Yes, Superman is cool!

Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2013 - 12:00am

“Is Superman cool?”

 That question pretty much sums up how today’s generation feels about Superman. One would argue that the biggest superhero of them all has lost partial relevance in today’s popular culture but to be subjected to the coolness test must be the biggest insult of all! Good thing that question was not posed directly to Clark Kent; I wonder how he would have responded to it.

 It was director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) who, unfortunately, was the one confronted by that question from someone he knew personally. He disclosed the incident after a journalist asked the panel what Superman meant to them during the junket held last week in Los Angeles for the new Warner Bros.’ movie Man of Steel, which opens in theaters worldwide today.

 The movie’s powerhouse cast lead by Oscar-nominated stars Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe and the new Superman himself, the handsome Henry Cavill, joined Mr. Snyder in the 45-minute-long press conference.

Director Zack Snyder (in white) with some members of the Man of Steel cast during the recent general press conference for the movie in L.A.

 â€œI think it’s called ‘doing the right thing’ for a reason,” Zack said to the gathered international journalists as he recalled his conversation with his friend. “Someone is, like, in trouble and I’m gonna help him, is that uncool? I think a lot of what Superman is, is in our conscience. He really is like the first responder, in a way. It’s this selfless kind of anonymous volunteer work that is on a global scale. There’s no glory in what he is doing, it’s really based on him just trying to help.”

 Still, others would argue that the pervading cynicism is not without merit at all. Just in the past 10 years, Hollywood has brought to the screen the exploits of Batman in three critically-acclaimed installments, which, coincidentally, were directed by Christopher Nolan, who is one of the producers of Man of Steel. Last year, Marvel brought together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, The Hulk and Hawkeye in one giant record-breaking movie The Avengers. Beyond that, there have been three Iron Man movies that humanized the superhero archetype, a Spider-Man trilogy, several X-Men movies heavy on special effects and two movies on Thor and Captain America. The public has never had this onslaught of superheroes in so small window that somehow it makes it quite understandable when someone does pose the question: Amid all these movies, is there still a need for Superman?

The short answer to that is yes. The world will never have enough of superheroes doing the extraordinary deeds no human could possibly do. Real life has been marred with threats of global terrorism and extant violence that somehow one can only wish one wields the same power as Superman does and rid the world of all these evil. Unfortunately, that is never going to happen but, every now and then, we still get to live in that safe and peaceful earth in movies where we’ve got the likes of Superman to always save the day for everyone.

And Amy Adams couldn’t agree more. “I grew up watching the Superman films and these were the kinds of films that my dad took me to,” she said. Amy plays the part of reporter Lois Lane in the movie. “I have never had an opportunity to do a film like this and Lois Lane has always been the kind of character I’m attracted to.” The actress added that she always wanted to do the film and joked that she was already getting excited and desperate to do this kind of film.

Man of Steel retraces the origins of Superman as an orphan named Kal-El sent to earth by his father Jor-El to save him from the destruction of his home planet Krypton. The movie then follows his story as he grapples with his true identity and the responsibilities he must bear if he is to tap the superhuman powers he inherited from his father.

“In the world of superheroes, Superman is the completely uncompromising figure who exists to represent the best that all of us can be,” Zack stated in another interview. â€œHe is the ideal; he’s what we strive for, that magical, golden god, the kind of icon that has extended beyond the comics world and into all of popular culture.”

Tapped to bring to life this iconic character is Henry Cavill, who, much like the character himself, will most likely be thrust into the unreal world of fame and insane celebrity life when Man of Steel finally opens in theaters.

“Getting to play Superman is a blessing and a curse. It’s a hard character to capture,” Henry’s co-star Michael Shannon, who portrays the villain General Zod in the movie, told Details Magazine in this month’s issue. “He’s devoid of animosity or sarcasm, but he’s not a dullard either. It’s an overwhelming movie, and Henry’s right in the middle of it, and he just carries it like a champ.”

It’s safe to say that Henry is ready for it. The 30-year-old good-looking actor has had nearly a decade to prepare for the role. He had come close to getting the part twice before: One was for a planned 2002 reboot that didn’t take off and the other was in the Bryan Singer movie Superman Returns which went to another actor. (Quick, name the actor who played Superman in the 2006 movie. Can you?) He was also up for the role of James Bond before the producers opted to go with Daniel Craig.

As an struggling actor, Henry once considered himself an outsider, not unlike Clark Kent/Superman himself, but those years of disappointments only emboldened him to soldier on and take his time so when Hollywood’s doors finally opened, when he was finally informed that the part of Superman was finally his, his excitement couldn’t be contained.

In his interview with Details Magazine, Henry recalled with specific detail the exact moment when he learned he got the part: “I was home playing World of Warcraft. Zach called, and I thought he was calling to let me down easy. But then it dawned on me that he was giving me the part. I had to play it cool. Be appreciative, respectful and professional. But the second we hung up, I just sprinted up and down my stairs cheering and whooping like a madman. I kept looking in the mirror, going, ‘I don’t believe it. I’m Superman? I’m Superman!”

He is indeed the new Superman. He is no Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh (yes, he’s the actor from the 2006 movie) — he intends to be his own Superman. And much like how the careers of Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman got a lift from playing screen superheroes, Henry’s rise in Hollywood is inevitable and what’s uncertain is how high his career will soar.

At the press conference, Henry was asked to describe what he feels now that his once quiet, steady career is on the verge of the proverbial breakthrough.

“I feel very much like the guy I was before. Just now, I have more options as far as the scripts go and that’s enjoyable,” he replied modestly.

“Clark has always felt like an outsider,” he added drawing comparison to his character. “Yes, I applied a lot of my personal life as an actor, a lot of that sort of lonely traveling stuff to Clark and it is still the same thing. This is my temporary family for the next month and was for 10 months when I was on the shoot and I don’t think anything has necessarily shifted.”

Now, if Superman is cool, Henry’s humble reflection on his present career makes him a cool guy, too.

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