When it comes to the DCCU, I've always thought that Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and the Justice League movies would complete Superman's character arc into seeing him develop into the universally beloved symbol of hope that people have been expecting, and in some cases, impatiently whining for without wanting to watch him grow. Instead of the realistically controversial 'god in the sky' concept that Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio chose to explore in Batman v Superman after the explosive revelation in Man of Steel that "We are not alone". The answer to one of life's biggest questions had been answered, don't you think it would stir up a little controversy among the populace? I think that would be only natural, human. "The world is filled with fear. A lot of people want to direct their fear at something, whether at everyday, real-world stuff or at this new god in the sky." (Henry Cavill)
"What we're trying to explore in this movie (BvS) is the concept of... We're not seeing the finished product of Superman. We're not seeing the paragon of hope and justice that we see in the comic books. We're seeing the development of this character. We don't all come out perfect. We have to learn our lessons, and make our decisions and choices after making those mistakes, in hindsight. And that's what we're seeing. We're seeing mistakes being made, and him (Superman) still having all the right intentions, but, perhaps not executing those right intentions in the best way." (Henry Cavill)
All great hero's journey stories, and that is what we've been seeing in MoS and BvS, have an overarching character arc that the hero must overcome, or live up to, if he's to rightfully earn the title of "hero". Luke Skywalker didn't become a Jedi in "A New Hope" and return balance to the force, or in "The Empire Strikes Back". It was only in "Return of the Jedi" that Luke truly became the Jedi who would bring balance back to the force. Although Luke didn't die in "The Empire Strikes Back" like Superman did in Batman v Superman, he had been utterly defeated at the hands of Darth Vader nonetheless. Luke had his victories along the way, as has Superman, but neither of them fully realized their potential until the third movie. Chris Terrio has even compared the relative bleakness of Batman v Superman to that of The Empire Strikes Back, but has also promised that the Justice League movie will be lighter, tonally. It's a natural progression towards Kal El becoming that unwavering epitome of hope and justice.
The original Star Wars trilogy is one of the most archetypal tellings of the 'hero's journey' template in cinema. In keeping with the trilogy structure of the development of Superman. The beginning (MoS) The Birth of Superman. The middle (BvS) The Death of Superman. The end (JL) The Rebirth of the "true" Superman. Justice League will (I think) see Superman return as "THE" Superman. All of the suspicion, apprehension, and fear that many people around the world had felt towards Superman will have subsided with his sacrificial death at the hands of Doomsday. Leaving people to realize that Superman wasn't a threat to us, he was our protector, our guardian, and we failed to believe in him, and to support him when he needed us most. That he was simply a man trying to do the best that he could with the powers that he had available to him. Though those holding out hope that Henry Cavill will be the reincarnate of Christopher Reeve will likely still be disappointed. They tried to replicate that with Brandon Routh in Superman Returns and it didn't work.
I was never too thrilled about how Superman came back in the comics, I'd much rather that Clark Kent dig his way out of the ground and stumble into the Kent family home. Upon realizing the significance that his death had had on humanity, Clark will be humbled, and reinvigorated that there is hope for humanity. Galvanized in his resolve to protect them, to protect us, until his very last breath. And for the first time, stepping out of the shadow of the expectations (and fears) that Jonathan Kent had held for him, and out of the hopes and dreams that Jor El had wanted Kal El to live up to. Kal El will, for the first time, be a Superman of his own creation that has lived up to both of his fathers ideals and beliefs, but will walk his own path from here on. Feeling less obligated to live up to other people's ideals of who, and what, he should be. Kal El will be his own man from here on out in Justice League, and with that will come a sense of freedom. Even in the face of Armageddon.
All roads lead to somewhere in the DCCU, and everything Superman has been through in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman will shape his outlook on humanity, and on the difference he made through his selfless sacrifice. Humanity wants to be better, but his death is still a tough pill to swallow. This might be a bit premature too, since Justice League hasn't been released yet, but I would say that most of the heavy lifting regarding the what, why, and of how Superman has already been done in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. All that's remaining is the grand reemergence of Superman that'll send the world's spirit soaring, including the beta-Justice League. Who will most likely have their backs up against the wall and are full of despair in the face of an overwhelming intergalactic threat that was counting on the kryptonian being down for the count.
The DCCU has been nothing if not divisive, but one thing that's been abundantly clear is that Zack Snyder sold Warner Brothers on his vision to get the Justice League up and running with an eye on Superman being the "crown jewel" of the DCCU, before Man of Steel had even finished filming. Days before Man of Steel was released Zack Snyder was announced that he would be directing the then untitled Man of Steel sequel, which would very publicly become a Batman v Superman movie one month later at Comic-Con. Then a month before production began on Batman v Superman, Zack was announced that he would be directing both Justice League Part 1 and 2. This is a long-term journey that Zack envisioned taking Superman on. Zack publicly stepped down to do some pick-up shoots abroad because of a family tragedy and left JL in the hands of Joss Whedon. Rumors have been strife since then, but it seems like Joss is merely following what Zack laid out for him to do in the interim. People can bash Zack all they like, and they often do, but give me Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio any day over the man who gave us The Phantom Menace ending in The Avengers, Age of Ultron, Alien Resurrection, and did some rewrites on Waterworld as well. Joss has written some scenes concerning Cyborg, which he would have had to run past a gamut of people, including Zack Snyder, and has since gotten a writers credit. I only hope that his changes are minimal. Any comic book writer would tell you that DC and Marvel heroes are fundamentally different, and Joss Whedon's writing is very... dated, and is not much more than overrated banter that doesn't hold up well.
People have noted that Superman is absent from almost all of the Justice League promotional material. But that's the way I want it. I want to see as little of Superman as possible leading up to Justice League. And as much as I'm a Superman fan, keep him in the shadows. For now. Even without Superman being front and center, as some would like, some of the greatest Superman stories that really cut to the heart of what Superman means are the ones where Superman isn't even present. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, It's a Bird...,The Mighty One, and even The Death of Superman took a reflective look at what Superman had meant to the world. Superman: For All Seasons is another look at who Superman is from a perspective other than his. Just because Superman isn't there, doesn't mean that Superman isn't "there" in some way. Superman casts a big shadow. I'm hoping that the Justice League will be about how the beta-Justice League will struggle against both Steppenwolf, possibly being defeated initially. But also internally, concerning the leadership of the League without Superman there to inspire and guide them. Nothing will make the Justice League members (and us) realize how much Superman is needed more than his absence. Kingdom Come also explored a similar scenario.
One myth that needs to die is that Superman didn't save anyone during his tenure as Superman. We didn't see Superman save anyone? I count about 15 people sitting on the side of that ship alone, plus there'd be a lot more inside a vessel of that size.
Superman saves a little girl from a burning building, but is inadvertently haunted by the memory of those he couldn't save. Even Superman can't be perfect and be everywhere at once. This is something Superman has struggled with in the comics before. How does Superman decide who to save? Save a drowning girl in China, or save a soon-to-be burning girl in Brazil? There's no winning. There's only degrees of losing. And Superman struggles with that.
Superman saves a Russian rocket from a catastrophic failure.
Superman saving a small town from a flood. How people purposefully misrepresent this scene as Superman apathetically watching people drown is utterly absurd. Superman is surveying the damage before he rescues dozens of stranded citizens as pundits are discussing this "messianic" figure of controversy in the sky. The point of this montage wasn't to show Superman rescuing people, it was to show us how the world was divided to what his intentions are, and to where he belongs in the world. Superman was watching the world react to his presence, and it wasn't all red carpets and daisies.
Superman stayed behind after the capitol bombing to help save people. Though this was a scene that was egregiously cut from the theatrical version of Batman v Superman. But no matter what, this notion that Superman let people die, or didn't care enough to save them, needs to stop. People have also criticized Zack Snyder for turning Superman into a Dr Manhattan copy, but the two are polar opposites. Dr Manhattan was bored with humanity, Superman is frustrated by it. Big difference. Just because they're both mostly blue and have godlike powers doesn't make them the same at all.
It's clearly shown that Superman has been busy doing good deeds. "Superman prevents missile strike!" "Heroic Superman Rescue" "Superman saves all the children on bus in Rapids" "Superman foils crime" "Superman rescues victims at building explosion" "Superman shifts tectonic plate: prevents devastating earthquake" "Superman saves starving homeless man camping in forest" "A manufactured supergerm that could end humanity was halted from release by the man they call Superman" "Superman saves girl from burning building" are just some of the headlines that Superman has acquired during his time as Superman in BvS. Kal El has been busy. Did we really need to see all this stuff? We've seen it all before. What we haven't seen is a look at what makes Superman tick. After all, wouldn't you be a bit... dejected after doing all this work, for free, and being hated for it? Not to mention, keeping up with your day job as well. Trying to do good deeds as a reporter as well as Superman.
The movie-making process is certainly a mercurial one, especially when it concerns big budget movies like these, so how JL and Superman's ultimate formation will turn out to be will be anyone's guess, but it's clear that the road map leading towards Justice League Part 2 is almost exclusively Zack Snyder's vision. And it's been a long journey to get here. There were whispers of a Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton team up Superman and Batman movie before Christopher Reeve was paralyzed. But that was long before the internet, so we'll never know for sure. A Justice League movie was being floated around for a long time, and it looked like it was going to happen in 2007 with Justice League: Mortal, but that fell apart at the last minute due to the writer's strike and to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale not wanting another Batman to exist at the same time as their ongoing trilogy. So WB put their plans on hold for a DC Universe until Nolan was done with his trilogy, and I don't particularly blame them for doing so either. There was never a sprint to get these universes off the ground, despite what many people think. It was always inevitable.
Zack Snyder (and others) have been carefully building the character of Superman, adding layers to Superman, and adding substance and reasoning behind his iconic \S/ emblem. It's all well and good for Jor El to program Kal El for eight years in the Fortress of Solitude in Superman: The Movie back in '78, as if he were nothing more than a robot, but that kind of one-dimensional character development is what's lead to Superman being called boring over the years. And of all the things I've heard this Superman of the DCCU be called, boring is not one of them. It's regularly said that the DC heroes are more symbolic and emblematic than other heroes are. What we've seen so far is Zack Snyder building an actual three-dimensional person who struggles and who questions himself, and that brings meaning to the \S/ on his chest. Any person on the planet would struggle to adjust to having the powers of Superman. Sure, flying would fun for a while, but after the world (mostly) turns on you, times would get tough. Superman is not the infallible goody two shoes that we've seen before. Superman is just a man who has growing pains, like the rest of us. Not exactly like the rest of us, but you get my point. Superman has to mature into his role, as we all do, only Superman has to mature into a much, much bigger role than the rest of us. But Superman is getting there, and so are we, as evidenced in the end of Batman v Superman. The world is finally ready to accept Superman, and thanks to Superman's kryptonian cells, we'll get a second chance at responding to him. My guess is that we'll be a lot more favorable towards him this time around.
Neo didn't become the savior of humanity until The Matrix: Revolutions. Harry Potter didn't save the normal and magical worlds from Voldermort until the seventh(?) movie. My point being is that these hero archetypes are often developed over multiple movies. More so nowadays. It's possible to do it in one movie, sure, but it's also possible to do it over multiple movies. Iron Man wasn't perfect after his first movie, in fact, he's been in something like seven movies, and he's still making the same mistakes he did in his first movie. Hubris. But in a relatively short amount of time, we've seen Kal El grow and learn from his mistakes. From being a novice hero in Man of Steel, to being an amateur hero in Batman v Superman, to (hopefully) being a seasoned and revitalized hero and promising leader in Justice League. The apocryphal cries of "that's not Superman" has just been repeated so often, and shoved in our faces so repeatedly that it's now being taken as a spurious truth. Is sad. Especially when such care has been taking in giving Superman understandable emotions and a realistic personality.
The alien we saw in Man of Steel, the man we saw in Batman v Superman, and ultimately, the hero we will see rise in Justice League will all be seen as the growing pains of Superman. So far, all we have seen is a nascent Superman. Justice League will give us the "true" Superman. And I can't wait to watch Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League one after the other to follow Superman's journey into becoming something far greater than himself. Kal El will EARN the title of Superman. Why can't people just enjoy the journey of Kal El becoming Superman? Is Superman only allowed to ever be perfect? I have problems with some of the decisions Zack Snyder has made regarding the DCCU, but Superman's character development is not of them. I have more problems with how WB has chosen to handle the DCCU than I do with Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio.
Written by - The Sentry - 28/08/2017
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