Superman was created in the 1940s. In the 24 years between 1914 and 1938, the Americans had endured WWI, 10 years of an economic boom followed by 10 years of the Great Depression. Needless to say, the American people needed some hope and inspiration and writer Joe Seigel and artist Joe Shuster with the creation of Superman. The Last Son of Krypton is essentially perfect, even for superhero standards. He is faster than a bullet, can fly faster than a jet, bullet proof and is virtually indestructible. His morals never waver as he always stands for “Truth, Justice, and the American way.” Superman embodies the best of mankind and his character depicts that. He fights crime in the light of day and never asks for anything in return. Even his signature S on his chest stands for hope.
This poses a problem when one is trying to create a movie or television story about Superman. In any story, the protagonist must have some sort of problem that he or she must overcome. Usually that conflict is either internal, external, or both. Superman has no internal or external problems that he cannot overcome. He can punch his way out of most problems and for those he cannot he can usually think his way out of. The only conflict that Superman can encounter either kryptonite (which is something that only effects Kryptonians only), or a moral dilemma. Man of Steel focuses on this aspect. Man of Steel allows Superman to keep his powers but forces him to choose between killing Genreal Zod or allowing the Metropolis citizens to die. This utilitarian choice is one he would never make because he would rather not kill Zod and save the people. By forcing this choice, it strays away from the original Superman character by making him more human…but it makes a better movie in principle.
Alternatively, the other option is to nerf Superman’s powers, but Superman is iconic across the globe. It would create a glaring plot hole to have Superman possess a physical weakness (not including Kryptonite and magic) and still identity the character as Superman.
Superman was originally created for an audience that wanted hope and saw so in Superman, but as the times have changed so have the audience’s wants. Most people like myself desire to see flawed heroes such as Batman, Elsa, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman. Most heroes can be altered and still maintain their core selvesSuperman stories rarely experience character growth which is why many people feel empty coming out of them. It takes an extremely talented writer to write Superman but a well done superman movie can resonate with the world.