There’s been a lot of controversy about Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Saying it has gotten mixed reviews is an understatement. One thing that was particularly apparent to me as I watched the movie was this was not Superman and Batman as I knew them, nor did they stand for what I feel the characters should stand for. Of course, adaptations are under no obligation to follow the source material, especially when the source material is as vast and conflicting as DC Comics are. But I still feel there are a few things at the core of these characters that should always be kept and the movie missed these things. And as a result the movie seemed to be lacking at its heart.
Of course, this sort of thing is always subjective, so feel free to give your opinions in the comments. Do you agree with me that Zack Snyder was wrong to change these things?
The problem this movie had with the portrayal of Superman’s family is one that hearkens back to Man of Steel, where Pa Kent was portrayed as someone who discourages Clark from using his powers to help others. It continues in this movie, with Martha Kent telling Clark he doesn’t have to help others because he owes this world nothing.
For me, this misses an essential message that has been present throughout the Superman mythos. Clark’s first connection to humanity is with his parents and they instill in him these deep moral values, this sense that people are here to help each other and as a part of this world he should be help others as well.
These actions of Superman’s parents touches many because it stresses the importance of adoptive families. It’s not Superman’s birth parents who shaped him into who he is, who made him feel welcome in this world- it’s the people who raised him. The Kents are supposed to be an example of the power of good parenting.
From All-Star Superman
Which leads to our next point- Superman is not supposed to be detached from humanity. A scene in the movie that really rubbed me the wrong way was when Clark claimed helping humanity was his father’s dream, not his. Not only does this contradict Man of Steel, where Pa Kent kind of repeatedly told Clark not to help humanity, it just goes against who Superman has been from the beginning.
Clark’s dream is to help people, because despite where he was born, he considers himself part of humanity. He was raised as a human, he has our values, and even if he’s different, he feels connected to those around him. This is why he lives mostly as Clark Kent, rather than Supermanning it up all the time.
Superman was written by sons of immigrants, and many people have commented on what he represents from that perspective. It’s basically a manifesto about how even if your birth parents were from a different place, anyone who grows up in America or hangs their hat there is as American as anyone else and can even become the best of America and make America a better place.
A Superman who doesn’t consider himself human or doesn’t want to help this world is sort of missing the essential metaphor there, a message that was important then and is still important now. Superman struggles with being different and often even gets flak for it, but at his core he’s connected to us, he’s one of us and it was his decision to embrace Earth as his home, not anyone else’s. That’s why he never gives up. That’s who he is.
From Justice League: Unlimited
The weird thing about Superman in this movie was he was so stoic and reserved he was sort of indistinguishable than Batman. The two characters should be differentiated a bit, and Clark is usually shown (despite all his secrets) as being more of an open person than Batman. The main crux of this movie was the fallout over Superman’s collateral damage in the Man of Steel movie. We didn’t really have Superman ever discuss his feelings about it at all. There was no verbalization of concern or even wishing he could’ve managed to have the fight elsewhere. There was no grief on Superman’s part for the people who died or indication of him trying to help with the fallout.
I think the movies idea what Superman was just struggling about this inwardly, but the fact is, Clark is typically shown as someone who talks about his feelings rather than endlessly bottling crap up, at least in comparison to Bruce. Even if he wasn’t, having two characters who just kind of grimly stand there and stare into the distance all the time just kind of makes them blur together. It would have made Superman feel much more relatable and sympathetic if there had ever been a moment of his being open about how much turmoil all this stuff is causing him...or some of his trademark cheerfulness once in a while.
From All-Star Superman
On that note, the weirdest decision of this movie was to have Clark’s conflict be about why he should even bother saving people, when it should have been centered on really wanting to save people, but feeling incredibly guilty over the collateral damage and wondering if he is ultimately just a harmful presence. I even felt that might be what the movie might have been going for sometimes, but all these weird tangents about not owing the world just clouded it. Either way, the Superman I’m familiar with is the kind of guy who would more openly worry about deaths he couldn’t prevent and try to figure out how to fix it so it doesn’t happen again. Having the whole story be more focused on that would have made him way easier to connect with and understand.