Raise your hand if you ever wished you could fly. Now raise your hand if you remember wishing you could fly before you first heard of Superman. That’s what I thought. There are very few people who haven’t at least heard the moniker of the world’s first superhero. The Man of Steel makes his expectantly triumphant return to the silver screen on June 14th. Millions of fans eagerly anticipate the day they will be reminded why there’s nothing wrong with believing a man can fly.
Recently, more news and interviews have been circulating about the movie and the filmmaker’s vision for re-inventing Superman in the cinema. The origin story has not been told since 1978 and a new era of storytellers rose to the challenge of making this unbelievable story relevant and believable for a new generation. However, some of the news and interviews have led to less than favorable opinions about the direction that the film is taking. Granted these opinions are considered in the minority but considering the reach that some of these outlets have, it is a very vocal minority.
While I do not agree with the opinions expressed by some of these sites, I have been able to see an ironic and poignant example of life imitating art. From what we’ve been hearing about the story for Man of Steel, it sounds like Kal-El from Krypton will at least at first be treated as what he truly is, an alien from another world. Does this surprise anyone? Could you imagine what it would be like if an alien that resembled a human but possessed immeasurable superpowers was discovered someday living among us? It’s not a stretch of the imagination that the reaction of the world would be swift and significant. Our military would certainly be involved and our government would want nothing more than to figure out the aliens’ intentions as quickly as possible. Isn’t this type of response a lot of what we’ve seen in the trailers and promotional materials for the film?
It finally dawned on me. These negative reactions to the news that the filmmaker’s have attempted to make Superman real are a lot like the reactions that would exist if he did exist. We would question why he is here. We would be afraid of him. These reactions question why this movie exists. They question why Superman is relevant. They question why Superman needs to be “real.” I have no doubt these questions will be answered on June 14th. In the meantime, I will attempt to silence the cynics.
Superman is not just any superhero. He is THE superhero. In the universe created by Marvel and DC Comics, there has never been a more powerful representation personified. But this is not what makes him important. This is not what makes him relevant. Everyone can picture the S shield blazoned upon his chest. We can all see him catch a falling helicopter out of the sky with one hand. We can see his eyes shoot a blinding red light that can liquefy metal. Again, this is not what makes him important or relevant. It’s much simpler than that.
Superman is Clark Kent. He was raised to be a man and a human being. He is a man who has a family. He has a father who taught him what it takes to be a good person and a good man. He has a mother that taught him how to show compassion and love. He struggled with being different. He was often scared about how the outside world would accept who he really was. Despite his struggles and fears he always put the needs of others before himself. He cares for all human beings despite not being one of them.
Superman is Kal-El. He was born on another world. He is not a human being. His birth parents died before he could know them. His parents sent him to Earth to save his life in the hopes that he would be raised to help the people make the world a better place. He learned about his heritage and abilities from his birth father but only from a distance. He has the power to change the world for the better or the worse. Despite all of his power, he is an orphan.
Superman is us. He has experienced loss. Despite being nearly invincible, he has experienced pain. He knows what it’s like to feel different. He knows what it takes to be a good person. He has made mistakes. He has let his parents down; he has made his parents proud. He has loved someone with all of his heart and his heart has been broken. He does whatever he can to help as many people as possible but he knows it will never be enough. He tries to see the good in everyone even though some will always hate him. Superman may not exist but many of the experiences and things he’s gone through are very real.
Skeptics and cynics will never be silenced. We will always question what we don’t understand. Believing in something that is not real is difficult for even the people who have the most open of minds. However, a group of people have set out on a nearly impossible task. They have tried to make the unbelievable, believable again. We will soon find out if they succeeded. I hope and believe that they have.
As children, our imaginations have no limits. We close our eyes and believe we can fly. We see ourselves leap over a tall building in a single bound. We see ourselves run faster than a speeding bullet. We see a world where we can save the day. We see a chance to save people from dying. We see the best that we could be. We see Superman.
On June 14th, we will see him again.
by Josh Costella