"Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
Of course, we all know that it's not a bird or a plane.
The iconic introduction to the 1950s Superman series single-handedly sums up all of the problems with the Superman franchise. It's too familiar (as in Bryan Singer's reverent, boring 2006 film Superman Returns). It's too old-fashioned (more powerful than a locomotive? What about a nuclear warhead?). And—at a time when audiences are regularly lining up for grim, modern, and above all, plausible heroes—it's too whimsical.
Superman is a part of our culture. But the America he protects in 2010 is a far cry from the one he protected in 1932. Has The Daily Planet posted its archives online? Without phone booths, where will Superman change into his cape? And will Superman's secret identity be discernable—glasses or not—to anyone who studies Clark Kent's Facebook profile picture closely enough?
These questions may be silly, but they also point out a key problem: how do you modernize a character as iconic as Superman? Warner Brothers is betting that director Zack Snyder, whose Superman: Man of Steel is scheduled for release in December 2012, has the answer. Snyder—the stylistic director of hyper-violent films like 300 and Watchmen (and, incongruously, the recent kiddie flick Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole)—is reported to be working with Batman Begins screenwriter David S. Goyer on fine-tuning Man of Steel's script. As they work out the story details, there are 5 things Snyder and Goyer should keep in mind: