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DC’s Cinematic Universe is in a bit of a rough patch. After Batman V Superman under performed our newest entry, Suicide Squad, has bombed with critics and taken some blows with word-of-mouth. There have been entire tomes written online about why this is so I won’t get into it. Let’s just say it boils down to a single issue: they aren’t very good.
Now, the lion’s share of blame rests with Warner Bros. They’re choking the life out of the DCCU in order to fit it into a Like-The-MCU-But-Different box. Still, a major issue – and perhaps the most obvious one – is that, so far, neither WB nor their creative talent really understand the characters they’re putting on screen. And that brings us to Zack Snyder’s wife, and Batman V Superman producer, Deborah Snyder.
Speaking with Forbes, she said, “That’s the great thing about our Superman. He is more relatable,” Snyder said. “Someone said, ‘It’s so dark,’ and I go, ‘Well, is it dark? He’s going through real problems that we go through as people every day.’ To me that’s not dark, that’s life. We’re complicated people. And we’re making him in that way more relatable.”
I don’t know why this bothers me so much. First and foremost, I think it’s because the current DCU Superman isn’t relatable at all. Maybe it’s all the cool grays and blues he’s filmed in, but this Superman isn’t even especially warm. He seems distant and cold. Henry Cavill is a charming actor, he was the best part of The Man From U.N.C.LE., and I can think of only two, maybe three times when he’s allowed to let that shine through. Most of the time Superman floats blank faced above crowds or solemnly pulls people from danger.
There also isn’t a lot of effort put into making Superman OR Clark Kent relatable. Clark barely works for anything. He decides he wants to be a reporter and just gets a job at arguably one of the top papers in that world. He’s told not to chase down the Batman story, does anyway, and faces no real consequences. Really, the most relatable moments we’ve seen are with kid Clark in Man of Steel.
They’ve even made efforts to change parts of his origin that are usually the most relatable. Let’s just take the easiest example. His father’s death. In most versions Jonathan Kent dies of a simple heart attack and Clark, despite all his god-like powers, can do nothing to stop it. It’s a huge lesson, something we can all relate to. Who hasn’t felt powerless at the death of a loved one? Now lets look at Man of Steel. I mean, who can’t relate to watching your loved one die needlessly when you could have save them, but didn’t because they didn’t want you to be noticed? It’s almost too relatable!
The second part that bugs me is that this was done, and done better. I know I bring this up a bunch, but it may be the most applicable here. When writing All Star Superman, Grant Morrison has said “He’s Everyman operating on a sci–fi Paul Bunyan scale. His worries and emotional problems are the same as ours… except that when he falls out with his girlfriend, the world trembles. ”
In All-Star Superman, Supes deals with our issues on a Super Scale. He has to deal with horrible in-laws, they’re just from another planet. He has to deal with a terminal illness, but it’s super sun cancer. He has to fight for his girlfriend, it’s just from two time traveling demi-gods. He frets over his possessions, it’s just that they’re the Titanic, a star eater, and a bottled city. I’ve shown All-Star to tons of people, even people who consider the character lame, and each person has loved it. I think it’s because there’s something in there that everyone can relate to.
It does all this, by the way, and somehow stays brightly colored and optimistic. It’s about THE DEATH OF A SUPERMAN and it still leaves you feeling good. It makes you feel super. That’s the tone that Superman needs to strike. Because at the end of day, he’s not supposed to be a harsh mirror to humanity. He’s supposed to be our ideal Everyman. He has our problems and he shows us how to overcome them.
I know what you’re going for Mrs. Snyder, I just think you’ve got the wrong character. DCCU Superman isn’t relatable, he’s a cold sun god; a slap-dash knock-off of The Man of Tomorrow. He is dark, he is gritty. He doesn’t just encounter our human issues, he’s ground to a gray-and-blue pulp underneath them.