In a place far away the Son of Dodgy Folk did come down upon the Earth and the people stood aghast at his ability to float in mid-air. And lo, a woman came along and kicked his do-gooding ass from one end of the street to the other. Her name?
We shouldn’t really get all het up about films, especially superhero comic book films. Life is too short. But in a world in which sixty years of freedom for ordinary people are beingly rapidly eroded by corporate lobbying, what are we to make of the sub-text contained within 2013’s Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot? And why is Faora-Ul the real superhero in this film?
The story begins on Krypton where a race of elites have overseen environmental desolation, planet destruction and eugenics. Two of this Ubermensch, Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor-Van, ignore the deaths of millions and selfishly try to save their own son by catapulting him into space where he eventually lands on a planet populated by a race with a long history of believing in any old hogwash.
The individuals responsible for what happens next are producer Christopher Nolan, director Zack Snyder and screenplay writer David S Goyer. Kal-El, Son of Jor-El, Son of Bloody-El, becomes a Jesus-like figure armed with more metaphors, allegories and symbolism than the human mind can comprehend. A bearded fisherman, adopted father, and that mid-air floating so beloved by messianic types.
It’s easy to be dragged into the adulation, but remember where this guy comes from? What he is descended from? Nolan, Snyder and Goyer expect us to root for this figure at the expense of General Zod whose only crime was an attempted regime change. Regime change is such a dirty phrase in the 21st Century. But in Man of Steel it means one thing: you’re the villain.
Except, General Zod isn’t the villain and his second in command Faora-Ul is the one we should be praising to the skies. After all, in the logic of the Superman context, she was born and bred to be a menace. She is the product of Superman’s parents’ elite’s eugenics programme. In a court of law that would be a pretty strong case for her defence and reduce most murder charges to manslaughter, possibly even assault with intent leading to a suspended sentence.
If you didn’t inwardly cheer when she set on Superman and beat his soppy arse to a spandex pulp you’re either a relative of Dick Cheney or an employee of Starbucks. If she committed one crime it was not finishing him off when she had the chance. Then we could have sat back and enjoyed a film about how the real heroes lived happily ever after and guffawed at how Krypton’s only son was forced to reap what was sown by his own kind.
If we persist with the Jesus metaphor, then Faora-Ul could be a sort of violent Mary Magdalene. Except she doesn’t lower herself to wash Superman’s size twelves. She is the fallen woman who has the temerity to present herself to a so-called saviour. Man of Steel misses a trick here; Superman symbolically licking her boots would have rammed home the message even to the most simple minded idiots in the audience.
If you feel the same way as I do, there is a trick you can try out next time you watch Man of Steel. Imagine Zod, Faora-Ul and all the others as the heroes and consider their end as something from a Greek tragedy. True heroes always perish in Greek tragedies. Or you can take the easy option and simply enjoy an awesome performance by German actor Antje Traue, who has a bright future ahead of her if this portrayal is anything to go by.
Show stopper, scene stealer, arch-bothermaker, whispering mayhem, Traue is a tour de force and the one redeeming factor in a film that has the abilty to make you gnaw your own arm off in frustration. Born and raised in the former East Germany, Traue caught people’s attention in another sci-fi yarn Pandorum, fighting off interstellar ghouls. Her softly spoken accent is a disconcerting contrast to the force of character she portrays, which in Man of Steel only adds to Faora-Ul’s indifference to the havoc she wreaks.
As for Nolan, Snyder and Goyer, they might know how to make a blockbuster superhero movie, but their ethics and morality are upside down. But then, a race with a long history of believing in any old hogwash can be told Superman is a hero and swallow it hook, line and sinker.
And lo, the people did cover their eyes and ears and refuse to look upon she who was good. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when she did lose her temper and start to knock the living daylights out of folk.
If all that has wetted your appetite you can check out both films on DVD: Man of Steel and Pandorum