Lost in Translation: Man of Steel’s Superman

In 2013, I was HYPED to see Zach Snyder’s re-imagining of Superman.   The residual boredom I experienced watching Superman Returns in 2006 had inflicted me with a seven year long state of persistent sleepiness.  Superman Returns was such a surreal addition to the Superman Franchise.  My reaction to it was equal parts painful boredom at a complete LACK of any action and stunned disbelief at seeing Superman getting shanked up and stomped out by Lex Luthor and his crew in the final act.

Yeah....that shit HAPPENED.
Yeah….that shit HAPPENED.
Blanket Party for SUPES
Blanket Party for SUPES

It was a jarring and hilarious in retrospect.   It was an odd addition to a movie that captured the many of the things that made Reeves Supes appealing.    Superman Returns missed the mark because it was so BORING but…it felt like a Superman movie.

Man of Steel felt like a live action version of a Dragon Ball Z episode with the brooding found in Attack On Titan.    MOS Superman was a scowling warrior of angst.  He had no real personality outside of his interactions with Zod.   Superman is referred to as a God among mortals in many pieces of literature.  He is unbreakable, unkillable and unflappable.  Superman is a walking superhero archetype.  The Jesus comparisons weave through every piece of Superman’s mythos.   MOS Superman is 100 percent Old Testament God.

He’s moody.


He’s vindictive


He has no regard for humans caught in his wake of destruction


He kills the shit out of his rivals

Which makes him moody again


He’s a joyless ball of wanton destruction with daddy issues.  This Superman will never smile at us or give us that knowing wink. He will never be happy in his role as protector of his adoptive home or spend time with his parents in Smallville to unwind.  He watched his father die, his mother is lonely and his hometown is in ruins.  He is a depressing grim Superman for fan-base who has been tricked into thinking that Dark and Gritty tones adds realism to characters who patrol cities and fight crime in tights.  This is a cynical and world weary Superman.  The kind of Superman that NOBODY really wants.   Life is hard enough.  We use our comics to escape our realities.  Zack Snyder gave us a jaded, whiny Superman who is so self-absorbed that he takes no joy in being Superman.

Cursed with the powers of flight, being immortal, invulnerable, strong enough to lift any weight?  That sucks. Better go live as vagrant spend your day emoting about your misfortune.  Why use your power to explore the wonders of the world when you can frequent truck stops and oil platforms looking like a homeless Cesare Borgia.  Why be happy with your status as The Man of Tomorrow when you can be miserable in these amazing times now?

Man Of Steel’s Superman was so unhappy that it was difficult to enjoy watching him do Superman-esque stuff.  This Superman was so burdened with his past that his actions were driven by obligation to save the day as opposed to genuine concern for Metropolis or its people. Here is the difference between Batman and Superman: Batman is driven by his mission to rid Gotham of crime.  Superman protects Earth because it is his home.

Batman needs to be the guy with Mommy/Daddy issues because without Mommy/Daddy issues to drive him, Batman ceases being Batman.  Superman is who he is precisely because his upbringing was happy and he embraced his uniqueness.  He learned to exist as Clark Kent with Superman as the alter-ego.  Clark used the Superman personae to use his powers to protect people but, at his core, Clark was still Clark.  Bruce Wayne is merely just Batman’s cover.  Bruce has no real personality outside of being Batman.  Adding all of this gravity to Superman’s origin story shades the character to the point that he is indistinguishable from other “Dark” Superman types like

The Plutonian,




or MarvelMan/MiracleMan


and he ceases being Superman.

Superman is an ideal.  An uncompromising example of what heroes are.  He is such an archetype of what a Superhero is.  No streaks of moral ambiguity…no grey areas.

Man Of Steel presented us with a new vision for Superman.  A vision that attempted to mimic the harshness that made the Nolan’s Batman Trilogy so engaging.  It was a assault on the senses that featured a Superman who was billed as “More realistic” or “Modernized”.  Have we become so cynical that we can’t accept a hero who doesn’t kill or maim his opponents?   Even if this is the case, why not go all the way and give us a fully jaded Superman instead of this guy??


This self-doubting, emotionally stunted, irresponsible Superman seems to be an odd compromise.  None of the resolve to avoid killing an opponent at all costs, none of the awareness to reduce risk to civilian population in Metropolis by moving the fight to a neutral location and none of the maturity to deal with the loss of his father without running away from his problems. I really hope that Batman Vs Superman gives a self-assured Superman with a fully descended and engaged pair of Kyptonian testicles.

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