DCEU’s Justice League, which is also the cinematic universe’s most ambitious project yet, features a Superman so confusing that it leaves you wondering if Hollywood is Superman’s Kryptonite. Over the years, Superman has been presented as the boring alien messiah, who is only capable of mild dislike, and is basically just Mr Nice Guy who wants nice things to happen around him. Unlike Marvel’s Captain America or even Thor, Superman does not make the best of his comic book origins, and ends up as a random super human.
“He’s a tough character. People like the darker vigilante. I think it speaks to the human psyche more easily rather than the god-like being that we can’t really understand,” Henry Cavill, the reigning DCEU Superman said recently. He might have been right – but he is not. Cavill is not exactly to blame, because Hollywood’s Superman has always been suffering from bad screenwriting. From Reeves to the unfortunate Routh, Hollywood finds the Man of Steel, too complex to handle. But why is it so?
The Problem With Superman
Some argue that he is too powerful to be in the category of a superhuman, because technically he is not a human at all. But so is the case with Thor, Hulk and to some extent Captain America. But while these characters have found out their semi-godly niche at the MCEU, why can’t a character as enigmatic as Clark Kent succeed at DCEU?
There Are More Interesting Superheroes Around
Some fans have argued that Superman is just not interesting enough, but that is not true either. An all-powerful alien who has lived as a human for thirty years, and masquerades as a journalist, and is also a crime-fighter with parental issues – is without doubt the character with the best premise, DCEU and MCU combined. Hollywood is simply focusing on the wrong trait. Trying to project Superman as a wildly powerful demi-god is a futile attempt, because there are already enough of them, and also because Clark Kent aka Kal-El has such an interesting backstory.
A fascinating point comes across in Justice League – Superman is more in touch with woes of man than Batman, considering he has lived like a common man all his life; unlike, say, Bruce Wayne, who obviously had a mansion and a butler at his disposal.
Man of Steel tried to walk this line, but fell flat when it clung to the formula-backed route of superhero saves the day and the damsel from the bad guy. Superman has a painful human past, and an equally sad alien past (loss of his parents, destruction of his planet) – this should add dimensions to Clark Kent and not to the Man of Steel. Superman’s ability to be human is his superpower, not the flying or deflecting bullets.
Where the Animated Series Excelled
In Superman: The Animated Series, the idea of an all-powerful godly creature raised by man is explored- and explored quite well. Unlike Batman, he can find a connection to the people that he rescues – there is a lot of work to be done in that area – by Hollywood, that is. Unlike Batman, Superman thinks before he leaps.
In this scenario, the figure of Superman flailing above man, closer to the cyclone-ridden skyline (in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice), does not make much impact. Superman is not the caped brooding messiah, nor is he Spider-Man, who is basically a human with superpowers. Clark Kent lies in an area which could bring DCEU a lot of success – with maybe a solo film without an agenda for the franchise.