Fathers of Steel: 8 Dads Now on Screens, Big and Small

Kevin Costner and Dylan Sprayberry in ‘Man of Steel’/Image © Clay Enos/Warner Bros.
Kevin Costner and Dylan Sprayberry in ‘Man of Steel’/Image © Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

“Man of Steel” takes flight on Friday, placing Superman (Henry Cavill) between two strong father figures just in time for Father’s Day weekend. Finding equilibrium between his extraterrestrial roots and his adoptive home on Earth has always been tricky for this superhero, who in this reboot also has to contend with an invasion by the megalomaniacal General Zod (Michael Shannon).

As biological dad Jor-El, Russell Crowe channels the gravitas of “Gladiator”: “You will give the people an ideal to strive toward,” he says in the trailer. “In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Kevin Costner is earnest as adoptive dad Jonathan Kent. “I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason,” he says. “And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”

We find it a bit comforting that someone faster than a speeding bullet also struggles to balance parents’ expectations with navigating his way in the world. Here’s a look at some other notable father figures currently on screens and coming soon.

Stories We Tell” (in theaters)
Canadian writer-director Sarah Polley crafts a documentary around her family -- and the revelation that she was conceived during an extramarital affair -- that speaks to the elusiveness of memory and truth. “My father’s response to this staggering piece of news was extraordinary,” Polley wrote in a blog post. “He was shocked, but not angry. His chief concern, almost immediately, was that my siblings and I not put any blame on my mother for her straying outside of their marriage. He was candid about his own lack of responsiveness toward her and how that may have led her to the point where she sought out the affection of another person.”

The Purge” (in theaters)
The film at the top of the box office, grossing $34 million since its June 7 opening, has at its core a home-security expert (Ethan Hawke) trying to keep his family safe during a twelve-hour window during which time people can commit any violent crime they like. Critics said it has too much on its mind that it doesn’t explore, but EW said it does take viewers on a roller-coaster ride of “existential crisis,” bloodlust, and guilt.

Game of Thrones” (HBO)
This cable-TV adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire just wrapped its third season with no question that patriarch Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) pulls the strings behind the Iron Throne of his grandson. [SPOILER AHEAD!] As he arranged marriages and made allowances for a massacre, he showed us why his family loves to hate him.

Longmire” (A&E)
Now in its second season, this series based on best-selling author Craig Johnson’s mystery novels follows the laconic and honorable Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) around a fictional Wyoming county. He copes with grief over his wife’s death and his relationship with his daughter, a local attorney, while investigating slayings that include the serial killing of Native Americans. “The West hasn't looked this inviting in a long time,” The Wall Street Journal said.

Falling Skies” (TNT)
When this series began, former Boston University history professor Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) was a widowed father of three sons searching for his middle child while helping lead the human resistance against an alien invasion. Its third season began this month with Tom elected president of the New United States, reunited with his son, and coping with a new alien species. The Huffington Post said Wyle’s “sturdy presence and his character's innate decency anchors the whole affair nicely” in a dark world “in which innocence is a luxury that no one can truly afford.”

World War Z” (out June 21)
Author Max Brooks’ collection of fictional accounts and social commentary a decade after a so-called Zombie War gets a traditional narrative and a central character in Brad Pitt as a United Nations employee and father racing to stop the rising pandemic.

White House Down” (out June 28)
A Capitol policeman (Channing Tatum) touring the White House with his young daughter teams up with the President (Jamie Foxx) to take back the building from armed invaders.

The Way, Way Back” (out July 5)
Sam Rockwell applies his quirky charm to the role of a water-park manager who befriends an awkward fourteen-year-old boy on summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell).