The Modern Day Superman And Why There Is Hope For DC Movies

Photo Credit: Legendary Pictures
Photo Credit : Warner Brothers Pictures

Photo Credit : Warner Brothers Pictures

‘You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.‘ – Jor-El

In 2013, we wrapped up the much storied and acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy where director Christopher Nolan redefined both realism and storytelling within the comic book spectrum. Batman was at the forefront on the DC movie spectrum with villains that stood out and the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne/his crime-fighting alter ego leaving the ashes of 1997’s Batman and Robin way behind. Not to be outdone, we were introduced to what would be the start of the DC Comic movie universe. A teaser for the Man of Steel was released with a different take on the red-blue blur. Clark Kent with a beard? Hitchhiking? This was…different.

The 2006 Superman Returns directed by Bryan Singer was a love letter to the Richard Donner era movies. You remember those movies right? The trademark smile that Christopher Reeve would flash as he orbited Earth before going back into the atmosphere. That John Williams score. Those movies personified the 1980’s era where a man flew with wires into the cartoon-like, nerdy Daily Planet reporter who continually got friend zoned by Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane. One of the reasons that Superman Returns was not a success is that it did not take the time period into account. There was too much looking back instead of looking ahead to what the character could be. Producer Christopher Nolah and writer David Goyer tried to flesh together instances of real conflict juxtaposed with images of inspiration like the flight scene near the fortress of solitude. Director Zack Snyder put his stylistic imprint on the franchise which set it on a different course than we even imagined it.

The world became a little more warped – darker even. The September 11 attacks pretty much changed how we viewed our reality in terms of the safe box that we thought we lived inside. Perhaps we needed a Superman, but with one with a little doubt. Some flaws even. The character of Superman is what every mother and father dreams their child of being – standing up for everything right in the world and being an active participant of being a light in darkness. It took me re-watching the extended version of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for it to finally click. We may be down on the current incarnation of the DCEU, giving that we still have the highly anticipated Wonder Woman coming, but the hope (ironically) is within the character development of it’s most fabled star.

Hear me out.

Man of Steel had it’s complaints. It wasn’t “light enough”, the Superman character did not embody enough hope or happiness, and that there was too much destruction that occurred within Metropolis. The first part of the movie could be likened to a science fiction novel that pit Jor-El vs General Zod against each other in two different ideologies of what Krypton should be. We get the Fortress of Solitude, but it’s not just easy street from there. Kal-El has get used to his powers and learn how to fly. For most of the huge fight scene in Man of Steel with the kryptonians, Superman is not even winning. He has to overcome foes who are more battle tested and ready to save the people that he cares about.

Superman has had some hard choices in both movies. Man of Steel (killing what would be the last of link to his race for his new home to save his new one) and Dawn of Justice (sacrificing his own life to save people who questioned and ridiculed him.) Yes, it’s a little grittier take on what we consider the Man of Tomorrow encompassing, but there is some strong sympathy to it. I found myself drawn to the character more so in this universe.

There are two sides to Kal-El that you see. He is all that is right in Krypton – a world that’s perished and the hope of Earth, but people do not know what to make of him. They almost rally to vilify him at the end of Dawn of Justice. His kryptonian parents, he will never know and Johnathan Kent, his earthly father and first mentor, killed in an instance where he urged his son not to use his powers. Now, take a look at the conflicts of Superman in Dawn of Justice and note the foreshadowing within that.

For what Dawn of Justice is, it had it’s faults, but if you look at it as a companion piece of Man of Steel, there’s a little bit better understanding. Richard Donner’s Superman made me want to fly. Man of Steel made me understand that there is more depth to an alien that arrived to Earth in a small spaceship. For those who do no want their Superman based in some real sense of society, what was the entire Dark Knight trilogy before it? Gone was the long gun that Jack Nicholson’s Joker used to shoot down Batman’s Batwing. Enter Heath Ledger’s more aloof and insane version of the clown prince of crime.

There’s still time for Superman to become the powerful entity that we envision him being. Just like the funeral scene at the end of Dawn of Justice – there’s hope that he will get up again (albeit telegraphed). Isn’t that what hope is? Even through the hard times, there’s still some good. There you go – I just managed to tie in a microcosm of DC movies into it’s character who is a beacon of the emotion.

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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Writer | Photographer | Beast

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