It wasn’t when the movie lingered in pre-apocalypse Krypton long enough for me to start having flashbacks to David Lynch’s Dune. It wasn’t when Jor-El showed up for the third time after his death in spite of the notable handicap of being slain and then evaporated in a planetary explosion. It wasn’t when Michael Shannon’s performance as Zod somehow recalled a Bill Hader parody of Michael Shannon’s performances as Zod. And it wasn’t even during the weird product placement during the destruction sequence in Smallville. (IHOP in ruins! Sears aflame! An American tragedy!) No, it was Jenny. Fucking Jenny.
“Who is Jenny?” you may be asking, regardless of whether you watched Man of Steel. That’s a good goddamn question. Jenny Jurwich would seem to be the Snyderverse stand-in for Jimmy Olsen, or at least that’s what some superhero theorists would have you believe, despite some evidence to the contrary. I actually don’t care. In the context of Man of Steel, a film that did not spend enough time tricking me into caring about its characters, Jenny especially lacked any real development. We literally never learned anything about her, other than that she performed some unspecified job at The Daily Planet. That would be fine, if only the movie relegated her to a background role. But toward the end of the film, when the Kyptonian menace begins laser-thrustsexing Metropolis into nonexistence and the Daily Planet staff escapes into the streets, Jenny somehow becomes encased in the rubble of a fallen skyscraper. Planet EIC Perry White is desperate to free her as the city-annihilating thrust waves draw nearer, but he can’t singlehandedly, and for a moment, the tension of the movie hinges on whether Jenny will be saved. Unfortunately, the movie-going public has been given literally no information about Jenny other than that her name is Jenny, and since the movie has killed off a good 100,000 hapless Metropolis residents at this point, we don’t have a single fucking reason to care about whether this Jenny woman lives or dies.
That’s when I walked out, because this scene exemplified my major problem with Man of Steel: We just weren’t given a reason to care. With Clark and Lois and Perry and hell, even Dr. Emil Hamilton, some longtime superhero nerds have prior incarnations of the characters to encourage a connection, and I would imagine that most people connecting to these Man of Steel characters had to draw on previous associations in order to feel like the movie versions were fully-formed. But with Jenny, I didn’t feel anything, and the whole “Jenny’s in the rubble!” scene just underscored a similar problem I felt with the rest of the film: I just hadn’t been given enough to fuel my higher-level thinking.
So I walked out. Yes, the movie was probably only twenty minutes away from concluding, but I felt angry and I didn’t want to waste another second watching something that I didn’t find entertaining. In what may be the most grown-up thing I’ve ever said, my time seemed more valuable than the money I paid for admission to this film. Do I know what happened to Jenny? No, but I assume she was a robot from Krypton sent to murder Kal-El, and Superman therefore had to punch her head so hard that it flew off her body and exploded into the sun.
(Am I even close?)
Was the movie a complete failure for me, then? No! I’ll say this much: I really liked how the sneaky dog caused Pa Kent to get obliterated by a tornado. I think it’s a valuable and timely reminder that dogs — especially the herding dogs beloved by the Kents — are wily and conniving and they won’t hesitate to manipulate a natural disaster so that it kills their owners. Really, that should have been what the movie should have been about: Superman vs. the dog who killed his dad. That film I would have been far less likely to walk out of.