Oh how the mighty have fallen

As a child, I idealized Superman above all other heroes.

My mother tells (and tells and tells) a story about how when I was but two years old and we were stranded on the side of the road, just when all hope seemed lost I said, “Don’t worry, Superman will save us.” As you might imagine, we weren’t saved by Superman — it was actually some guy with a cell phone in the early 80s — but the important thing is this: I really believed it.

Do kids today believe in Superman? I don’t think so.

I think we’ve all grown too cynical for a hero who is all good, too cynical to believe in a hero who selflessly does the right thing every single time.

This is the world into which Superman is supposed to return in Bryan Singer’s magnum opus, Superman Returns. But I’m here to tell you that for all his professed love of Superman, Bryan Singer also does not believe in a selfless Superman.

Instead, he seems to believe in a self-absorbed, whiny, home-wrecking Superman. And for all its strengths — beautiful photography chief among them — Superman Returns fails because it does not understand who Superman is and why his example is something to which we should all aspire.

At least, it doesn’t show any understanding.

Case in point: In this movie, the major dramatic tension surrounds the fact that Superman knocked up Lois Lane and then flew off into space for five years without saying goodbye to her or without making arrangements for the protection of Earth. And, as soon as he gets back, he uses all the otherworldly powers at his disposal to promptly try to steal Lois away from a man who really does love her, who would never abandon her, and who, because of his dedication to her, has been raising another man’s child as his own.

Does any of that behavior sound like something Superman would do?