What is it that makes Superman so super? Yes, he can fly and punch through walls and go faster than a speeding locomotive, but so could Zod, and things didn’t work out so well for him...
No, Superman has that big S on his chest for one reason. He says it’s “Hope”, but it’s a bit more than that. Superman saves people. That’s what makes him a hero, and not just really good at fighting. So let’s look at some of the most awesome saves he’s pulled off in the movies:
The Oil Rig
You want proof that it’s saving people that makes Superman recognisable? Check out the beginning of Man of Steel. It’s as far away from Superman’s usual surroundings as you can get, no Metropolis, no Daily Planet. The person we meet there has no shiny blue outfit, or even a foolproof suit and spectacles disguise. He’s a beard fisherman who looks decidedly un-super. That is until the boat receives a distress call from a flaming oil rig. In no time this strange bearded man has climbed onto the rig, got the crew on board a Coast Guard helicopter and held up part of the collapsing rig so the helicopter can fly away.
We know there’s only one person who would do that.
In Smallville, You Pick up the Bus for School
But Clark Kent started young in the saving people game. As Man of Steel shows, when he was 13 his school bus blew a tire and sped off a bridge and into a river. Clark single-handedly pushes the bus to shore, then swims back to rescue a kid who’d been bullying him only a few minutes before.
Picking up vehicles is one of Superman’s favourite kinds of rescuing people. In the 1978 Superman movie he is introduced to the world when he grabs a falling Lois Lane in one hand and a crashing helicopter in the other. Then, after vanishing off into space to find Krypton for a few years, Superman announces his return in Superman Returns by snatching a falling jet plane out of the air (with Lois on board, naturally) and plonking it down in the middle of a baseball stadium.
Looking Out for the Little Guys
The thing about Superman is he cares for everybody, good guys, bad guys, his friends, that kid who beat him at school and Lois Lane (a lot). Most of the people he saves are just ordinary folks who he is helping because he can. While flying over Metropolis during a massive Earthquake in Superman Returns, he vaporises a shower of broken glass without even thinking about it, and while Bruce Wayne is clearly angry that Superman didn’t save all those people working in the Wayne Industries building Zod smashed during Man of Steel, we’re sure Superman was just as upset.
At the climax of that film Superman even breaks his own ultimate rule to save a family, killing Zod, and you can tell that doing this hurts him. But there is one person who Superman will save no matter what (even more so than Lois).
When Zod threatens Martha Kent, Clark Kent’s adopted mother, Superman punches him so hard he flies right into the centre of Smallville. The thing is, at this point in the film Superman didn’t know that Zod had super powers.
The lesson we learnt from this? Don’t ever threaten someone Superman loves.