This post is triggered by the numerous hate responses to Man of Steel. As a person who loves comics in general and a fan of Christopher Nolan, I would like to address these concerns directly in a Q & A format. This will be split into two parts, first analyzing the Bat trilogy and the second addressing Man of Steel. Those who haven’t seen Man of Steel yet can still read the second part of the post as it does not contain spoilers. Skip it if you want to watch the movie with an open mind.
Part I – The Bat Trilogy
Warner brothers had no idea of giving this a reboot. Batman has a riveting story that any director would want to tell. The previous movies and the old TV series might have been “good” for the time, but they had deviated way too far from the theme and essence that the comics conveyed. There was a new dimension that had to be brought to Batman to establish his true identity.
- What was the story that was intended?
Nolan’s vision was to explore the character and build a story that was justifiable. The story had scope for character development, from showing the inner scars of Bruce Wayne to go on and show how he overcomes them to become a better person.
- There are many villains in the Batman universe, why choose those who were chosen?
Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed by a street thief for petty money, which was during the depression. Bruce chooses to avenge his parents, but doesn’t have a roadmap as such. After numerous experiences in life, he chooses to use his wealth and intelligence to create a face that criminals would fear.
The first step would be to battle the gangs in Gotham, or the “mob”. The muggers and the crime lord Carmine Falcone are interconnected. A psychotic doctor, assuming the name Scarecrow, plans to release a fear toxin that will paralyze Gotham. It is also revealed that the Scarecrow was pressurized by Ras Al Gul to create and release a fear toxin. Henri Ducard is a detective who trains Bruce in the comics, but Nolan merged Ducard and Ras Al Gul to make an intricate plot for Batman Begins. Scarecrow uses the city’s organized crime to smuggle his toxin, acting on the orders of Ras; this makes way for a believable plot; as against bringing in a Penguin or a Riddler for the opening movies. The first movie established a solid foundation for the subsequent movies that followed.
Batman isn’t complete without the Joker. Nolan’s version of the Joker and Ledger’s rendition of it will probably be the best in the movie franchise; in parallel with Mark Hamill’s version in the cartoons. The origins of the Joker are as mysterious in the movie as they are in the comics. Nolan chose to expose the chaos that the Joker could unleash as a sociopathic character. He merged the origins of Two-face as an outcome of Joker’s actions, by adding a personal tragedy that pushes Harvey Dent to the ‘dark side’. Harvey’s killings form an important part of the story which lays the premise for the third movie.
Bane is a product of a drug test, as per the comics, and increases his strength by pumping the drug ‘Venom’. As for Catwoman, she was never a killer, Nolan stuck to the comics and treated her as a hired professional thief. He extrapolates the story of the League of Shadows and links Bane to it so create a continual contemporary storyline; thereby making a logical and realistic trilogy.
Throughout the trilogy, there is always a mix of villains that work together, to make to plot as believable as possible. Debates about the other villains like Poison Ivy, Riddler, Mad hatter, Killer Croc, Hugo Strange etc can be silenced; because frankly we didn’t miss them!
Now that we are done with the Bat trilogy, let’s get to Superman.
Part II – Man of Steel
This was another superhero franchise that never quite got what it deserved. It was very well worthy of the reboot. Riding on the success of the Bat trilogy, who better to be on board than Nolan, Goyer and Snyder; all of whom have a good track record.
- What was the story that was intended?
The writers’ vision was to explore the character and build a story that was justifiable. The story had scope for character development, from showing how a misfit alien tries to align himself to the society to go on and lay a foundation for subsequent movies.
To explain this convincingly, we need to explore the origins of Superman as per the comics as and per the movie.
First, the comics –
Jor-El predicts that Krypton would cease to exist, but by the time he figures it out it is too late to save its entire people. It becomes wildly unstable due to its radioactive core which results in frequent quakes. Kal-El [Superman] is sent to earth just so that he can be saved. Earth was chosen as it has a lower gravitational field and a brighter sun than Krypton; which implies Kal-El would possess superhuman powers.
Now the movie –
Krypton is shown to have births from separate incubation chambers and Kal-El is supposed to be the first natural birth in Krypton [after centuries]. Jor-El is the person who cracked this code for natural births and saves Kal-El and the code containing genetic information for natural births. I will avoid discussing about the code as it involves spoilers.
All that we need to understand is that there are reasons why Zod comes looking for Superman.
One – He believes that Kal-El has access to the genetic code which can help him rebuild Krypton
Two – Earth is a good planet to ‘terraform’ to Krypton [terraform = create the properties of one planet to match that of the other]
- Character development of Kal-El
Kal-El is brought up as Clark Kent, by Jonathan and Martha Kent. The trauma that he undergoes as a child is depicted quite well, and I don’t find a reason to complain. Examples – Trying to adjust to the various sounds in daily life, focusing only on what he wants to hear or use his X-Ray vision only when needed, controlling his anger while bullied in school etc. His foster father is his greatest inspiration and is instrumental in molding him during his formative years. The father-son moments have preachy moments but it blends well with the story. The numerous instances where Clark does superhuman feats and the consequences that he and his parents face are portrayed well too.
- What people wrongly think went wrong –
Ok, there is good justice being done to Kal-El and Superman. So why are most people disappointed with the movie? The answer is simple. Superman is not Batman. Most people expect a Dark Knight when they walk in to Man of Steel. I would be surprised if they are not disappointed. It is like walking into a ‘Fast and the Furious’ movie and expecting Bruce Lee to show you his cool Jeet-Kune-Do or Karate moves!
In all fairness, Batman and Superman cannot be compared; even with Nolan+Goyer+Snyder at the helm of things. All we need to ask ourselves is one question – Did they do justice to the story of Superman? Hell, yes!
Superman and Batman are two different characters. Frankly, Superman is less exciting because he is too perfect. He doesn’t have the dark past like Batman, or the quick wit of Iron Man, or the bad ass demeanor / adamantium fists of Wolverine. Superman is intended to be an ideal superhero and an ideal man which is why certain amount of suspension of disbelief is needed to appreciate him. Batman is supposed to be a believable character – he is a guy who has his limitations but still goes on to fight his demons and rise above them.
Anyway, all said and done; for the people who think that there wasn’t enough character development that went into Superman, maybe we need to look deeper. Take off your Dark Knight cape, and wear the Superman hat; you would definitely enjoy this effort.
Keep calm and trust in Nolan.