The Big Issue : Edition 435
thebigissue21Jun–4Jul2013 15 « Henry Cavill as superman in man of steel, 2013 photograph courtesy of warner bros pictures anotHer movie is upon us; anotHer CHapter in tHe long and Convoluted tale of tHe original superHero. Batman is now Cool; tHe avengers get tHe aCtion; But superman still Has tHe Best BaCkstory...exCept for tHe CHaraCter’s Creators. SUPER JUST Look, up in the sky! it’s a bird! it’s a plane! it’s... iron Man?... What? not so long ago, it was Superman who ruled the skies and cinema box offices. He was a pop-culture colossus who was the first and only character people thought of when superheroes came to mind. Batman, a fellow DC Comics crime fighter, has recently punched his way through a highly acclaimed trilogy. Rival publisher Marvel Comics has teamed up with Disney to turn some of their characters – Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America – into the biggest money-making movie franchise around (The Avengers). But Superman has been lying low since Superman Returns (2006). Now he’s back, with a new feature film, Man of Steel, due for worldwide release this month. Henry Cavill is pulling on the tights as the last son of krypton, while Russell Crowe plays his father, Jor-El, and kevin Costner his adopted dad, Pa Kent. Plot details are sketchy, with the first trailers looking more like one of Terrence Malick’s visual tone poems (think The Tree of Life) than a superhero slugfest, but with Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) playing the evil kryptonian, General Zod, it’s likely there’s going to be a lot of punching taking place. A great deal rides on the cape of this film: these days, Superman Returns (2006) is generally considered to have been a serious misfire for the character, despite strong reviews and global takings of $uS400 million. perhaps that’s fair enough: if Marvel, (now wholly owned by corporate titan Disney) can turn B-listers like iron Man and Thor into box office successes, how bad does it look if DC (owned by rival titan Time Warner) can’t wring a measly billion dollars or so out of the superhero who started it all? The biggest problem the Big Blue Boy Scout has faced over the past few decades hasn’t been villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac or even Kryptonite. Those he can shrug off: he even came back from the dead in the 1992 comic series The Death of Superman. His real never-ending battle since the 1980s has been the fact that his brand of cheery optimism has increasingly fallen out of fashion. Batman is meant to be grim and brooding and tortured; iron Man is a smarmy jerk brought low by his own weapons of mass destruction. But Superman, despite being the last survivor of his race, looks resolutely ahead. one of his taglines has always been ‘The Man of Tomorrow’, but it has been a future full of shining cities and world peace. These days, our tomorrows don’t seem like quite so much fun, and so Superman – a positive figure who appeals to the best in us – doesn’t symbolise tomorrow the way he once did.