I will start this article by saying that I am a fan of the character of Superman. I feel that in the hands of the correct writer, The Man of Steel can be as interesting a character to read as any. On this note, I enjoyed Zack Snyder’s, Man of Steel. I felt that the film had some serious problems, but I was ultimately able to overlook them, to see an enjoyable film.
With all this in mind, I was deeply disappointed with the recently released Batman v Superman trailer. Rarely have I seen a movie, miss the entire point of a character so severely, in so short a space of time. The movie presents a grim and dark portrait, heavily based off the comic The Dark Knight Returns.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer
Compare this trailer with the Man of Steel trailer, and it still comes across as a massive tonal shift. Within Man of Steel’s first trailer, there was grounding in realism, however, there was also a truly hopeful aura underscoring the trailer. It was as if something truly promising was just on the horizon, which would guide this world out of the dark.
Man of Steel Teaser Trailer
All of this, I feel, can be traced back to a serious misunderstanding of the character (a problem that can even be seen in the pages of DC Comics, since their 2011 reboot). Many writers and directors feel that Superman, as a concept, is too quaint and simple a notion, and that to allow people to relate to him, they have to make him a darker, more brooding character. If this description sounds familiar, that’s only because it should. I’ve just described Batman.
This is a fatal mistake that DC seems to be making. That all of their superhero properties need to be dark and gritty, because The Dark Knight Trilogy was dark and gritty, thus that was the reason it was successful.
The powers that be seem to wilfully forget that the world Christopher Nolan created in The Dark Knight Trilogy was a very real world. Nolan went out of his way, to make sure that the world he created was free of the fantastical. Everything was built to look and feel like it could feasibly exist. This is not the world of Superman. Superman is a character that can leap tall buildings in a single bound; is faster than a speeding bullet, and all of this, for some reason, is because of our sun.
They also seem to blatantly ignore the fact that Batman is a character that is born in tragedy. In the moment Bruce Wayne’s parents died, Batman is born. While Superman lost his home planet, the Kent family raised him in a caring and loving environment. Within this environment, Clark Kent developed closer connections to Earth than his Kryptonian roots. All of this creates a brighter and more hopeful figure, than The Dark Knight.
Another thing that worries me about this movie is the title itself. Batman V Superman is not a premise for a movie, it’s a scene in a movie. Compare this to The Avengers, within this film Thor has a fight with Iron Man. The scene is well executed and lasts about five minutes, but that is all it is, a scene. Part of the reason this works, is that it is not dragged out longer than should. This film is trying to sell us on a fight, not on any real story.
Iron Man Vs. Thor
As a final, worrying, point, I wish to go back to the story this is reportedly based on. The Dark Knight Returns is considered to be one of the most important comics ever published. It is responsible for ushering in a darker level of storytelling in the comic medium than was traditionally seen. While I am not this comics biggest fan (I personally feel it has not aged well), I understand why it has such a large following.
However, one thing that even fans of this book admit is that it does a terrible job in its portrayal of Superman, the character this film franchise is meant to centre on. In this comic, Superman is portrayed as a faceless tool of the government, responsible for enforcing the exile of the superheroes. This mishandling of the character was so egregious, that even Frank Miller, the writer of the comic, admitted that he didn’t really “write” Superman. Yet this is the text, you want to base the next Superman film on.
Despite all of this, I’m not willing to write the entire movie off on one trailer. I do still hope that the film is good, and I am excited to see Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman. Yet everything that I have seen so far, leads me to the assumption that this creative team doesn’t seem to understand Superman.
When we look to the sky, we are not meant to see a figure that must be hated and feared. We are meant to see a figure of hope. A saviour sent from the stars to guard us from the evils of this world and inspire us to a better tomorrow. In the words of Marlon Brando, “they can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way”.
Written by James Campbell