You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly… But Will You Care?


I like writing, but what I really want to do is fly. Or rather, I want to believe that someone could.

I am one of those who grew up marveling at Christopher Reeve in Superman: The Movie, enjoying Superman II, wondering why Richard Pryor was in Superman III (oh, my young naiveté) and liking Superman IV (which I still dig… in spite of being an awful movie). It was that tagline from Superman: The Movie that led me beyond a love of the film into a nostalgic appreciation for it… “you’ll believe a man can fly.” With Christopher Reeve in the cape, you did. For my generation, he was Superman. It was that little bit extra he brought to the flight, a feeling of stoic acceptance of his power yet recognizing the awesomeness of what he was doing. The fourth-wall breaking smile at the end of the film or the first flight after Marlon Brando’s crystals put him in red and blue tights… it was chill-inducing. I believed a man could fly.

But now, I see films like Green Lantern or Iron Man, and that joy is lost, replaced with a computer-generated cartoon (ironically harkening back to the days of the 1948 Kirk Alyn-starring Superman movie serial, when the flight sequences were done by a crafty switch to animation) that goes through the paces. Sure, Hal Jordan was excited by getting to fly fly, but he was a head on an animated body doing flips that I couldn’t care less about. Iron Man, the same deal. Yeah, yeah. There was a woo-hoo and a spin and stuff. Woo frickin hoo.

Flight is a human dream — the computerization of it makes it an easier reality, yes, but the true appeal of it lies in a human being taking flight. It’s that very ease of filmic flight and movie magic that has rendered its appeal and wonder inert. Christopher Reeve and the special effects crew had to work to fly. Wires, harnesses, blue screens. It all had to come together to create the realistic vision of the human dream of flight. Now, flight is reduced to a bunch of (admittedly complicated) keystrokes that remove the human element and make anything possible.

It’s like the old adage of great cars. They were made of steel, and were built to withstand anything. There was a love and attention paid to them, the work of hands on metal. Now, it’s Priuses (Priui?) and fuckall bad “pee-ushi” commercials.. seriously, Toyota. Your ad company should be tarred, feathered, and flambéed for that dreck. You want to make people buy hybrids? Don’t make commercials that cater to the asinine claptrap  of doggie acupuncture urban hipsters with nothing interesting to say.


What I’m getting at is that the human element has been removed and mass production of wonder has become the norm.

When was the last time you were in awe-struck wonder of something? When did you last feel that chill of “wow?” Let’s really show where the makers of current wonder-less flight films go wrong: the last time I felt that chill was when Dash ran across water in The Incredibles. It was COMPLETELY animated, but Brad Bird and his team brought the same amount of human wonder to a pixelated image that Christopher Reeve brought to Superman. The Incredibles was like a vintage car, built to last and built with pride. It was built with heart and characters that marveled at their own super heroism. We experienced their wonder and they experienced it.

Now, we’re left with vapid, half-hearted visions of flight and of wonder. Where is the pride in that work? Where is the chill-inducing hope that we could someday do that? For a film about a man with a power ring that could do anything, limited only by his imagination, the imagination in Green Lantern was sorely lacking. For a film about a genius billionaire eccentric philanthropist and weapons manufacturer, Iron Man’s first flights were anything but genius.

Maybe I’m getting older and more cynical. Or maybe I want to believe a man can fly and actually give a damn.

4 thoughts on “You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly… But Will You Care?

  1. Totally agree. Interestingly, I thought the best “flying” of recent times was the very first Mk1 suit tests in Iron-Man when he’s flitting about his garage and destroying his cars.

    Why did that connect more than anything else? Possibly because it’s one of the few flying sequences in the film that were performed practically, right there on the set. Sure, the digital stuff helps with wire removal and added “jets” etc, but it sells itself because you can SEE RDJ doing it.

  2. oddly, i caught the last scenes of green lantern the other day. it couldn’t even hold my attention enough to watch the big finale through. i watched the screen, thought to myself, ‘meh’, and walked away from the television. there wasn’t anything that help me.

    i can’t recall the last time i had that WOW feeling watching a movie. although, i do recall having it during that scene in the incredibles, too. i really hope that i’ve had it since. to think otherwise would be very sad, indeed.

    don’t get too cynical, Tyler. every time i think i might be losing my sense of wonder, i remember what it felt like the first time i saw rivendell. i sat in the theater and cried my eyes out… because somehow, jackson had not only brought to life my imagined paradise, but he made me believe it could be real.

    goosebump moments aren’t gone.
    you DO have to look harder to find them.

    but then, that makes them even better.

    great piece, Tyler.
    thank you!!

  3. Thanks so much for the comment! I’m cynical – but not over the top. There’s a great moment waiting to be had at some point. I’ll just follow your advice and look harder =D Thanks again!

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