Faster than a speeding bullet!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPERMAN!!
The movie Man of Steel opens in Seattle tonight. It received a luke-warm review from the Seattle Times. I probably won't see it.
The reviewer, Moira MacDonald, writes:
This is no zippy super-hero adventure, complete with zows and pows and quips, but a dark meditation on good and evil, shot in shades of gray as clouds loom and brows furrow ....
Don't misunderstand. I'm all in favor of dark meditations on good and evil. But not attached to Superman, idol of my joyous youth.
When I was a kid, America was still developing its post-war confidence. We knew our hearts were pure, but that our abilities still were weak. We needed leaders whose powers were as great as their righteousness. We needed superheroes whose goodness was as unambiguous as we believed our own to be.
We needed Superman. A hero for our times, all for ten cents from DC Comics, or courtesy of Kellogg's Pep on the Mutual Network.
Today, we live in a world of irony and cynicism. We now know that no one is pure, no one is wholly good. All our acts and decisions are morally ambiguous. We no longer want or need the original Batman, but a "Dark Knight." Nor the original Superman, but a "Man of Steel." We want heroes whose confusion matches our own. (I'm only guessing, from the tone of the review, that this latest embodiment of the Superman legend is himself as psychologically dark and disturbed as the Batman of the Dark Knight series.)
Not for us a mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, a shy bumbler like ourselves who daily earns the contempt of his co-worker Lois Lane. We no longer dream that we ourselves hide great powers behind our seemingly pitiful personal personas. Man of Steel, according to the review, focuses primarily on Superman's difficulties in contending with grave concerns involving Krypton, his planet of origin. This modern Superman has bigger fish to fry, obviously, than finding a phone booth where he can change clothes in time to save Lois from an out-of-control speeding car. His concerns today are as remote from our own petty worries as were the Russian Tsar's hopes from those of his subjects.
Folks today would be bored with the plots of yesteryear; they would laugh at the uncomplicated, moral earnestness of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Hence these movie updates, giving us protagonists with more complex psychological motivation, not to mention cinematography with lengthier and more spectacular mayhem.
And I don't object. But film makers should invent their own superheroes, ones that match the times -- not cannibalize the simpler dreams of yesterday's kids.