The Superman we finally deserve

They cracked the code, my friends. They finally have made a Superman movie that pays homage to the most classic of super heroes.  They finally made Superman right, making him a compelling character through an entertaining movie.

As a comics fan, Superman is a tough book to read (and I can only imagine writing him must be just as difficult).  Here you have a character from another time.  Many things don’t hold up well after 75 years, and at times Superman is hard.  Despite multiple reboots, modernizing of origins, various weaknesses introduced: most writers aren’t able to make Supes a compelling character in the 21st century.

I was too young to watch the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, so my first cinematic exposure to the Man of Steel was in Superman Returns in 2006: an awkward movie that seemed like it was paying homage to those 80’s movies rather than defining the next chapter. A reboot was all but necessary.

This movie accomplished what it needed to: make this invulnerable Boy Scout of a super hero relatable to use us mere mortals. They went ahead and leaned on two excellent angles: seeking purpose in your life, as most of us at one point or another have figuratively wandered around asking “why am I here?”. The second angle was the “father and son” angle, the sacrifices made by both his biological and adoptive father. A line that tugged at my heartstrings when Kevin Costner told young Clark Kent “You are my son”. I wasn’t adopted, but I can imagine the empathy that could have been felt during that conversation.

I realize that people were bothered by the gratuitous level of destruction, but given that you’re dealing with someone who is extremely powerful and invulnerable, the stakes of danger need to be pretty high. Even though I’m not a fan of destruction for destruction’s stake, I’ll give the writers a pass on this.

Overall, this movie has won over the casual comics fan, and perhaps even the casual fan into the DC movie universe, accomplishing something that Green Lantern wasn’t able to do. I do however remain skeptical that an Avengers-like Justice League movie will be able to happen. Even though it sort-of works in the comics, I don’t see Superman and Batman being able to exist in the same cinematic universe. Batman is my favorite super hero, but I don’t see him being able to stand up to this version of General Zod. I realize that a different version of Batman is going to exist in this Justice League version, but it’s going to have to be a pretty stark departure from Christopher Nolan’s interpretation.

A few other random thoughts:

  • Amy Adams was a great Lois Lane. Lois Lane is one of those characters that has a tough time holding up: from damsel in the wrong place at the wrong time, but rather someone who is capable who can help Superman out as well
  • I loved the depiction of the origin story, the jumping around during Clark’s first thirty years and giving relevant glimpses, rather than the standard chronological format that’s been done so many times before
  • I hate to sound insensitive, but I guess we’re officially far away from 9/11 that aircraft flying buildings (or buildings just collapsing) is now acceptable. It’s not just this movie, it happened in Star Trek as well. I’m not sure what the Man of Steel folks were thinking, but seeing Lawrence Fishburne running away from a collapsing was pretty chilling.

What did you think of the movie? Would you want to see a sequel? Are you bought into the DC Universe?