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Superman 1.82: The Trickster

We’re currently four minutes into act 3 of Superman: The Movie — all of the mushy love stuff from act 2 is behind us, and from here on, it’s all about the hero confronting and defeating the villain.

The missile convoy sequence is the first time we see Lex Luthor getting up out of his lair and actually doing villain stuff, and it gives us the chance to see him in a new light. So far, we’ve seen Lex Luthor as a ranting mad scientist, a Bond villain and a purple-suited cartoon superfiend, but in this sequence, he assumes his true role, as a mythopoetic trickster figure.

Trickster figures appear in the mythology of many cultures around the world, including ours. The trickster is the wascally wabbit who exists to disobey the rules of whatever situation you put him in, the double-dealing renegade who uses cunning and creativity and funny voices to rewire the world.

We know the trickster by many names — Loki, Anansi, Reynard the Fox, Groucho Marx, Alexander Salkind. They’re thieves and mischief-makers, who move the world forward through deceit and upset and surprise. That’s why Lex got so excited when he learned about Superman; finally, he has a god to steal fire from.

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