Superman is an icon embedded in our cultural landscape. He is a symbol of hope, optimism and goodness for many people around the world, not just comic book fans like myself. So for many of us, the re-telling of his story is in some ways, a fairly significant event. Not to mention the fact that a decent Superman movie has yet to be made in my lifetime.
For me, the last great Superman film was Superman II. It featured Superman in an epic struggle against foes from his home planet Krypton and in that respect, (spoiler alert to anyone that knows nearly nothing about Man of Steel) it will be similar to Man of Steel. Terence Stamp played General Zod, the menacing military leader from Krypton who would stop at nothing to rule whatever world he landed on. In short, it was a fun, entertaining film and a fascinating take on the character for its time (1980). Two sequels followed, but generally failed to live up to the success of their predecessors.
Fast-forward to 2006. Two television series, Lois & Clark and Smallville, had come out with their own takes on the character. But Hollywood decided that it was type for the Man of Steel to return to the big screen. This resulted in Superman Returns.
Allow me to give a brief critique of Superman Returns. It has a fairly good cast, especially with Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. But the concept for the film, as well as the script itself was a bit half-baked from the beginning. The idea was that this film would somehow be a sequel to Superman II (completely disregarding III & IV), albeit with a totally different cast. The Superman character was somewhat boring and disconnected. Some of the other characters seemed to exist in some bizarre 1960′s timewarp. That may work well for a Wes Anderson film, but in a superhero movie, it’s just plain weird. I could really go on and on about all the things wrong with it; but ultimately, Bryan Singer, who is actually a good director, had abandoned the opportunity to direct his third X-Men film in order to direct Superman Returns. Unfortunately, both X3 and Superman Returns were disastrous comic book films that left fans like myself very disappointed.
In spite of Superman Returns’ failure, I still believe the Man of Steel could be done right. Shows like Smallville had proven that Superman was still relevant and interesting, but a TV show can only do so much to whet a fan’s appetite. The question is: who would be able to make a good Superman film these days?
As far as comic book movies in the DC Comics Universe, where the Superman character resides, Christopher Nolan stands above the rest. The Nolan Batman trilogy is arguably the greatest film narrative of a comic book character in the 21st century. They are more grounded in reality than many other films in the genre. They have engaging storylines, incredible action sequences, and are relevant to their time. If anyone could deliver or at the very least, help deliver a worthy Superman film, it would be Christopher Nolan.
So when I found out that Nolan was co-writing and producing a Superman movie called Man of Steel, I was excited. Zack Snyder, director of epic comic book films like 300 and Watchmen, was also slated to direct. Combined with a script by David Goyer, this Superman film had a recipe for success. Finally, after 30 years, Superman would return to the big screen with a film worth watching.
What makes this film so important? For starters, a new generation will be able to experience a fresh take on a 75 year old American icon. But the story of Superman itself speaks to many people on a deeper level. For instance, some see very obvious parallels between Superman and Judeo-Christian figures like Moses and Jesus. In fact, Zack Snyder himself has pointed out that Superman is a “messianic” character. Also, Superman is an optimistic figure that unites people. He appeals to our morality and the good in us, as well as our sense of hope for the future. These qualities may seem old-fashioned in our jaded and cynical times. But at the same time, I believe there are those of us out there who are looking for those qualities in our entertainment.
So in the words of Jor-El, Superman’s father, I have this to say to all those who labored over the making of Man of Steel: “our hopes and dreams travel with you.”