Friday, August 22, 2014

The Power of the Black Moment in Man of Steel

My repertoire of weird movies has significantly grown since I moved away from home. I’m not sure if it’s a Colorado thing or a moving away from home thing or just the bad influence of my friends thing. We’ll go with the latter. ;-)

One of those “weird” movies ended up being Man of Steel and I have to say I actually enjoyed myself. (Plus, it helps that Clark Kent has to be the best looking Superman—ever. ;-) Can I just say, if I’m going to sit through a movie with science fiction and more explosions than what can be kept track of, at least give the romantics a kiss? Even a hug would be nice. Man of Steel followed through nicely—very nicely on the former. I’d watch that movie again just for the kiss. Ahh…

Where was I going with this?

Oh right. The black moment.

If you haven’t watched the movie, you might want to bookmark this post until you’ve had the time. And I have to say, I think it’s worth it. There are plenty of points to draw from for writers and even some strong symbolism for the Christian faith.

Clark Kent’s character is tormented. He’s been dropped from outer space. His family is not really his birth family and he realizes with the older he gets, the more he is different—special. But he doesn’t necessarily view himself as “special”. There is a great deal of growth that has to happen to his character for him to embrace this level of change. But I could go on about different points of his characterization and never get to the real point of this post.

Man of Steel’s black moment has to be one of the finest I’ve seen in a movie because of both the internal and the external conflict.

Quick scene synopsis: Clark is riding in the pickup with both of his parents and he and his father are fighting. Clark’s father has been adamant that he not show the full extent of his physical power. Clark doesn’t understand this request, his father’s desire to protect his son. A tornado is brewing and sweeps down on the packed highway of cars, threatening all their lives. Clark’s father is directing everyone under the overpass, shoving a child in Clark’s arms, yelling at him to protect his mother. But he doesn’t get out in time. Clark stands under the overpass, ready to charge out and rescue his father. But instead his father holds up his hand. An entire conversation happens in this moment without a single word. He’s not to show the level of his power. Clark’s father does not want Clark to rescue him. At the risk—the loss of his own life—he believes he is doing what is best for his son.

Breaking down the black moment:

Internal: Clark is warring with his father about protecting his Superman abilities. He’s filled with a deep-seated need to protect, but he’s cocky and reckless and his father knows this. And their last conversation is a heated argument.

External: The tornado is bearing down on the cars. Threatening their lives. It’s a life-threatening, very real threat and it’s going to destroy them all if they don’t get to safety.

Internal: Clark’s father shoves a child in Clark’s arms. Tells him to get his mom to safety and his dad stays behind to direct people to the underpass. You can watch the conflict across Clark’s face. He wants to be in the center of the chaos, directing order, but the rush of the moment and the respect he does still have for his father thrusts him toward the underpass.

External: His father is now in the direct path of the danger, trying to rescue their dog. Cars are being flipped, pinning Clark’s father under the wreckage.

Internal: Clark is ready to charge. To rescue the man who has raised him, when his father gets free.

External: Time suspends as his father stands in the street, seconds, seconds before cars flip like matchsticks through the air, heading straight for him.

Internal: His father raises his hand. Palm out. The message is clear. Do. Not. Rescue. Me. Protect how these people see you. You can do nothing supernatural—even if that means sacrificing myself.
It is truly the ultimate black moment. We have watched this father and son relationship grow through this entire movie. It’s been thinned, fighting against all that Clark doesn’t understand in what his father is asking him to do—and not do. For a superhero, he can’t not rescue and save and yet that is what his father is asking of him.

How do we build to such a climatic black moment? We might not have tornadoes and explosions, but we do have those elements on a minute level in our stories.
·         Build the back backstory. Weave what brought them to this moment.
·         Show those relationships.
·         Have INTERNAL and EXTERNAL conflicts
·         Pit the hero’s best and worst asset against each other.

There is nothing more painful than watching that scene and knowing that Clark’s last conversation with his father was an argument. An argument about him saving people, about being who he was created to be. And yet, it was pivotal to his growth.

It’s powerful. Watch it once for the moment. Watch it again with a notepad. And this is just the black moment. The entire movie is worth the rental fee—you’ll fill a notebook with characterization, action, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more ideas.

Not bad for being one of those “weird” movies. ;-)

Have you watched Man of Steel? Do you agree or have something to add to my thoughts?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a total country girl, now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado. 


Jackie Layton said...

I've watched all of the Superman movies except this one. I watched every episode of Lois and Clark and Smallville. I have two sons, and they helped me become a fan.

You've inspired me to rent this movie this weekend. Actually, one of they guys probably owns this movie. Maybe I can borrow it.

Thanks for sharing.

Casey said...

It is such a good film, Jackie! A little bit too long for my taste, but the characterization is AMAZING. I'd watch it again for that alone.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Casey. I remember that moment you've described and how heart breaking it was! You've broken it down well. :)

Don't kill me, but it wasn't one of my favorite movies. I would watch it again to study the characterization though. :)

Your points on how to make a great black moment are spot on!

Krista Phillips said...

I haven't watched it... but I do have to say, I now want to just for the kiss alone! LOL

Casey said...

Jeanne, I won't hate you. ;) These type of movies are usually NOT my cup of tea, but the characterization made it so worth it! Otherwise, I think it could have had an hour shaved off the thing. ;)

Casey said...

YES, oh that kiss. Pepper have you seen it? Talk about smoldering!!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hey Casey! Great post. You broke down that amazing scene with the skill of a writer! LOL.

This was my favorite Superman movie - as you said, Henry is gorgeous and I also love Amy Adams. Great characterization in this portrayal.

Thanks for reminding me I need to watch this again!

Sue :)

Casey said...

After re-reading this post that's all I want to do now is read the post again. I probably could break it down better after having watched it for a second time. I think it will be my favorite black moment for a movie ever!