Man of Steel returns (and fails to remain ‘steel’)

Man of Steel wasn’t exactly an engaging movie, and when the son of Krypton regained his power at the climax to defeat his strongest and final opponent, General Zod, the entire audience was caught up in a genuine surprise: Wasn’t he already dead?

During the next 5 minutes or so of the “epic” battle, where the filmmakers consumed probably ⅓ of the entire budget and gave away their blood, sweat, and no doubt tears, the audience consumed the entire positive feelings ramped up for the film and gave away their doubt, yawn, and no doubt rage—for putting up with another roll of predictable unpredictability. The audience, adjusting to the dark, started to see the wires and background extras. The magic moment was long overdue.

By the time Superman faded into his anonymous alter-ego life to quietly protect the human society from within, I was feeling sadness, not because I realized the movie was over, but because I realized the whole blockbuster industry was over. If they spent $200 million to generate almost zero emotional reactions, what else is left to be done? I was witnessing a sad old man failing to arouse any positive reactions from his lover despite receiving the best anti-impotent treatment to regain his Steel-ness.

I am sorry for implying an X-rated analogy for a PG-13 film, but indeed there is a spooky similarity to the current state of the adult film industry. The more Hollywood tries to make it bigger and louder and flashy, the less we get excited and surprised and satisfied. Yes, the worldwide revenue of big-budget tent poles has been increasing, but I believe we have reached a tipping point where everybody knows the old formula and therefore it no longer works.

From now on, I predict the movie industry will go downhill into a dark hole where the executives and A-list players all get sucked in, not knowing what they have done wrong. They have done nothing wrong. They just repeated their “correct” strategy too many times. They have created too many sequels, too many adaptations, and too many “franchises” where everything depends on the audiences’ previous knowledge.

That means that the film industry as well as the audience tried to create genuine surprises in a well-known place. Both sides have been lying to themselves. How many times can you create goose bumps by replacing gimmicks in the same haunted mansion?

The movie amusement park, which started as a place to find serendipity and wonders, has revealed that it has turned into yet another aspect of the “system.” Watching expensive repetitions will not function any more to forget our event-less lives. Instead, the more we watch those films that are made out of “formulas,” the more we realize the self-predictable nature of our modern life.

It is time for us to leave the movie theaters, at least in its current form, for good. And although it means the end to a once-almighty era, it should be good for us in the long term.