Same Old, Same Old Superman

Posted on June 24, 2013

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Superman On Board

Superman On Board

My son Lennon and I went to see Man of Steel, the latest silver-screen incarnation of Superman this weekend.

My short review; it was fantastic.

I loved it. I felt like a kid myself for 2&1/2 hours in that darkened theater, even though my own five year old son was sitting right next to me.

Man of Steel is a straight-up remake, a reboot of the Superman saga, an all-American tale that dates back to 1933. That was the year writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, a couple of high school students from Cleveland, Ohio, created an alien superhero named Kal-El, an orphan, the sole survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, who became Earth’s favorite (and only) adopted son – Superman.

I’ll try to keep the MoS spoilers to a minimum here but like I said, it’s a remake, if you saw my generation’s Superman, the classic 1978 flick with Christopher Reeve, then you already know how this one ends.

From the get-go, the casting make this film feel like an epic. Two Hollywood legends bookend Man of Steel. In the opening scene we see Russell Crowe, in the role of Jor-El, father of Superman, a part played by Marlon Brando in the 78 version, and in the final shot Kevin Costner, Jonathon ‘Pa’ Kent, a role that went to Glenn Ford in the original.

These two chew up the scenery every moment they’re on-screen. Diane Lane brings Martha ‘Ma’ Kent, Superman’s adopted mother – to life, Laurence Fishburn is Daily Planet editor Perry White and the latest Lois Lane, a role that made Margot Kidder and Teri Hatcher famous; Amy Adams.

That movie was a hit with my generation for obvious reasons, kids of the late 70’s loved the special effects, the flying, the faster than a speeding bullet, leaping tall buildings with a single bound, etc. The opening credits, with words that seemed to almost fly off the screen, were worth the price of admission.

But Superman wasn’t just a hit for us, our parents, the young adults of that era, they loved the movie too and the reasons for this, perhaps they go beyond the film itself. America was an uncertain place for them when Christopher Reeve first donned the red cape; they’d watched a sitting US president resign in disgrace only a few years before.

The psychological scars of the sixties, almost 70-thousand dead GI’s in Vietnam, civil rights struggles, murdered heroes, MLK and the Brothers Kennedy, the nation was still recovering, life in America felt fragile, a little scary even.

For those reasons Superman became more than a movie, it was an affirmation of truth, justice and the American way, a cheesy sentiment, maybe even silly, but it was something the country desperately needed.

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Watching Man of Steel this past Saturday I felt a kinship with my parents, the Baby Boomers who lived through those tumultuous times. Because just like them in 1978, today we live in a fragile and uncertain world. America has been at war for a longer period than any other time in our history. The wounds of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression are fresh and our nation is divided, hopelessly divided some say – along political and social lines.

Today, once again, we need Superman.

And thanks to Hollywood, our Man of Steel, our original superhero, has returned.

It’s a pattern with Krypton’s sole survivor.

Superman debuted 75 years ago this month, in Action Comics # 1. As today, the United States of America faced dire straights. Poverty gripped America as our economy slowly dragged itself from the grips of the Great Depression and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were on the march as the entire planet prepared for World War.

Each generation imprints their own values on Superman.

When the Man of Steel debuted he didn’t fight aliens or super-villians. Instead, in his first adventures the last son of Krypton battled crooked businessmen and politicians, lynch-mobs and gangsters, the true-life villains of that era.

From George Reeves in the 1950’s, to my generation’s version of the ‘Big Blue Boy Scout’, the late Christopher Reeves, Superman battled the scourge of nuclear weapons, reflecting our national fear of Atomic Armageddon.

We’ve even grown so comfortable with Supes we decided to make him a little more human in the 90’s and into this decade.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman explored the romantic nature of the Man of Steel by focusing on his relationship with longtime love Lois Lane while Smallville concentrated on teenage Clark Kent and his formative years in rural Kansas.

This new Superman (I refuse to acknowledge the ’06 film Superman Returns) is the first on the Big Screen since we were kids so Man of Steel also presents my generation a chance to grieve ‘our’ Superman, the late Christopher Reeves.

He was our Superman, our Man of Steel and he was taken from us in such a senseless manner. Though his final years were an incredible example, a true-life heroic tale, the death of Christopher Reeves hit me like a ton of bricks once again as I watched his heir apparent, Henry Cavill fly across the screen trailing that famed red cape. My Superman, our Superman, he died because he went horse riding one day, so sad and stupid and senseless.

After watching Man of Steel I finally felt like I’d said a proper goodbye to Christopher Reeve. Is that weird? Of course it is, but it makes sense to me, it feels right.

In this day and age of cynicism, of faith lost in institutions, an age where Hope is an empty political promise, where Truth and Justice seem to be archaic, when the American Way seems to be a forgotten dream – we need Superman more than ever.

Welcome back Superman. You were sorely missed.

Even the Man of Steel naps

Even the Man of Steel naps

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