A few thoughts about storytelling.

So, I watched Man of Steel again the other night–

Wait? I thought this was about storytelling? And now you’re bringing up Man of Steel?

What the hell, man? It’s no wonder your blog isn’t bigger.

Hold on, hold on….let me get there. Geesh, you’re so impatient.

Now, as I was saying: I watched Man of Steel again the other night, and then I watched Before Sunrise.

First, I know that’s a weird double-feature. Trust me, it just kind of fell that way.

Anyway, so I watched Kal-El kick the crap of some Kryptonian bad-guys, and the whole time I’m watching it, I can’t help but notice all of the standard action-movie tropes. You know them: the timing between the hero destroying something causing the far-flung salvation of his friends just in the nick of time, etc.

Anyway, I also saw something that I had forgotten about on an earlier viewing. As Superman is fighting the “world-engine,” or whatever it’s called, it defends itself by creating a bunch of mechanized tentacles with snappy, kill-you-dead ends on them.

All I could think , of course, was “Doc Ock works for Zod?”

But I digress.

The endless parade of lightning-fast “chase” scenes, the rapid turns and twists as the hero attempt to evade certain death…. and this goes on for minutes (sometimes many minutes), not just a few seconds.

I know that I say this in a lot of my posts, but really, I swear that there’s a point here somewhere.

So after watching Superman kill Zod (rather satisfyingly, I might add), I watched Before Sunrise. I’d never seen it (or the 2 sequels), though it’d been on my list for a while.

So, as I watched this simple, quiet, contemplative movie, I was stunned to discover every aspect of human moral conviction that they tried to address in Man of Steel was beautifully and effective conveyed, processed, and–if not solved–settled without so much as a raised voice.

No explosions, no chase scenes, no extraterrestrial, genetically-engineered defenders of the race. Just two people, discussing those things that make humans, well, human.

 But action/superhero movies are so much fun to watch! What’s so fun about people talking?

There’s nothing wrong with a fun movie. God knows I love them. But I think that Hollywood, for all its bluster about how these types of movies are trying deal with these human issues, always forget,or lose faith in their audience, and fall back on the biggest boom or the biggest boobs, when all that does, normally, is get between your message and the audience’s heart and mind.

Audiences don’t want to listen to that boring, philosophical stuff.”


Everyone. Every single person on this planet, at some point in their lives, sits down and talks with someone–a friend, a lover, a religious leader, a stranger on a train–about these issues: love, death, life, hope, regret.

I don’t care where you come from, what “education” you have. It doesn’t matter whether you come from a broken home in the inner city or were raised on a farm in Nebraska to good, “God-fearing” parents. Whether you grew-up/live in a small village in rural China or one of the great cities of Europe, you are a human being, and you have these questions inside of you. And whether you first look at those questions because of faith, or because you and your drunken frat buddies are bemoaning the loss of some shallow sorority girl, or your childhood friend was shot in the street during a gang fight, eventually, you have to face them.

Did some God put them there, or are they the result of circumstances that arise in our lives? Does it matter, really, in the end? We all lose someone we love, at some point. We all fall in love. We all fall out of love. We all get rejected. We all begin to grow up, to grow old.

These are the things that every single human being on the planet will deal with eventually. Most of them do not address it by defending a planet or engaging in rampaging violence through a city. Instead, we learn to see in others what we see in ourselves. We see our confusion–or better yet, we see those that have lived through our confusion and come out the other side–and so we gather together and try to learn what exactly it is that makes us this way.

Why do we love? What is it?

Why does death frighten us, when it is the one, single shared experience of every human throughout history?

Audiences don’t need to see Superman struggle against Doc Ock to ask those questions. And really, all those movies do is distract from those questions, keeping us from seeking those answers for a time. Stopping the pain that those circumstances inflict, if only for a moment.

And I suppose that’s good, too. Sometimes, we’re just not ready. Sometimes we need time to realize that we can’t put it off any longer. That Death, the one inevitability for every man, woman, and child on this planet, will eventually come for us, whether we’ve found the answers we seek or not.

So take the plunge, find the answers, talk to the girl and get off the train together.


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