Warning: there are spoilers ahead for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Haven’t seen the movie yet? Go see it, then come on back.
It’s long been the running gag of the Superman universe – that the world’s populace and his closest friends are unable to comprehend that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same, only one of them happens to be wearing glasses. While it is somewhat conceivable that Supes’ fans and Clark’s acquaintances are too knuckle-headed to see the truth (particularly in the early days of his existence, as we suspect that modern day Superman will have some major problems when it comes to social media, smart phones, and citizen reportership), it’s always been dunderheaded that Superman’s perennial love interest, Lois Lane, is consistently in the dark as to who is who. The main issue with the lovely Lois not seeing the obvious is that she is not only a highly intelligent woman, she is a woman who investigates things for a living. Rooting out truths and seeing beyond the status quo is not only what Lois does, but it’s who she is. Open your eyes, Lois!
In traditional Superman comic history, Lois first became suspicious of Clark Kent’s true identity (or Superman’s true identity, whichever, really) back in the Golden Age of DC Comics. Lois, like Superman, was first introduced in Action Comics #1 in 1938, though she didn’t start putting the Clark/Supes pieces together until sometime in the early 1940’s. To get into the rest of the complicated DC Comics history (two Earths? Madness!) in service to dissecting the course of Lois’ understanding of who Clark Kent actually is (or, again, who Superman actually is) would take far too long and go far too deep, when the basic truth is that, traditionally speaking, Lois can’t tell that Clark Kent is just Superman wearing glasses.
The “Lois probably needs her eyes checked” storyline has continued in Superman movie culture, with Margot Kidder’s Lois not catching on until Superman II and Kate Bosworth’s Lois still being in the dark in Superman Returns (even after she’s had a kid with the guy). This is all a longwinded way of saying that we’re used to Lois Lane not knowing who Superman really is, and it’s a tremendous relief that this particular element of the story (no matter how traditional and accepted it may be) is excised almost immediately in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
When we first meet Amy Adams as Lois (who is, not to worry, still an investigative reporter for The Daily Planet), she’s trekked out to the frozen tundra of Canada to report on a The Thing-like, well, thing frozen below centuries-old ice. While the government and contractors handling the investigation of said thing in the ice (can you guess what the thing in the ice is?) are expecting Lois – she is, after all, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter – they aren’t expecting her a day early, which is exactly when she shows up (and on purpose). Lois is sharp as a goddamn tack, and she’s not interested in attempting to extract information from people who are clearly trying to orchestrate the elements of her visit.
Adams’ Lois is also the bold, brave, and brazen Lois we’ve come to expect from the character – so when she sneaks out of her tent in the middle of the night to investigate the thing in the ice and the barrel-chested dude (Henry Cavill, obviously) walking towards it, it’s the most natural thing in the world (though, it must be noted, her apparel isn’t quite as natural – even Lois Lane needs more than a pair of leggings and one puffy coat to stay alive during forty-degree-below weather). And when she finds a newly laser-eyed hole in said ice, perfectly person-sized, and goes traipsing down it without a thought, camera in hand, it’s also keeping in character. Also in character? Lois getting attacked by a Kryptonian version of a weaponized and mechanical personal assistant and having to be saved by Superman. Sorry, saved by Clark Kent. No, wait, that’s not right. Saved by some really strong guy who might be an alien.
Or, really, saved by all three. In Man of Steel, Lois Lane gets her first proper introduction to Clark/Superman/Kal-El by way of salvation (and some cauterizing laser vision) and there is never any doubt that the handsome guy who helped her off the helicopter earlier that morning is also far more than just a handsome guy. Lois Lane knows exactly what Superman is before she knows exactly who he is.
But that disconnect doesn’t last long, as Lois quickly puts her investigative powers into overdrive (after being saved by Supes and abandoned on the arctic ice) and tracks him down in the only place he could be – which is to say the only place Clark Kent could be – in Smallville, Kansas. It basically takes a montage for Snyder and company to disassemble the most ludicrous piece of Lois’ character, have her prove her salt as a reporter, and become a trusted confidant to a man that she knows is both Clark Kent and Superman, eventual glasses be damned.
That’s right, within the first hour of Man of Steel, Lois Lane discovers Superman’s real identity and realizes the importance of keeping it a secret.
Untraditional? You bet. Smart? Incredibly. By removing the most baffling barrier between Lois and Clark, Snyder has allowed for us to bypass a bunch of misdirection and near-gotchas in favor of building a bond early, setting the stage for some major danger for Lois (who wants to bet that the next film will see some evil villain capturing Lois to lure Superman?), and cutting away a large piece of origin story that this new origin story simply doesn’t need. Even better? The decision to clue Lois in to the reality of things immediately fits her character in a way that her inability to recognize someone just wearing glasses never did. Lois Lane is a smart lady, let’s just keep her that way.
Man of Steel opens this Friday, June 14th.