The Superman we didn’t deserve

What makes the 1978 Superman movie so good? And why is it too good for us to deserve.
”Lois… I never Lie”

“I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way”.“Ha, you’re going to end up fighting every elected official in the country”, Lois responds with what we all think of when we hear of a superhero fighting for something so… romanticized. “…I never lie”. And there it is. Superman.

Supermen through the ages.

Superman has been played by so many actors, too many good ones to count. From the amazing Henry Cavill who has played the character in a more grounded, darker world, then we have people like Tom Welling who played him for a decade, but wasn’t the Superman we all know and love until the last episode. Most recently we’ve seen Tyler Hoechlin play a more lighthearted version of the character in Supergirl, and the upcoming Show ‘Superman and Lois”.

But what makes Christopher Reeves’ Superman stand out? It’s set in the 70’s-80’s, does it hold up? Does it feel dated? Campy? The simple answer, in my opinion, no. Most of us rewatch our childhood movies and feel disappointed and laugh at how bad it is, but I didn’t while watching these movies.

Christopher Reeve embodies more than Superman, he embodies Clark. Clark Kent in the films is portrayed as Superman’s mask, his disguise, but its more than just glasses and combing his hair differently. When you see Clark, you see a clumsy, awkward, scrawny, high pitched man. That’s his disguise. You see it in the rooftop interview with Lois lane.

The Rooftop Interview.

There are so many moments in the interview between Lois Lane and Superman that show Superman’s morals, his character, his personality. As Clark you don’t see that. Any line Clark has, Superman would say, but the difference is conviction. At the end of the rooftop scene, Superman flies away, and Clark knocks on Lois’ door.
He enters her apartment fully prepared to tell her who he is. He takes off his glasses, he stands straight instead of slouched, making him taller and appearing much broader. His voice drops back to normal. This is Superman.

Superman is more than a cape, more than a morality, more than hope, it’s a symbol for all of the above. And while Superman represented these before Reeves, they became iconic afterwards. He set the bar. He brought a character to life that could (and has before) easily come off as a boring Boy Scout. But in that interview he’s confident, he’s corky, funny, smart, and most of all… He breaks down his morality the simplest way he could. He never lies.

I love Superman, everything about him to me represents what I wish to be. The best part of Superman isn’t the superpowers, its the man. And that’s something we can strive towards. We can’t fly and save the falling plane, but we can care enough to check on the passengers and help. We can’t see through walls, but we can learn to see everyone equally, valuing everyone.

A perfect ending.

At the end of the first Superman, he brings lex Luther to a prison and tells the warden they should be kept at the prison until their trial, ensuring lex doesn’t escape. The warden smiles and thanks Superman. But Superman’s response sticks with you as the last line in the film. “Don’t thank me, Warden. We’re all part of the same team”

Superman isn’t this hero because of the enemies he defeats, he’s a hero because he cares enough to help. Superman is constantly inviting us to fight the good fight with him. And while the idea of “Truth, Justice and the American way” can be subjective, but never telling a lie… isn’t.