'Man of Steel': Is the New Superman Not Super Enough?

Watching the trailer for Man of Steel in the dark theater as I sat waiting for Star Trek: Into Darkness, I was enthralled. It looked stylish, dark, and Henry Cavill in a skin tight suit (without the outside underwear... hellooooo bulge) spoke to the action movie buff in me, the one who saw Matrix Reloaded in theaters when I was 11 — by far the youngest person in the audience. However, in a new featurette released by Warner Bros, Zack Snyder, the film’s director and visionary, speaks constantly to Superman’s humanity, how this movie is meant to ground the most memorable superhero of all time in the modern day, and how, for the first time, Superman will be a bit more emotionally vulnerable. I suddenly have second thoughts about my first impression.

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At the end of the day, I will see almost any movie with hot guys punching things, and, quite frankly, if you sent me an hour-and-a-half-long reel of Henry Cavill just lifting stuff, I’d be pleased as punch (yeah, MOVE that couch Henry, ohhhh yeah, just a little to the left, no keep going), but do we really need another brooding superhero? Superman has always been a ray of light in a dark comic book universe, and it’s unclear that the world is ready to see him re-imagined as lonely and misunderstood. Especially when the world already proved their penchant for more light-hearted superheroes in the likes of Captain America, Iron Man 3, and The Avengers, the third highest-grossing movie ever.

Snyder strives to make Superman relatable, but who decided superheroes needed to be like the rest of us shmucks? Maybe I’m just not meta enough, but they’re called superheroes because they are more super than everyone else. There are heroes, like firemen and police officers, and then there are superheroes, who are incomprehensibly outstanding. We love them because they are not like us. They make great sacrifices for the greater good and, in doing so, present an inspiring trope of humanity, one that is effective because it in no way reflects on the viewer.

We’d like to think if we could fly or had superhuman strength that we too would forfeit our personal needs for those in the world, but in looking inward, most of us know that not to be true. We watch superhero movies as a form of escapism, a way of freeing ourselves from the guilt associated with being a single person who is sometimes more selfish than altruistic. (Although sometimes we just watch them for the ass-kicking and muscle-flexing.) Superman has always been a hopeful hero — he isn’t even human, yet he still works tirelessly and cheerfully to save our planet, over and over again. Why take that away? A lonely but tireless Superman is, quite honestly, depressing, and evokes the same, “What are we LIKE, humanity?” kind of questions that we have to ask ourselves every day when we read the news, interact with colleagues, sometimes even walk down the street.

I’m not saying Man of Steel won’t be awesome, and I’m certainly not saying I won’t see it. But I am left thinking that the real world is too sobering a place for superheroes to get us down as well. If we wanted reality, there is actually a whole genre of films based on reality — they‘re called documentaries and most people don’t watch them because when we sit down to stare relentlessly at a screen, we most often want something different than what’s outside of it. I love Superman, but I don’t need to identify with him. I’m far too busy beating myself up for identifying with every character on Girls anyway.

Image: Warner Bros