Let's talk about Superman
Bloody Superman 'ey. What ARE we going to do with you?
- All-Star Superman
The Big Blue Boy Scout is arguably one of the world's most iconic and recognisable superheroes. SO WHY HAS HE BEEN FORSAKEN WHEN IT COMES TO CINEMA! While the 1978 and 1980 films, Superman and Superman II, starring Christopher Reeve, still hold up today, we haven't had many fantastic Superman films. Although there are some who will adamantly argue that 2016's Batman VS Superman isn't THAT bad, I am still waiting to see this inspirational hero get the film outing he deserves. While I believe Henry Cavill could be fantastic in the role of Superman; he hasn't had much of a chance to shine in recent films.
"So Mike, what exactly is this article about?" I hear you ask. Well, gentle reader, it will probably consist of me moaning about the current state of Superman and complaining about the direction Hollywood has taken so far, before gushing about my love for the character and my hopes for the future of our beloved, nigh-indestructible reporter.
Buckle up. It's about to get nerdy.
What exactly is my problem?
The past few DC films have been disappointing for many reasons. Although I enjoyed Justice League, we still deserve better from this franchise. I love the DC universe, even more than Marvel. I grew up watching Superman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, as well as the odd episode of the Justice League TV show AND the incredible Teen Titans TV show (I'm currently working my way through this one again). My childhood essentially consisted of staying inside and watching cartoons (and occasionally swinging from a light fitting in my mum's living-room). My Dad would read various comics with me and show me the old issues from his youth (we still go to see Superhero films together now).
I love these characters because they formed such a big part of my childhood and to see their potential squandered hurts.
In 2013's Man of Steel, we meet a "realistic", grim and gritty version of Superman, devoid of HOPE and MOTIVATION. A puzzling reimagining of the character to say the least.
SPOILERS FOR MAN OF STEEL I GUESS.
Throughout the film, Clark is told to hide his powers and that he "owes the world nothing." When Clark saves a school bus full of his friends and peers, Jonathan Kent chastises him - "What was I supposed to do, let them die?", "Maybe. There's more at stake here than just our lives Clark."
This isn't Jonathan Kent.
In the midst of a powerful tornado, Jonathan Kent tells Clark not to use his powers. Because of this, Clark is forced to stand by and watch his father die. This isn't an emotional death scene. It's dumb. HIS DAD IS IN A TORNADO AND CLARK HAS THE POWER TO SAVE HIM. There is no way he would stand and watch one of the most important people in his life die if he knew he could stop it. Would you?
This isn't Clark Kent.
- Man of Steel
By comparison, the 1978 film has a fantastic scene involving Jonathan Kent and his adopted son. After a beautifully written speech in which he explains that Clark's powers aren't for playing football and that he has a reason for being on Earth. Jonathan Kent dies of a heart attack. And there was nothing Clark could have done to save him.
"All those things I can do. All those powers. And I couldn't even save him." - Superman (1978)
Clark learns that, despite his immense power, sometimes he can't save everyone. Jonathan Kent believed that his son was destined for greater things. He had HOPE for the future. He knows that Clark has the power to help people (for example, saving a bus full of innocent school kids from drowning). He can use these incredible abilities for the good of the world, and maybe even save it. His last words to his son were:
"When you first came to us, we thought people would come and take you away because, when they found out, the things you could do... and that worried us a lot. But then a man gets older, and he starts thinking differently and things get very clear. And one thing I do know, son, is you are here for a reason. I don't know whose reason, or whatever the reason is... Maybe it's because... uh... I don't know. But I do know one thing. It's not to score touchdowns." - Superman (1978)
- Superman (1978)
If that isn't motivation for becoming a superhero then I don't know what is.
So what do we need?
Superman isn't a dark character. He is supposed to be an inspiration to the human race. Someone we can always rely on to save and help us. In Man of Steel and BVS, he seems reluctant to help. Almost as if he resents his powers and the responsibility they give him. This isn't Superman. And it isn't what the world needs right now.
- Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
Superman is such an amazing character who has touched so many people's lives. I still hold onto the hope that we will get a film worthy of his legacy. Superman is a beautifully crafted character with such a rich and influential history. It should be easy to write a truly wonderful film about him. And yet Hollywood struggle to get him right. Obsessed with keeping up with the Marvel films and trying to chase the success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Hollywood have failed to respect this character and everything he represents.
"...no matter how dark it seems. There's always a way." - All-Star Superman
With a symbol for hope emblazoned on his chest, Superman swoops in to save the day, no matter how bad things are. He saves the world. He beats the bad guy. He talks people down from rooftops. He is the light in a world full of darkness. A beacon of hope when it seems there is none. He is Superman.
- All-Star Superman #10
I leave you with two quotes to compare. The first is from Man of Steel and the second is from the Grant Morrison comic, All-Star Superman. Both quotes involve Superman talking about his father, Jonathan Kent. Which character seems more hopeful?
"My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they'd reject me... out of fear. I let my father die because I trusted him. Because he was convinced that I had to wait. That the world was not ready. What do you think?" - Man of Steel
"Jonathan Kent taught me that the strong have to stand up for the weak and that bullies don't like being bullied back. He taught me that a good heart is worth more than all the money in the bank. He taught me about life and death. He taught me that the measure of a man lies not in what he says but what he does. And he showed me by example how to be tough, and how to be kind and how to dream of a better world." - All-Star Superman
- All-Star Superman #1