Jan 06 2014

Debate of the Day: Is Thor the New Superman?

Published by at 1:00 pm under Comics,Debate,Movies

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I’m not going to pretend I thought of this question all by myself, as I pulled it from a rather fantastic article at National Post that I suggest you all read right now. Then come back here and discuss.

If you couldn’t be bothered to, the thesis is that between Man of Steel and Thor: The Dark World, Thor actually felt more like Superman than Superman did. Man of Steel was dark to the point of being soulless, as Superman executes his foe amidst a ruined Metropolis where hundreds of thousands of citizens have likely died. Yet, Superman feels like he’s failed to connect with Earth as a whole, even Lois Lane, his designated love interest. Thor, meanwhile, is a bit of a lunkhead, but he feels a lot more like the “people’s champion,” and has real connections with earthlings, be they his Avengers buddies or Jane and her cronies.

I understand the point, and now that I’m reflecting on it, I have to agree. I actually liked Man of Steel, far more than most apparently, but Marvel seems to have captured something about superheroes that just…clicks. DC, not so much, as evidenced by two mediocre Superman offerings in the last decade, and a failure to get any other films off the ground outside Batman. And what of Batman? Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is amazing, yes? Correct (in my estimation), but it succeeds mostly because it managed to create truly impressive and memorable villains. A common complaint was that they often overshadowed Batman in his own movie. Batman wasn’t the reason the most recent Batman trilogy was good. He’s defined by his villains, whereas Marvel has the opposite problem, and Loki remains the only remotely interesting villain they’ve ever made.

What do you think about all this, and the Thor as Superman idea?





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5 responses so far

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    Sorry, but that piece is clearly written by someone who’s an obvious Marvel fanboy, so it’s hardly objective. That said, I think he raises a few solid points — personally, I loved about 80% of MAN OF STEEL for decidedly different reasons that most folks, I think — about how Nolan and Snyder’s influence hampered what coulda/woulda/shoulda been a film wiht a different tone … namely, one uplifting and a bit more gratifying.

    Those folks concerned with the prevalence of destruction in MAN OF STEEL clearly didn’t watch THE AVENGERS all that closely, nor do they have any possible working familiarity with the world of SUPERMAN comics, obviously a component that Snyder and Goyer’s script were giving a nod to.

    That said, I will say that, to some degree, THOR — the first film, I haven’t even seen the second ’cause many fans warned me away from it — does it some ways feel thematically similar to SUPERMAN – THE MOVIE but it lacks the enduring quality of greatness and/or epicness associated to the former. Will THOR enter the pantheon of “best superhero films ever?” Heck, I know many Marvel fans who hate both the first AND the second (though they do like Thor’s inclusion in THE AVENGERS probably b/c methinks they gravitate toward anything with Robert Downey Jr. being tops), so I seriously seriously doubt it.

  • Nicholas O’Dosey

    E. Lee, I think you need to come back and watch the Avengers. While their was destruction, the Avengers went out of their way to protect people. (They even mentioned it in Iron Man 3) Who did Superman protect? So the Avengers destoryed a block. Superman destroyed what a city? More than a city with the machine on the otherside of the Earth?
    I disagree about the comics. While I don’t have the new 52 (I stopped before than), I have 25 years of Superman comics plus everything imaginable . I love Superman. Uplifting, boyscout, powerful but compassionate, I think they nailed it almost prefectly in Justice League Cartoon. But in Man of Steel he wasn’t any of that. You can change his name in the movie to anything but Superman and have the same movie about an alien. Superman is always more than his powers.
    In the comics, his father always encouraged him. His dad in MOS didn’t. In the comic, he used his powers to help people. Here he hid them. In the comic, he killed people true, but it caused him to snap mentally. Is that going to happen now? And while complaining, so now it’s Kypton’s atmosphere that sappy his strength not a red sun? So again movie making changes just to help it’s plot.
    It comes down to this – Who would you trust more in the real world? Superman or the Avengers? One group that fought an invasion or the other who the aliens only wanted him, someone people never heard of. I think alot of people miss that. Superman II worked because Superman for years was helping/saving people. People trusted him. He was one of them. In MOS, he came out of no-where. No good willed banked so to speak. He was saving his own skin. Earth just happened to be a side effect of that.
    I’m sorry I want the Boy Scout. I want the sacrificing Superman. I want the good-too-shoes.
    No I don’t think Thor is the new Supeman. I do think Thor is more human at the moment than Superman is. You can keep your MOS Superman. I’ll go with the comic one where he has a heart still.
    Just my view. I agree the Thor movie was cheese (Destroyer was easily destroyed). No I don’t think it was a great movie. But I thought MOS was horrible when I really wanted to like it. I think Carvill fits the look of Superman but the movie didn’t have a soul to me.

    • E. Lee Zimmerman

      Yeah, you might want to re-read my post, as methinks — based solely on your post — you missed an awful lot of what I was saying. We’re talking about “themes” and “motifs,” of which MAN OF STEEL had primarily one, that being to give an affectionate nod to Superman comics, especially those of the 90’s, of which Goyer has sounded off on as well. Regarding destruction, it isn’t “destruction for destruction’s sake” (as would be the case with any Michael Bay film) — it’s destruction within the context of requiring Earth’s greatest superhero’s participation in ultimately stopping it.

      Also, I’d never ever argue that MAN OF STEEL was without its flaws. As I said, I enjoyed about 80% of it (I say that as one who has been reading Superman comics since 1971), and what I didn’t like about it I was pretty rabid about as well. Amy Adams as Lois Lane? Just plain awful — awful at a galactic level — awful at nearly enough to destroy the entire movie — that’s how bad I’m talking. Also, I hated hated hated hated what they did with Krypton, Superman’s backstory, and bringing an entire army of Kryptonians to Earth. However, I can’t change the story elements, so, like you, I’m stuck responding to what Snyder and friends did with it instead of nitpicking it to death.

      I’ll also add this: SUPERMAN – THE MOVIE remains (in my mind) the superhero film to beat. Ever. It’s vastly superior to MAN OF STEEL in so many ways I wouldn’t even try to convince anyone otherwise; if you don’t see it, then you don’t see it. I, too, prefer the Boy Scout in Superman; the problem is that wasn’t the story audiences were delivered. As one who considers himself a critic, I can’t whine and moan about the story I wanted to get; I can only respond to the one DC and WB delivered.

      Was it spectacular? It had elements that were epic, and it had elements that were far from it. It’s still head and shoulders above SUPERMAN RETURNS (don’t EVEN get me started), but, no, it wasn’t perfect. I still enjoyed about 80% of it.

      My take is that Superman was saving Earth b/c — agree with it or not — it IS his new home. He made that choice or, rather, his father made it for him ages before. That’s something methinks that gets lost in the shuffle b/c everyone wants, instead, to talk about destruction and/or Krypton and/or killing Zod. Earth is all he’s got — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and, sorry, but there was no way he was going to simultaneously stop an entire army from trashing it while attempting to save it.

      I don’t know that I’d argue that ANY superhero film has a soul b/c I don’t think they have that province.

  • David R

    The original post oversimplifies the character of Superman. He’s not just a smiling, extraterrestrial do-gooder (by this metric, Starman is a better analogue than Thor). Superman is literally an extraordinary man. He’s the embodiment of humanity’s potential; a being who can save us, yes, but one who ultimately wants us to save ourselves. Thor doesn’t possess this transcendent quality, though he is… handsome, I guess? Thor can be an interesting character, but he’s no Superman.

    I didn’t care for Man of Steel but I’ll admit it sorta tried to do something interesting with the character. Fell on its face in the process, but the attempt is there. Thor 2 was, in all seriousness, awful. A total filler piece for Marvel, with no clear sense of what to do with its title character (though they pander to the fanbase by giving Loki a ton of screentime). Its relative success is mind-boggling. It’s telling that most of the discussion about these characters rests on the most recent couple of movies. It’s upsetting, though, because neither flick is really worth talking about.

    Grant Morrison remains my favorite writer of Superman as a character. Though the animated series, the original Donner movie, and Singer’s Donner homage articulate him well enough, I have yet to see ANY movie, about any comic character, come close to articulating the full potential of Superman.

    • E. Lee Zimmerman

      You are a scholar and a gentleman. Indeed, the original article clearly was written by someone who doesn’t understand Superman except for what version of Kal-El he has in his head, not one plucked from the pages of the comic books. I’ve heard too many folks (Marvel fans) tell me that “Superman is basically Iron Man but with more powers” and I have to sadly inform them that they know nothing of which they’re speaking about at that point.

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