Imagination Connoisseur, Jeffrey Mao, shares his experience with the Man of Tomorrow (Superman) and what he sees as shortcomings in the most recent iterations of the Man of Steel.

Hi Rob:

Since everyone has been on a Superman kick recently I figured that I would supply my own insight into an aspect of the latest trilogy (if your could call it that?) that is rarely if ever addressed.

But first, I’d like to briefly go over my first cinematic introduction to Superman. I’m pretty sure that Superman III was the first Superman film that I saw in the cinema, as I was certainly too young to have seen the first two. Although I’m pretty that I did see them on TV afterwards. While clearly III was a substandard entry and extremely campy, I still had a connection to it with it being my first film and also certain parts of it were amusing, such as how Richard Pryor’s Gus made his ersatz Kryptonite and also the video game-like computer graphics when Superman goes to attack the Robert Vaughn character’s lair.

I did find the scenes where Clark goes back to attend his high school reunion to also be entertaining, maybe because I probably at the time had a thing for Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang, since I had seen her in Cat People. If you have seen Cat People, then you probably know the scene that I am referring to. Yes, if you do the math, I was probably way too young to have seen that movie.

Anyway, on to my topic. Since you are the king of verisimilitude, one aspect of the Cavill Superman films that has a complete lack of it is the development of the adult Clark Kent persona. In the comics and the Reeve films, it’s clear that he developed the Superman and Kent personae simultaneously.

He knew he needed a cover to allow him to continue his Superman activities so he went to college (usually Metropolis State), studied journalism, and started working at the Daily Planet. Perfectly understandable. But how is it that the Cavill Clark, who has been walking the Earth (like Caine in Kung Fu) with no formal education, no resume, no work record, and is by now in his early 30’s, can just waltz into the Daily Planet, get a job as a reporter, and no one notices that, hey, he’s pretty friendly with Lois, looks just like Superman, and has no credentials? And by the way, who would actually want to work for a newspaper nowadays?

It seems to me like Zack and co. were struggling with how to maintain the standard Superman mythology but adapt it to a modern, more grounded setting. They must have seen how in the MCU, secret identities essentially don’t exist having been rendered unimportant. However, they still felt obliged to maintain the Clark working as a reporter at the Daily Planet thing. I think that, like with most people, the first part of MoS is the best, with a very well-developed view of him as a child coming to terms with his powers and who he is in the world.

Where the film then fell off was him as an adult. He was essentially given an exposition dump from his father, given the suit and the Fortress of Solitude all at once. It’s somewhat akin to Tony Stark giving Peter Parker the tools to be Spiderman, instead of Peter himself having to develop all that on his own, like the usual versions of Clark developing the Superman persona, the suit and all that from a boy to an adult. It took a lot of agency away from him.

If there was going to be a proper MoS II, then I would have been more OK with this version, as we really had an incomplete Superman at this point. It really should have been Superman Begins, and then Man of Steel as the sequel with him fighting Zod. If the world was already familiar with Superman, and aware of the threat of Zod, they would have been more accepting of the toll taken to stop him.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get that sequel and it’s very unlikely now that we ever will. This will put the Cavill Superman down as one that started with a great deal of promise but failed to really live up to that.

Thanks for reading and see you in the Singularity,
– Jeff M.