A Man Who Was Superman: The Essence of Being A Hero


Year: 2008

Directed by Jeong Yoon-chul
Produced by Yoo Il-han
Written by Kim Ba-da,Joon Jin-ho and Jeong Yoon-chul
Starring Jun Ji-hyun, Hwang Jung-min, Park Yong-Soo, Lee Sang-Yeob, Jin Ji-hee, Woo Ki-Hong, Do Yong-Gu, Sunwoo Sun, and Jo Hee-bong


What does it take to be a hero? Do you need superpowers or just merely bravery? A Man Called Superman tackles these questions with great profoundness by focusing the story on a man called only called ”Superman.”

The plot of the film is the following: a cynical producer follows the exploits of a man who thinks he is Superman. But beneath this strange man lurks a dark and sad tragedy.

As previously said this is a film of profoundness, so this movie says a lot about many different topics from environmentalism to the nature of mankind but at the root of everything is the theme of heroism. Superman has become a beacon of heroism throughout the world despite being a fictional character; so the word ”Superman” in the title thematically very appropriate but it might confuse some into thinking this film is a screwball comedy. But this impression isn’t completely false, as the first half or so of the movie functions pretty much like one. Comedy works naturally well due to the absurdity of the whole premise; comedic scenes which no doubt will put a certain smile on your face. Not light on wackiness, these comedic scenes regardless still contain a heart due to how passionate ”Superman” is in them. On certain occasions, the film fools you into thinking his delusions are almost true which is very subliminal but essential to showing the mental state of the character across to the audience. The role undertaken by Song Soo-jung within the narrative is also integral to the whole story because ultimately her eyes are the lens through which we see the whole story unfold. Her pessimism and cynicism recline the more time she spends with ”Superman”; their interactions push most of the story and drive both characters’ arcs. Seeing both of the characters change but more importantly, their outlook on life changing is what probably gives the film its ”essence”.


The significance of the second half gives greater importance to the more comedic first half. As the film moves more to the ”second-half,” the film’s tone takes a drastic turn, dropping the wacky comedy for a more serious story as we get deeper into “Superman’s” backstory. A Man Called Superman thus becomes a character study of ”Superman”. Delving into his psyche and what led him to become the man he is currently. The trauma that drove him speaks at length of the ugly and selfish nature of mankind, so his identity as ”Superman” seems like one big attempt to correct this flawed nature. Making his whole identity as ”Superman” as some kind of karmic endeavor for the sake of mankind. I hate forcing Christ analogies, but since the actual Superman had many parallels with Christ himself, so I don’t think it’s not a forced conclusion to call ”Superman” a bit of a Christ figure for the film’s story. The final act of the movie takes the themes of the film and carries them with a great weight that may you leave you sad, nonetheless, there is a hopeful message for you if ”Superman’s” story emotionally attracts you.
We apparently live in the age of superheroe movies. Perhaps, more than ever, this film’s significance is important than now than ever before. Because, it isn’t every day we get a movie that we see how superheroes affect us in the real world, not just one in the hyper-realized reality.

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