Skip page navigation

Jordan Hoffman

| e-mail | twitter

Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on ScreenCrush, Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.

The Great Debate: ‘Man of Steel’ vs. ‘The Avengers’

man of steel logo

It’s been quite some time since DC and Marvel teamed up for “Amalgam Universe” comics and the chances of the gigantic entities ever having a crossover in film seems even less likely. The epic battles between the two major superhero publishers can only happen in our minds, at the lunch table or on the Internet.

To that end it is up to we – the geekerati – to try and determine what delivers the greater myocardial nerdfarction. Is it last summer’s “The Avengers” or this summer’s “Man of Steel” (read our review of the new Superman here).

I love both pictures, but ultimately have to stay on the side of “Avengers.” Maybe it’s a ScoJo thing. My comrade in dweeb, the great Silas Lesnick (@SilasLesnick) of Crave Online/ComingSoon.net had to go with the Big Blue Boy Scout. I mean, the dude has a Superman tattoo. (It’s small and tasteful.)

We went to battle and only destroyed three skyscrapers as a result. At the bottom of the post, you vote and tell us who won.

Jordan Hoffman (TEAM AVENGERS): Silas, you believe a man can fly. I believe Avengers can Assemble. We called a truce before we started and agreed each of us are gaga for both films, but you think the team of Snyder/Nolan/Goyer tops Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. My fundamental reason for liking Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” just a tad more than “Man of Steel” is its playfulness and its sense of humor. What is it about “MoS” that makes it #1 for you?

Silas Lesnick (TEAM MAN OF STEEL): For me, it’s all about the character. As much as I love Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Superman has always been my number one and what Zack Snyder pulls off with “Man of Steel” manages to simultaneously live up to everything the character stands for while offering a distinctive reinterpretation. Sure it may not have the “anything goes” fun of “The Avengers,” but it opens up an emotional, character-driven story to a bigger discussion about moral relativism. I would argue that, at its core, “Man of Steel” simply has more to say.

JH: More to say? What really is there to say after Hulk whips Loki around like a rag doll and scoffs “Puny God!!”

I hear ya, though, Kal-El is a great character. But “Avengers” has Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Agent Coulson, Bruce Banner, Thor, Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff – all of them great characters! (Hawkeye, no offense, not so much.) For a dopey summer movie, isn’t more always better? As far as emotion, yeah, maybe we don’t see any of these heroes as worried kids via flashback, but the excitement of seeing them all work together is extremely emotional – and something a little more unique, wouldn’t you say?

SL: Sure, it’s unique and very, very fun, but it’s also a tad predictable. What wowed me about “Man of Steel” is that we’re dealing with this paragon of virtue and his climactic moment is in learning when, for the greater good, things need to die. On the surface, it’s such an anti-Superman message, but it’s delivered within a story that has us facing the same moral grey area and pretty much arriving at the same conclusion.

As for the flashbacks, they’re my favorite part of the film. They’re more than just backstory and, by not following a linear path even in regard to one another, they serve as a reminder of the fluidity of memory. It might be Chris Marker-lite, but there’s something mighty powerful about the metanarrative of a 75 year old American icon admitting that any path through history is forged by reinterpretation.

JH: The flashbacks are great and Henry Cavil, his trainers and nutritionists are great, too. However the “lesson” you mention – Kal-El’s willingness to let things die or maybe even kill – for me this was a tiny bit muddled by the overbearing slug-fest that was the film’s third act. “Man of Steel” has numerous battles – the Kansas battle, attacking the CGI “World Engine,” the battle on the ships over Metropolis and, finally, Supes v. Zod in Metropolis (that being the best of the bunch.) Having seen the film twice, I’m ready to admit that this goes on a little long. I think the Kansas battle can be trimmed and the CGI blob isn’t as sexy as it could be. It gets to the point that in undermines some of the pure TEH AWESOMEZ of the final fight.

My point is that I think I could take a 4 hr version of the Battle of New York from “Avengers” and never get bored. Seeing the way the characters play off each other is an aspect that isn’t replicated, really, in any other superhero flick.

SL: You’re absolutely right about the ensemble aspect of “Avengers” and, frankly, I’d still take “Avengers 2” over a “Justice League” film if both were put in front of me right now. That being said, I find the Kal-El character in “Man of Steel” more relatable than any single Avenger and the uneasy morals of “Man of Steel” are something that I suspect to return to time and again.

The battle of New York is super cool, yes, but what about that dragging, expository first 30 minutes? “Avengers” may have landed a couple of superior action moments, but it doesn’t for a minute aid in getting the story moving. “Man of Steel” is doubly impressive without the benefit of five full-length feature preceding it.

JH: Does “Man of Steel” have a HOLY SH*T moment, though? A scene where one in the audience – as is the parlance of our times – must simply let loose a squee? For me, when the New York cop asks Captain America “why the hell should I take orders from you?” then Cap wordlessly beats the hell out of a bunch of interrupting Chitauri Warriors, to which the cop then turns around and repeats Cap’s orders . . .that might very well be. . .well, listen, Silas, I don’t want to dicker with hyperbole, but it might very well be the single greatest moment in the history of mankind, which also happens to be within a film.

SL: That’s because “Man of Steel”’s big moments are all about pure emotion. Can you really say that Coulson’s death (or non-death these days) is anywhere near as powerful as Pa Kent’s demise? As great as Tom Hiddleston is, Loki never gets a villain twist as strong as the realization that Zod is just doing what he was genetically put forth to do.

JH: Putting Hiddleston up against Michael Shannon may not be fair – because Shannon barking out Silver Age lines like “Release the World Engine” is, indeed, one of the coolest things ever.

I guess what we’re coming down to is “Man of Steel” is the superhero movie of emotion, “Avengers” is the superhero movie of fun. And therefore we can conclude that when Jordan Hoffman is out somewhere having fun, Silas Lesnick is home being sad and listening to the Smiths and writing poetry. Is that a safe assessment?

SL: I’m strangely fine with this analogy. There’s a reason Kal-El likes spending time in the Fortress of Solitude. He’s got “How Soon is Now” going on repeat. Sure, the Avengers have a fun and fancy free life of eating shawarma, but it’s not all sad for Superman. I mean, one day he’ll get a dog. Do any of the Avengers have a dog? I didn’t think so.

 


Categories: Features

Tags: Hawkeye, Iron man, Jordan hoffman, Joss whedon, Man of Steel, Silas lesnick, Superhero Movies, Superman, The avengers, The Great Debate, Thor, Zack snyder