Redeeming Superman

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Josh Wartena, Opinions Editor [email protected]


For my birthday, I got tickets to see Man of Steel, which came out the night before, in IMAX. It was the first time I’ve seen something other than a nature documentary on such a large screen, and it was a cool experience.


Now, I have to be honest, I really wasn’t looking forward to the movie. I was excited to see a DC film but had a horrible feeling it was going to be a disappointment close to “The Dark Knight Rises.”


I like Superman. He’s a great hero. Yeah, sometimes his powers get a little ridiculous, and there have been some truly tragic comics and movies over the years, but that’s happened to everyone! Do you remember Batman fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger?


The problem with Superman movies has always been an incorrect approach to the material. Who is Superman? He’s an alien with god-like powers and a perfect sense of justice and morals. Every single crappy movie focuses on the “god-like powers” part of his character. As a result, we get Lex Luthor, whom I always end up liking more than Superman, with kryptonite. Then Superman tries really really hard and wins because he can punch/lift something.


And that just sucks. It gets boring.


I’ll tell you what needs to happen to make a good Superman movie.


Take all his powers for granted. We all understand what he can do, so skip the montage of flying around the world and amazing people.


Make the story about his identity as an extra-terrestrial. Make the conflict Superman’s hesitancy to take up his role as savior. He knows he is more capable and better than anyone else, but he also knows people deserve to choose and grow. Make the movie about whether Superman will lead us by the hand, or drag us by a collar.


While this inner conflict is going on, bring in an alien villain, either Brainiac or General Zod, someone who can really challenge Superman without looking ridiculous or using kryptonite. Have the villain capitalize on Superman’s insecurities, not just be a punching bag. We know Superman will beat them up, but show him overcoming emotional and mental insecurities.


That’s the Superman movie I wanted to see walking into that enormous theater.


It’s also the movie I was nearly positive I wouldn’t see. That’s a tall order, and a lot of people probably don’t care.


And yet, I left the movie completely satisfied. Was there huge explosions and Michael Bay-esque action? Yes. Were there cringe-inducing Messiah imagery and dialogue? Yes. However, there finally exists a Superman movie worth seeing!


We get Superman plagued by a past where he watched his father die, growing up in a town where he felt like an outcast because he wanted to help others. His mother is ageing alone, and he’s jumping from job to job trying to live. He has a sense of right and wrong after being bullied and treated like an anomaly or freak most of his life. We would understand if he was bitter and jaded, but he rises above it.


We feel, for the first time, that Superman is an underdog.


Lois Lane is a capable, smart, impulsive character who doesn’t need Superman. She chooses him in spite of everything, which is a beautiful change of pace.


Zod is a monster, but we also understand him. He’s the perfect idealist and zealot with what he feels is an almost divine mandate. His death is poignant, and Superman’s unimaginable grief is palpable. He hurts, he is confused, and in the face of it all, he has to get up and keep going. Because he’s Superman.


Sometimes we feel like that.


When you have nothing left to give, when you’re kicked and lost, you still have to get up and go to work. Because you’re a father, mother, daughter, son, brother or sister.


I understood that part of Man of Steel and loved how it told Superman’s story.


Now if only we can get Nolan and Snyder on a Green Lantern reboot.