Superman is Still the Hero We Need

Superman has always been deemed as something of an antiquated superhero by many, but I’ve always turned to him in my need for a good superhero fix. Ever since I was seven, I devoured everything and anything that had Superman featured. That also included Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie.” It not only featured Superman, but it featured one of the Supermen that I grew up with. Along with the Max Fleischer Superman, and George Reeves Superman, Christopher Reeve was the big dog in the superhero universe. Reeve’s boyish charm and staunch determination made Superman a hero you could look up to and depend on.

Even though he was always walking a fine line of being corrupted by the world, and his desire to fix everything, Superman battled for mankind. “Superman: The Movie” didn’t just embrace Superman and his world, but it celebrated it. The movie, as everyone knows, begins with an awe inspiring epilogue of a child opening up a Superman comic book. This drops us in to the world of the DC Comics icon. It’s a clever breaking of the fourth wall that also very much embodies the mythic scale that Superman brings to every film he’s central to. “Superman: The Movie” isn’t just a tale of Kal El who becomes the Man of Steel, but it’s also about a super powered being who learns the scale of his power.

For better and for worse, he learns over the course of the film how his powers can benefit, and how easily he can tip in to the desires of a force of nature who will take it upon himself to change the course of humanity. In the beginning of his tale, he realizes his powers are useless when his father John keels over from a massive heart attack. This decidedly becomes the catalyst for his actions in the second half. Against his father’s wishes he breaks the cardinal rule by saving Lois after she dies in the horrible disaster, but comes out in the climax learning from it. He’s even a better hero for it. He learns and grows to understand about sacrifice and accomplishing certain things for the greater good.

He also learns that even with god like powers, there are things you simply can’t change; even a rotten megalomaniac like Lex Luthor. A lot of people today still are baffled as to the rise of superhero films, but personally I’ve never really found it all that confusing. The first “Iron Man” arrived during a time where the country was still in a state of financial and political disarray, and whether we knew it or not, the rise of the comic book movie reflected a core need. They reflected our need for heroes. Time and time again our heroes in the public have proven themselves to either be complete phonies or abhorrent monsters. People we once put on pedestals were nothing but hollow idols, through and through.

The superhero movie gave way to heroes we could look up to. Sure, they were also flawed and sometimes made mistakes, but superhero movies, I think, gave the world some kind of hope. When we couldn’t turn to real world heroes, the world turned to comic book heroes. And we welcomed them, not only in the cinemas, but in to our homes, and in to our lives. It’s probably why Black Panther shirts, and X-Men hoodies have become common fashion fodder.

It’s why so many fans appear in droves to usher in an epic superhero battle. Even though there’s no guarantee they will win, we know that when the smoke clears they’re fighting for the best intentions. And they’re fighting for us.

“Superman: The Movie” is still one of the best, if not the best cinematic adaptations of the man of steel. It offers a Superman who is courageous, who changes the world one deed at a time, and who inhabits ideals of empathy and charity; the latter of two that many in modern civilization seem to have forgotten. It’s a beautiful movie about what heroism we can strive for, with or without super powers.

Superman is celebrating his 85th anniversary and the 45th anniversary of the release of “Superman: The Movie,” the 1978 masterpiece starring Christopher Reeve. It will be screening in select theaters across the USA, from Friday, April 14th to Wednesday, April 26th at various locations. Check or your local theater’s website for dates and times.