A good Superman story is a hard thing to pull off. Even in his comics, the medium he originated in, the truly great Superman stories are few and far between. Besides his power of near-indestructibility and stupendous strength, which already make it very hard to build a sense of danger and therefore tension, his most defining character trait is that he always makes the right, moral choices in practically every situation. Give Superman/Clark Kent some faults and he becomes less recognizable as the Man of Steel (which is exactly what makes Superdickery funny). Stories that make him lose his conviction or give him weaknesses usually tend to feel forced, or false even. He’s more an ideal to live up to than a person to identify with, which ironically makes him a hero people don’t easily root for.
As a result, all his depictions on the silver screen so far have pretty much missed the mark. Even the revered Donner films rid the movies of their tension by adding even more to Supes’ already nearly omnipotent powers. Christopher Reeves was great, but let’s face it, the scripts to those movies were a mess. And the less said about the Bryan Singer addition to the franchise, the better. The new trailer for Man Of Steel reveals some potential story beats that build tension while still keeping what makes him tick, and it’s an idea that’s brilliant in its obviousness.
Don’t shy away from his tendencies as a big blue Boy Scout, embrace them. Superman always makes the moral choice, even if it runs contrary to his personal interests, even if it means potentially scaring the world away from him, even if it can ruin his own shot at a happy life, he has the power to help people and he will always use it. It’s what makes him Superman, and it’s exactly what seems to drive the conflict in Man Of Steel. Seeing him struggle with that also has the added bonus of making him human, and therefore relatable, without taking away any of his powers or breaking his character. We’ll have to wait to see how it all works out, but this geek has gone from dismissive to cautiously optimistic and, to be honest, intrigued.