Man of Steel Gives us a Superman for the Ages
- Tuesday, June 11, 2013
“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s... Superman!”
We all know that famous line. And now the king of all superheroes makes his return to the big screen with this summer’s blockbuster hopeful, Man of Steel.
Born Kal-El of Krypton, adopted as Clark Kent by a humble Kansas farm couple, Superman is perhaps the world’s most famous superhero. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman flew into the comic book scene in 1938 with Action Comics #1 (later D.C. Comics) birthing America’s notable cultural icon. Over the past 75 years Superman’s heroics have been fodder for seemingly endless comic books, radio programs, TV shows, cartoons, novels, and films. He is the king of indestructible and incorruptible superheroes: unmatched strength and speed with an unwavering sense of moral justice.
General cultural consciousness not withstanding, the filmmakers of Man of Steel hope to bring Superman’s story to a whole new generation of superhero fans who are accustomed to a more gritty kind of hero. But will the fans of the brooding new Dark Knight or Iron Man and his inner demons take to a hero with such a historically solid moral center?
"[Kids] know the glyph [Superman symbol], maybe they wear the t-shirt, but they don’t really KNOW Superman," says Deborah Snyder, a producer on Man of Steel and wife of director Zack Snyder. "We start from scratch. You don’t have to come into the story knowing anything and I think that’s really great for the younger audience."
As a revised origin story for contemporary super-fans, Man of Steel attempts an enormous task. How do you truly reboot a character with so much history and not anger the loyal fans? How do you take a hero from comics past, now often considered boring, and make him relevant to modern audiences? How can someone one who is largely indestructible be relatable to those who are not?
Deborah Snyder was well aware of this challenge as she talked with Crosswalk.com at a recent press junket. "When you have this character that has these extraordinary powers, you'll never be able to understand what that's like. But he also has human qualities too. What can we do to make those qualities and struggles relatable to us as the audience? We asked ourselves what could we do to put him in our world to understand him a little bit more. And that was the start of it."
"Superman is about goodness," Snyder continues. "When striving for goodness you have to make a lot of choices and often those choices are complicated and messy and that's also what makes Superman more relatable."
Another aspect of Superman's history that makes him unique among superheroes is the prominent role his two fathers play in his story. Both Jor-El (Russell Crowe), the biological father who saves his life, and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), the earthly father who adopts him, have great influence over the man Clark Kent becomes. Man of Steel takes great pains to flesh out this part of Superman’s story.
"You have these two hugely influential characters with both his fathers," Snyder says. "I think when we meet Clark in this film he’s on this journey of self-discovery. He feels lost. He’s trying to figure out who he is. And he comes to realize that he’s as much a product of Krypton as he is a product of Earth. Basically these two fathers have really influenced who he is in such a profound way."
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