Unquestionably, Reeve’s set a tone that no one has since been able to reach. But what made Reeve’s performance so epic wasn’t his physique or CGI, ironclad supporting cast or social media marketing, it was his unforgettable version of Clark Kent.
There’s a scene where Clark first meets Louise Lane at The Daily Planet. Perry White, the editor, asks Kent to open a bottle. And he can’t. Think about that for a minute. Superman can’t open a bottle. Who in the hell put the cap on; God?
Now I know he’s parading as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter and all that, but it’s Superman. And it’s a bottle of water. And he can’t open it. If that same scene were to play out today, Superman would break the bottle.
And that’s exactly why Reeve’s version of the man of steel trumps every version since. Reeve understood that to be truly super wasn’t to be forever invincible, it was to be both Clark Kent and Superman; weak, insecure and fragile, but ready to dive into a phone booth because someone has to save the day.
In Kill Bill 2, David Carradine says Superman wakes up Superman. That he’s better than all the heroes who put masks on to become special. Superman’s mask, Carradine says, is humanity. And the way he wears that mask is bumbling, unassuming, and painfully self-conscious.
Superman knows that to be Superman for too long means losing touch with what’s important. He recognizes the strength in humans by our ability to exhibit great strength, despite our weakness.
We’ve lost that with most of today’s heroes. There are simply no more phone booths. Today’s Superman wakes up with the “S.” He desires credit. He yearns for attention. He doesn’t lead so much by example, as much as talking about how great he is at leading. He doesn’t invent things for the good of the planet, so much for the good of his wallet. His production line isn’t about making lives richer, it’s about spreading gossip as fast and as far as possible. And we envy him for it. If today’s so called “hero” saves at all, it’s so he can be worshipped.
We’ve got it all wrong. Superman isn’t super because he’s steel, leaps tall buildings, or breathes arctic air. He’s super because, deep down, he’s really Clark Kent. Scared, insecure and alone. And willing to fight all the same.
“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve
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