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  1. #1
    Fantastic Member Last Son's Avatar
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    Default The physics of Superman's feats. Does modern have to mean realisitc?

    I noticed after Justice League came out, that some of the Snyder diehards were upset about the bit where Superman rescues an apartment full of people by actually lifting the whole apartment and flying it to safety. After all the hard work Snyder did to make a realistic Superman who abides by the laws of physics and makes you believe Superman could really exist, Joss Whedon came in and ruined it all with his silly cartoon garbage, they said.

    There was a time when Superman lifting a small building was considered a reasonable feat, such as the post crisis era. Superman's powers were reduced from where he was able to move planets with his bare hands to lifting cruise ships or a big chunk of land. But at some point or another, even that has come to be regarded as stretching the limits of people's suspension of disbelief. Every few years, people expect increasing amounts of realism so that what was once considered realistic in one decade is considered laughable in another.

    Why is the endgame for comic book/superhero movie fans ultimate realism? And why does it seem like people expect more of Superman than they do other popular superheroes? I mean, a hammer that can only be picked up by a maybe-god or people who are "worthy", and can be spun around by a leather strap and used to sort-of fly and can also summon lightning? Or an invincible metal that can absorb any impact, no matter how powerful? Or a power suit that protects the wearer so well he can fall from the sky and come out with barely a bruise(because as we all know, people can go flying off a cliff in a car and come out unscathed). I'm not necessarily criticizing any of those examples but it just shows the extremes of suspending disbelief that people are comfortable with while simultaneously nitpicking every little thing about Superman.

    I get it that lifting heavy objects is something that the average person can relate to and understand the physics of more readily than the more out-there super-science of the Marvel universe, which is probably a lot of the reason why people are always going "Hey, you can't lift something that big and heavy without it breaking!" while nobody ever says "hey, you can't shrink people by moving their molecules closer together!". But what I don't understand is why can't people just accept that ability to lift exceptionally large objects as a facet of Superman's power, whether it's explained as a form of telekinesis or something that's acknowledged by bystanders but still treated as a mystery.

  2. #2
    Mighty Member Ra-El's Avatar
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    The hammer thing can be explain by just be magic. But the others I got what you are saying.

    Superman really receives some criticisms that other characters in similar positions don't get. Like the overpowered shit. That was true once, a long time ago, since the Superman have been heavily nerfed, while other characters have got a power busthe real problem is that while the power levels have become more close, he still have all the weakness like kryptonite, red sun and magic, all that while he can be hurt by everything else, if its strong enough. He can be hurt by other strong being like kryptonians, Wonder Woman and even atlateans. A powerful electric discharge can hurt him, he can be freeze, he can be burn, etc. He isn't invulnerable, he just have a high resistence.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Last Son View Post
    I noticed after Justice League came out, that some of the Snyder diehards were upset about the bit where Superman rescues an apartment full of people by actually lifting the whole apartment and flying it to safety. After all the hard work Snyder did to make a realistic Superman who abides by the laws of physics and makes you believe Superman could really exist, Joss Whedon came in and ruined it all with his silly cartoon garbage, they said.
    I think that in the big list of things to be upset about Justice League, this would not make the top 50.

    Why is the endgame for comic book/superhero movie fans ultimate realism?
    It seems more like the opposite to me.
    Superhero movies, particularily the successful ones, have been moving away from realism.

    And why does it seem like people expect more of Superman than they do other popular superheroes?
    Because he's the goddamn Superman, the first one, the one DC keeps pushing as the biggest thing ever.
    But people really don't seem to expect more realism from him though.

    I'm not necessarily criticizing any of those examples but it just shows the extremes of suspending disbelief that people are comfortable with while simultaneously nitpicking every little thing about Superman.
    I don't actually think they do. They might criticise this apartment scene because it was done badly though, rather than unrealistically.

    I seems like Snyder's 'realism' (come on, the guy could fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes?) has been wholeheartedly rejected by the mainstream movie-going audience.

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    I enjoy a Superman who has to combat the laws of physics. It's more creative for the writer and makes Superman more intelligent by finding solutions to those problems. Ignoring the laws of physics with regards to strength and points of force when lifting heavy objects doesn't make him look strong, it makes the writing look lazy or childish. Now I personally didn't have a problem with him lifting up the apartment building, it seemed fine, but I'd like to think of some scientific explanation. Perhaps the structure of the building allowed it somehow, it wasn't a particularly tall building so the weight would be more evenly distributed.

    Overall I think there is a place for realism in comic book superhero stories. Done right, it enhances the sense of wonder, intrigues the reader and adds a layer of detail to the hero's abilities. Done wrong, it limits the character in boring ways. I see scientific explanations as a bridge to realizing the character's abilities, not something to hold them back.
    Last edited by Lightning Rider; 02-22-2018 at 07:53 PM.

  5. #5
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    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    It bugs me that most comics writers today are not science fiction writers and only have a passing knowledge of real science. Yet the writers of yesteryear, who supposedly wrote comics that weren't realistic, also made a living writing science fiction (Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, John Broome, David V. Reed, et al)--while Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz started out as literary agents for some of the great science fiction writers, Weisinger going on to be a science fiction editor before coming to DC.

    I'll give Peter David a pass--because he has done some science fiction writing. But guys like Geoff Johns and Mark Waid make up stupid stuff that has no scientific basis like the emotional spectrum or the Speed Force. This is just gobbledygook that uses some sciencie sounding verbiage to promote total idiocy.

    These wordsmiths might have a limited understanding of Newtonian physics, but they don't know anything about electro-magnetism, quantum mechanics, relativity and the like. They just make stuff sound realistic to the lay person, but really their science is much worse than the fanciful stuff that Otto Binder might have come up with.
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  6. #6
    My Face Is Up Here Powerboy's Avatar
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    If MoS and B vs S demonstrated anything, it's that Superman cannot get away with things that almost all of the other heroes get away with. If he has any flaws or "human" mistakes or realism at all he's not Superman but when he has no flaws, mistakes or realism he's too perfect.

    Moving the whole building while the Flash moves a truck was, of course, supposed to be funny because everything in the movie was desperately trying to be funny. Having just watched MoS again and watched it very closely, it was clear JL was trying to move away from anything realistic or meaningful on the grounds that audiences were taking that as boring and depressing.

    But to the specific feat, I think you nailed it. Something like that is just really obvious that the building couldn't hold together so it's very four color. Had he done that in the Donner movie, it would have been different because the whole style of presentation, at least once he is grown up and in the uniform, is that it's got some wonderful touches of "romance" not just in the boy meets girl sense but also that it's a romanticized world of fantasy. But the buildup of MoS and B vs S was that this world is striving for a lot more realism. And, suddenly, at almost every turn, JL wimps out and compromises the vision of what has been set up to make absolutely sure that everybody loves this movie and they think the way to get everybody to love it is to insert a laugh track. That's basically the equivalent, just throw in joke after joke after joke because that must be the only reason the Marvel movies work.

    The building thing actually did get a good laugh in the theater though. But I do think stuff like that, that worked more when children were the main audience, just doesn't work as well now.
    Power with Girl is better.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Soubhagya's Avatar
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    Did people complain about this? I never heard so.

    From the little experience i had,most people had a good laugh at that scene. And i did not see any comments regarding this anywhere in internet. Granted that i can't look at everything.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carabas View Post
    I think that in the big list of things to be upset about Justice League, this would not make the top 50.


    It seems more like the opposite to me.
    Superhero movies, particularily the successful ones, have been moving away from realism.


    Because he's the goddamn Superman, the first one, the one DC keeps pushing as the biggest thing ever.
    But people really don't seem to expect more realism from him though.


    I don't actually think they do. They might criticise this apartment scene because it was done badly though, rather than unrealistically.

    I seems like Snyder's 'realism' (come on, the guy could fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes?) has been wholeheartedly rejected by the mainstream movie-going audience.
    Theres being fictional and then there's turning your movie into a Looney Tunes cartoon.

    People actually prefer when characters have some limits to them as opposed to writers just giving them powers as the plot demands. They criticised the Wonder Woman movie for the same thing.

  9. #9
    Fantastic Member jimmy's Avatar
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    Personally, I like a very powerful Superman, whom at most, should only have one weakness and not three or, more (plus). A Superman, that can push the limits of "Our Science" that can open up a universe of; feats, possibilities and adventure (Silver Age) as; today's imagination, is tomorrow's understanding...

    Moving an apartment building can be accomplished with out damaging it if it is perfectly balance or, lets say Superman has mental control over his aura, which he can expand around an object and re-enforcing it's overall structural integrity

  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member Doctor Know's Avatar
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    What we saw in JL isn't any different from what we've seen in comics before. With how DC and various writers treat his super strength and flight powers.





  11. #11
    The Detective Man The Dying Detective's Avatar
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    I kind of agree with the Snyder vision a little a because I could never understand what were Superman's exact limits to what he could lift and for all I knew he could move planets even in the modern age.
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  12. #12
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Last Son View Post
    I noticed after Justice League came out, that some of the Snyder diehards were upset about the bit where Superman rescues an apartment full of people by actually lifting the whole apartment and flying it to safety. After all the hard work Snyder did to make a realistic Superman who abides by the laws of physics and makes you believe Superman could really exist, Joss Whedon came in and ruined it all with his silly cartoon garbage, they said.
    Well, as much as I think Snyder went too far with what he did and that you could find a happy medium that everyone would at least be fairly happy with... for those that not just tolerated this take but ate it up, not feeling like their journey was "properly" finished (even though BvS itself was a deviation from the original plan). I can understand that, even if I was glad to get a brighter-minded Superman that's more comfortable with his power (and using his head finally, that's always nice even if "unearned").

    There was a time when Superman lifting a small building was considered a reasonable feat, such as the post crisis era. Superman's powers were reduced from where he was able to move planets with his bare hands to lifting cruise ships or a big chunk of land. But at some point or another, even that has come to be regarded as stretching the limits of people's suspension of disbelief. Every few years, people expect increasing amounts of realism so that what was once considered realistic in one decade is considered laughable in another.

    Why is the endgame for comic book/superhero movie fans ultimate realism? And why does it seem like people expect more of Superman than they do other popular superheroes? I mean, a hammer that can only be picked up by a maybe-god or people who are "worthy", and can be spun around by a leather strap and used to sort-of fly and can also summon lightning? Or an invincible metal that can absorb any impact, no matter how powerful? Or a power suit that protects the wearer so well he can fall from the sky and come out with barely a bruise(because as we all know, people can go flying off a cliff in a car and come out unscathed). I'm not necessarily criticizing any of those examples but it just shows the extremes of suspending disbelief that people are comfortable with while simultaneously nitpicking every little thing about Superman.
    1: That "endgame" - thankfully - is changing. The hyper-realism kick is a holdover from the 90's (X-Men in black leather, etc) that stems from the start of comics and "geek culture" coming more into the mainstream and therefore expected to "grow up". That tendency IS still there, but more aimed at nuanced characters and that kinda thing instead of a fascination with "dark," "heavy" and that idea of hyper-realism. Those elements have been done enough to show their age in ways, and DC (as usual) is just behind the curve.

    2: People expect more of Superman in general, but specifically in the DCEU for two reasons:
    a: Superman is the first superhero - even the reason for the general term. He set the bar. He's not "just" a superhero, he's a part of our social history and consciousness. As much as, in a lesser example, McDonald's is. When people went after fast food for being bad for you, who showed up on all the news stories? McDonald's. Thus, McDonald's was forced to "clean up their act" while Burger King was running ads about how huge and decadent their food was. It's the same kinda thing. Which makes it worse when:
    b: The DCEU was heavily, HEAVILY advertised as the serious take. Over and over again, we were told that we'd see "Superman in real life". And if you advertise like that, you can't complain when people listen to your advertising and react accordingly. Advertising that this is a very serious take? Then you need to be prepared for people to be uncomfortable when they watch 20 buildings fall. Now, if some of the destruction shots had been taken out but kept the scope, it wouldn't have become desensitizing and might have just shocked enough to make the point well without beating a dead horse after 20 minutes. Less can be more, that kinda thing. Also, it breaks the mold when you put realism on the unrealistic character and not on the more realistic character (Batman).

    I get it that lifting heavy objects is something that the average person can relate to and understand the physics of more readily than the more out-there super-science of the Marvel universe, which is probably a lot of the reason why people are always going "Hey, you can't lift something that big and heavy without it breaking!" while nobody ever says "hey, you can't shrink people by moving their molecules closer together!". But what I don't understand is why can't people just accept that ability to lift exceptionally large objects as a facet of Superman's power, whether it's explained as a form of telekinesis or something that's acknowledged by bystanders but still treated as a mystery.
    Honestly, the telekinesis idea from Byrne's "Man of Steel" needs to be used for any realistic take. It allows Superman to do some of these impressive things while still being "grounded," if that's that idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    If MoS and B vs S demonstrated anything, it's that Superman cannot get away with things that almost all of the other heroes get away with. If he has any flaws or "human" mistakes or realism at all he's not Superman but when he has no flaws, mistakes or realism he's too perfect.
    There's a bit of truth in this to some people. But for most people, it's all about presentation. Problems need a "payoff". Is that realistic? Not always, but power fantasy is also an aspect of Superman that needs to be included - it's essential. If he fails once, show him (in the same movie, preferrably) in a similar situation learning and succeeding. For me, personally, he's "perfect" in that he thinks of things we don't, but not perfect in that even when he does these things it doesn't always work. That way I'm not yelling at the screen about how he's an idiot. That bar will be different for everyone, though, so ymmv.

    Moving the whole building while the Flash moves a truck was, of course, supposed to be funny because everything in the movie was desperately trying to be funny. Having just watched MoS again and watched it very closely, it was clear JL was trying to move away from anything realistic or meaningful on the grounds that audiences were taking that as boring and depressing.

    But to the specific feat, I think you nailed it. Something like that is just really obvious that the building couldn't hold together so it's very four color. Had he done that in the Donner movie, it would have been different because the whole style of presentation, at least once he is grown up and in the uniform, is that it's got some wonderful touches of "romance" not just in the boy meets girl sense but also that it's a romanticized world of fantasy. But the buildup of MoS and B vs S was that this world is striving for a lot more realism. And, suddenly, at almost every turn, JL wimps out and compromises the vision of what has been set up to make absolutely sure that everybody loves this movie and they think the way to get everybody to love it is to insert a laugh track. That's basically the equivalent, just throw in joke after joke after joke because that must be the only reason the Marvel movies work.

    The building thing actually did get a good laugh in the theater though. But I do think stuff like that, that worked more when children were the main audience, just doesn't work as well now.
    Yeah, JL was definitely trying as hard as possible to be seen as the "change point" for the DCEU. They were desperate to get away from the stigma that most of the DCEU had up to that point.

    You're also right that the Donner film would have done this and no one would bat an eye - the presentation of those films asks the viewer to be along for the ride and not take physics at all into account (or anything, for that matter - especially in Superman IV).

    And a good point about that moment being great for kids and those who wanted something lighter. I wanted a happy medium between MoS and JL, but I really did love the building moment. And speaking of being great for kids... I think it's not a bad thing for Superman to be more for kids or the young-at-heart. Not that I don't like serious takes, but I think trying to find something that would appeal to kids and adults is the best way to keep Superman going as a property into the future. He could also have a VERY strong female fanbase (even more than he does now) if it were properly cultivated.
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  13. #13
    Incredible Member victorsage's Avatar
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    As long as he isn't dragging multiple planets around by an "unbreakable chain", or "blowing out" a sun the same way a normal person blows out a candle there isn't much to complain about. I prefer a more "weaker" Superman in general, somewhere around where he was at the end of the Golden Age before it got ridiculous. But if he is stronger I can put up with it so long as it isn't silver age cartoon stories written for 11 year olds. At least not in the main continuity.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post

    1: That "endgame" - thankfully - is changing. The hyper-realism kick is a holdover from the 90's (X-Men in black leather, etc) that stems from the start of comics and "geek culture" coming more into the mainstream and therefore expected to "grow up". That tendency IS still there, but more aimed at nuanced characters and that kinda thing instead of a fascination with "dark," "heavy" and that idea of hyper-realism. Those elements have been done enough to show their age in ways, and DC (as usual) is just behind the curve.
    I don’t think so. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Punisher and Luke Cage also use that take and are well received. And I fail to see how the other direction is any less dated given it’s been around for far longer.
    Truth is, the superhero medium can’t be expected to be like what it was in the 70s.

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    2:
    b: The DCEU was heavily, HEAVILY advertised as the serious take. Over and over again, we were told that we'd see "Superman in real life". And if you advertise like that, you can't complain when people listen to your advertising and react accordingly. Advertising that this is a very serious take? Then you need to be prepared for people to be uncomfortable when they watch 20 buildings fall. Now, if some of the destruction shots had been taken out but kept the scope, it wouldn't have become desensitizing and might have just shocked enough to make the point well without beating a dead horse after 20 minutes.
    This wasn’t the general complaint. It was that it shouldn’t have been in the movie at all and all of the destruction was Superman’s fault despite him causing less than a fraction of it with people ignoring the context behind it.



    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Less can be more, that kinda thing.
    That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say this in regards to Superman. Moviebob certainly doesn’t have this opinion when it comes to the Silver Age.


    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Also, it breaks the mold when you put realism on the unrealistic character and not on the more realistic character (Batman).
    That’s more an issue in JL than BvS. He only beat Superman due to the latter holding back and not being prepared for Kryptonite. During the Doomsday battle, his contributions are luring the monster to another location and ineffectively shooting at him from a distance to provide a distraction.

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    There's a bit of truth in this to some people. But for most people, it's all about presentation. Problems need a "payoff". Is that realistic? Not always, but power fantasy is also an aspect of Superman that needs to be included - it's essential. If he fails once, show him (in the same movie, preferrably) in a similar situation learning and succeeding. For me, personally, he's "perfect" in that he thinks of things we don't, but not perfect in that even when he does these things it doesn't always work. That way I'm not yelling at the screen about how he's an idiot. That bar will be different for everyone, though, so ymmv.
    From what I see, many Superman fans, particularly the ones that hated Man of Steel, see the power fantasy aspect as most essential above all else. Case in point, I remember a lot of people liking him beating up the Justice League despite all the bitching and moaning over the idea of Superman and Batman fighting in the last movie. Suddenly, Superman fighting other superheroes is fine when he’s winning. Snyder at least had the fight be treated like a bad thing and not a chance to show off the winner’s power. This is also how you get masturbatory puff pieces like Action Comics 775, where the writer is more interested in showing Superman’s dominance over expies of other characters rather than writing him as an altruistic person. If getting rid of the power fantasy aspect means stories like that are avoided in future, I can only see it as a good thing.

  15. #15
    Death becomes you Osiris-Rex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Z View Post
    I don’t think so. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Punisher and Luke Cage also use that take and are well received. And I fail to see how the other direction is any less dated given it’s been around for far longer.
    Truth is, the superhero medium can’t be expected to be like what it was in the 70s.
    At the other end of the spectrum you have Supergirl, The Flash, and especially Legends of Tomorrow. Even Arrow tends to go the other way.
    As far as the 1970s, in some ways Supergirl is more fantastical than Wonder Woman was.

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