Man of Steel
Will they ever run out of pixels?
Must every other movie these days feature a prolonged sequence that involves New York, or a stand-in city, being demolished, shredded, torn up, its sidewalks ferociously uprooted, its tall buildings molested and concussed, while citizens scream, run and evince other signs of terror but mostly seem — much like we, the viewers, their semblables and freres — stuck and frozen in digital deja vu?
In some movies there is a rough proportion between meaning and mayhem: in King Kong (2005), for example, Broadway takes its hits but so, more lethally, does the main protagonist, that big dope, the romantic lead, Kong. You could even argue that in the case of Godzilla (1998), the city reasserts itself, holding the overgrown atom bomb born reptile in the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge until it can be disposed of (until the sequel).
In Man of Steel there's no such equivalence. New York suffers what might be the effects of innumerable 9/11s. It serves as a staging area for a fight to the death between the good guy from Krypton and the genocidally bad guys from that planet.
Ok. Go good guy from Krypton.
But there's no real pain. No real violence. Or to put it as I think I may have already, this kind of violence takes the violence out of violence. For me, an example of real movie violence is the end of Scorcese's Mean Streets, when Robert De Niro, trying to get the hell out of Manhattan ahead of his smalltime pursuer (Little Italy, not Krypton) gets it, literally, in the neck, on the Brooklyn Bridge. And nothing digital about it.
Send the pixels back where they came from and there is but one genuinely surprising and affecting sequence in Man of Steel. Clark Kent is a boy, in a Kansas classroom. His senses are wild and extravagant. He can see and hear too much — don't forget the X-ray vision — and he has no control. This tortures him until mother comes to console.
Here's an element of "Man of Steel" that was not cut and pasted from comparable digital extravaganzas, whether arising from film or video games, assuming the difference. Maybe the inspiration had to do with sensory disorders associated with but not limited to the autistic spectrum.
In any case, it had to do with being human.