So I saw Superman Returns this afternoon. While Smallville leaches the superheroic magic and epic proportions out of the Man in Tights’ story, Superman Returns restores some of that power. Though the film felt overlong and populated by mostly forgettable characters as done by average actors, it did achieve a great sense of mood. All the dark, dank shots of Kryptonian crystal architecture …the drifting, serene isolation of outer space…and, most of all, the shots of Superman suspended, listening, almost overwhelmed by his power and responsibility…they really gave a wistful, melancholy key to the story. I didn’t really care about Superman as a character [or anyone else, for that matter], but I felt what he felt.
While no one figures out that Clark Kent = Superman, I finally resolved this blind spot in a way that makes perfect psychological sense at least to me. Clark and Superman just two sides to the same person, but no one can tell that because the sides just behave so differently. Clark acts inept and awkward, unable to express his emotions, while Superman has physical power and seemingly no feelings at all. People around him don’t expect Clark to be physically strong, just as they don’t expect Superman to be emotionally expressive. So when he is muscular and powerful, he seems like a separate entity from the Clark self…and when he is more vulnerable, he seems like a separate entity from the Superman self…mostly because that’s how he feels. Emotional attachments really confuse this guy; they baffle him even more than kryptonite. He may be masterful in lifting cars and small islands, but saying ‘I love you’ requires a different kind of strength, an inner strength that he’s unsure of. The bumbling human form is a physical reflection of his awkwardness. No wonder he goes out and saves the world… It’s easier for him than untangling the human heart.
Coming up: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Devil Wears Prada!!!