In 2012, there will be a new Superman film. Christopher Nolan, the visionary director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, will produce a fresh take on the Man of Steel. Zach Snyder, director of 300 and Watchmen, will direct. This will be the first major introduction to the character in over thirty years. And I can’t help but wonder what will change.
Looking back at the Richard Donner Superman film of 1978, we remember an enjoyable, but also an almost cheesy, generally light-hearted Superman who claimed to stand for “truth, justice and the American way.” Ironically, much of the film was not shot in the United States.
It’s difficult to imagine how a character with such American-inspired patriotic zeal could resonate today. Although, the times weren’t terribly different in many ways. A Democrat named Jimmy Carter was president, the nation was in the middle of an energy crisis, gas prices were high. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Of course, two years after the release of Superman: The Movie, the nation elected Ronald Reagan and ushered in a period of economic prosperity.
But as much as I appreciate the enormous talent of Nolan and Snyder, I highly doubt that the new film will play on the traditionally patriotic aspect of the iconic comic book hero. Why is that? Is patriotism not cool? Has America become jaded and unaware of the positive impact it has had on the world since its inception?
The problem seems to be that America finds itself in a position where it is afraid to believe in heroes. And I’m not just talking about mythical comic book heroes with superhuman powers. Heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington seem harder and harder to find. And even if we had that kind of a hero or leader, their most minor flaws or defects would be front page news, causing our hopes to sink even lower.
America needs a Superman in the worst of ways. No, not an alien sent from the planet Krypton who draws power from Earth’s yellow sun, but leaders who will stand up for “truth, justice, and the American way.” And as a nation, we need to get out of their way and support them. We need leaders who will restore optimism and real hope. These don’t have to be elected officials, but they must believe in America’s greatness, goodness and potential.
Maybe it’ll be a president. Maybe it’ll be a preacher who makes waves. It could be business owner who helps his or her community. In 2011, the 1978 version of Superman might seem a little cheesy. But if cheesy is what it takes to restore a positive reflection on the American dream, then I’m hoping that cheesy makes a comeback.