Devin Faraci really really does not like the direction taken by the latest Superman films.
Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.
Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeveâ€™s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyderâ€™s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Laneâ€™s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.
Grace is a word that I have used a number of times here, and I have meant that in multiple ways, both as a description of physical movement and as a way of behaving. Superman can be firm, but is always polite, and he does not hold his powers as a cudgel above othersâ€¦ unless itâ€™s Zack Snyderâ€™s Superman. Here is a character who threatens first and asks questions later, who resorts to physical violence against Batman at the slightest provocation, who has no words of comfort or wisdom for anyone, who even flies away after a terrible disaster at the US Senate. …
After two films I do not believe this is an accident. I believe that Zack Snyder is systematically destroying Superman not because he doesnâ€™t understand the character but because he profoundly dislikes the character. One of the larger themes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman. And in case you think Iâ€™m reading too much into the film (where Pa Kentâ€™s ghost gives a bizarre horse-drowning speech that makes this explicit) hereâ€™s Snyder on the press tour for the film:
When we find him, heâ€™s been dealing with the everyday world of being a superhero, but thereâ€™s a paradigm shift happening in that the unintended consequences of some of those rescues are starting to come into fruition.
Like, if youâ€™re just taking a cat out of a tree, you canâ€™t touch anything or the arborists will say, â€˜he damaged the tree branch when he got the cat down.â€™ Or, â€˜the cat wasnâ€™t neutered, so now thereâ€™s thousands of cats.â€™ Thereâ€™s no winning anymore for Superman.
Somebody tell Zack Snyder how cat reproduction works.
What Snyder is talking about, and what his movie ends up being about, is the concept of staying in your own lane – donâ€™t get involved in the affairs of others because itâ€™s always going to create unintended consequences, and usually bad ones. Thatâ€™s an intrinsically nihilistic point of view, and itâ€™s absolutely bizarre to me that itâ€™s a point of view that Warner Bros allowed to be attached to Superman. Itâ€™s like making a Strawberry Shortcake movie that is all about diabetes. …
For generations there have been depictions of Superman that get the basic qualities – Truth, Justice, the American Way (an idealized version of it, at least), decency, kindness, happiness, love – correct. Whether you think Superman Returns is any good or whether you think the animated Superman show or Justice League Unlimited is the best ever, they all contain depictions of the character a someone a young person can look at as a model for action. What would Superman do? Be a good guy, be polite, be kind. Every time.
Every time until 2016.
Just like 1938 and just like 1978 it’s a tough world out there. We’re in a sluggish economic recovery and we’re stumbling out of two terrible, costly wars of aggression. We are in the middle of an election cycle that is actually insane, one where a guy with openly fascistic and racist tendencies is a lock to win the GOP nomination. We wake up to news reports of suicide bombings in Brussels and in a park full of women and children in Pakistan. … The ideals of America seem distant today, and hope seems even more distant. Just as in 1938 and 1978 we need a bright, hopeful figure to fly in and remind us of what we can be, of who we are when we’re not weighted down by the hate and the problems. We need a Superman.
Zack Snyder killed him.
When I was four years old I sat in a movie theater and I believed a man could fly. I sat in a movie theater and I saw a guy doing the right thing because it was the right thing, and he never hemmed or hawed, he never held himself above the people he helped. His strength wasnâ€™t just physical, it was moral, and it was inspirational to me. While I identified with other characters who struggled – characters like Spider-Man – I always looked to Supermanâ€™s inherent rightness as true north for my moral compass.
Of course you canâ€™t even bring a four year old to see Batman v Superman, but even if you did – and if they didnâ€™t run screaming from the filmâ€™s excessive violence and darkness – what kind of a Superman would they find waiting for them? Not a hero. Not a decent guy. They would find a guy filled with anger, a guy who is haughty and disdainful of regular humans. They would find a guy who, in many ways, represents the worst of us, a guy who struggles against his urge to do the right thing. And there are no current cartoons to fill in the gap, no explicitly kid-friendly comics. (There is, thankfully, Supergirl on CBS, a show forced to pick up the torch of Superman that Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have tried to douse)
Every generation has had a Superman to look to, to learn from. I feel terrible for the youngest generation who has this cruel, selfish Superman.