Man, DC just can not catch a break, right? Apparently, Batman v Superman: Dawn of a Hastily Thrown-Together Franchise is not performing in test screenings as well as WB execs hoped, and they’re already talking about scrapping most of their upcoming superhero slate. They must be nervous, because their solution to Man of Steel not performing as they wanted was the usual “Aaaahhh! Quick! Put more Batman in it!” and all that’s done is make people like the Batman parts. They also like Lex Luthor and the bits with Wonder Woman, but poor Superman doesn’t seem to be very popular, reduced to second billing in what was supposed to be his own sequel.
Okay, let me get this out of the way up front: there is no problem with Superman. Superman is a great character, and my favorite superhero. The problem with Superman is not with the character himself, it’s with how he’s being presented and how he’s being perceived. For proof of this, go read “All Star Superman”. You will believe Superman can be awesome.
The thing you hear a lot from people (usually entertainment executives) is that Superman is “too powerful” and “too much of a Boy Scout” for people to relate to. Right. We can relate to a wealthy martial arts master/brilliant detective/genius inventor with the flawless physique and chiseled features of an underwear model who spends his time running around in leather fetish gear and punching murder clowns every other week, but Superman is just too much for us to grasp.
The problem is that Superman shouldn’t be unrelatable. When you strip away most of what’s been added to the character over the years, you’re left with a man possessed of great power who wants to use that power to help others. That’s it. That’s Superman. It says more about us than it does about him that we can’t relate to that very simple concept, but we can relate to a billionaire fetish model who beats up the mentally ill.
Anyway, on to the meat of this article, which will focus on the current big-screen Superman, last seen in 2013’s Man of Steel, and soon to return in next month’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Grimdark Rage-Punching. Because when you’re mad at a god-like being over the fact that he wrecked a city the last time he got in a fight, the most logical course of action is to pick a fight with that god-like being in the middle of the exact same city. Great idea, Batman. That can of gasoline will definitely put the fire out.
Now, I’m saying all of this as someone who actually liked Man of Steel, and is looking forward to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Unless the Movie Underperforms, then it’s Dawn of More Batman Movies, This Time with Ben Affleck, and Also Maybe Wonder Woman). I thought Man of Steel had some great ideas. Zack Snyder knew he’d be operating under the same shadow every Superman adaptation has operated under for the past 30 years, and decided to just break completely from anything resembling that. As a result, he made a Superman movie that feels brand new, yet also does its best to remain true to the character, with varying degrees of success. So let’s break down what I liked and what I didn’t like, after which I’ll talk a bit about how Man of Steel works as the first installment of a larger series of shared-universe movies (spoiler alert: it kinda doesn’t).
What I liked about Man of Steel:
- It was framed as a first-contact story, bringing his alien heritage front and center. In most Superman stories, the fact that he’s from another planet, and is