Like I said in my previous post, I have a lot of spare time. And lately I’ve been reading (and catching up on) a lot of comic books. Not only recent stories (looking at you, New 52), but also bigger, older ones that I never got around to read (like Civil War). Meanwhile, Marvel and DC continue to release films and TV shows that all-but guarantee I’ll be broke for all eternity. To say comic books have been on my mind lately would be a huge understatement.
I’ve also been re-watching “recent” comic book movies (read, from Iron Man onwards). And I realized one thing: I really, really liked Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people who are experts in comic books and, specifically, in Superman, didn’t like it. And with good reason. Nonetheless, I did, and (I think) also with good reason.
First, as far as I know, Man of Steel is exploring a new story for Superman. Yes, it takes some inspiration from many sources (like every other comic book movie, by the way), but it’s also quite new. This is a Superman that remained hiding as Clark Kent until General Zod appeared and forced him out. A Superman whose (human) father chose to die in order to protect Clark Kent’s secret. A Superman who had great parents (both in Krypton and Earth), but who is still learning the morality amd implications of his powers and, more importantly, of being Superman. And, maybe just as important, is a Superman who lived in a world where there was no Superman. Nobody had expectations on him and many would have handed him over to Zod without a moment’s thought… Which is what happens.
Therefore, Superman in Man of Steel has some liberty to go “out of character.” There are two main moments in the film where this happens: (1) when Superman isn’t concerned about civilian casualties while fighting Zod and/or his army, and (2) when he (Super)snaps Zod’s neck and (Super)kills him.
Let’s start with the second. Zod puts Superman in an impossible situation: innocent people will die unless Zod stops, and he makes it more than clear that he will never, ever stop… And so Superman has to kill him. To protect an inocent family. And is visibly affected and enraged by having to end a life. Even when breaking out of character he acts like Superman. By the way, compare that scene, for example, with Batman leaving Ra’s Al-Ghul to die (twice), with Iron Man killing every terrorist he comes accross (using a facial recognition and targeting software), Captain America shooting Nazis and Hydra agents, or Thor happily slaying frost giants and dark elves… You get the point. Anyway, yes, Superman broke out of (his comic book) character. Comic book Superman would have probably found a way out of this problem. But comic book superman is also experienced in fighting supervillains and threats to the world. Before Zod came to Earth, all Clark Kent had to fight was the urge to kill that asshole at the bar.
And a similar explanation applies with the civilian casualties: this was the first time Superman had to use his powers to fight someone as strong as him (and, by the way, this is the best superhero fight scene I’ve ever seen. It’s just completely badass how they throw each other around and destroy everything in their path… A bit like when Superman fought Doomsday in the comic books). Mistakes (or even lack of concern) would not be surprising. Maybe Superman will carry around the guilt of not being able to save the people who died that day (or of not caring about them). There are many interesting possibilities for the next movies, and it seems like some of those will be at least explored in Batman v Superman.
Which brings me to my last point: somehow, DC comics, the franchise that began writing comic books for kids, whose superheroes are often considered dorky or boring (except Batman, of course), and who hasn’t released a critically acclaimed movie that is not directed by Christopher Nolan in over 20 years, this franchise is pushing the boundaries of comic book movies and exploring new avenues, new stories, and new ideas. This is why I am so much more excited about Batman v Superman than I am for, say Captain America: Civil War or even Avengers: Infinity Wars. Because DC Comics is exploring new, uncharted territory. And I can’t wait to see where that takes us all.