As we near the release date for the hotly anticipated but fairly secretive Man of Steel, fans have been speculating how well Henry Cavill’s Superman will stack up against Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal. However, for better or worse, you can be sure that the roles are going to be different because, ultimately, superheroes have changed in a big way. Here's how they're different now.
1. No More Invincibility
Superman, once the epitome of strength, has slowly been getting his powers “nerfed” over the last few decades. Filmmakers have long learned that invincible heroes are boring to watch. As Wolverine and Thor showed before, even the once-indestructible heroes now feel pain. Therefore, expect Superman to get hurt.
2. No More Cheese
Superheroes once had to be kid-friendly but, after the considerable success of the dark and gritty Batman Begins, filmmakers abandoned that notion and decided to write more exclusively with adults in mind. Whereas Robin once yelled out, “Holy Generic Line, Batman,” we now have Rorschach burning people’s faces with steaming water. Suffice to say, cheese is dead and expect none of it in Superman.
3. No More True Heroes
The original Christopher Reeve film crafted its protagonist as a self-sacrificial beacon of light. However, as we have seen in everyone from Leonidas to Tony Stark and the aforementioned Batman and Rorschach, our “heroes” are tremendously flawed. That does not stop writers from forcing us to embrace them as heroes, but it at least highlights the morally questionable decisions most superheroes take when they don a cape.
4. No More Hope
Superman could once move planets to save us from meteors, Spider-Man ultimately got the girl and Batman could easily defeat his enemies by answering pathetic riddles. Now, Superman is getting arrested, Spider-Man is a mean-spirited jerk, and the Joker has a smile cut into his face. As the increasingly painful circumstances in our media show us, our world has perhaps far more gloom and doom than in days gone by.
5. A lot More Xenophobia
The superhero genre has been historically rooted in xenophobia, where some of our best heroes could not come across a foreigner that was not an enemy of the state. In today’s media, the xenophobia has evolved so that not only do the villains look and sound different, they also hail from distant lands. Be it the Persians in 300, Ra’s Al-Ghul in Batman Begins, or Loki in The Avengers, superheroes firmly believe that stranger means danger.
6. A Lot More Politics
Foregoing the traditional structure of beating up individual enemies, superheroes now fight political entities alongside with their usual villains. Batman has to face Bane’s Occupy protesters, Queen Gorgo has to debate with the Spartan Council, and the Watchmen have to put up with political campaigning. Considering the poster with Superman surrounded by an army, expect politics to play a role.
7. A Lot More International
Several superheroes, Superman in particular, represented American icons. Yet, our upcoming Superman is British, as is our current Batman, Spider-Man, and Charles Xavier. Couple that with an Australian Wolverine and superheroes suddenly aren’t American anymore. Well, at least we have Captain America.
8. A Lot More Fighting
Saving a school bus from falling off a cliff is nice, but it doesn’t quite sell it to the cheap seats. Audiences love it when their superheroes bash some skulls, a request our moderns saviors are always willing to fulfill. Bullseye gets hospitalized, Joker gets scar extension surgery, the Green Goblin gets impaled, and Leonidas stabs an opponent in the eye. Will Superman take the moral high road and attempt to talk through matters? I hope not.
Of course, much more has changed this last several decades and not all of it is positive. Therefore, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Man of Steel will hit theaters June 14, 2013.