK TALKED ABOUT THIS DYNAMIC LAST YEAR IN THIS OLD HULK PIECE FOR THE NEW YORKER WHEN HULK SAID THE FOLLOWING: "ONE OF THE ONGOING PROBLEMS OF BLOCKBUSTER CINEMA THESE DAYS IS ASSUMED EMPATHY. IT’S AS IF OUR STORYTELLERS JUST PLOP A FILM IN OUR LAPS AND SAY, 'HERE’S OUR MAIN CHARACTER AND WE’RE GOING TO ASSUME THAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THEM FOR THAT REASON ALONE. THEY’RE THE MAIN CHARACTER!'” WHICH IS NOTHING MORE THEN SHALLOW ATTEMPTS AT STORYTELLING SHORTCUTS. FILMMAKERS ARE GOOD AT TRYING TO WRING THE AFFECTION OUT OF YOU WITH CINEMATIC LANGUAGE, BUT IT'S LIKE THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO TETHER AN ACTUAL MEANINGFUL ETHOS BETWEEN CHARACTERS AND THUS THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO MAKE YOU CONNECT TO THE PEOPLE YOU ARE SEEING ON SCREEN.

AND WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT, YOU REALIZE MAN OF STEEL IS ALL ABOUT ASSUMED EMPATHY.

WHEN HE PUNCHES DOWN THE DRONE AT THE END OF THE FILM AND THE SOLDIER ASKS HOW THEY KNOW HE HAS AMERICAN INTERESTS AT HEART, HE JUST SHOUTS BACK "I'm from Kansas!" IT'S DEFINITELY A FUNNY LINE, BUT UTTERLY SYMBOLIC OF THE REDUCTIVE SHORTHAND THE FILM IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO ACHIEVE. THAT'S ESSENTIALLY HIS REASON FOR SAVING EVERYTHING. HE SIMPLY IS A GOOD PERSON. HE IS SIMPLY FROM AMERICA. WHEN THEY WANT HIM TO PRETEND TO BE CONFLICTED ABOUT THESE THINGS HE SO OBVIOUSLY IS, THEY HAVE HIM SAY THINGS LIKE "I'm conflicted!" AND THEY ASSUME THOSE THINGS WILL SUFFICE. WHEN HULK USES TERM "LIP SERVICE" THAT'S EXACTLY THE MEANINGLESS, EMPTY JABBERING THAT HULK MEANS. IT'S A MOVIE TRYING TO EXPLAIN AWAY A PROBLEM WITH REDUCTIVE STATEMENTS, RATHER THAN DRAMATIZING ONE. RATHER THAN EXPRESSING THOSE IDEAS AS STORY AND CINEMA. WHICH SUCKS FOR US BECAUSE TRUST, CARE AND UNDERSTANDING HAVE TO BE BUILT ON SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL, MOST NOTABLY: A SUCCESSION OF CHRONOLOGICAL EVENTS WE EXPERIENCE WITH THE CHARACTER.

THINK ABOUT UP AGAIN AND HOW MUCH IT ACHIEVES IN THE WAY OF MAKING YOU CARE ABOUT SOMEONE IN 4 SIMPLE MINUTES. COMPARE THAT ECONOMY TO MAN OF STEEL, WHICH IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO GET BY ON OUR SHORTHAND WITH SUPERMAN INSTEAD OF TRYING TO DO THE DRAMATIC WORK AND INSTEAD IT JUST ENDS UP TREADING WATER FOR 40 MINUTES WITH ALL THIS NEAT TEXTURE AND PRETTY SHOTS. THEY FAIL TO REALIZE THAT IT TAKES SO LONG (AND STILL DOESN'T GET THERE) BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T WANT TO DO THE "NORMAL ORIGIN WORK" IN THE FIRST PLACE, SO IT PRACTICALLY HAS TO BEG US TO PROJECT OUR ESTABLISHED FEELINGS OF PREVIOUS EVENTS AND CHARACTERS. LOOK IT'S SMALLVILLE! IT'S THE KENTS! IT'S LOIS LANE! AND PERRY WHITE! AND A GIRL VERSION OF JIMMY OLSEN! AND YEAH, THEY BARELY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO THAT STRIKES US WITH POSITIVE OR INDEPENDENT RESPONSE, BUT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO LIKE THEM!

WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THIS MOVIE ITSELF, WHY DO WE CARE?

WHEN IT COMES TO SUPERMAN'S CHARACTER MOTIVATION WE JUST ASSUME ALL THE THINGS ABOUT HIM THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO MATTER. IT'S SO TROUBLING BECAUSE THINK BACK TO THE ORIGINAL SET OF 7 QUESTIONS HULK USED IN THE INTROS AND THINK ABOUT THE FIRST TWO: WHAT DOES CLARK WANT? WHAT DOES CLARK NEED? THE PROBLEM IS WE DO NOT REALLY KNOW BECAUSE THE MOVIE NEVER REALLY TELLS US.

IN TRUTH, OUR CLARK / SUPERMAN HAS NO REAL CHARACTER MOTIVATION.

AND THAT SUCKS.

PERTINENT QUESTION #3

WHY DOES DOES MAN OF STEEL USE FLASHBACKS, ANYWAY?

HULK WILL BE UPFRONT ABOUT THIS: HULK KNOWS THAT THEY DIDN'T WANT TO RETREAD FAMILIAR GROUND AND THEY DIDN'T WANT TO DO ANOTHER "TIRED" ORIGIN STORY. THAT'S THE SOLE REASON. HULK ARGUES THESE FEELINGS ARE RATHER MISGUIDED. IT'S LIKE SAYING "I don't want to make a comedy because most comedies suck!" AN ORIGIN STORY IS JUST A FORM LIKE ANY OTHER. BUT THE REASON MOST PEOPLE HATE ORIGIN STORIES IS THAT THEY ACTUALLY HATE THE PROLIFERATION OF "PAINT BY NUMBERS" ORIGIN STORIES THAT TRY TO WORK PURELY OFF THE POPULAR SHORTCUTS OF DESTINY AND ICONOGRAPHY NONSENSE. MEANING THE ORIGIN STORY IN THE GREEN LANTERN DOESN'T SUCK BECAUSE IT'S AN ORIGIN STORY, IT SUCKS BECAUSE IT IS THE LAZIEST POSSIBLE VERSION OF ONE. SO ONCE AGAIN WE ENCOUNTER A MOVIE THAT GOES BACK TO THIS CENTRAL FILMMAKING PROBLEM OF MISUNDERSTANDING FORM FOR FUNCTION.

NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU'VE SEEN THEM, ORIGIN STORIES CAN STILL BE WONDERFUL. YOU JUST HAVE TO GET IT BACK TO THE CORE PURPOSE, FOR AN ORIGIN IS A GREAT WAY TO SHOW WHO A CHARACTER IS, WHY THAT PERSON IS, AND HOW THEY GOT THERE. AS HULK SAYS THIS YOU MIGHT HAVE SOME FEARS TRIGGERED IN YOU BECAUSE OF THE RECENT PREQUEL NIGHTMARES, BUT ONCE AGAIN THE PROBLEM IS THAT MOST PREQUELS DON'T TRY TO DRAMATIZE, BUT SIMPLY "ANSWER" ORIGINS IN AN OVERTLY LOGICAL WAY. AND THEY FAIL TO SEE THAT'S SO NOT WHAT MATTERS. THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION MATTERS AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS MATTERS. FOR EXAMPLE, WITH A POPULAR CHARACTER LIKE BATMAN IT'S NOT, "Someone killed his parents, yada yada, it totes makes sense for him to dress as a bat now," BUT INSTEAD DEPENDENT ON EMOTIONAL CONNECTION OF YOU FEELING "Oh no! Someone killed Bruce's parents! He's that character I totally know and understand thus I'm feeling something!" THAT'S WHAT YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE. EVEN WITH A REBOOTS AND ORIGINS, IT IS ESSENTIALLY A FILMMAKERS JOB TO MAKE THEM FORGET THEY ALREADY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AND MAKE THEM FEEL IT.

THINK ABOUT ONE OF THE BETTER SEQUENCES IN MAN OF STEEL WHERE SUPERMAN LEARNS TO FLY (HULK WOULD SAY "FINALLY FLY" BUT THE FILM IS OUT OF SEQUENCE). HE STARTS JUMPING AROUND ALL HAPPILY AND THEN FINALLY WHEN HE TAKES FLIGHT AND CIRCLES AROUND THE GLOBE, SMILING IN GLORIOUS FASHION. WE'VE SEEN THIS HAPPEN WITH SUPERMAN 1000 TIMES, BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER. IT'S ONE OF THE FEW MOMENTS OF HIS CHARACTERIZATION THAT THEY BOTHER TO EARN IN THIS FILM. THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A CHARACTER'S ORIGIN FEEL LIKE THE AFOREMENTIONED 4 MINUTES IN UP, YOU HAVE TO EARN IT. IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO DRAMATIZE (NOT EXPLAIN) WHO A CHARACTER IS, WHY THEY ARE THAT WAY AND HOW THEY GOT THERE (AND THEN BRING THOSE SAME THINGS INTO DIRECT CONFLICT WITH THE STORY). IT'S NOT THE ORIGIN STORY THAT'S OUR PROBLEM, IT'S OUR LAZINESS.

BUT FOR MOST OF THE STORY, MAN OF STEEL WAS JUST SO DEATHLY AFRAID TO GO THERE. IT'S LIKE THE VERY IDEA SEEMED LIKE POISON TO THEM. SO THEIR SOLUTION WAS... A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT KIND OF LAZINESS.

SINCE THEY WERE UNABLE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO REBOOT THE SUPERMAN FRANCHISE WITHOUT INTRODUCING SOME NEW FORM OF ORIGIN, THEY DECIDED TO BASICALLY GO HALVSIES AND JUST INCORPORATE A LOT OF NEW CHANGES AND THINGS WE HADN'T PREVIOUSLY SEEN. HULK TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE WHERE THEY OPTED FOR A HARDER SCI-FI ANGLE, BUT REALLY THEIR BIGGEST CHANGE WAS PLAYING THE GREATEST HITS OF HIS CHILDHOOD OUT OF ORDER (AND NONSENSICALLY) AS FLASHBACKS.

SO LET'S BE CLEAR HERE... IF YOU EXCLUDE PARALLEL STORIES (WHICH ARE DIFFERENT BUT KIND OF WORK IN THE SAME WAY), THE PURPOSE OF FLASHBACKS IS TO INFORM A PRESENT MAIN STORY THAT IS CURRENTLY BEING TOLD. AND THE BEST FLASHBACKS TEND TO COMMENT ON THAT STORY RATHER DIRECTLY. THEY OFTEN SHOW A LESSON BEING LEARNED AND HOW IT RUNS PARALLEL TO THE SITUATION AT HAND. THIS MAY SEEM "TOO ON THE NOSE" TO MANY OF YOUR INSTINCTS, BUT IT'S ALL ABOUT TACT. MORE IMPORTANTLY, IF DON'T DO IT YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY WASTING THE AUDIENCE'S TIME AND MAKING THE SITUATION FAR WORSE. TRUST HULK. EVEN SOMETHING LIKE SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE WHICH SHOWS YOU HOW HE LITERALLY LEARNS EACH ANSWER IS COMPLETELY OVERCOME BY THE FACT THAT IT IS REALLY ABOUT SHOWING THE DEPTHS OF HUMAN DESPAIR HE HAS TO GO THROUGH TO GET THOSE ANSWERS (AND THERE IS NOTHING MORE DESERVING OF REWARD THAN A LIFE TRULY LIVED). SOME STILL HATE THE IDEA, BUT THAT'S THE THING ABOUT FLASHBACKS: THEY'RE INHERENTLY HYPER-CONSTRUCTIONS. THEY MAKE YOU AWARE OF THE SEAMS OF THE STORYTELLING SO IF YOU DON'T TRY TO CAPITALIZE ON THEM THEN YOU ARE WASTING THE AUDIENCES TIME AND THROWING YOUR STORY OUT AS "AND THEN THIS HAPPENS" BRAND STORYTELLING. WORSE, FLASHBACKS ARE DISTINCTLY BAD AT LETTING YOU FALL INTO A STORY ORGANICALLY.

AND QUITE HONESTLY, MAN OF STEEL SEEMS TO COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTAND WHAT FLASHBACKS ARE EVEN FOR ON ANY LEVEL. TAKE THE MOMENT WHEN IT CUTS FROM THE SPACESHIP TO THE BOAT. IT'S A COOL LOOKING CUT, RIGHT? BUT "COOL LOOKING" IS SYMBOLIC OF EVERYTHING. THERE'S NO POINT. HE'S ALREADY INSTANTLY SAVING PEOPLE. HE'S ALREADY SUPERMAN WITHOUT A CAPE (COMPARE IT TO THE SAME JUMP CUT FORWARD IN UP, WHICH WAS JUST THE NEXT PART OF THE STORY EMPHASIZING A NEW PART OF THEIR ARC). HE LIES INCAPACITATED IN THE WATER AND THEN IT JUMPS BACK TO... HIM IN SCHOOL LEARNING HOW HE SEES LAYERS OF THINGS? WHAT EXACTLY IS SUPPOSED TO BE INFORMING WHAT? THEN IT COMES BACK AND DOESN'T INFORM ANY OF WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WITH HIM WAKING UP AND FINDING CLOTHES? AND THIS LACK OF IN-CUTTING PURPOSE AND DIRECT MEANING GOES ON FOR VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE MOVIE.

IF HULK CAN REMEMBER RIGHT, THESE ARE ESSENTIALLY FOUR MAIN FLASHBACKS:

1. SUPERMAN CAN SEE LOTS OF LAYERS OF THE THINGS OF EARTH AND BURNS A DOOR HANDLE WITH HIS EYES. HIS MOM SHOWS UP TO TALK HIM DOWN FROM BEING ANGRY. AT FIRST HULK THINKS THIS IS GOING TO BE THE STARTING POINT FOR THEIR RELATIONSHIP.

2. CLARK SAVES A BUS FULL OF KIDS, BUT SUPERMAN'S DAD THOUGHT HE SHOULD LET KIDS DIE RATHER THAN SAVE THEM (ALSO THAT HE WILL CHANGE THE WORLD AND HAS TO BE A GOOD PERSON! ... PA KENT IS KINDA NUTS).

3. SUPERMAN WANTS TO PUNCH BULLIES, BUT DOESN'T. HIS DAD COMES OVER AND TALKS ABOUT IT UNEVENLY AGAIN (OH YEAH, APPARENTLY HIS DAD IS OFF TO THE SIDE WATCHING THIS, DOING NOTHING).

4. SUPERMAN LETS HIS DAD DIE TO GO SAVE A DOG WE'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE (SHORTHAND!) AND PROTECT HIS SECRET IN A SITUATION WHICH HAS ABOUT A MILLION WAYS TO RESOLVE IT WITHOUT REVEALING SAID SECRET.

NOW, THE FUN PART: LET'S EXAMINE THE WAYS THOSE FLASHBACKS COME TO LATER MATTER ON THE STORY / CHARACTER LEVEL!

1. ASIDE FROM ESTABLISHING THAT MOMMY IS THE SUPERMAN WHISPERER AND THEN NEVER USING THAT RELATIONSHIP TO HELP HIM AGAIN, THERE IS JUST ONE MOMENTARY BIT WHERE ZOD GOES THROUGH THE SAME "LAYERS" THING OF ADJUSTING TO HOW TO SEE LIFE ON EARTH... THAT'S IT.

2. PA KENT'S CRAZY NONSENSICAL SPEECH BECOMES THE MAIN REASON CLARK IS QUICK TO TALK ABOUT HIS HESITATION TO SAVE PEOPLE, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY SHOWING NO ACTIVE HESITATION TO SAVE PEOPLE.

3. AFTER LEARNING NOT TO PUNCH BULLIES, SUPERMAN BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF ZOD AFTER HE THREATENS HIS MOM, THEN BEATS HIM UP FOR REST OF MOVIE, BEFORE FINALLY MURDERING THE DUDE.

4. AFTER HIS FATHER DIES, WE IN NO REAL WAY SEE HOW THIS IMPACTS HIM OTHER THAN THE FACT HE HAS HAS RUN AWAY IN SECRET AND KEEPS SAVING PEOPLE ANYWAY.

SO...

QUITE FRANKLY HULK HAS NO IDEA WHAT THE REAL POINT WAS OF ANY OF THIS. REALLY. HULK GETS KIND WHAT THEY WERE GOING FOR. HULK UNDERSTANDS WHAT THEY THEY WANTED TO SAY UNDERNEATH ALL THE CONFUCTION. BUT THEY'RE THROWING THIS STUFF IN SEEMINGLY AT RANDOM. IT'S LIKE THESE ARE THE FOUR BIG MOMENTS THAT REFLECT ON THE MAIN STORY?!? NOT ANYTHING BUILT AROUND RELATIONSHIPS AND UNDERSTANDING AND PEOPLE OR STUFF THAT WILL HELP INFORM WHO HE IS? JUST THESE VAGUE ETHICAL CONVERSATIONS THAT WILL REPEAT WITH EVEN MORE VAGUE ETHICAL CONVERSATIONS LATER? AND WHEN YOU PUT THOSE FLASHBACKS TOGETHER ON THEIR OWN THEY CERTAINLY DON'T ADD UP INTO A STORY. IT'S JUST SORT OF FOUR THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO HIM AND THREE OF THEM KIND OF SORT OF OVERLAP AND THEN NEVER PAY OFF LATER.

FORGET MISTAKING FORM FOR FUNCTION... WHAT THE HELL WAS EVEN THE FORM HERE?

BUT ONCE AGAIN FOR HULK IT JUST GOES BACK TO THAT BIGGER QUESTION: WHAT WAS LOST BY THIS FLASHBACK CHOICE? WE LOST THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING YOUNG SUPERMAN AND GOING ON THAT JOURNEY WITH HIM. IF THEY WANT US TO FALL IN LOVE WITH A NEW SUPERMAN STORY THEY HAVE TO EARN IT. AND A STORY HAS TO BE ACHIEVED AS AN EVOLUTION OVER TIME, NOT SHORTHAND REFERENCES TO THINGS WE NEVER SEE. EVEN SLUMDOG KNOWS ITS FLASHBACKS ARE THE MAIN STORY AND THE QUESTIONS ONLY TAKE A FEW MINUTES AT AT TIME. YOU CAN'T APPROACH FLASHBACKS AS PART OF SOME VAGUE PHILOSOPHICAL INFORMATION SESSION. A FILM IS NOT AN ARGUMENT. IT'S AN EXPERIENCE. THAT'S WHY MOVIES DON'T WORK WELL WITH "AND THEN THIS HAPPENS!" STORYTELLING. WE NEED THE SEQUENCE OF TIME. WE NEED "THIS HAPPENS THEREFORE THIS HAPPENS, BUT THIS HAPPENS THEREFORE THAT HAPPENS!" CAUSE AND EFFECT. SEQUENCING. CHARACTER EVOLUTION. CLARITY. STAKES. ALL THE GREAT STUFF OF EXPERIENCING A DRAMATIZATION.

SO HULK ASKS YOU AGAIN, WHY ARE THERE FLASHBACKS IN THIS MOVIE?

WHY DO WE FEAR REGULAR STORYTELLING? WHY USE VAGUE FLASHBACKS WHEN AN "ORIGIN" STORY CAN EFFECTIVELY TAKE 4 MINUTES AND WORK WONDERS, AS UP SO READILY PROVES?

WHAT MAKES THIS ALL SO FUNNY IS THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE KEPT SAYING THEY WERE GLAD THE FILM DIDN'T DO AN ORIGIN STORY, BUT THEN THOSE SAME PEOPLE COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHY THE EMOTIONAL BEATS DIDN'T LAND AND WHY NOTHING SEEMED TO MATTER. WE'VE BECOME SO CONCLUSIVE TO "THE FORM" OF THINGS THAT WE NEVER LOOK AT THE FUNCTIONING OF IT. TO HULK, IT'S LIKE SAYING "ALL BLUE CARS ARE SLOW." THE COLOR HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. IT IS THE COMPLETE FAILURE TO SEE THAT ORIGIN STORIES CAN BE GREAT. IT CAN GIVE US UNDERSTANDING AND ETHOS AND LEAD US TO PATHOS AND ALL THOSE WONDERFUL THINGS WE USE TO CONNECT TO MOVIE CHARACTERS.

WE JUST HAVE TO DRAMATIZE THEM.

AND BECAUSE MAN OF STEEL TAKES THE DESIRE NOT TO DO AN ORIGIN STORY AND GOES HALVSIES WITH NONSENSICAL FLASHBACKS, IT FAILS IN ITS AIMS.

PERTINENT QUESTION #4

WHY IS LOIS LANE IN THE MOVIE?

IT'S A SHOCKINGLY LEGITIMATE QUESTION. SERIOUSLY, WHAT DOES SHE DO THAT CAN'T BE DONE BY ANYONE ELSE? DOES SUPERMAN REALLY NEED HER TO BE THERE? DOES SHE REALLY NEED HIM? WHY IS SHE ASKED TO COME IN THE SHUTTLE AND GIVEN BREATHING APPARATUS (AND COMPUTER ACCESS!) FOR, LIKE, NO REASON? THAT ONE SKEWS A LITTLE ON THE SIDE OF LOGIC, BUT IT'S SYMBOLIC OF HER ENTIRE ROLE IN THE MOVIE:

THEY JUST SCOTCH-TAPED HER TO CLARK'S STORY.

SERIOUSLY, SHE SHOWS UP TO AID THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AND PREVENT SHADINESS OF A SECRET UFO DISCOVERY (CAUSE THEY WOULDN'T SEND THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT PEOPLE???) AND THEN SHE'S JUST TETHERED TO WHATEVER SUPERMAN IS ALL ABOUT FOR THE REST OF THE MOVIE REGARDLESS OF HER OWN AGENCY. WHAT IS THEIR ARC TOGETHER? ONCE AGAIN THE MOVIE CAN'T SEEM TO BE BOTHERED WITH DOING ALL THAT "CHARACTERS CHANGING" AND CONFLICT NONSENSE, SO SHE IS JUST INSTANTLY ENAMORED WITH HIM. THEN SHE INSTANTLY FINDS OUT WHO HE IS. SHE INSTANTLY UNDERSTANDS HIM. INSTANTLY PROTECTS HIM. INSTANTLY LOVES HIM. THEIR KISS IS NOT THE CATHARSIS OF ANY LARGER STORY. THEY HAVE NO ROMANCE. IN FACT, THEY HAVE NO STORY. IT'S JUST A FUCKING GIVEN IN WHAT MIGHT BE ONE OF THE MOST OBLIGATORY AND HOLLOW EXERCISES OF MOVIE ROMANCE THAT HULK CAN REMEMBER.

GO BACK AND COMPARE IT TO THE ROMANCE OF THE DONNER MOVIES. HIS LOIS / SUPES STORY MIGHT HAVE BEEN CAMPY, BUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS THE ACTUAL STORY OF THOSE MOVIES. HIS SUPERMAN MOVIES WERE LOVE STORIES. AND THE VILLAIN STUFF? THAT WAS THE B PLOT. AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP HAS AN ARC, SHE HAS HER OWN AGENCY AND INTERESTS AND WANTS AND RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS AND IDEALS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM, AND MEANWHILE ALL THE FATE OF THE WORLD RESTS ON THEIR ABILITIES AND INABILITIES TO COME TOGETHER. IT'S GOOD OL' FASHIONED WRITING AND IT'S HAVING OVERARCHING CONFLICTS COMING TOGETHER AND UNISON. YOU CAN CALL IT "CAMPY" BECAUSE OF ITS TANGIBLE TONE, BUT YOU LOOK AT THEIR ROMANCE AND IT'S A COMPLETELY FUNCTIONAL, WELL-TOLD STORY THAT HAS GONE ON TO RESONATE FOR DECADES.

BUT MAN OF STEEL, LIKE MOST RIDICULOUSLY MALE-CENTRIC FILMS OF TODAY, DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ONE OF THE BEST FEMALE CHARACTERS IN COMIC-DOM INTEGRAL TO THE PLOT OF THEIR FREAKING MOVIE? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!? IT'S NOT LIKE AMY ADAMS IS A SLOUCH. IN FACT, SHE'S ONE OF THE BEST ACTRESSES OF HER GENERATION AND CAN BE EFFECTIVE IN EVEN THIS RIDICULOUSLY LIMITED PART. IT'S NOT THE ACTRESS. IT'S THE FACT THAT THE CHARACTER IS SCOTCH-TAPED TO A STORY THAT DOESN'T REALLY NEED HER. NO WHERE IS THAT MORE EVIDENT WHEN SHE RUSHES DOWN THE STEPS AT THE END, INCONSEQUENTIAL TO ANYTHING. SHE IS SIMPLY THERE. SUPERMAN IS NICE TO LOIS AND STUFF, BUT AT NO POINT DOES HE EVEN SEEM TO HAVE THE VAGUEST ROMANTIC INTEREST IN HER. THEIR ULTIMATE KISS IS DOWNRIGHT JARRING.

SO HULK GOES BACK TO THE BASIC QUESTIONS OF MOTIVATION: WHAT IS IT THAT THEY AS PEOPLE LIKE ABOUT THE OTHER? WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THEM ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER? "BECAUSE THEY'RE BOTH PRETTY" MIGHT EXPLAIN IT ALL AS SHORTHAND, BUT IT DOESN'T WORK DRAMATICALLY. FOR ALL WE KNOW CLARK DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A LIBIDO OR CRUSHES, WHICH IS ONLY ONE OF THE MOST DEFINING ASPECTS OF CLARK KENT'S STORY.

BUT REALLY, DOES CLARK EVER SEEM LIKE HE'S IN LOVE WITH LOIS IN THIS MOVIE?

UGH... HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

YOU KNOW... THERE'S THIS TINY PART OF HULK THAT MAKES HULK THINK THAT THEY JUST WANTED TO GET RID OF THAT PESKY LOGIC BIT OF "Seriously, how can Lois not know that Clark is Superman?" AND THEN THEY JUST CONSTRUCTED THE ENTIRE MOVIE AROUND UPHOLDING THAT WITHOUT CARING HOW IT ACTUALLY WORKED.

OOF.

PERTINENT QUESTION #5

WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH PA KENT IN THIS MOVIE?

UNDERNEATH ALL OF PA KENT'S RIDICULOUS BACK AND FORTH AND HIS POORLY DRAMATIZED BEHAVIOR THERE IS AN OBVIOUS INTENTION AND IT IS THAT HE BOTH WANTS TO PROTECT HIS SON FROM THE WORLD, WHILE ALSO WANTING HIS SON TO BE A GOOD PERSON. THESE TWO IDEAS ARE IN OBVIOUS CONTENTION AND THE FILM IS TRYING TO RECOGNIZE THAT DIFFICULTY BY SAYING THAT THE DECISION IS TOUGH. SOUNDS PRETTY FAIR, RIGHT?

BUT THE PROBLEM, LIKE MOST THINGS IN THIS MOVIE, COMES DOWN TO DRAMATIZATION. INSTEAD OF FINDING THE GOOD EXAMPLE OF A MORAL GRAY AREA, THEY HAVE PA KENT JUST OSCILLATE BACK AND FORTH ON REALLY OBVIOUS MORAL CHOICES, RENDERING HIM NOTHING MORE THAN A LIMP NOODLE OF AMORAL, INARTICULATE THOUGHT. THIS IS NOT ONLY WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU "TELL, DON'T SHOW," BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE CHARACTERS SPEAK ON A ETHICAL ISSUE THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY PLAY INTO THE DRAMA AT HAND. AS A RESULT, PA KENT HONESTLY JUST COMES OFF AS KIND OF INSANE. LOOKING JUST AT WHAT THE MOVIE PRESENTS TO US: WHAT ABOUT HIS SON IMPLIES HE'S NOT A GOOD PERSON? WHAT ABOUT THEIR SITUATION IMPLIES A CRISIS? THE STORY DOES NOT DICTATE ANYTHING.

IT IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF CHARACTER INCONSISTENCY THAT CAN DRAMATICALLY AFFECT THE NARRATIVE, IF YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE IT. FOR INSTANCE, WE ALL NOTICED IT IN PROMETHEUS, WHEN TWO CHARACTERS AFRAID OF THEIR OWN SHADOW ARE SUDDENLY WILLING TO PET A DANGEROUS SPACE SNAKE. THAT'S THE VERY DEFINITION OF CHARACTER INCONSISTENCY (AND EVERY PERSON CLAMORING ABOUT PLOTHOLES SHOULD TURN THEIR ATTENTION TO THAT). BUT THE SAME EXACT THINGS APPLY TO PA KENT'S WEIRD-AS-HELL SPEECHES. THEY TAKE TWO SIDES OF AN IDEA AND JUST APPLY THEM TO A PSYCHOLOGY AND IT SOOOOO DOESN'T WORK.

SURE, KEVIN COSTNER CAN LAY ON FOLKSY DECENCY AS GOOD AS ANYONE, BUT AS FAR AS HULK KNOWS FROM THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED, PA KENT IS BASICALLY A DISTANT FATHER WITH A WEIRD ASPERGIAN-LIKE SENSE OF EMPATHY WHO DELIVERS SOME OF THE MOST MIXED MESSAGES IMAGINABLE, EACH WITH EQUAL STAUNCHNESS. WHICH IS FINE IF THAT WERE SOMEHOW THE POINT, BUT INSTEAD WE WEREN'T MEANT TO FEEL LIKE HE WAS SOMETHING FAR DIFFERENT. WE ARE ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT HIM AND CLARK, WE ARE SUPPOSED TO TREASURE THEIR RELATIONSHIP. BUT WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY GIVEN TO SUPPORT THAT? WHERE IS THE WARMTH OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP? WHAT IS THEIR BOND? WHAT ABOUT THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO BE MEANINGFUL TO CLARK?

MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHAT IS SPECIFICALLY LOST WHEN PA KENT DIES BY HANGING OUT IN FRONT OF A TORNADO FOR NO REASON?

IS CLARK REALLY SUPPOSED TO LEARN ANYTHING FROM HIM SACRIFICING HIMSELF TO THE WIND GODS FOR NO REAL REASONS? IF ANYTHING, THE MOVIE ARGUES THAT ALL THAT HAPPENED IS WE HAVE SIMPLY REMOVED THE PERSON WHO DOESN'T WANT CLARK TO HELP PEOPLE... SERIOUSLY... THAT IS THE DRAMATIC PLOT FUNCTION OF PA KENT DYING IN MAN OF STEEL... AND THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES.

PERTINENT QUESTION #6

WHAT DO ZOD/THE BAD KRYPTONIANS REALLY WANT AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW IS THAT DRAMATIZED?

ZOD KEEPS REPEATING HIS MOTIVATION AD NAUSEUM: "My people! My people!" IT IS CONSTANT. IT IS PERVASIVE. IT IS REPETITIVE. AND THEN IN HIS FINAL LAST SPEECH OF (PAPER THIN) CLARITY, HE SPECIFIES HOW HE HAS A FULL-ON GENETIC PREDISPOSITION TO SAVING KRYPTON (THE FIRST TIME WE EVER ADDRESS THE GENETIC STUFF IN TERMS OF ITS PURPOSE OF A SINGLE CHARACTER MOTIVATION BTW) AND HOW THAT IS ALL HE KNOWS. IT IS SOMETHING THAT THE MOVIE HAS FLIRTED WITH, BUT IN THAT MOMENT WE SEE HIS PURE EMPTINESS AND IT ACTUALLY MAKES YOU FEEL FOR HIM, WHICH MEANS A) IT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN MIGHTY USEFUL IN TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING THAT CHARACTER FROM THE GET-GO IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANTED OR B) IT WOULD BE OPTIMAL IN TERMS OF HUMANIZING THE CHARACTER FOR A CATHARTIC UNION OF SORTS, RIGHT? BUT INSTEAD THE MOVIE TAKES THIS FIRST CLEAR ARTICULATION OF HIS MOTIVATION AND USES IT TO... DRIVE ZOD INTO A RAGE OF KILL-EVERYONE SMASHY... WHICH IS NOT ONLY WRONG-HEADED, BUT IT MEANS THE MOVIE IS USING THE CLARIFYING OF A CHARACTER MOMENT TO JUST MAKE HIM DO... EXACTLY WHAT HE'S ALREADY BEEN DOING.

HULK GOT IN A CONVERSATION WITH A MAN OF STEEL SUPERFAN (WHO ASKED TO REMAIN NAMELESS), BUT WHEN HULK BROUGHT THIS UP HE SUDDENLY GOT ANGRY AND CALLED HULK "a fucking turd" AND "of course everyone got that before the end you idiot!" WHICH CAUSED HULK TO THEN ASK 16 SUPER-GOOD-MOVIE-FANS IF THE FACT THAT ZOD WAS GENETICALLY DISPOSED TO PROTECTING KRYPTON WAS SOMETHING THAT REGISTERED TO THEM PRIOR TO THE FINAL SPEECH AND NO. IN ALL 16 CASES, IT DID NOT.

IT INVITES THE BIGGER QUESTION: HOW IS THIS FILM DRAMATIZING THE NEEDS / WANTS / EXPRESSIONS OF ITS MAIN VILLAIN?

ALONG THE SAME LINES: WHY DOES THE CODEX MATTER SO MUCH IN THIS MOVIE? SURE, THERE'S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT FREE WILL, BUT WHAT ABOUT SUPERMAN'S LIFE IS DEPENDENT ON IT? WHAT DOES FREE WILL HAVE TO DO WITH HIM? MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT ABOUT ZOD'S LIFE SEEMS PARTICULARLY AFFECTED BY THE PRESENCE OF FREE WILL? WE FEEL LIKE THESE THINGS ARE ABOMINATIONS, BUT HOW MUCH IS THE CONCEPT EXPLORED IN ORDER TO BE DRAMATICALLY EFFECTIVE?

LOOK AT ZOD'S CRONIES TOO. A HULK FOLLOWER HAD AN AWESOME TWEET:

@AdamBrodie1 Mention Zod's lieutenant? Just seen MoS, counted 3 separate & interesting motivations for her, none of which developed.

ONCE AGAIN, IT'S ALL THE FORM OF THE THING. SHE'S SPROUTING EVIL IDEAS ABOUT EUGENICS AND LESSER SPECIES, BUT WHEN YOU COUPLE THAT WITH THE SERVITUDE ANGLE OF ZOD YOU REALIZE ALL THE BAD GUY MOTIVATIONS AMOUNT TO NOTHING MORE THAN A HODGEPODGE OF ALL THE FAMILIAR STAPLES. THERE IS NO REAL COHERENT PERSPECTIVE. HULK DOESN'T KNOW WHO THE KRYPTONIANS TRULY ARE.

INSTEAD, LIKE MOST OF WHAT IS IN THIS MOVIE, THERE IS ONLY CONVENIENT RHETORIC.

PERTINENT QUESTION #7

WHY ARE PERRY WHITE AND JENNY OLSEN IN THIS MOVIE?

PERRY WHITE DOES NOTHING TO AFFECT THE MOVIE. HE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLOT. HE LITERALLY HAS NO PURPOSE OR BEARING ON ANYTHING. HE TELLS LOIS SHE CAN'T DO THINGS THAT SHE DOES ANYWAY. FOR ALL HIS WARNINGS OF CONSEQUENCE, HE IN NO WAY IMPAIRS HER WITH ACTUAL IMPEDANCE OR CONFLICT OR ANYTHING SHE SEEMS TO CARE ABOUT. AND IN TERMS OF BUILDING UP ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH THE AUDIENCE, HE SPENDS MOST OF THE MOVIE GIVING US REASONS NOT TO LIKE HIM.

LIKEWISE, WHY IS JENNY OLSEN IN THIS MOVIE? A LOT OF WEIRD PEOPLE SEEM TO BLAMING THE NEGATIVE QUALITIES OF THIS DECISION ON THE FACT THAT JIMMY OLSEN IS NOW A FEMALE CHARACTER, BUT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING. IT'S THAT SHE DOESN'T ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING. SHE'S JUST KIND OF THERE. HULK HONESTLY CAN'T REMEMBER IF SHE'S EVEN IDENTIFIED AS A CHARACTER, LET ALONE A GENDER SHIFT ON ONE WE'RE SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT.

AND HERE'S WHY THIS NON-EFFECT MATTERS:

WHY THE HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO CARE WHEN THEY BOTH ARE IN JEOPARDY IN THE CLIMAX?

THE FILM TREATS THEIR PLIGHT AS IF TWO BELOVED CHARACTERS FROM THE SUPERMAN LORE ARE ABOUT TO BE PULVERIZED, BUT WE DON'T KNOW A FUCKING THING ABOUT THEM, NOR HAVE ANY REASON TO LIKE THEM, NOR ARE GIVEN A REASON TO CARE. IT'S HONESTLY ONE OF THE STRANGER CLIMACTIC MOMENTS OF ROOTING INTEREST THAT HULK HAS EVER SEEN. IT'S LIKE A ROBOT SHOWING US THIS SITUATION AND SAYING: "CARE FOR THEIR SAFETY, HU-MANS!" IT'S A MOVIE TRYING TO GET BY ON THE "HOMELESS PERSON IN DANGER!" MODEL TO THE NTH DEGREE, BY THAT'S JUST BECAUSE IT'S TRYING TO USE THE SHORTHAND VERSION OF "YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS / BELOVED CHARACTERS ARE IN DANGER!" MODEL BY PUTTING TWO FAMOUS CHARACTERS IN THE SITUATION. BUT IT CAN'T WORK IF IT'S JUST SHORTHAND.

IT'S EVERYWHERE IN THIS MOVIE. LIKE WHY SHOULD HULK CARE ABOUT LANA LANG BEING IN THE MOVIE WHEN SHE AMOUNTS TO NOTHING MORE THAN "GIRL ON BUS"?

HULK JUST HAS TO KEEP GOING BACK TO ELLIE FROM UP. THINK ABOUT WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED IN THAT FILM IN THE WAY OF CARING ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE. HULK ARGUES IT MATTERS SO DAMN MUCH BECAUSE MAN OF STEEL IS A 2 AND 1/2 HOUR BEHEMOTH OF A MOVIE WHICH GIVES US VIRTUALLY NO REASON TO GIVE A FUCK, WASTES ALL ITS TIME FUTZING AROUND ON NONSENSICAL CONVERSATIONS AND THEN NARRATIVELY DEMANDS THINGS OF US THAT WOULD REQUIRE THAT WE GIVE A FUCK THE ENTIRE TIME.

SIMPLY PUT, THEY COULD HAVE SPENT THAT TIME DOING SO MANY BETTER THINGS.

ALL WE WOULD HAVE NEEDED WAS 4 MINUTES.

PERTINENT QUESTION #8

WHY DOES SUPERMAN SPEND SO MUCH TIME PUNCHING THINGS?

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION LIES A GREAT DEAL IN WHY THE STUDIO WANTED TO MAKE THE MOVIE THE WAY THEY DID.

YOU SEE, SEQUELS ARE LARGELY AN OVERREACTION TO THE COMPLAINTS OF THE PRIOR ENTRY OF THE SERIES (AS WELL AS BEING AN OVERINDULGENCE IN THE THINGS THAT WORKED). LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF ANY FRANCHISE AND YOU WILL SEE THIS TO BE TRUE (THE BOND FILMS ALWAYS REACT TO THE COMPLAINTS OF THE PREVIOUS ENTRY IN SPECTACULAR WAYS FOR EXAMPLE). AND SO SINGER'S SUPERMAN RETURNS CERTAINLY HAD ITS OWN PARTICULAR SET OF PROBLEMS FOR WHY IT DIDN'T CONNECT SO GREAT WITH AUDIENCES (EVEN IF IT IS PROBABLY 5000X MORE FUNCTIONAL ON A DRAMATIC, HUMAN LEVEL), BUT CHIEFLY AMONG THEM WAS THE LACK OF ACTION IN THE WAY THAT THE MODERN AUDIENCE IS ACCUSTOMED TO EXPERIENCING IT. EVERYONE COMPLAINED ABOUT THE FACT THAT HE DIDN'T ACTUALLY FIGHT ANYTHING. THEY CALLED IT "SUPERMAN LIFTS THINGS" AND THREW THE FILM UNDER THE BUS. WELL, AS PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN, EVERYONE STILL RAVED ABOUT THE RESCUE SCENE WITH THE SHUTTLE (WHICH WAS TOTALLY IMPECCABLE) AND THIS REVEALS THAT THE PROBLEM DOESN'T ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO WITH FIGHTING AND LIFTING THINGS, BUT MORE THE LACK OF CERTAIN KINDS OF GOAL-ORIENTED CHARACTER / PLOT OBJECTIVES IN THE REST OF THE ACTION SCENES. SADLY, THAT BIT OF ACCURACY DOESN'T MATTER AS THE TANGIBLE DETAILS KICK IN AND CONVENTIONAL WISDOM ARGUED THAT THE REASON SUPERMAN RETURNS SUCKED IS BECAUSE SUPERMAN DIDN'T THROW A PUNCH.

SO MAN OF STEEL SIMPLY HAD TO BECOME "SUPERMAN PUNCHES THINGS."

AND QUITE HONESTLY, DURING THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF FIGHTING WHEN THAT SHIT STARTS GOING DOWN AND ALL THESE SUPER BEINGS ARE PUNCHING EACH OTHER, HULK HAD THE SAME REACTION AS EVERYONE ELSE: HOLY SHIT!

IT WAS GENUINELY THRILLING FOR A BRIEF SECOND. BUT GRADUALLY, MOMENT BY MOMENT, EACH PUNCH SUDDENLY MATTERED LESS. THAT BECAUSE THESE BEINGS HIT THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER TO NO REAL EFFECT. THE SCALE SURE REFLECTED THEIR ABILITIES, BUT THE STAKES NEVER SEEMED ALL THAT DEFINED. HULK HONESTLY HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES WERE OF ANY OF THESE FIGHTING MOVES. NO ONE COULD GET HURT. NO ONE SEEMED TO BE KILLED. AND WHEN THEY SEEMED TO BE KILLED SOMETIMES THEY WEREN'T. AND SO RARELY WERE THE PUNCHING MOMENTS EVER PUNCTUATED BY ANY KIND HUMAN MOMENT OR REVERSAL OR TONE ESTABLISHMENT, THAT NOTHING REALLY STOOD OUT. THE FIGHTS JUST KEPT GOING ON AND ON TO DIMINISHING RESULTS. AND BY THE TIME WE REACHED THE FINAL SUPES / ZOD BEATDOWN, HULK WAS COMPLETELY BORED.

SURE, SNYDER KNOWS HOW TO FRAME A SHOT AND SHOW YOU THE GEOGRAPHY, BUT ACTION ALSO HAS TO BE VISUAL STORYTELLING. THERE HAS TO BE A SEQUENCE OF DEFINABLE CHANGES AND RESULTS. THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT IT AND SOMETHING AT STAKE. YES, YOU NEED THE IMAGINATION TO CRAFT SCALE, BUT IMAGINATION IS USELESS IF YOU CAN'T CRAFT MOMENTS. AND HULK HONESTLY CAN'T REMEMBER A SINGLE SHOT FROM THE BIG SHOWDOWN BECAUSE IT ALL BLENDS TOGETHER. AND IF A MOMENT STICKS OUT FOR YOU, ASK YOURSELF: WAS IT FROM THE TRAILER? THINK ABOUT THIS WHOLE IDEA OF VISUAL MEMORY. COMPARE MAN OF STEEL TO ANOTHER OF SNYDER'S FILMS, 300, WHICH IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE BETTER MOVIES AT DEMONSTRATING DIFFERENT AESTHETIC FORMS OF ACTION TO CRAFT MOMENTS (EVEN IF THOSE MOMENTS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH STORY). AND BEYOND ALL THE PUNCHING STUFF, THE FILM STILL CAN'T SEEM TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH THE "SUPERMAN LIFTS THINGS" QUANDARY. THAT'S BECAUSE THEY NEVER SEEM TO STOP AND THINK ABOUT THE DRAMATIC POINT OF THOSE ACTIONS. THERE IS NO HUMAN ANGLE TO ANY OF IT. NO CHOICES. THE ONLY MOTIVATION THAT SUPERMAN NEEDS TO OVERCOME THESE OBSTACLES IS THAT "HE HAS TO JUST TRY HARDER!" WHICH IS ABOUT AS NON-COMPELLING AS IT GETS.

A LOT HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE ABOUT THE LEVEL OF DESTRUCTION IN THE MOVIE SO HULK'S NOT GOING TO DIP INTO IT, ESPECIALLY WHEN DEVIN'S ALREADY WRITTEN A GREAT PIECE ON HOW THAT DESTRUCTION POORLY REFLECTS THE CHARACTER. BUT THE FILMMAKERS DIDN'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THAT PROBLEM BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO BUSY ANSWERING A COMPLAINT FROM A PREVIOUS MOVIE. THEY THOUGHT THE OTHER MOVIE "LACKED STAKES" AND THEIR ANSWER, RATHER THAN HAVING US INVEST IN THE CHARACTERS, WAS SIMPLY TO KILL AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE US FEEL LIKE "THIS IS SERIOUS!" (GOING BACK TO OUR EXAMPLE, SHOW US THE PLIGHT OF THOUSANDS OF HOMELESS PEOPLE INSTEAD OF FAMILY MEMBERS). AGAIN, IT'S ALL FORM, NO FUNCTION.

CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW MUCH MORE EXCITING THAT LAST SCENE WOULD HAVE BEEN IF SUPERMAN WAS CONSTANTLY RUSHING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN PUNCHES TO TRY AND RESCUE PEOPLE AS ZOD WAS TRYING TO KILL EVERYONE AROUND THEM? OOOH, AND FORGET STRANGERS, WHAT IF HE KEPT GOING AFTER ALL THOSE CHARACTERS WE SUPPOSEDLY CARED ABOUT??? DOESN'T THAT SOUND FAR MORE THRILLING???? DOESN'T THAT COMMENT FAR MORE ON THE NATURE OF SUPERMAN AND HOW HE, LIKE DEMOCRACY, HAS TO FIGHT BATTLES WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND HIS BACK?

BETTER YET, IT ONLY HELPS VALIDATE WHY THE BEST ACTION SEQUENCE OF THE YEAR WAS THE BARREL OF MONKEYS IN IRON MAN 3.

NOTICE THE THRILLING DIFFERENCE OF SAVING PEOPLE?

GREAT ACTION MAKES US THINK "How in the fuck are they going to get out of this!?!?" IT'S THE SAME REASON HULK KEEPS CALLING INDIANA JONES THE GREATEST ACTION HERO OF ALL TIME: HE IS INCREDIBLY FALLIBLE. HIS ACTION RARELY FEATURES BADASSERY, BUT INSTEAD IS ALL ABOUT THESE IMPOSSIBLE TO GET OUT OF SITUATIONS WITH MULTIPLE PLATES SPINNING AND MULTIPLE PEOPLE IN TROUBLE (LET'S TAKE A MOMENT FOR A "YAY SPIELBERG!"). AND THE VERY BEST ACTION IS ALWAYS GROUNDED IN SOME KIND OF ETHOS OF CHARACTER COMMENTARY ABOUT WHO CARES AND WHO DOESN'T AND WHO IS WILLING TO SACRIFICE THEIR MINDS, BODIES AND SOULS.

AND TALK ABOUT A MOVIE THAT CONSTANTLY SUBVERTS, GOES BACK, CONFUSES OR COMPLETELY IGNORES ITS CHARACTER ETHOS, IT'S MAN OF STEEL. EVEN DOWN TO ITS VERY CORE OF EXISTENCE IT MISUNDERSTANDS, AS KUMAIL NANJIANI NAILED IT ON TWITTER:

@kumailn Man of Steel is the only superhero movie where if the good guy didn't exist thousands of people wouldn't have died.

YUP.

YOU COULD CALL IT A NITPICK, BUT IF WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE IN THIS ICON, IF WE ARE SUPPOSED TO UNITE BEHIND HIM... THEN THESE THINGS MATTER DEARLY.

WOULDN'T SUPERMAN RATHER DIE THAN A SINGLE HUMAN BE HARMED IN HIS NAME?

THIS ONE WOULDN'T.

PERTINENT QUESTION #9

WHAT DOES JOR-EL WANT OUT OF SENDING HIS BABY INTO SPACE WITH THE CODEX INSIDE HIM?

FIRST OBVIOUS ANSWER: SAVE HIS LIFE. SAVE THE CODEX.

THE REST OF IT DOESN'T... ACTUALLY... MAKE SENSE. HE DIDN'T REALLY KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING AS HE SORT OF ADMITS... QUITE HONESTLY, CLARK'S KRYPTON DADDY IS JUST AS CONFUSED AND BIPOLAR WITH HIS NEEDS AND WANTS AS HIS KANSAS DADDY. WHERE IS THE CHARACTER CLARITY? LIKE WHEN HIS DL CONSCIOUSNESS WANTS TO SEE HIM BE A LEADER, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR HIM TO BE A LEADER DRAMATICALLY? HE'S A PERSON WHO HAS ALL THE STRENGTH, BUT DOESN'T THAT ALSO REQUIRE THE NEED TO CHANGE MEN'S MINDS? JOR-EL TELLS HIM AS MUCH, BUT WHAT DRAMATIC CONFLICT EVER REALLY BRINGS THAT ASPECT TO LIGHT? IS HIS FORM OF LEADERSHIP TO CONSTANTLY JUST SUBMIT TO HUMAN AUTHORITY? IS IT TO ALWAYS BE PASSIVE OR HYPER AGGRESSIVE SEEMINGLY AT RANDOM? IS IT... IS... IS.......... IS...

... YOU KNOW WHAT, LET'S JUST LEAVE THIS ONE ALONE. REALLY. YOU GET IT AT THIS POINT. YOU MAY HAVE EVEN NOTICED THAT HULK DRONED ON WITH EACH PERTINENT QUESTION MORE THAN HULK USUALLY DOES IN THESE THINGS, BUT THERE WAS JUST SO MUCH TO HAMMER HOME. AND HULK COULD HONESTLY GO ON WITH ABOUT TEN MORE PERTINENT QUESTIONS, BUT JUST LIKE WITH SUPERMAN PUNCHING THINGS OVER THE COURSE OF THE MOVIE, IT WILL WORK TO DIMINISHING RESULTS.

IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON.

PART THREE - BRINGING IT ALL HOME

* * *

NEW UNIFYING PERTINENT QUESTION ABOUT PERTINENT QUESTIONS 1-9

LOOKING AT ALL OF THE PREVIOUS QUESTIONS, WHAT IS THE MAIN WAY YOU WOULD SAY THAT MAN OF STEEL ENGAGES THE AUDIENCE?

THE ANSWER IS "WITH SHORTHAND."

THE MOVIE SORT OF UNDERSTANDS THE EFFECT IT WANTS AND THEN IT JUST APES A WHOLE LOT OF OTHER FORMS TO TRY AND GET THE SAME RESULT. WANT IT TO FEEL SERIOUS? HAVE SUPERMAN ACT ALL SERIOUS. WANT THE FILM TO BE BEAUTIFUL? RANDOMLY INSERT A BUNCH OF MALICKY SHOTS FOR TEXTURE. WANT HIM TO FEEL LIKE AN ALIEN? HAVE HIM TALK ABOUT HOW HE FEELS LIKE AN ALIEN. WANT HIM TO BE CONFLICTED? HAVE HIM SAY HE FEELS CONFLICTED. WANT THERE TO BE A LOT OF DEATH AND STAKES? KILL A BUNCH OF PEOPLE AND TALK ABUT THE END OF THE WORLD. WANT IT TO FEEL LIKE A SUPERMAN MOVIE? SADDLE IT WITH THE ICONOGRAPHY, BUT DO NOTHING THAT MAKES IT HUMAN OR UNIQUE. ULTIMATELY THESE SHORTCUTS AMOUNT TO NOTHING MORE THAN EMPTY CHARACTERS WITH FAMILIAR NAMES AND NO AGENCY OF THEIR OWN. THE FILM IS ALL THE LITERAL SYMBOLS AND PLACEHOLDERS FOR WHAT ONE IMAGINES SHOULD BE THERE, BUT IT HAS NO IDEA HOW TO EXECUTE THEM IN A WAY THAT CREATES MEANING OR IDENTITY.

MAN OF STEEL HAS NO IDEA HOW TO DRAMATIZE A SINGLE ISSUE OR PERSON IN THIS FILM.

THEY SOMEHOW TOOK CLARK KENT, ONE OF THE MOST EASILY DEFINABLE CHARACTERS IN ALL OF COMIC LORE, AND SOMEHOW TURNED HIM INTO A POORLY DEFINED PROTAGONIST. SERIOUSLY, LET'S GO BACK TO OUR ORIGINAL 7 QUESTIONS AND LOOK SPECIFICALLY AT THE CHARACTER OF SUPERMAN:

WHAT DOES THIS CHARACTER WANT?

TO UNDERSTAND HIS PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE? IS THAT EVER REALLY HIS CLEAR GOAL? IT'S SO VAGUE. AND IT IS VERY UNLIKE THE IDEA THAT HE'S SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING AND HAS AN EMPTINESS IN HIM, HE'S SORT OF JUST THIS KID WHO DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. HE'S JUST HIGHLY CAPABLE MILQUETOAST.

WHAT DOES THIS CHARACTER NEED?

NOTHING REALLY? EVENTUALLY IT IS "TO NOT BE KILLED BY ZOD" BUT TO START WE REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT CLARK NEEDS IN HIS LIFE, DO WE?

HOW DO THOSE WANTS AND NEEDS CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER WITHIN THE CHARACTER?

THEY DON'T REALLY?

HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD?

RE: ZOD - SUPES KIND OF DOESN'T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT THE CODEX AT ALL, NOR HAS A USE FOR IT. RE: WORLD - WE DON'T ACTUALLY GET TO SEE. WE NEVER EVEN REALLY SEE WHAT THE OUTSIDE WORLD THINKS OF SUPERMAN, TO BE HONEST.

HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH OTHER CHARACTERS?

THEY DON'T REALLY. THEY JUST WANTS SOMETHING INSIDE HIM THAT DOESN'T EVER SEEM TO CONNECT TO HIS LARGER PLOT.

HOW DOES THE CHARACTER CHANGE THROUGH THOSE CONFLICTS AND HOW DOES THE RESOLUTION AFFECT THEM?

IT DOESN'T.

WHAT IMPACT DOES THAT CHANGE HAVE ON EVERYONE ELSE?

IT DOESN'T / WE DON'T SEE.

... HULK IS BEING BLUNT WITH ALL THESE, AND YOU COULD PROBABLY COULD SCROUNGE UP SLIGHTLY BETTERS ANSWER (OR AT LEAST THE ANSWERS THE FILM WANTED TO GIVE), BUT THAT'S THE THING ABOUT MOVIES. YOU HAVE TO DO A GOOD JOB AT DRAMATIZING THEM IN ORDER FOR IT ALL TO BE SPELLED OUT. YOU HAVE TO PROVE THEM ON A DRAMATIC STORY LEVEL. YOU HAVE TO BE CLEAR.

YOU HAVE TO MAKE US FEEL IT IN OUR BONES.

* * *

PERTINENT QUESTION THAT BRINGS US BACK TO THE LARGER POINT ABOUT ALL OF OUR DIFFERENT REACTIONS:

WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE?

THAT'S WHY HULK STARTED ALL OF THIS, RIGHT?

AND WITH ALL THAT HULK JUST WROTE IN THE WAY OF DISMANTLING MAN OF STEEL, HOW CAN HALF THE AUDIENCE LIKE A MOVIE THAT SO FUNDAMENTALLY MISUNDERSTANDS DRAMA, CHARACTER AND THEME? WHAT IS IT THAT ENABLES THEM TO LOOK AT US LIKE WE ARE THE WEIRD ONES? LIKE WE ARE THE ONES WHO CAN'T SEE THE OBVIOUS AWESOMENESS OF THIS MOVIE?

TO ANSWER THAT, LET US DIG DEEPER AND GO BACK TO THREE CORE IDEAS WHICH EVOLVE INTO A BIGGER REALIZATION:

I) THE FIRST IDEA IS IN HULK'S RECENT ESSAY ON THE 4 LEVELS OF MEDIA EXPERIENCE, WHERE YOU SHOULD SPECIFICALLY NOTE THE COMMENTS ABOUT LEVELS 1 AND 2 AND EASY EMOTIONAL TRANSFERENCE. BASICALLY, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE WAY MORE SENSITIVE TO THE IN-MOMENT CRAFT OF THE MUSIC SWELLS AND SUCH WITHOUT COMPUTING IT TO THE LARGER STORY. IT'S THE SAME REASON PEOPLE CAN CRY DURING 30 SECOND COMMERCIALS. THE EMOTION HERE IS TRIGGERED BY PROJECTION.

II) GIVEN THAT EASY TRANSFERENCE THAT MEANS THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL SIT AND WATCH A MOVIE THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY ENGAGE WHAT IT SAYS IT'S ENGAGING, AND AS LONG AS IT IS ACTING LIKE IT SAID IT WOULD ACT (DELIVERING ON THE "KIND" OF MOVIE PROMISED / TANGIBLE DETAILS / TONE) THEN THEY WILL ACCEPT THE MOVIE AT FACE VALUE.

III) NOW, GOING BACK TO THE START OF PART TWO OF THIS ESSAY, HULK LISTED ALL THE ABOUT THE GOOD THINGS IN THE MOVIE, WHICH WERE SURFACE LEVEL DETAILS: HIS HANDSOMENESS. ALL THE GOOD ACTORS. THE SCALE. THE COHESIVE ACTION. THE AMBITION. THE OBLIGATORY NATURE OF THE ROMANCE. THE DEMONSTRATION OF SUPERMAN'S KICK-ASS POWERS. THE PUNCHING. THE BADASSERY... WELL, HULK PROMISED THERE WAS ONE THING THAT BOUND ALL THESE ASPECTS TOGETHER...

THEY ARE ALL INDULGENT.

HULK REALIZES THAT SAYING THAT PEOPLE ONLY LIKE MAN OF STEEL BECAUSE IT INDULGES THEM IS A RATHER CRASS ACCUSATION. BUT IF THE FILM TRULY DOESN'T WORK IN TERMS OF ITS CONSTRUCTION TO THE DEGREE THAT HULK JUST ILLUSTRATED, THEN ONE HAS TO BE WILLING TO AT LEAST EXPLORE THE IDEA. EVEN IF IT IS DIFFICULT, EVEN IF NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT IT, WE HAVE TO REFLECT HOW MUCH INDULGENCE IS A PART OF WHAT REALLY MAKES US LIKE A FILM. AND IT'S OKAY TO ADMIT WE ARE BEING INDULGED AS LONG AS WE REALIZE THAT'S WHAT IS HAPPENING. FOR WE ALL HAVE A CAPACITY TO WATCH SOMETHING INDULGENTLY. IT'S THE SAME REASON PEOPLE LIKE JAMES BOND MOVIES. HELL, TARANTINO IS A MASTER OF PLAYING WITH OUR INDULGENT SIDES. THESE MOVIES FEED OUR EGOS AND FOR MOST, THEY DO IT SUBCONSCIOUSLY. HECK, LOTS OF PEOPLE WATCH MAD MEN BECAUSE THEY THINK IT'S A SHOW ABOUT UNACCOUNTABLE MEN FUCKING AROUND WITH LOTS OF HOT WOMAN AND THAT'S THE WAY THEY ROOT FOR THE SHOW (OBVIOUSLY, THE SHOW IS NOT ADVOCATING THAT ON ANY LEVEL). BUT IT IS ONLY OKAY TO WATCH THINGS LIKE THIS AS LONG AS WE ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THAT IS HOW WE ARE WATCHING IT.

BUT NOBODY THINKS ABOUT SUPERMAN IN TERMS OF INDULGENCE, RIGHT? WE WOULD NEVER DO THAT! NOR SHOULD WE EVER HAVE TO WITH THAT CHARACTER! HE'S ALL TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY! HE'S THE BOY SCOUT! HE REPRESENTS THE BEST OF US! HE SHOULD NEVER AND COULD NEVER COME OFF AS INDULGENT, RIGHT?

LOOKS LIKE WE'RE WRONG.

FOR THE SUPERMAN IN MAN OF STEEL IS NOT A CHARACTER IN ANY SENSE THAT WE DEFINE THEM... HE IS MERELY A FAMILIAR FORM THAT WE CAN PROJECT ONTO.

THINK ABOUT IT: ON THE SURFACE, THIS SUPERMAN IS A RIDICULOUSLY HANDSOME INVINCIBLE BEING WHO IS CRAZY JACKED, IS THOUGHT OF AS HOT BY EVERY OTHER CHARACTER, SEEMS ON THE SURFACE TO BE THOUGHTFUL, PENSIVE AND BROODY, BUT ALWAYS DOES THE RIGHT THING (BECAUSE WE CAN NEVER MAKE THE CONFLICT UNFLATTERING), AND EVEN WHEN HE DOES "THE WRONG THING" THE FILM STILL TOTALLY TREATS IT AS THE JUSTIFIABLE RIGHT THING FOR INDULGENCE, HE DOESN'T LEARN ANYTHING, HE BEATS THE CRAP OUT OF BAD PEOPLE, HE GETS THE GIRL WITHOUT EVEN TRYING OR CARING, HE SAVES PEOPLE WHEN CONVENIENT, AND HE EVEN GETS A BADASS GRUESOME KILL IN THE NAME OF RIGHTEOUSNESS...

STILL DON'T SEE IT? HOW ABOUT ANOTHER PERTINENT QUESTION...

WHAT IS HARD ABOUT BEING SUPERMAN IN THIS MOVIE?

REALLY. WHEN DO WE FEEL LIKE IT WAS TRULY HARD FOR HIM TO BE SUPERMAN AT ANY POINT?

HE JUST GETS TO BE AWESOME THE ENTIRE MOVIE, EVEN WHEN HE'S BEING "DARK." AND YOU CAN'T COUNT THE VARIOUS TOUGH GUY ENEMIES THROWN AT HIM BECAUSE OF HIS INVULNERABILITY, SO WHEN DOES THE CHARACTER EVER SEEM IN TRUE CONFLICT? WHEN ARE WE NOT JUST WAITING FOR HIM TO "UNLEASH" AND BASK IN THAT UNADULTERATED JOY?

IN MAN OF STEEL SPECIFICALLY, WE ARE ATTRACTED TO WHAT SUPERMAN CAN DO. WE ARE ATTRACTED TO HIS POWER. WE ARE ATTRACTED TO EITHER BEING HIM OR FUCKING HIM OR MAYBE BOTH AT ONCE. WE WANT THAT SUPREMACY. WE WANT THAT INVINCIBILITY. EVEN GO BACK TO HULK'S "WHAT THE FUCK IS IT ABOUT BATMAN?" REGARDING PEOPLE BEING ATTRACTED TO SUPERMAN BECAUSE OF THE INVINCIBILITY DYNAMIC. IT JUST PART OF WHY PEOPLE FALL FOR THE CHARACTER AT THE MOST BASE LEVEL.

SO WHY DID A LOT OF SMART, NORMALLY CONSCIOUS CINEMA-GOERS FALL FOR IT TOO?

THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE THE FILM'S SHORTHAND COMES IN. SOME OF THE AUDIENCE TOOK THE SHORTHAND AT ITS WORD AND USED IT TO FEED THEIR PREVIOUSLY EXISTING NOTIONS ABOUT WHO SUPERMAN IS AND LET THAT SHIELD AGAINST ALL THE OTHER WARNING SIGNS OF STORYTELLING. BUT OF COURSE SHORTHAND WORKS IF YOU DO ALL THE WORK YOURSELF! NORMALLY, THERE'S A PUSH-PULL IN THESE KINDS OF SITUATIONS. SOME GREAT MOVIES WORK GREAT WITH SHORTHAND. THEY WORK WITH LITTLE NODS TO CHARACTER HISTORY AND SUBTLETY, BUT IT'S AT LEAST FREAKING CLEAR IN THOSE MOVIES. AND THOSE MOVIES USUALLY DON'T ASK YOU TO CHERISH THE RELATIONSHIPS AND COME TO THIS KIND OF GRAND ACTION AND ROMANTIC CATHARSIS THAT THIS MOVIE ASKS OF YOU.

HULK SUPPOSES THE THING ABOUT RETREADING THESE CHARACTERS OVER AND OVER AGAIN IS SOMETIMES YOU CAN GET BY ON THE ASSUMED EMPATHY. YOU WILL JUST ACCEPT IF A FILM IS LYING TO YOU. IT WILL TELL YOU AN IDEA AND YOU SHOULD GO "WAIT, GIVEN EVERYTHING THIS FILM HAS DONE BEFORE. THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE," BUT YOUR BRAIN WILL IGNORE IT IN THE NAME OF WHAT YOU WANT. MAYBE MOVIEGOERS ARE JUST TOO SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE "OTHER STUFF." MAYBE THEY JUST DEFER TOO MUCH TO EVEN-HANDED TONES. SO THERE ARE NO JOKES IN MAN OF STEEL TO MAKE IT FEEL SILLY (WHICH JUST LEAVES THE OTHER HALF OF THE AUDIENCE TO COMPLAINS THAT IT'S NO FUN). IT'S "A SERIOUS MOVIE" WHICH GIVES THEM THE VALIDITY THEY NEED TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. THUS THERE ARE NO TANGIBLE DETAILS WHICH SET OFF THEIR ALARMS OF OVERTLY JUVENILE INDULGENCE.

IT ALL MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE. GOING BACK TO ALL THAT TALKING WITH PEOPLE THAT HULK DID AND ALL THAT LISTENING, THE SAME RHETORIC KEPT POPPING UP WITH THE PEOPLE WHO LIKED THE MOVIE. IT WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING LIKE: "We finally got to see Superman cut loose!" OR PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THE LEGACY OF THE PROPERTY AND THE WAY IT INCORPORATED COMIC DETAILS (BUT ONLY IN AN EASTER EGG SENSE). BUT IT WAS ALWAYS THE WAY THEY FELT LIKE THE THINGS THEY WANTED TO SEE WERE FINALLY REALIZED. THE WORD "FINALLY" POPS UP AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. THE LANGUAGE IS ALL THERE. IT'S ABOUT RELIEF. IT WAS ABOUT WANTING TO BE INDULGED IN THE MORE BASE ASPECTS OF THE CHARACTER.

IT'S AS IF YEARS OF SUPERMAN MOVIES HAD SOMEHOW DISAPPOINTED THEM. AND SO THEY FINALLY GOT THE MOVIE THAT SEEMED SERIOUS ENOUGH FOR THEM TO TAKE THIS INDULGENCE SERIOUSLY. IN THE END, IT WAS ONLY ABOUT EMPOWERING SUPERMAN TO BE A BADASS. IT'S A SUPERMAN MOVIE FOR ALL THE BATMAN FANS (INCLUDING NOLAN???) WHO EITHER CLAMOR THAT SUPERMAN'S A WUSS OR SUBCONSCIOUSLY FEEL THAT WAY, WITHOUT EVER BOTHERING TO THINK ABOUT THE CHARACTERIZATION BEYOND THE DARK INDULGENCE. AFTER ALL, THERE'S A REASON THAT THIS MOVIE MADE SO MANY SUPERMAN LOVERS FEEL GREAT AND SO MANY OTHER SUPERMAN LOVERS FEEL PISSED AS HELL. AND IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH COMIC LORE OR THE SPECIFICS OR LITTLE DETAILS OR EVEN THE ETHOS OF DESTRUCTION... IT'S THAT WE BASICALLY GOT THE FIRST PORNOGRAPHIC VERSION OF SUPERMAN IN TERMS OF JUST GIVING YOU THE THINGS YOU'RE ATTRACTED TO ABOUT THE CHARACTER AND NOT THE THINGS YOU REALLY NEED TO HAVE A COMPLETE, HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

WHICH NOT ONLY VIOLATES SOMETHING ABOUT THE INHERENT TRUTH OF SUPERMAN, BUT IT ALSO MAKES FOR TERRIBLE STORYTELLING AND TERRIBLE DRAMA, FOR INDULGENCE IS PRETTY BORING WHEN IT'S NOT SELF-AWARE AND HAVING FUN WITH THE CONCEPT.

SURE, IT'S OKAY TO BE INDULGED IN SOMETHING. BUT IT'S NOT OKAY TO CALL THAT INDULGENCE "A GOOD MOVIE" IF THERE'S NOTHING ELSE BEYOND IT.

* * *

WHERE TO GO WITH ALL THOSE QUESTIONS - A.K.A. FIXING SUPERMAN

TO SOME OF YOU IT WILL SEEM RATHER HYPOCRITICAL TO RAIL ON A MOVIE FOR 17,000 WORDS AND THEN NOT BOTHER TO OFFER ACTUAL SOLUTIONS. NOW OF COURSE WE'RE NOT GOING TO CRACK THIS THING RIGHT HERE AND NOW, BUT LET'S DO SOMETHING WITH ALL THOSE POINTED QUESTIONS. LET'S START FROM THE BEGINNING:

WHO IS THIS PERSON? WHAT DO THEY WANT? AND WHAT DO THEY NEED?

THE GREAT THING ABOUT COMING UP WITH THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS IS THEY WILL INSTANTLY LEAD YOU TO THE MOST INTERESTING CONFLICTS. FOR INSTANCE, IF A MAN IS INDESTRUCTIBLE, WHAT IS THEREFORE INTERESTING ABOUT HIM? WHAT IS THEREFORE FALLIBLE ABOUT HIM?

WELL THEN, IT WOULD HAVE TO BE THE THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING INDESTRUCTIBLE. IT WOULD HAVE TO BE ABOUT HIS INABILITY TO TRANSLATE THAT SAME INDESTRUCTIBILITY TO HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS. IT WOULD HAVE TO BE ABOUT HOW BEING A SUPERMAN AFFECTS HIS ABILITY TO RELATE TO PEOPLE. IT WOULD HAVE TO BE ABOUT ALL THE SOCIAL THINGS WE KNOW HE CANNOT DO... IT WOULD NOT BE ABOUT HOW TOUGH HE IS PHYSICALLY AND HOW WELL HE CAN THROW A PUNCH. YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO WRING DRAMA OUT OF THOSE THREATENING TO BEAT HIM UP. IT WOULD HAVE TO BE ABOUT HIS MIND AND CHARACTER'S EMOTIONAL FRAGILITY. IT WOULD NOT BE ABOUT ALL THE WAYS HE IS A SUPER BEING, IT WOULD NEED TO BE ABOUT HOW HE SO DESPERATELY WANTS TO BE HUMAN.

THAT'S WHY CLARK KENT AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH LOIS MATTERS SO MUCH. IT'S ABOUT HIS DESIRE TO BE NORMAL AND HUMAN. IT'S ABOUT HIS DESIRE TO BE A PERSON DESPITE ALL THE THINGS THAT MAKE HIM SUPERMAN. AND AS FOR WHAT HE NEEDS? HE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO BE BOTH. HOW TO NOT JUST SETTLE FOR ALL THE HUMAN THINGS HE WANTS AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL HIS AMAZING GIFTS IN THE NAME OF HELPING HUMANITY. THERE'S A REASON THIS IS ALWAYS THE "CLASSIC SUPERMAN STORY" BECAUSE IT SO READILY GETS TO THE ETHOS OF WHO HE IS AND WHAT MAKES HIM INTERESTING.

AND FROM THERE YOU GO TO THE NEXT QUESTIONS: HOW DO THOSE WANTS AND NEEDS CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER WITHIN THE CHARACTER? HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD? HOW DO THEY CONFLICT WITH OTHER CHARACTERS? HOW DOES THE CHARACTER CHANGE THROUGH THOSE CONFLICTS AND HOW DOES THE RESOLUTION AFFECT THEM? AND WHAT IMPACT DOES THAT CHANGE HAVE ON EVERYONE ELSE?

IF YOU WANT ACTUAL CONFLICT AND NOT SHORTHAND, IF YOU WANT TO DRAMATIZE A STORY RATHER THAN TELL US INFORMATION, THEN, WELL, THE THE KEY IS TO ESTABLISH THE HUMAN STAKES OF LOSS. THIS FILM'S JOB WAS NOT TO SIMPLY CHANGE THE ORIGIN STORY TO MAKE IT DIFFERENT, INSTEAD THE FILM'S JOB WAS TO MAKE THAT ORIGIN STORY FEEL LIKE IT'S NEW.

WANT PA AND MA KENT TO BE DISTINCT? TO MATTER IN THIS STORY? THEN SHOW WHY THIS BABY MATTERS TO THEM! FOR INSTANCE, SHOW THEM BEFORE THEY GET CLARK AND SHOW HOW HIS ARRIVAL AFFECTED THEM. SHOW A COUPLE WHO COULD CLEARLY NEVER HAVE KIDS, WHO WERE LOVING PEOPLE WITH A SPACE THAT NEEDED TO BE FILLED. SHOW CLARK COMING INTO THEIR LIVES, A SEEMING GIFT FROM THE GODS. SHOW HOW IT CHANGES THEM AND HOW THEY CHANGE HIM. IF YOU WANT THEM TO MATTER, THEN MAKE THEM MATTER. MAKE THEM FEEL LIKE OUR PARENTS. ANSWER THE QUESTION YOU WILL NEED TO ANSWER CLEARLY BY THE END: WHY DO THE PA AND MA KENT MATTER TO CLARK?

BECAUSE IF YOU ARE ULTIMATELY GOING TO THREATEN US WITH THEIR LOSS, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM CRITICAL NOT JUST TO CLARK, BUT TO US.

FOR THE THING ABOUT SUPERMAN'S STORY IS THAT EVEN IF YOU'VE EXPERIENCED IT BEFORE YOU CAN ALWAYS STILL BE UP FOR IT. THAT'S WHAT GOOD STORIES DO. THEY PULL YOU IN. LIKE HOW THE FIRST 4 MINUTES IN UP WILL ALWAYS MAKE HULK CRY. AND EVEN WITH FUN MOVIES, HULK CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES HULK'S SEEN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK AND JUST GOT SUCKED RIGHT BACK IN TO EVERY MOMENT. THESE MOVIES PULL US IN BECAUSE THEY EARN EVER MOMENT OF THEIR STORY. THEY FIND THE ULTIMATE RESONANCE IN THEIR CONFLICTS WHETHER THEY BE FUN OR SOMBER.

SO MAKE US UNDERSTAND. MAKE US FEEL FOR THE KENTS. MAKE US UNDERSTAND THEM. MAKE US UNDERSTAND CLARK'S CHILDHOOD ON A DRAMATIC LEVEL. MAKE US UNDERSTAND HOW CLARK CHANGES. MAKE US FALL IN LOVE WITH LOIS BECAUSE THAT RELATIONSHIP IS SOMETHING YOU CAN'T PUNCH.

OR TAKE A PAGE FROM KINGDOM COME AND EXPLORE THE MOST FAULTY CAPACITY OF SUPERMAN AND THAT IS HIS ABILITY TO BE A LEADER. IN ACTION HE CAN SEEMINGLY DO NO WRONG, HE CAN EVEN INSPIRE THROUGH EXAMPLE, BUT CAN HE INSPIRE THROUGH HIS WORDS AND PERSPECTIVE? THROUGH IS ABILITY TO CONNECT TO OTHER BEINGS? THROUGH HIS ABILITY TO BE HUMAN AND KIND?

OR LOOK FOR THE KINDS OF CONFLICTS THAT MAKE THE CHARACTER CHOICES MORE DIFFICULT. FOR INSTANCE, EVEN THE LEAST LOGICAL OF US ASKED WHY THE KRYPTONIANS WANTED TO TURN EARTH INTO A KRYPTON ATMOSPHERE WHEN THEY ALREADY HAD SUPERPOWERS ON EARTH. COULDN'T THEY JUST, LIKE, KEEP RAISING SUPERBABIES ON THEIR OWN? WHY DID THEY INSTINCTIVELY HATE HUMANS? IT ACTUALLY REVEALS THE FACT THAT A MORE FASCINATING POSSIBLE PLOT WHERE THEY WOULD JUST WANT TO MAKE A HOME OF THEIR OWN AS PART OF EARTH AND IT'S ABOUT EARTH NOT WANTING THEM AND FEARING THEM (CUE IMMIGRATION PARABLE). IT'S ABOUT EARTH GIVING SUPERMAN ALL THE REASONS NOT TO FIGHT FOR THEM (WHICH WOULD BE AN ACTUAL INNER CONFLICT) AND YET HIM LEARNING TO OVERCOME THAT STRIFE WITH HUMANKIND BECAUSE OF THOSE WHO ARE TRULY GOOD AND THE TRULY BAD THINGS HIS PEOPLE COULD DO. BETTER YET, THIS WOULD GET TO THE HEART OF ALL THE RELATIONSHIPS. BUT AS IT IS EXPRESSED IN THE MOVIE NOW, IT'S JUST EXPRESSED AS A MOMENTARY VAGUE ACTION SCENE THAT DOESN'T TIE INTO WHAT WE'VE SEEN BEFORE.

LET'S THINK OF SUPERMAN AS AN ALIEN. WHAT COULD BEST SHOW HIS ALIENATION BEYOND GETTING MERELY PICKED ON? WHAT RELATIONSHIP DO WE EVER SEE DRAMATIZED? WHAT IS THERE UNDERNEATH ALL THAT TEXTURE AND TANGIBLE DETAILS?

ALL OF THESE SUGGESTIONS ARE JUST PASSING THOUGHTS, THE KIND THAT WOULD TAKE MONTHS MORE WORK TO HAMMER OUT INTO SOMETHING TRULY COHERENT... BUT THEY ARE STILL THE KIND OF QUESTIONS THAT CAN LEAD YOU TO THE RIGHT PLACES. THEY ARE THE KIND OF QUESTIONS WHERE YOU ASK YOURSELF ABOUT WHO A CHARACTER IS AND HOW TO BEST EXPRESS THAT CHARACTER AS CONFLICT. HOW TO BEST MAKE YOU CARE AND DRAMATIZE THE STORY THAT UNFOLDS FROM THE DECISIONS YOUR CHARACTERS MAKE, RATHER THAN THE SITUATIONS THAT PUT THEM THERE.

THEY ARE THE KIND OF QUESTIONS THAT GET YOU FAR AWAY FROM INDULGENCE, AND RIGHT INTO THE REALM OF CREATING A MEANINGFUL STORY.

* * *

OUTRO - THE FINAL THREE QUESTIONS

1. WHY DOES HULK CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THIS SUBJECT?

WELL, PERHAPS THE BETTER QUESTION IS: WHY DOES HULK CARE THAT THIS FILM IS PERCEIVED AS AN ABSOLUTE SUCCESS?

BECAUSE HULK DOESN'T WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE WE VALUE DUMB, INDULGENT POPCORN MOVIES OVER SMART, FUN POPCORN MOVIES.

IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

WE BASICALLY MADE THE PORNOGRAPHIC VERSION OF SUPERMAN AND TURNED IT INTO A ROUSING SUCCESS. YES, THERE ARE VOCAL DISSENTERS, BUT IT KEEPS TAKING THE FORM OF THE KINDS OF LOGIC-BASED STUFF THAT HULK ISN'T SO MUCH A FAN OF (AS YOU CAN DO THE LOGIC COMPLAINTS WITH GREAT MOVIES TOO). WE HAVE TO GET AT THE THINGS THAT REALLY CLUE INTO THE LARGER FUNCTIONING. FOR INSTANCE, WHILE HULK WAS FINISHING THIS ESSAY, HULK STUMBLED ACROSS THIS HILARIOUS ARTICLE THAT, YES, MOSTLY TRASHES THE LOGIC OF MAN OF STEEL, BUT IT REALLY DOES GET AT SOME OF THE CHARACTERIZATION ISSUES IN THERE TOO.

THE REASON IT MATTERS IS BECAUSE THIS IS GOING TO BECOME AN INCREASINGLY PROMINENT ISSUE AS WE CONTINUE TO GO THROUGH REBOOT CULTURE. WE'RE GOING TO GET MORE AND MORE OF THESE ATTEMPTS AT SHORTHAND, WHICH WILL JUST END UP INDULGING THOSE ALREADY IN THE KNOW AND THEN EXCLUDING PEOPLE WHO WANT GENUINE POPCORN EXPERIENCES. AND IF IT KEEPS WORKING ECONOMICALLY? THEN OUR STUDIOS ARE JUST BEING SMART IN AN INCREDIBLY CYNICAL SENSE. BECAUSE HULK SWEARS TO YOU WE CAN HAVE BOTH. WE CAN MAKE MOVIES THAT HELP US FEEL GOOD AND MAKE US FEEL BETTER, BUT WE CAN'T JUST CREATE THESE CARDBOARD CUTOUTS FOR US TO POUR OUR MOST JUVENILE INSTINCTS INTO THEM. HULK IS LEGITIMATELY CONCERNED FOR BLOCKBUSTERDOM BECAUSE NOW IT SEEMS THAT A LOT OF THE EXECUTIVES ARE FALLING INTO THE SAME TRAP. AGAIN, A LOT ARE REALLY SMART, BUT THEY ARE FALLING MORE AND MORE FOR THE INDULGENT CINEMA TOO BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE "GRITTIFICATION" IS WHAT SO MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY WANT (WITHOUT REALLY UNDERSTANDING WHAT THEY NEED... SENSE A PATTERN?)

HOLLYWOOD HAS REALIZED THEY CAN MARKET THE HELL OUT OF A MOVIE AND THEN SHIT-PEDDLE YOU A CAR WITH A TERRIBLE ENGINE IN IT AND YOU WILL BUY IT.

THAT'S WHY HULK IS FIGHTING FOR THIS DIALOGUE. HULK WANTS A HOLLYWOOD THAT WILL SELL YOU DEPENDABLE CARS YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. THAT OPTIMALLY ENGINEERS THEIR PRODUCT TO BE THE MOST RESONANT AND IMPACTING IT CAN. OUR BEST FILMMAKERS ARE FORGETTING HOW TO TELL SIMPLE HUMAN STORIES IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR SPECTACLE. AND IT'S A SHAME BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT ENHANCES THE BEST SPECTACLE. LOOK TO SPIELBERG, WHO HAS MADE HIS CAREER OF CLARITY AND THE NEEDED TIME OF DRAMATIZATION (THERE'S A REASON IT TAKES JAWS HALF THE MOVIE TO GET ON THE DAMN BOAT). WE LAUGH AT CAMERON'S OVERT SIMPLICITY, BUT THERE'S A REASON HE HAS MADE THE TWO BIGGEST FILMS OF ALL TIME RIGHT IN A ROW. HE SIMPLY UNDERSTANDS THE VALUE OF TRADITIONAL BLOCKBUSTER FILMMAKING. HE UNDERSTANDS HOW TO EARN EVEN THE MOST CLICHED OF MOMENTS AND MAKE THEM RESONATE.

WE HAVE TO RAISE A GENERATION OF FILMMAKERS WHO UNDERSTAND THAT PURPOSE.

SO AFTER ALL THESE 17,000 WORDS ABOUT MAN OF STEEL AND ITS ABILITY TO TELL A STORY, HULK IS ASKING YOU YET ANOTHER QUESTION:

2. WHAT DO YOU WANT?

IS THIS THE KIND OF INDULGENCE YOU WANT? IF SO THEN HULK CAN PROMISE YOU THAT YOU WILL GET MORE. BECAUSE THIS IS THE KIND OF SLICK-LOOKING PROFESSIONAL CRAP THAT CAN BE DELIVERED IN DROVES. IT'S PRACTICALLY OUR DEFAULT SETTING RIGHT NOW. SO IF YOU WANT SOMETHING ELSE, SOMETHING GROUNDED IN THE GRAND TRANSITION OF STORYTELLING AND PURPOSE, THEN WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIGHT FOR IT AND LEARN TO ARTICULATE THE THINGS THAT BOTHER US.

FOR INSTANCE, HULK SAW A PHRASE POP UP AGAIN AND AGAIN IN THE NATIONAL DIALOGUE CALLING FAST SIX “NOT A GOOD MOVIE, BUT AN ENJOYABLE ONE.” AND HULK COULDN'T DISAGREE MORE. WE HAVE SOMEHOW BECOME A CULTURE THAT ONLY EQUATES GOOD WITH OVERT SERIOUSNESS. WHICH IS A SHAME BECAUSE HULK WOULD ARGUE THE LAST TWO FAST MOVIES, WHILE INCREDIBLY DUMB ON SO MANY LEVELS, ARE STILL TWO OF THE MOST FUNCTIONAL SUMMER POPCORN MOVIES THAT HULK HAS SEEN IN, LIKE, YEARS. YOU MAY LAUGH AT THAT WORD "FUNCTIONAL," BUT TO HULK IT'S ONE OF THE BEST WORDS IN ALL OF MOVIEDOM. IT MEANS THE FILM WORKS DAMMIT. IT MEANS IT IS ENGINEERED PROPERLY AND DOES EXACTLY WHAT IT SETS OUT TO DO. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL WORD TO HULK. HULK SWEARS TO YOU THAT FUNCTIONAL IS SO MUCH MORE ENDEARING THAN TRYING NOT TO BE SERIOUS. THE FAST MOVIES, JUST LIKE CAMERON, ARE LIVING IN CLICHE-LAND, BUT THEY'VE MASTERED THE ART OF QUICK CHARACTERIZATION AND HOW TO ANSWER THOSE PESKY 7 QUESTIONS HULK MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING. THEY DRAMATIZE ALL THE STAKES AND SPELL OUT EXACTLY WHAT'S HAPPENING WITHOUT A HINT OF OBFUSCATION. THEY MAKE OVERTLY SEXUAL MOVIES THAT AT LEAST HAVE THE DIGNITY TO GIVE THEIR FEMALE CHARACTERS AGENCY AND INDEPENDENCE OUTSIDE OF SCOTCH-TAPING THEM TO THE MEN'S STORIES. THEY ARE MOVIES THEY KNOW HOW TO EXECUTE ALL THE BASICS FLAWLESSLY AND HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT'S THE REASON THEY'VE BECOME RIDICULOUSLY POPULAR AND BELOVED. IT'S BECAUSE THEY ARE COHERENT, CLEAR, CLASSICALLY TOLD STORIES.

IT'S BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY ARE GOOD MOVIES.

AS A POINT OF COMPARISON YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY AGREE WITH, EVERYONE BRINGS UP PIXAR LIKE WHAT THEY DO IS SOME BIG MYSTERY. GUESS WHAT HOLLYWOOD? THEY GEAR THEIR ENTIRE STUDIO OPERATION AROUND TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING. SERIOUSLY. THAT'S IT. THEY HAVE A CRACK STORY TEAM. THEY THEN UPHOLD THE VALUES OF WHAT YOU LEARN IN FIRST YEAR DRAMA CLASSES. (BTW EVERYONE. TAKE PLAYWRITING CLASSES ALONG WITH SCREENWRITING ONES! YOU LEARN BETTER STUFF!). THEY VALUE CLARITY OF PLOT AND CHARACTER. THEY SHY AWAY FROM CONVOLUTION. THEY PUT STORY AHEAD OR EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE PRODUCTION AND CONSTANTLY REFINE AND EDIT AND VALUE THAT PROCESS OVER ALL ELSE. AND LO AND BEHOLD THEY STAND HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS INDUSTRY. IT IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. IT IS BECAUSE THEY VALUE ALL THE THINGS HULK ESPOUSES AS BEING CRITICAL IN THIS ESSAY.

PIXAR IS AN UTTER TESTAMENT TO THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAMATIZING CHARACTER.

THAT'S THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS YOU KNOW. HULK COULD KEEP GOING ON AN ON ABOUT SOME SILLY COMIC BOOK MOVIE THAT DIDN'T LIVE UP TO WHAT WE WANTED, BUT THAT'S SO NOT THE IMPORTANT PART. WHETHER OR NOT MAN OF STEEL DISAPPOINTED US IS AN INFINITESIMALLY SMALL QUESTION IN THE LARGER BATTLE FOR MOVIEDOM.

THE IMPORTANT THING IS WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP FOSTER A CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW DRAMA WORKS AND WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO OUR ENJOYMENT OF POPCORN MOVIES. THAT'S THE GOAL OF ALL THIS. TO GET ALL THOSE CASUAL FILMMGOERS AND THE PROVERBIAL MECHANICS TO START ASKING ABOUT CHARACTER MOTIVATION AS MUCH AS THEY DO ABOUT THE TANGIBLE DETAILS. HULK KNOWS IT IS INSANE TO THINK THAT THIS WILL EVER HAPPEN. BUT HULK'S GONNA KEEP BEATING THIS DRUM BECAUSE IT'S WHAT LITTLE HULK CAN DO. HULK WANTS US ALL TO SIT AROUND THE PROVERBIAL CAMPFIRE AND TALK ABOUT STORIES AND WANTS AND NEEDS AND TO CREATE A CULTURE THAT DOESN'T HAVE TO FEEL SO CYNICAL. SO GRITTY. SO INDULGENT. HULK WANTS US TO FIND OUR COLLECTIVE ETHOS AND EMBRACE THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT BRING HUMAN BEINGS TOGETHER IN THE MOST KIND AND GENUINE OF WAYS.

WE ALL HAVE THESE PERSONAL STAKES IN CINEMA AND THIS IS HULK'S PARTICULAR ISSUE. AND WITH THAT, PERHAPS IT'S FINALLY TIME TO GET PERSONAL...

3. HULK... WHAT DOES SUPERMAN MEAN TO YOU?

IT WAS INEVITABLE... THE ONE THING THAT HAS BEEN BANDIED ABOUT IN THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION IS WHAT SUPERMAN MEANS TO PEOPLE AND HOW THE NEW FILM EITHER LIVED UP TO, OR DID NOT LIVE UP TO THAT MEANING.

WHEN HULK WAS YOUNGER HULK LOVED SUPERMAN. EVEN IF HULK WAS AN IRRADIATED LITTLE MONSTER, HULK STILL RAN AROUND IN THE RED CAPE IN THE BACK YARD OF NEW ENGLAND. THAT'S HOW IMPORTANT HE WAS. MAYBE IT'S JUST BECAUSE WE ALL WANTED TO FLY? TO BREAK FREE OF OUR TETHER TO THE EARTH AND SOAR? BUT REALLY IT'S BECAUSE THERE WAS A GOODNESS THERE TOO. HE WASN'T SOMETHING HULK RELATED TO... HE WAS SOMETHING HULK WANTED TO BE. AND EVEN WHEN WE WERE ALL LITTLE IT WAS SOMETHING WE KNEW IN OUR BONES. HE MADE US WANT TO BE BETTER THAN OURSELVES.

AND THEN IN THOSE AWKWARD TEEN YEARS WE ALL TEND TO SHY AWAY FROM THE LAST SON OF KRYPTON AND SUDDENLY WE ARE ATTRACTED TO BATMAN BECAUSE HE SEEMS COOL AS FUCK. PROBABLY BECAUSE HE WEARS AL BLACK AND DOESN'T TAKE ANYBODY'S SHIT AND YOU FEEL LIKE YOU COULD ACTUALLY BE HIM (IF YOU WERE RICH ENOUGH).

BUT THEN, THE OLDER HULK GETS THE MORE SUPERMAN STARTS TO MEAN SOMETHING AGAIN. MAYBE IT'S THE NOTION OF OUR IMPERMANENCE. MAYBE IT'S HOW WE GET LESS PREOCCUPIED WITH COOL. BUT REALLY HULK THINKS IT'S THE NOTION OF EVERYDAY HEROISM. FOR THE OLDER YOU GET THE MORE CONCRETE THINGS SEEM. THE MORE SELFLESSNESS BECOMES AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT AND NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO. THE MORE PEOPLE REFRAIN FROM KINDNESS. THE MORE THERE IS TO LOSE WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHANCE TO SACRIFICE. WHAT SUPERMAN DOES SEEMS MORE AND MORE REMARKABLE BECAUSE IT SEEMS MORE AND MORE IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO BE THAT WAY IN REAL LIFE. MAYBE THAT'S PROBABLY WHY SO MANY HUMANS FIND HIM LESS AND LESS RELATABLE AS THEY GROW...

BUT THAT'S ALSO WHY HE MEANS MORE THAN EVER.

WE DON'T NEED SUPERMAN TO PUNCH THINGS, OR TEACH US TO OVERCOME OUR ENEMIES, OR UNLEASH THE CARNAGE OF DESTRUCTION. THOSE THINGS WE KNOW HOW TO DO JUST FINE... WE NEED SUPERMAN TO BE ABLE TO DO THOSE THINGS AND YET NOT DO THEM BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. WE NEED A SUPERMAN THAT IS MORE DEFINED BY MUNDANE HEROISMS THAT MAKE UP OUR EVERYDAY LIVES. THE COURAGE TO GET UP AND GO TO WORK EVERY DAY. THE COURAGE TO PAY OUR BILLS ON TIME. THE COURAGE TO GIVE PEOPLE A TINY INKLING OF BUREAUCRATIC KINDNESS. THE COURAGE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. THE COURAGE TO DO THE HARD THING, WHEN THE EASIER OPTION IS AVAILABLE. THE COURAGE TO BE PEOPLE WHO TELL THE TRUTH WHEN IT IS EASIER TO LIE. THE COURAGE TO BE PEOPLE WHO GIVE WHEN IT IS PREFERABLE TO KEEP FOR OUR OWN. THE COURAGE TO BE OPEN TO GROWTH AND HUMILITY IN THE FACE OF US NOT BEING "BADASS" ENOUGH. THAT'S REAL COURAGE, WHEREAS NOTIONS OF REVENGE AND ANIMOSITY ARE OF LITTLE VALUE IN OUR EVERY DAY LIVES. AND THESE THINGS ARE REAL... THEY ARE MUNDANE... THEY ARE WITHIN OUR GRASP, BUT THEY NEED THAT INSPIRATION MORE THAN ANYTHING TO MAKE THEM REAL. WE NEED A SUPERMAN TO SHOW US WHY THESE THINGS MATTER.

WE NEED A SUPERMAN TO SHOW US WHY WE SHOULDN'T PUNCH THINGS.

WHEN ALAN MOORE'S WATCHMEN CAME OUT HE EFFECTIVELY MADE THE DEFINITE COMICS INVESTIGATION OF WHAT OMNIPOTENCE FEELS LIKE AND HOW IT MANIFESTS IN A CHARACTER. THE IDEA WAS THAT IT PUSHED A SUPER-BEING TOWARD NEUTRALITY WITH HUMANITY AND TO MANY IT THEN EVISCERATED THE IDEA OF SUPERMAN. THERE WAS NO GOING BACK FROM THIS DECONSTRUCTION... BUT THE THING ABOUT MOORE'S SEMINAL WORK IS HE MAY HAVE ACTUALLY JUST PROVED WHAT MAKES THE CHARACTER OF SUPERMAN EVEN MORE REMARKABLE. FOR SUPERMAN HAS EVERY REASON NOT TO CARE ABOUT THE FATE OF HUMANS, YET HE DOES ANYWAY. AND HE DOES BECAUSE HE LEARNED HOW TO BE A REGULAR HUMAN BEING UNDERNEATH ALL THAT SUPERHUMANITY. BECAUSE HE LEARNED THAT THE BEST HEROISMS CAN BE MUNDANE, LIKE SHOWING SOMEONE A SMALL KINDNESS ON THE STREET.

BECAUSE HE REALIZED BEING CLARK KENT IS JUST AS VITAL TO BEING SUPERMAN.

AND THAT IS PROBLEM WITH MAN OF STEEL. IT NEVER REALLY SHOWS US HOW HE LEARNED HOW TO BE A HUMAN BEING. IT NEVER SHOWS US WHY CLARK KENT IS IMPORTANT. IT INDULGES IN SUPERMAN IN ALL THE WRONG WAYS. IT HAS NO ROOM FOR THE SMALL KINDNESSES. IT TRIES TO DEPEND ON THE TEXTURE AND SHADES OF THE CENTURY OF WORK THE CHARACTER HAS DONE BEFORE AND IT TRIES TO DELIVER THIS ICONOGRAPHY DIRECTLY TO US...

BUT IT IS NEVER DRAMATIZED OR SHOWN TO US... IT IS NEVER FELT.

STILL, IF THERE IS ANY MOMENT IN THE FILM THAT SOMEHOW STILL RINGS TRUE, IT IS THE REVEAL THAT THE POPULAR "S" SYMBOL WE KNOW SO WELL IS ACTUALLY THE SYMBOL OF THE HOUSE OF EL, WHICH IN TURNS STANDS A SIMPLE CONCEPT: HOPE.

AND FOR HUMANKIND, THAT MEANS BEING THE BEST OF WHAT WE CAN BE. THAT MEANS SHOWING HOW HARD IT IS TO GET THERE. THAT MEANS EVEN IF YOU ARE AN INDESTRUCTIBLE BEING ONE STILL HAS TO FACE ALL THE THINGS THAT MAKE THEM DESTRUCTIBLE. BECAUSE ALL THE TIMES SOME LIL-HULK IN NEW ENGLAND STRAPPED ON THAT RED CAPE AND RAN AROUND THE YARD, LIL-HULK DID SO KNOWING THAT IT REPRESENTED NOT ONLY THE BEST OF OUR STRENGTH, BUT THE BEST OF OUR HEARTS AND MINDS. SUPERMAN IS A MAN OF UNLIMITED POWER AND YET HE EMBODIES THE GREATEST NOTION OF BEING HUMBLE, OR NOT USING THAT POWER, OF HOLDING HIMSELF TO THE ASPIRATION OF SACRIFICE.

... THE GREATEST ASPIRATION OF SACRIFICE... THAT PHRASE JUST STICKS OUT IN HULK'S MIND AGAIN AND AGAIN. AND IT DOES FOR GOOD REASON...

YOU'VE HAD TO HAVE SEEN THIS MOVIE BY NOW, BUT APOLOGIES IF YOU HAVEN'T BECAUSE THE FOLLOWING TWO CLIPS SHOW THE ENDING OF THE FILM. BUT IT JUST HAS TO BE SHARED BECAUSE THERE ARE THOSE OF US WHO KNOW THE BEST CINEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF SUPERMAN ACTUALLY OCCURRED IN A MOVIE RELEASED IN 1999...

AAAAND NOW WE'RE ALL CRYING AT OUR DESKS.

BUT THAT'S THE POINT. WHAT IS SHOWN IN THIS SCENE HERE? THAT'S WHAT SUPERMAN IS ABOUT. AND IT IS NOT SOMETHING BEING TOLD. IT IS NOT SOMETHING INDULGED IN. IT IS SOMETHING THAT IS FELT. AND THAT'S BECAUSE THE IRON GIANT IS A FILM GEARED AROUND MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS. AT THE CORE OF WHICH IS ONE FRIENDSHIP THAT CAN BE TRULY LOST, BUT WE LEARN TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS A SACRIFICE IN HONOR OF WHAT IS ULTIMATELY GAINED. AND IN JUST A COUPLE OF REFERENCES THIS MOVIE MANAGES TO CAPTURE THE ENTIRE ETHOS OF AN ICONIC CHARACTER, EXPRESSES IT DRAMATICALLY, AND RAMS IT HOME FOR YOU TO REMEMBER FOREVER.

IT IS THUS THE GREATEST ENCAPSULATION OF WHAT SUPERMAN IS TRULY ABOUT.

AND HULK HOPES THEY FIND IT IN THEIR JOURNEY OF MAKING THESE NEXT TWO MAN OF STEEL MOVIES. IT WILL BE DIFFICULT, BUT ALONG THE WAY HULK WISHES THEM WAY MORE THAN LUCK AND HULK IS SENDING THEM EVERY BIT OF HOPE.

BECAUSE IF THERE'S SOMETHING THAT EVEN THIS MOVIE KNOWS...

THAT'S WHO SUPERMAN IS.

<3 HULK

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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