by Jarrod Jones. What’s incredible about Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is that it has become widely known as “the good one” to those who express their appreciation for the languishing DC Cinematic Universe solely in infographics and particularly snarky internet lists. (And to those brave few, I salute you.)
Man of Steel, irrespective of it being not as bad as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (or as tonally jumbled as Suicide Squad) is a mess. Holy moses, is it a mess. Makes me wistfully sigh at the halcyon days when most franchises were kicked off by a good movie, and then we spent the subsequent decades evaluating how bad everything became afterwards.
There has been something about this movie that has bothered me for far too long. No, it’s not the completely useless “Codex” McGuffin or the filmmaker’s utterly chaotic attempt to affix a central theme to this ‘roided-out non-entity; no, it’s not the 40-plus minutes of numbing apocalypse that amounted to the lamest cop-out finale ever accomplished in superhero action cinema; and NO, it’s not Michael Shannon’s perplexing facial hair.
Let’s set the scene: After a somewhat stirring rescue sequence, a bearded and perpetually sad Henry Cavill walks around without his shirt for a spell before he robs complete strangers of their clothing so he can continue his super-secret life of putting himself in situations that end up destroying all of his clothes. (It’s the snake eating its own tail, only beefier.) That’s when he sees a school bus drive past, causing him to gawk at it while thinking to himself, “Reminds me of a time when that sentient Raggedy Andy doll humiliated me in front of my peers.”
Snyder then completely halts the progress of his own movie to stuff in another flashback sequence that’s meant to establish the inevitability of what Cavill’s supposed to become in this perspiring catheter bag of a superhero franchise. We see a young Clark Kent, sitting quietly on a school bus as it carries him safely home to the Kent farm, where his father presumably rocks back and forth in his favorite chair while poring over his dog-eared copy of The Prince, smiling grimly at the futility of hope.
Clark’s own private musings are cut short by a fellow classmate, a red-cheeked social assassin we come to know as Pete Ross—canonically Clark’s childhood friend, here a grinning Hostess Zinger wearing a red mop on its head. “Hey, asswipe,” he begins, which is how I’m guessing all of his sentences begin. “What do you think—didja see the game?”
“Leave him alone,” a young girl pipes up, which only goads Pete to prod Clark further. “I wanna hear what he has to say,” Pete says, before raising his voice. “Come on!”
The next instant we’re experiencing the nightmarish worst-case-scenario for the doting parents who just wanted to take their children to the latest Superman movie: the bus’ front left tire pops, sending it over a bridge where it rapidly begins to sink to the bottom of a river, its chubby-cheeked passengers screaming their last as the water around them begins to work its way into their precious little lungs. Little Clark Kent saves the day, Pete Ross becomes a semi-decent person (he goes on to become an IHOP manager, which good for him!), and the movie continues on its death-march towards FXX reruns.
Only that’s not how it goes down. That’s how it should have gone down, but it’s not. No, instead, Zack Snyder, who had two perfect shots he could have seamlessly spliced together to properly convey the immediacy of the situation—a shot of Clark, frustrated by an out-of-frame Pete (“Come on!“), which could then cut to the sudden burst of the tire—decided to edit in one more half-second into the sequence, just so we would have the privilege of hearing a single word:
Knocks the wind out of you, doesn’t it? Just takes your breath away. Dicksplash. A noun, derogatory in nature, meant to describe a contemptible person. According to the Law of the Playground, it’s “the only insult you can say that automatically makes you more of one than the person you say it to.” Also, this. And there it is, said aloud within the confines of a Superman movie.
It’s not like this kind of language is rampant in Man of Steel. You don’t see Lois Lane peacocking about the offices of The Daily Planet all, “Hey, Steve Lombard, how many ‘fs’ are in ‘fuck yourself?’” The insistent presence of “dicksplash” would’ve made more sense if she had, but instead the movie is littered with the humorless, droning cacophony of David S. Goyer’s portentous dialogue for the entirety of its painfully long runtime.
“Dicksplash” almost feels like a moment of subversion on Goyer’s part, where he finally lost his mind over how rote his Superman script had ultimately become, and his last hope for artistic defiance was a single cuss, artfully delivered from the gaping maw of a teenage bully.
There it is, the most excessive moment in Man of Steel, a movie that is literally the Kama Sutra of punching.
Check out our assessment of ‘Man of Steel’ in this episode of the ANTI-MONITOR podcast.