I have always loved the way Superman transcends the media of film and comic. Though I’ve never read an issue of any of comic series devoted to him, I’ve imagined myself flying like Superman.
The symbol of the “S” has become synonymous with good ole fashioned heroism the way we see the American flag as a patriotic standard for justice.
Superman is the quintessential American… yet he is an alien.
Zack Snyder’s new film Man of Steel presents a new look at the 75-year-old icon of heroism. You can see in the re-designed suit that this hero better fits our modern taste (he no longer wears red underwear on the outside of his suit!).
I think the strongest part of Man of Steel is the interpretation of Clark Kent/Kal-El as an outsider in two worlds. He is not human, yet he’s grown up on Earth in the small-town heart of the United States. And even among the remaining survivors of Krypton, Superman stands apart. As a result, Superman bridges a gap between the American idealism of our past and the post-modern search for identity and meaning in a divided world.
Compared to other superheroes, such as Ironman and Batman, Kal-El has a more grandiose, even self-important, mission to complete. Sometimes, the imagery can get a bit oppressive even, and those who just want their superheroes to be smart and snarky should probably stick to Ironman.
But then why shouldn’t Superman be self-important? He’s an indestructible force of nature (consider the last hour of Man of Steel for a good reference).
The most important distinction of this film and this character comes that Superman could be a villain, but he chooses to be a hero. Here, Superman’s choice to become a hero less of an obvious step and more of a struggle.
Would you choose to put your personal security at risk every day if no glory or personal gain would come from it?
I think the reason the Man of Steel resonates so much is that Clark Kent/Kal-El chooses to walk the path of greatest resistance simply because that is the right thing to do.