Review of Superman II (Film, 1980)
Image courtesy of http://comicbook.com/category/superman-ii
At heart a simple romantic comedy, Superman II is a small film centering around the budding relationship of Clark Kent and Lois Lane that just so happens to have an action filled ending that perhaps weighs the film down in the ever present trapping of the superhero genre. As is the case with most of the tropes that have been present from the beginning of the comic book era, Superman must battle with the conflict of identity and loss. In order to have a relationship with Lois he must give up his super powers, but in order to save the world he must accept his role as a hero. No spoiler warning are necessary to tell you that he does the right thing and saves earth by accepting his identity as Superman at the loss of love with the one thing he cares about the most in the world. And that is enough to send the audience home with smiles on their faces knowing full well even when our heroes owe us nothing, they’ll always be there for us.
Yes, Lois is sidelined to the girl friend in the film, providing comic relief with her insatiable appetite and yearning for the man who is faster than a speeding bullet, and perhaps even presented as a weak woman incapable of taking care of herself but must rely on the strength of the man to save her, tho I find the use of her as our standard love interest is surprisingly fresh and quirky in the way she’s presented as a knowitall journalist bent on discovering the identity of the hero she seems to always be rescued by.
Perhaps the strength she exudes isn’t a result of actual physical strength but in the durability and relentless of her at times doggish refusal to accept that Clark Kent is the right guy for her, based on her idea that he’s a bumbling weakling incapable of hurting a fly. And yet even as Superman gives up his powers in order to accept his role as the husband figure, she sticks by him, caring to his wounds after he is beaten up by a truck driver who has a wandering eye for Lois.
Naturally, Superman doesn’t remain powerless for long, realizing that the earth needs his abilities far more than Lois needs his companionship, spurned on by his fellow Kryptonian Zod and henchmen who accidentally find earth after being banished from their home planet for trying to overthrow their government.
As is the case with the genre, there’s plenty of action in the form of men and women flying thru the air as well as the boring punches being thrown along with kicks. The Kryptonians heat rays also play into the film, with one character providing an easy laugh as he struggles to burn a hole in a piece of wood.
But make no mistake, tho the film is mired in the standard action cliches, the film is really a small story centering on how we must decide between doing the right thing or selfishly clinging to dreams that only further our own interests. Of course, Superman pays the ultimate sacrifice, forgoing his relationship with Lois but not before he gets a cathartic inducing kiss, wiping her memory clean but also melting the heart of any woman longing for that mighty chest of Superman. At the end of day Superman really is just a simple guy in the form of Clark Kent, one who longs to be with the woman he loves. But as is the case with a planet incapable of caring for itself, we must place our care in the hands of savior who knows where his responsibility lies. It’s a simple message, one that might seems antiquated and quaint, and yet it remains profound in a world stuck on narcissism and selfies, one that we should all only dream to live up to.