4 Superman Movie Scenes That Were Dumb AF In Retrospect
Between the debuts of Zack Snyder's Justice League and Superman & Lois, this month is shaping up to be unusually Supermanly. To celebrate, Cracked's on-call Supermanologist Maxwell Yezpitelok will be conducting a week of lectures on the superhero who is a metaphor for absolutely everything. So please: settle in, and mind your Supermanners. Check out Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
If you went to 1999 and told the average comic book fan that Antman would have more decent movies in the 21st century than Superman, they'd be like "Um, actually, it's Ant-Man with a hyphen, you philistine. Also, what?!" The Superman franchise's good/bad movie ratio is so dismal that we have to wonder if Hollywood isn't secretly run by Lex Luthor. At least that would explain baffling creative decisions like ...
Ham-Fisted Imagery That Doesn't Even Fit Superman (Or: Enough With The Jesus Stuff Already)
OK, you know how Superman is really good and comes from the sky?
And Jesus also likes to help people and comes from heaven?
What if, OK, hear us out, what if someone did a movie ...
... where one is compared to the other??
All those images are from Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which isn't even the one where Superman dies and promptly starts giving signs of life a few days later (we don't remember Jesus and Batman fighting a steroid-filled version of E.T. in the Bible, but it's been a while since we went to Sunday school). To be fair, Superman movies have been hammering home the "Superman is kinda like Jesus" point since long before Snyder came along. One of the sillier aspects of 1978's Superman: The Movie is that Baby Superman's spaceship looks like the star of Bethlehem from a middle school Christmas play.
Superman Returns not only did the "floating with arms stretched out" pose ...
... but director Bryan Singer has talked at length about how "Superman is the Jesus Christ of superheroes" and how clever he was for making the shot of Superman being cradled by his Earth mom look like Jesus being cradled by his Earth mom in Michelangelo's Pieta.
But at least those movies treated the subject with some degree of subtlety. After including all that imagery in Man of Steel (which also has a scene where Superman mentions he's 33), Snyder dialed up the Jesus stuff even more on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice -- a movie where Superman gets stabbed with a spear and dies on a giant pile of debris just so his friends have to take him down like on a "descent from the cross" painting.
We seriously wouldn't be surprised if Snyder was the one who insisted on this movie being released on Good Friday. The problem, besides the obvious cringe factor, is that a lot of these images either don't service the story or actively worsen it. For instance, Snyder loves including shots of Superman floating dramatically in front of people in trouble, like some sort of divine figure summoned by their prayers, but that just makes him look like an asshole for not coming down to help them sooner. What's he even doing up there?
Snyder is also a huge fan of the "eyes glowing red" look for Superman, which some comics artists are fond of, too. But, traditionally, this is reserved for when the artists are trying to make Superman look sinister, like if he's turned evil or been replaced by a doppelganger or is unusually pissed off (see: this iconic moment from the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons story, "For The Man Who Has Everything"). In fact, if you look up "evil Superman," most of the top image results have red eyes.
These would be cool visuals for some edgier hero, but, combined with the darker suit and darker ... everything, they add to the ongoing sense that these movies are ashamed of Superman; like the only way to sell the character is by assuring everyone that he might be Superman but he's not that much like Superman. Hopefully one day Snyder will get to make the gritty Jesus remake he clearly wanted to make instead of this stuff.
Making Him A Super-Stalker AND A Deadbeat Dad
Superman Returns actually gets a lot of things right about Superman, like the music, or when he does everything possible to minimize damage to bystanders during destruction scenes instead of causing said damage. Unfortunately, it also has some stuff that was already creepy to begin with and has gotten increasingly disturbing in hindsight -- almost like it was made by someone who is massively talented, but also awful on some fundamental level. Allegedly.
Superman spends a shocking amount of the running time of this film just stalking Lois Lane and her family. When Clark Kent steps into the Daily Planet for the first time in five years, the first thing he does is go snooping on Lois' desk and break a frame of her fiance and kid.
Next, he uses his super-hearing to eavesdrop on them in Perry White's office. There's no emergency involved here. Superman's creeping on his ex, plain and simple.
You might be thinking, "What if he just couldn't help overhearing them due to his enhanced senses?" After all, he probably has to live with a constant choir of people farting in his head all the time. So maybe it was by accident ... but there's nothing accidental about the scene where he flies to Lois' house, starts floating outside, and stays there watching the family have a private conversation for a couple of minutes.
And there's more! The next day at work, Lois takes a break and there's an uncomfortably long sequence about Clark smiling as he watches her go up on the elevator.
Once she's all alone on the roof, he uses the opportunity to show up as Superman and take her on a sensual flight, knowing full well that she's raising a child with another man and that his mere existence is causing strain in her relationship. Of course, the kid turns out to be his ... which leads us to the creepiest part of the movie. Listen, we don't know what you're supposed to do after you learn that your former girlfriend had your son while you were out in space and has been raising him with another man. We just know that sneaking into said kid's room at night and whispering Marlon Brando quotes while he sleeps definitely ain't it.
Then Superman and Lois make eyes at each other for a while, he flies away, and the movie ends. Maybe if Bryan Singer had gotten to direct another Superman movie it would have started with Superman, Lois, and Lois' fiance having an adult conversation about what to do regarding the kid. But that didn't happen, so this series ended with Superman as a deadbeat dad and potential adulterer. Cue John Williams music!
Speaking of weird father/son issues ...
Superman Letting His Dad Die To Protect His Identity
Yes, we're back to Snyder. Sorry. Despite the fact that his only abilities are "farming" and "stumbling upon spaceships," Superman's adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, is arguably a more important character than his biological one. Jor-El may have given Superman his powers and some holographic wisdom, but Pa Kent was the one who had to live with a super-powered kid in his house for 18 years. It's because of the Kents' basic goodness and sense of responsibility that Superman didn't grow up into a super-dickhead.
So when the version of Pa Kent in Man of Steel says that "maybe" Clark should have let several kids in a bus suffer a horrible death ... well, that kinda explains a lot about the Superman in those movies.
For a folksy salt of the earth guy, Pa sure likes overthinking things -- when Clark is seen saving that bus and his neighbor thinks it was through God magic, Pa is more concerned with the theological and societal implications than the fact that several children didn't drown to death. He also tells Clark he's gonna have to decide who he wants to be, but then seems kind of offended when the kid doesn't want to use his incredible powers to plant corn more efficiently. And that leads us to the "suicide by tornado" scene:
Pa decides he'd rather turn his wife into a widow than let his invincible super son save him in front of a bunch of random people, because that would "expose" him to the world. This is especially dumb because this scene happens in 1997, in the dark ages before phone cameras and social media, and did we mention that they're in the middle of a tornado? Clark could have flown off with Ma, Pa, and the dog on him and probably still remained anonymous. Or, you know, just run in there and act like they were lucky and the tornado threw them somewhere safe, which is a thing that happens.
Later on, Ma Kent honored her husband's memory by also giving terrible advice to Clark:
Uncle Ben: "With great power comes great responsibility." Aunt May: "I believe there's a hero in all of us." Ma Kent: "You don't owe this world a thing." Weird that DC hasn't put that on any mugs yet.
Please Don't Jokerize Lex Luthor Again
In the comics, Lex Luthor is an amoral genius whose motivations oscillate between brutal utilitarianism and just sort of being a crabby obese billionaire. He's often depicted as the mirror image of Superman -- Luthor is a physically vulnerable human who sees his own selfish agenda challenged by Superman's otherworldly munificence, and boy howdy does that make Luthor insecure.
So given this rich history of villainous characterization, Zack Snyder apparently thought that there was just no way to make Lex relevant to today's world, so he turned Luthor into ... a cross between Mark Zuckerberg, the Joker, and an extremely annoying first-year philosophy student?
Why the Joker? Because where the real Luthor is logical to a fault, this one delights in acting ToTaLLy rAnDom and doing stupid crap for no reason. One of the first things we see him do when we meet him in Dawn of Justice is force a piece candy into the mouth of a not very amused government official he was negotiating a deal with.
That kinda sets the tone for the character. A key plot point in this movie is a jar of urine labeled "Granny's Peach Tea" that Luthor somehow sneaks into a congressional hearing, which Holly Hunter's senator character stares at for what feels like ten minutes before being mercifully exploded to death. It adds nothing except that "I'm amused by twisted things" factor that, again, seems more "killer clown" than "ruthless businessman."
Comic book Luthor comes to hate Superman after having his plans foiled by him and being unable to handle the fact that there's someone superior to himself. Snyder's Luthor, on the other hand, hates him before they even met due to pseudo-religious obsessions that the movie implies were caused by his father abusing him as a kid. Jesse Eisenberg plays him like a guy who needs mental health treatment (rather than an arrogant criminal), and his dumbass plan seems to confirm that: he tries to make the world hate Superman by framing him for a terrorist attack that no one would seriously think Superman pulled off (for one thing, it happened through a sophisticated explosive, not eye lasers). Luckily for Lex, everyone else is also a dumbass and they all seem to buy his flimsy ruse for a while, including Batman.
The last time we see Luthor, he's yelling from a prison cell after Batman tells him he's being sent to Arkham Asylum. At this point, all that's missing is green hair and red lipstick (Eisenberg is already pasty-looking enough for the Joker).
Apparently, Zack Snyder's Justice League will feature appearances from both Eisenberg's "Luthor" and Jared Leto's equally irritating Joker interpretation. There's no info on whether they share any scenes, but we're guessing they do and just the two being in the same room together is how the Anti-Life Equation takes over the universe.
Top Image: DC Comics