Tuesday, April 21, 2020

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Man of Steel Scene 6

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 6 (Zod attacks the citadel) of Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder.

  • Ships silhouetted against the Kryptonian sun
  • Jor-El's battle armor
  • Lara and Kryptonian technology
  • Zod as General
  • Apocalypse Now
  • El's in beams of steam and light
  • Faora

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Special thanks to @PrimeEarthMook

<Transcript below>
Welcome, fans of Man of Steel. My name is Alessandro. In this podcast, myself, along with Sam Otten, Rebecca Johnson, Sydney, and Nick Begovich, work together to analyze the DC Films produced by Warner Brothers studios.  You can find us on twitter @raveryn, @ottensam, @derbykid, @wondersyd, and @JLUpodN. And you can follow the show @JLUPodcast.

In this episode of our Man of Steel Scene-by-Scene analysis we take a look at Zod’s attack on the Citadel as baby Kal-El is getting ready to take off.  We start with a beautiful shot of silhouettes against the Kryptonian sun to establish the threat.  At first they look like birds.  And at second glance they look like planes.  But they aren’t Superman.  They are 5 attack ships in formation coming for the Codex.  

In response to the threat at present, we see Jor-El suiting up in battle armor in a very cool way as he stands with arms spread allowing the armor to cover him.  The sound design is really cool here, futuristic in nature, of the armor clasping and changing to wrap around him.  A light shines on Jor-El bodysuit revealing its bluish hue and redish S shield.  We get a very different look on Jor-El here looking toward us, serious and ready for battle.  He has a kind of bloodlust look in his eyes which is understandable given Zod’s attack threatens the survival of their race and, more importantly, his son.

That Jor-El has armor at the ready suggests he was either prepared for a potential siege on the Citadel, or it is normal for Kryptonians to have a set of battle armor.  While it would make sense for Zod and Faora to have armor as part of the military guild, Jor-El theoretically would have no need for armor.  Yet he puts on battle armor in preparation for Zod’s assault over his suit which appears to be the base for Superman’s costume except with a black “S” shield.  It seems to be almost like a second skin for Kryptonians worn under their attire.  These close up shots give us a great look at the glyphs representative of the House of El.

Lara hurriedly operates the computer in a very interesting way.  Rather than a keyboard like we use, there seem to be grooves paralleling the lacerations on the planet where Kryptonians rub their fingers in different places.  Certainly more ergonomic than a QWERTY.  Lara looks up and we follow her attention to the pod which rotates and is aimed upward toward the sky.  There are S shields along the wall meaning this Citadel is most likely a property of the House of El as opposed to being government run.  It is clearly Jor-El and Lara’s home.

Kelex informs Lara that the Phantom Drives are coming on line.  This gives us additional insight into their technology.  In addition to insight about their technology, we also get a bit of insight about their living quarters.  Rebecca points out that what appears to be Jor-El’s closet of sorts has insect-like or larvae-like features which harkens back to the design of the Kryptonian ships.  For a cold race, they do borrow quite a bit from nature.

As the five ships approach the Citadel, their blue lights serve as a nice color contrast to the brown and yellow tones of the desolate Kryptonian landscape.  Zod commands his men to concentrate fire on the main door.  We happen to like seeing General Zod here acting as a General as he barks orders at his men.  It helps sculpt the character’s personality by instilling his military background.  We get a better look at the maneuverability of these ships as they practically stop on a dime and hover in front of the main door before opening fire and blasting a hole in it.  There are bursts of blue flame as the blasts hit the door.  This could either be a result of the extreme temperature, or the color effect from the red sun.  Before the main door is a plateau with a large glyph.  Presumably this is a landing pad and the glyph may be a symbol for that, akin to the “H” we use on helipads.  The door is destroyed very quickly, but before it is we see a shot of it from the inside and it is covered with another large glyph. @Rachelyoubish on twitter has been studying the Kryptonian language developed by Christine Schreyer for this film and this is what she was able to make out of this glyph on the door.  So upon further study I found out that the door has the same script of the Man of Steel soundtrack cover so that clears up a lot of things, and from this I got... d͡ʒæn nun nɛdɛv. tɛks guɹ. All I know from this is  guɹ = 'are' and as I said before d͡ʒæn = 'Light'.”  We mentioned in Scene 3 the symbolism of light and its connection to Jor-El.  Here, Zod destroying the door is symbolic of trying to destroy the light of Krypton, and the hope found in Kal-El.

SAM: Some additional symbolism that we want to explicitly mention for this scene is the idea of Krypton as the father of superman, the counterpart to mother Earth for the hero who is born and raised of two worlds. The citadel as depicted in the exterior shot in this scene can be interpreted as quite phallic, as are other objects in this Kryptonian prologue. Moreover, the escape pod that is cradling baby Kal can be viewed as sperm, eventually planting that life on mother Earth. As we’ve mentioned before, this full thematic development was covered on YouTube in the video called a thesis on Man of Steel, by Reel Analysis.

And while we’re drawing in ideas from other admirers of the film, we have two things from our good friend Omesh, aka @PrimeEarthMook on twitter. He noticed at the very beginning of this scene that Zod’s attack fleet, silhouetted against the big reddish sun, is likely an homage to the classic poster for Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. There is the striking visual parallels, and there are also some possible thematic parallels as Coppola tried to explore the ultimate madness and destruction that is the eventual extension of wars and Snyder shows with this Kryptonian allegory the madness and destruction that ultimately results from a civilization assuming it can exert total dominance over its environment.

About the sun shot, I will also just add that I think the large relative size of the sun is very striking and nicely highlights that this is a different planet than Earth, although it has some similarities.

Another thing that @PrimeEarthMook noticed in this scene is at the very end. As Zod enters the Citadel, we see Jor-El directly underneath a cascading column of light and steam. This is visually echoed later in the film when Kal-El is directly under the beam of light and gravitational force of the world engine. In both cases, it is a Kryptonian technology producing the powerful force and in both cases an El is standing underneath. For Jor-El, he is stepping forward to do what has to be done to save the Kryptonian race and his son. For Kal-El, he is pushing his arm upward into the blast to do what needs to be done to actually seal the fate of the Kryptonians, but also to save humanity and his adopted world. Thanks, Omesh, for noticing those visual parallels and giving us more to think about.

The final thing that I think is worth mentioning in this scene is that not only did we see Zod acting like a general, as Alessandro mentioned earlier, but we also got a quick preview of the bad guys that will of course be involved in fight scenes later. And most importantly we got a quick moment that featured Faora. She stepped forward, setting herself apart from the background soldiers, and she also had a speaking line. This prologue is really not about her -- the focus is primarily on Jor-El and Zod and also Lara, but it was still great that they could fit her in naturally, giving us a hint that we’ll get to see more from her later on in the movie.
End of Episode

That’s our analysis of Scene 6 of Man of Steel. Thank you so much for your listening and for your support of the podcast.  Coming up we’ll see General Zod and Jor-El come face to face.  As always we love to hear your own thoughts and interpretations.  Reach out to us either on twitter @JLUPodcast or on the comment board below this episode.

Thanks again for listening.

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