Man of Steel is dark. Batman v Superman will be dark. And more than likely, any sequels involving either will follow the same path. These inescapable truths are well that; inescapable. So instead of pondering the trivial question of whether Man of Steel is dark or not, I decided to ask the all together more interesting question; "Is it too dark?" In my article I will be offering up both Pros and Cons of Mr.Snyder's decision to tell the tale of a darker, grittier Superman. I will then propose my own personal take on where the tone for a Superman movie should lie on a dark/light spectrum.
That 70's Movie:
One of the main arguments fans in favour of a darker reincarnation of the son of Krypton put forward is not necessarily anything to do with the modern take, rather it focuses on what came before it. Yes, I'm talking about the classic Superman of the 70's & 80's starring Christopher Reeves and also the forgettable remake Superman Returns in 2006 starring Brandon Routh. They argue that we've already had 5 light-hearted, campy versions in succession and that it's about time we get a more serious and grounded rendition. There's also the issue of how outdated the originals feel and whether that level of mushy tone would work with with a more cynical and sophisticated modern day audience.
More Relatable Superman:
Another reason why many are longing for a grittier update is due to the level of complexity the character Superman and Clark Kent can reach with a more realistic and sober tone. In Man of Steel, Zack Snyder made a huge effort to get across that Kal-El is not a God. Of course he is a very powerful being but that he is not perfect, he can make mistakes, lose control of his emotions, all of which are human charecteristics we share. He is more human than deity. Throughout the film, we see him struggle to find his place in the world; a very humanistic trait we all have to face at some point. And although we do get a more charming portrayal from Christopher Reeve in the classic Superman, it can be argued that the character in and out of the suit is rather one dimensional, lacking depth. This is in stark contrast to Henry Cavill's portrayal where he delivers a fully fleshed out and relatable character who makes you believe he really is human after all.
Turn on the light, man!:
One of the key issues that detractors of Snyder's vision for the Man of Steel was that it was way too dark, like, seriously dark!. Even oppressively dark at times. Everything from the tone, lighting, themes to the action sequences(the battle with Zod in the end in particular), heck! even the suit was noticeably blander. An accumulation of all of these aspects meant that many fans of the originals were left disappointed to see that their hero who once stood for hope and was a beacon of light transform into a mopey, brooding sod! This understandably left a bitter taste in the mouths of so many die hard fans of Reeve's era.Although there are some awe-inspiring moments such as when Kal-El first takes flight and some of the interactions between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, these feel far too scattered to really make a sizable impact on the experience. This also leads us onto a more pressing matter of who this film is actually aimed at. If you were to design a scale of which superhero films you would show your kids, personally Man of Steel would be pretty low down on the bar mainly because of the melancholic tone and excessive violence in parts ( dat neck-break doe).
If you asked any great film director to choose ten single words critical to crafting a great movie I'm pretty confident most would include the word balance. As the great German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once remarked; "The Mother of excess is not joy but joylessness." Too much of anything is a bad thing (just ask Michael Bay). And Film making is no exception. This for me is one of the biggest problems with Man of Steel. Excess can be found everywhere. From the overly lengthy action sequences,the bloated run time (Personally I think 10-15 minutes could've been cut from the finished product) to the relentlessly dark tone and themes this movie takes the 1-10 scale and reaches 11, not always with positive results. This is why I go back to my word balance. You simply cannot imitate what was done 40 years ago and expect great results. While on the other hand you should also be careful not to alter the formula to the extent that it becomes virtually unrecognizable to it's predecessor. If I was Zack Snyder I would have turned to Superman in the Comic Books where many of them (of course not all of them) struck a fine balance between light and dark. Ensuring that Superman's symbol of hope had meaning and relevance while also reminding us that he isn't perfect.
All in all I feel Zack Snyder could've given more precedence to the word balance in order to create a Superman movie which pleases die hard fans with moments of wonder and amazement while also appealing to modern audiences with a more grounded and relatable Hero.