Does the world need (another) Superman (remake)?
I can’t help but think about this–the title of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “article” written by Lois Lane and one of the central theme for 2006’s Superman Returns.
I am asking the same question almost 7 years after Superman last flew in our big screens. In the age where movies about superheroes are made and remade in a dizzying pace, does the world still need Superman?
Superman is hero borne out of the early days of comics. For some, he is boring — he is straight-forward, respectful, does no evil, helpful and does not harm or kill. The cynical would call him “an overgrown boy scout who espouse “Truth and Justice – the American way”. In a world where superheroes have grown darker, edgier, grittier — is there still space for a goody-two shoes like Superman?
I’ve been a fan of Superman since I was about 7 or 8 years old. Growing up, I dreamed of meeting my own Clark Kent one day. I was head over heels in love with Christopher Reeve from the moment I laid my eyes on him — flying to the screen. During my early years working which was right after university, I aspired to be like Lois Lane and be a big shot journalist. When I was applying for my first job as a writer on a major publication, the hiring manager asked me, “Why did you want to become a reporter?” I answered, “Because I wanted to be like Lois Lane…” surprisingly — I got the job.
I never moved on to be a hard-hitting reporter, and would instead find myself trapped in the corporate grind. I never met a “Clark Kent” and instead got married to a guy who was an avid fan of “The Joker.” It’s been more than two decades since I first saw Superman on screen, but my love and devotion to the character never changed, even for a bit.
Imagine my excitement when I first heard about “Man of Steel” and the announcement of a new Superman, the dashing Brit Henry Cavill. With the advent of more and more superheros debuting in our big screen every few months, I was feeling personally left-out in behalf of all super geeks out there. So, with the coming of the new movie comes a certain tinge of dread. Will Superman still find his audience a midst a crowd who have come to love the preening, jaded, edgy superheroes? In these times when we wanted our superheroes to have more than a bit of swagger, will Superman’s idealism of “goodness at all cost” still find traction?
Without going much into details and in respect of those who have yet to see it, “Man of Steel” answers the question, “why do Superman chooses to do good?” Why is he doing good for the human race when his superior powers has made him an outsider for the rest of his life? The answer to this, in condensed form, is because he is destined to do good. As Jor El, his father said, “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards…”
Maybe that’s the purpose of Superman. We need someone to give us hope, to serve as our symbol that in spite the myriad of choices presented to us, we can always opt to do good. We need someone to remind us that if we are in the position to help someone, then why not take that leap forward?
The movie is leaps and bounds beyond the usual retelling of the Superman mythos. The story telling by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer provides a fresh angle to the roots, beginnings and the story of Kal-El. There is more grit and the mood is darker for most of the film. This Clark Kent is a man in search of his purpose in this world. A man who leaves no trace nor even real name as he try to cover his true identity, afraid that we (the people who inhibit this planet) might not be ready should we ever uncover someone like him. This is a movie that decided to dispense with the humor present (and at times, lovingly missed) on Christopher Reeve’s turn as the bumbling, awkward Clark Kent.
As I lined up to claim pre-reserved tickets for the whole family, I can’t help but look around the cinema complex. The lines were a mile long, people cramming to get reserved tickets or score one, if possible (tickets in the cinema I frequent were immediately sold out). Patiently waiting in line were a representation of generations — grandfathers lining up with their sons, their sons carrying eager grandsons in turn. Here and there, you will come across people dressed in Superman shirts while I spied little boys in full Superman costume.
While the movie is in progress, I sometimes overhear a patient dad explaining to his son bits and pieces of the Superman mythology. When the credits started rolling to signal the end of the film, people clapped…really clapped — perhaps happy that the story of their childhood superhero is again alive and seemed to be well.
I guess this is a sign that we still need — and will continue to need Superman in our lives. We will always need someone to serve as the perfect example of choosing to do good over evil. In our world like ours where our boundaries are tested each and every day, it is comforting to know that we have someone to look up to.