Monday, August 04, 2014

An Imperfect Superman

© by Gerald So |

Yesterday, a Twitter discussion of superhero movies brought up Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which many of my friends dislike. While their complaints are reasonable, they didn't keep me from enjoying the movie.

Everyone expects Superman to make perfect decisions, saving all life along with public and private property. We expect this fantasy heroism because of his theoretically limitless power.

Real heroism is making an effort despite one's limitations. Yesterday's most serious complaint was that the Kents encouraged Clark to bury his talents, not make the best of them. The most poignant support for this complaint is Jonathan Kent's waving off Clark's attempt to save him from the tornado. While I agree the Kents contributed largely to Clark's morality and decision to use his power for good, this can be portrayed in any number of ways. Man of Steel showed Clark's upbringing in snippets, and I saw Jonathan as a honorable man of few words. In my view, despite their limitations, the Kents accepted Clark as a son and wanted society to accept him, too, not alienate him. All parenting is an imperfect mix of protecting children and encouraging their sense of adventure.

Behind the best-known complaint, that Superman kills Zod, is the movie's poor job of making the kill necessary. Here, too, though, because of Superman's power, we imagine everything he could have done instead of killing Zod. It's clear the filmmakers wanted to include the killing to raise debate. Unlike viewers, who can spend hours second-guessing, they had to make that decision and move on.

Man of Steel may not live up to idyllic visions of the Kents and Clark, but I relate better to this imperfect, more human Superman.

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