Posted by Ilya Somin:
Superman and the Law:

   Famed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card has an excellent review
   of Superman Returns [1]here. Since I can't hope to compete with Card
   in analyzing the movie's plot and artistic qualities, I'm going to
   stick to my comparative advantage and analyze the legal issues in the
   movie instead.

   What legal issues, you ask? Where to begin!p>

   A key plot point in the film is Lex Luthor's release from prison when
   an "appellate court" overturned his conviction for the crimes he
   committed in Superman I and II. Luthor tells Lois Lane that he was
   released because Superman (supposedly off on a 5 year voyage into
   space) was unavailable to testify as a witness before the appellate
   judges. The problem here is that appellate courts do NOT call
   witnesses; usually, they only review the trial court's resolution of
   legal issues. Even in the rare cases where an appellate court does
   overturn a trial court's rulings on facts, they do not do so by taking
   additional testimony from witnesses.

   This suggests that Luthor's statement is just a cover story, intended
   to divert the press' attention away from the real facts (Lois, of
   course, is a prominent reporter). Luthor seems to hint at the truth
   when he implies to Lois that another reason for his release was that
   Superman violated Luthor's Miranda and constitutional due process
   rights. But as any first year law student should know, Superman - a
   private citizen (actually, an illegal alien!) - is not bound by either
   the Miranda decision or the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and
   Fourteenth Amendments. Only the government and its agents are covered
   by these legal restraints. This proves that Superman, contrary to his
   public persona as an independent superhero, is in reality a secret
   agent of the government. Somehow, Luthor's lawyers must have
   discovered this information and used it to overturn his conviction.
   Most likely, the government agreed to forego a retrial in exchange for
   Luthor's agreement to keep quiet about Superman's true occupation.

   There is other circumstantial evidence that Superman is really a
   government agent. For example, the movie states that he disappeared
   "five years ago," right around the time of 9/11, and he reappears in
   the summer of 2006, soon after the death of Zarqawi. The inexplicably
   swift arrival of US forces right after Zarqawi was killed in an
   "airstrike" is easily explained if Zarqawi was actually killed by
   Superman, who of course could arrive on the scene seconds after
   getting intelligence on Zarqawi's location. Clearly, Superman spent
   the last five years carrying out secret missions against major Al
   Qaeda operatives, and what I have previously condemned as his
   [2]irrational focus on Luthor is probably just a cover story; indeed,
   Luthor himself may be a CIA asset used to throw the press off the
   scent. That may also explain why, as I previously commented, Luthor's
   schemes for world domination are so harebrained and why he uses such
   incompetent henchman. Luthor doesn't want the schemes to succeed; they
   only exist to divert the attention of gullible reporters away from
   Superman's real activities! Outlandish plots and idiotic henchmen are
   more likely to be discovered by the press than well-conceived plans
   executed by competent people!

   Furthermore, Superman's secret work for the government helps explain
   why anti-immigration congressmen have not called for his deportation,
   despite the fact that he is clearly an illegal alien.

   Of course, my conclusion would be undermined if these critical plot
   points were simply egregious errors on the part of the movie's
   screenwriters. It would indeed be unfortunate if our greatest
   superhero were sullied by such incompetent constitutional analysis. To
   prevent similar defects from marring the Man of Steel's future
   appearances, I hereby volunteer to serve as the official introductory
   constitutional law consultant for the next Superman movie. I promise
   that my services can be had for much less money than Warner Brothers
   paid to the overpriced Hollywood lawyers who seem to have mucked up
   Superman Returns!



Volokh mailing list

Reply via email to