Hollywood: Stop trying to make Superman cool. The world needs a boy scout in blue

There is something inspiring about a guy more powerful than a locomotive spending as much time talking down jumpers as he does averting comets

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The Independent Online

“Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. It’s not a subtle mission statement, but then Superman is not a subtle character. In an age of the anti-hero, Superman feels like a very old fashioned character, and in his current incarnation, it seems like the story tellers are constantly apologising for what he was, rather than celebrate what he is.

The teaser trailer for the ridiculously titled Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was released on Saturday, and it marks the first time in their shared 76 year history in which both characters have appeared together in a movie. As a fan, this has been a long time coming. Before now we've had to share knowing giggles when, in Batman Forever, Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne made a throw away reference to Superman's home city 'Metropolis'.  Or we've poked each other in the ribs when we see a satellite emblazoned with the Wayne Enterprises logo in Man of Steel.

So why am I not more excited? Have the Avengers stolen the sense of occasion? Is it because this trailer is selling me a fight that I don’t particular understand or want to see? No. It's Superman. He seems so tortured, so violent, and so dour. Remember when he saved cats from trees?

I don't mean this as a slight against Henry Cavill. The Englishman oozes the kind of sincere, blue-eyed warmth this character needs. But after decades of fending off accusations that Superman was “too square” or too “boring” Zack Snyder's Man of Steel cast him as a frowning and burdened brawler. One who even took a life at the end of the climactic fight. An attempt to make him more complex and sophisticated no doubt, but Cavill was scarcely permitted a smile.

Superman is square. That's okay. He's never going to seem badass like Batman or sardonic Iron Man. But there is something inspiring about a guy more powerful than a locomotive spending as much time talking down jumpers as he does averting comets. The compelling thing about the world's original superhero is that for all his power and strength, he doesn’t place himself above us. He has no dominion, asks for no worship. He's an inspiration for six year olds and sixty year olds alike and we don't need to make him cool and relevant. He's timeless.

In Superman The Movie, Christopher Reeve hopped onto Lois Lane's balcony with humility and quiet strength. He didn't pose. He wasn't conflicted.  He was simple. When he tells Lois “I never lie” he says it without irony and we believe him completely.  Our world remains snarky, shady and corrupt. We could do with a boy scout.

I have hope. The trailer spends a lot of time ruminating on what a man with so much power would mean to us as a planet. History tells us that anyone with enormous influence seldom uses it for good.  These are interesting themes.  I hope the movie finds a way to embrace the big blue for who he really is: a simple character, who stands for truth, justice...all that stuff.

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