Star Trek ITD and Superman movies

Unfortunately, I need more time to properly chew through the next batch of Host chapters.

So, let’s talk about the new Superman and Star Trek movies.

In Star Trek, a guy accepts a deal to save his daughter’s life in return for blowing up an important area of Star Fleet and killing forty-some people, enraging Starfleet because if you’re going to kill forty-some people you’d damn well better not involve Starfleet. (Someday, I wish police forces explicitly saying they’re going to treat something more seriously and throw everything they have at it because someone dared involve their own people would stop being praiseworthy.) He then launches an attack on senior command, killing one of them who Kirk is particularly close to, which makes Kirk go completely berserk. Kirk actually attempts to beat the guy into the ground after he surrenders because he’s so mad about the one death of that guy he knew.

Later, about half the enterprise is blown up and tons of his crew flushed into space, and it seems to only register to Kirk on a theoretical level. He’s definitely upset, but he’s mostly concerned about the rest of it getting blown up, presumably because that part contains the named characters. Eventually he dies and is brought back with magic blood, and no one seems to think about maybe retrieving any of the corpsicles of the many, many people flushed into space and seeing if any of them can be saved too.

Also, a great deal of this (and various future problems) could probably have been avoided if Old Spock had just fucking told them stuff originally, instead of declaring that the development of Kirk and Spock’s bromance was more important than saving lives.

It’s a story where what matters is the lives of a small ingroup, which is how a lot of people think but not something I want to see from supposed heroes, let alone a supposedly heroic organization in a utopian future.

There’s some counterpoints to that, though – Spock is willing to die on a needs of the many outweigh the few reasoning, and he’s also the one who makes the argument that the fact someone killed a Starfleet captain doesn’t change that he has certain rights and should be arrested and tried rather than nuked from a distance. But it’s definitely the minority viewpoint. I came out feeling pretty positive toward the villain because he had a higher number of people whose deaths mattered to him than anyone else and also generally uncomfortable about how tribal Hollywood was being.

And then I saw Superman, which made that pale in comparison. Star Trek may be a far cry from an enlightened future, but it’s definitely pretty enlightened compared to what passes for current heroics.

The beginning of Superman has Superman saving some dudes. It’s great. You really do not need to watch the rest of the movie from there, but it involves, among other things, Superman responding to the bad guys threatening his mom by piledriving one through two cities. Later, Metropolis is destroyed, untold thousands dying in the rubble, and Superman makes out with Lois Lane in the middle of it, they exchange quips, kiss more, then chucks Zod through the remaining undestroyed buildings that we know are not evacuated because we just spent a long time seeing how people weren’t evacuating the outer buildings while the gravity destroyo beam was crushing the inner ones. I want to be very clear – it’s not just that Zod punches him into buildings and he fails to try to move the fight away. Superman smashes Zod into populated skyscrapers, repeatedly. And mundane materials don’t even hurt Kryptonians, so it’s not like he’s killing them for some slight tactical gain. As far as I could tell he was just in a bad mood and destroying buildings with the guy’s face was making him feel better. But it’s okay, because the one known character caught in the rubble and two trying to rescue her were okay by then, so there were no casualties that matter

And it’s not like Superman was only callous when he was angry. When he learned he could fly, he immediately went all over over the globe despite having about as much control over it as a three year old driving a semi. Basically, as soon as he meets space daddy he turns into a dick.

There’s the big bit about how the Kryptonians demand Superman be turned over to him, except there’s no actual tension in the choice because Superman just somehow knows that they’ll kill everyone anyway so he doesn’t feel any need to turn himself over, and he has this whole thing about how he doesn’t want to come forward because he doesn’t know if he can trust humans to, I guess, let everyone die because he doesn’t want to go. That’s not you being a persecuted alien, that’s just you not being worth more than the entire human race! Then only does it because the military comes for Lois on the unfair basis of knowing exactly who he is and how to find him, the assholes, so apparently one person being locked up matters but billions of people getting murdered was something he could deal with.

The movie has this whole temptation bit about bringing back Krypton, except that Superman never knew the place and also, we do and know it was an absolute shithole and the only thing to mourn about it is 1) innocent babies died, 2) innocent Kryptonian fauna died and 3) that they managed to save any of their shitty culture whatsoever in Superman’s space ship. I mean, we hear that they stopped doing space exploration because they got population control, only apparently that didn’t mean their population lowered and the people on the edges returned home, it means they cut all contact and left every colony to die horrible deaths. This is without getting into their many, many stupid decisions. (There’s even this point where Jor-El’s consciousness thingy is trying to talk down Zod and Zod says he’s not going to argue with a ghost, not that it’s a little rich of Jor-El to be arguing against genocide when he was in favor of genociding his entire race. Seriously, Superman’s new backstory is not getting launched at the last second, it’s getting launched while his parents decide it’s better to wait and die with everyone else (including their loyal dragonfly dog or whatever that was) because everyone down to the other babies are tainted because they weren’t born special like Superman.) Why does Superman hang on asshole space dad’s every word? Why does he want to identify with these people? Apparently it’s because they’re his people and blood matters, and it’s some huge deal that he grudgingly decides to be on our side despite them being evil monsters with no redeeming features whatsoever.

Oh, and he ultimately comes down on the “I’m for America” side and not “I’m for humanity” side, screw you, rest of the world! The occasions Superman bothers to save people will be happening in AMERICA because Americans count more than the rest of you.

But even if Superman is so, so much worse about it, both ultimately boil down to people you know or are related to are the only people of value. Superman saves random people when there’s nothing else to do while Kirk cares about people dying only when they’re people who matter to him personally. (Would he have exposed his ship at the beginning to save any member of his crew? I’d sure like to think so, but given he kept telling Spock it was because he cares so much about Spock personally, it doesn’t seem like it.)

This is a way humans act all the time, but that doesn’t make it good. Superman is heroic because he cares about everyone. Star Trek is a utopia because it’s full of equality and laws enforcing that, instead of people only getting justice if they’re important to those in charge. These are good things, because all of us? We are the everyone else. Almost everyone is the everyone else, that’s what everyone else means. For things to be good, you can’t just have it be good for a couple people.

(Also, both had issues with female characters, but Star Trek did relatively well and just had the usual mostly-guys thing, while Superman’s only redeeming features were Lois Lane was competent and this one waitress bit character was good in her couple seconds screentime. Superman’s birth mommy gets special mention for being the shittiest in a shitty, shitty movie, because this is a story about Men and their Man Conflicts with Men. I feel there’s a connection there.)

26 Comments

  1. Fool says:
    [For things to be good, you can’t just have]

    Looks like something got eaten here.

  2. 13thlemur says:
    So Faora didn’t leave much of an impression?
    Of course what kills me about all the destruction in Man of Steel was in Superman 2, Superman is very aware of the damage Kryptonians would cause to a city and makes sure to get the big confrontation away from civilians. I guess caring about and trying your best to save as many people as possible isn’t edgy enough for today’s Superman.
    1. Farla says:
      She was lady villain model #3.
    2. GeniusLemur says:
      Remember: dark and edgy make everything better, and if people don’t like your oh-so-dark and oh-so-edgy stuff, obviously it wasn’t dark and edgy enough.
  3. maimh says:
    I saw someone compare Superman and the Avengers somewhere, noting that the climax of Avengers is all about stopping the invasion with the least amount of casualties, using crowd control and keeping the fighting to a small area, while Superman used the entire city as a fighting ring.
    1. 13thlemur says:
      In the Avengers there was also a shot after the fight of a wall where people were putting up pictures of people who died. Man of Steel just didn’t seem to care.
      1. Farla says:
        Maybe they could have a memorial statue of Superman smashing Zod through some innocent woman titled “Don’t touch my mom!”
    2. Farla says:
      The worst is that even the deaths could have been done well if only it was shown that he was trying to prevent it and just couldn’t – which would also make killing Zod seem actually built up to instead of for some reason caring about one stupid family and not all the other people.

      There’s a comic called Red Son that does what this was trying to do but properly, where Superman’s fights have an inevitable death toll and this haunts him.

  4. cecamire says:
    Huh, I didn’t realise how much Megamind was based on Superman. I’m even gladder of its existence now <3
    1. Farla says:
      Really? Yeah, it was a play on it by giving him a recognizably heroic origin only to be subverted by an conventionally handsome guy outdoing him. In comics, there’s also a character whose origin story is that he grew up as a prisoner in a jail.
  5. Rachel says:
    Still crossing my fingers for a Dark Knight trilogy review.
  6. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
    “Later, about half the enterprise is blown up and tons of his crew
    flushed into space, and it seems to only register to Kirk on a
    theoretical level. He’s definitely upset, but he’s mostly concerned
    about the rest of it getting blown up, presumably because that part
    contains the named characters.”

    It’s much more practical to worry about those who are still living than other those who did. It’s one of the first things you learn in the military. It would be safe to assume that the crew were racing to save everyone else lives while Kirk was making sure that the Enterprise didn’t splat into the Earth’s surface.

    Sure, they could have show nameless people actually being saved by other nameless people, but it’s not exciting enough to fit in an already 2 hour+ action movie.

    “I came out feeling pretty positive toward the villain because he had a
    higher number of people whose deaths mattered to him than anyone else”

    I like this Khan too. In the Wrath of Khan movie, he was much more one dimensional, although still a very good bad guy. Genetically enhanced humans have sort of been a dark side of human history within the Star Trek universe.

    They only Star Trek series that handled these issues well was Deep Space Nine(although only in the later seasons).

    1. Farla says:
      It’s much more practical to worry about those who are still living than other those who did.

      I’d be willing to go with this except half the movie is about him being willing to do anything over some dead guy, and also that bit where he says he’d totally not have saved Spock in the beginning if it wasn’t that they were buddies.

      After all that, the actor really needed to make it clear that he was upset because SO MANY PEOPLE DEAD DON’T KILL ANY MORE ;_; and not OH NO THE NEXT SHOT MIGHT KILL PEOPLE WHO MATTER!

  7. Kirk12 says:
    Very insightful analysis.

  8. Roarke says:
    Mmm, ruthlessness towards a popular icon. Gotta link this to my cousin. He’s the Supes fan. Hurt Batman next; I can take it.
    1. Farla says:
      This isn’t really a Superman critique so much as complaining the movie wasn’t about Superman.

      My opinion on Batman is he should be black, that good?

      1. Roarke says:
        It’s an opinion I’d like to hear the reasoning behind, but I don’t particularly care about the dude in the suit as long as he’s Batman.
        1. Farla says:
          There was a black Batman in Supreme and ever since then I can’t stop thinking how much better it works in regular canon.

          A lot of the problems people can find with Batman (rich white guy punches mostly poor often not white people with the help of his amazing gadgets he won’t supply to the police force who he has a troubled relationship with) can be mitigated by making him a rich black guy instead, as well as making him stand out from the legion of white guy genius detectives in existing media. Plus, it fits better with his backstory! Rich white families tend not to die to random theft. Rich black families are at a lot higher risk of being shot.

          It might also improve the Batman/Superman dynamic – Batman is an actual human actual American getting discrimination when not in the suit, while Superman is a nonhuman nonAmerican who was raised as and generally accepted by the public as a white guy.

          1. Roarke says:
            Yeah, these seem like fairly solid reasons for a black Batman, specifically the one about making his origin story… statistically plausible. I didn’t really consider Batman from a racial perspective, but I don’t actually see a whole lot wrong with him being white. I’m not white, but I’m not about to look for reasons for Bruce Wayne to be Hispanic. The misguided pursuit of vengeance and justice when there’s so much better you could do with your ridiculous wealth and talent… seems like a fairly solidly “White American” thing to me. At the risk of being utterly politically inappropriate/anti-government.

            I would imagine there are similar reasons for a non-white Superman, since it’s such an obvious power fantasy to have him not only possess unimaginable might but also be this 6’3″ intelligent white male model.

            1. Farla says:
              The misguided pursuit of vengeance and justice when there’s so much better you could do with your ridiculous wealth and talent… seems like a fairly solidly “White American” thing to me.

              Oh, yes, white Batman is good for the dark stories questioning if this whole dressing-as-a-bat thing is helpful or if he’s just doing more harm. Maybe split Batman in half, have Black Batman handle the traditional stuff and White Batman gets the deconstructions.

              I’ve seen some great non-white Superman stuff, but it all hinges in how different the reaction would be if he didn’t fit in so well – you can see some of that in how most Superman clones go all the way to make him an Aryan wet dream. Batman is cut off enough from general society that people’s reactions to him are primarily to the costume, so changing the guy under it doesn’t mess with telling any of the existing stories. Superman being anything but very, very white would be a big deal to how America reacts to him. (Just look at the difference between him and Wonder Woman, who keeps getting stories where people at large of the government are upset at her existence.)

              Reply
              1. Roarke says:
                “Maybe split Batman in half, have Black Batman handle the traditional stuff and White Batman gets the deconstructions.”

                Mixed Heritage Batman, go!

                Yeah, Superman would go down much differently in the DCU if he were non-white, or noticeably non-human. It’s really silly that he looks human.

            2. SpoonyViking says:
              “The misguided pursuit of vengeance and justice when there’s so much
              better you could do with your ridiculous wealth and talent…”

              To be fair, many, many stories make an effort to show how Batman’s fortune and talents are employed in a more socially constructive manner, both for the city as a whole and specific individuals (for instance, Batman is the one that funds Dr. Tompkins’ free clinic).

              I think the problem is that traditional Western comics, like Marvel and DC’s flagship characters, run off the idea that their stories can’t ever end, they’ll always have to be recycled for newer generations; and that leads to a situation where heroes can’t ever truly change the status quo – Batman can’t ever truly make Gotham a less awful place to live, or if he does, some writer at some point in the future will reverse it just because he wants to do a story about Batman trying to make Gotham less awful.

              Plus, for better or worse, there’s a strong element of light escapism in those types of comics, so many writers (or maybe the publishing companies) probably feel they should focus more on traditional superhero vs. supervillain fights than actual issues from the real world.

              Reply
              1. Roarke says:
                Yeah, I know that writers have lately tried to make Bruce Wayne a philanthropist rather than just some heir. It still doesn’t curb the fact that most of his time/effort is spent being Batman; there are too many stories that outright say “Bruce Wayne is the mask, Batman is the person,” etc. But you’re certainly right about the status quo being generally unchanging because Batman can’t just end as a story.
              2. Farla says:
                To be fair, many, many stories make an effort to show how Batman’s fortune and talents are employed in a more socially constructive manner, both for the city as a whole and specific individuals (for instance, Batman is the one that funds Dr. Tompkins’ free clinic).

                Which then serves as a distraction from the Batmaning the comic should be about, and still leads to questions of how much effort he’s putting into each and so on. Besides, insanely rich people control the government, so instead of funding charities as a stopgap measure, he could chuck money at politicians until the government social services actually worked.

                Whereas if you say he’s black, we have why he wouldn’t view government anything as a solution, why government wouldn’t care about catering to his whims anyway, and why he’d likely be focused on areas the government refuses to deal with. So, less time needed to explain that he’s doing good works other than being Batman and fewer questions why these good works can’t fix the problems. He’s got a reason he can’t work with the system, unlike insanely rich white guys.

              3. SpoonyViking says:
                I missed your reply to this! Is there some way to configure it so I can be notified of replies to my comments? I suppose I’ll have to create an account here.

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