*Caution: This Article contains spoilers for 'Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice'*
It’s no secret that a lot of fans have voiced their dissatisfaction with Zack Snyder’s interpretation of Superman in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. He’s not exactly the beaming example of hope, kindness and optimism many believe he should represent from the comics. Instead, Snyder has given us a version that feels a great deal of, well, alienation.
There is this tremendous distance between him and the people of his adopted planet and he struggles to find his place. Man of Steel showed him initially wandering the world trying to find answers and determine what his role would be on Earth. Batman V Superman shows him trying with all his might to become the hero he thinks he should be, all while people fear him and slander him. In many ways, audiences did the same thing when they complained about all the collateral damage he caused during his fights, but what more can you expect from a being who is basically a god learning to fly for the first time?
For a lot of fans, there is a Superman problem. He’s not the hero they want, even though he is showing himself to be more human in his very struggle to fit in among them. While I personally enjoyed this take on a character who has always been a metaphorical boy scout (probably literally one too at some point), comic nerds have expressed tremendous rage. It might seem like all is lost for the DCEU in many fan’s eyes, but there might be more to this than meets the eye.
My theory is that Snyder is playing the long game. His Superman is someone who initially has a very difficult time relating to humans because of his tremendous power. With all of his strength, speed, and invulnerability he is so far above the fears and problems that most humans face that he can’t find common ground with them. For all Kal-El knows, he can’t even die. It’s this lack of fear that creates distance from humanity despite his struggle to be human. Because of this constant existential struggle that he faces, Superman isn’t light-hearted. He isn’t a smile with blinding white teeth, he’s struggling with tremendous mental and emotional weight. So, how do you fix that?
It’s Simple. We Kill The Superman.
For the first time, Superman encounters Kryptonite in BVS; something that allows a regular (or as “regular” as Batman can be considered) man to put his foot on the Man of Steel’s throat. For the first time, there is this equalizer that lets him know how it feels to be weak, to be human. Now that might be a shock to the system to him, but the real way to bridge the gap between man and Superman is to let him know death, which is exactly what happened when he gave up his life to protect his adopted planet.
Now, this isn’t really the end of Superman. Fans of the comics can tell you that this death is only a temporary one, as he is returned to life with the help of a Kryptonian regeneration matrix (don’t ask how it works, it’s Kryptonian and uses science and stuff). It looks as though Snyder is prepared to replicate this in the new Justice League movies. I believe this near-death experience is going to be what gives fans the Superman they have been waiting for.
Experiencing death means Superman can return with a newfound respect for humanity; now he understands what they face every day in the world. His entire outlook can change from worrying about his place on Earth and the role he’s meant to play to appreciating life and having undying hope that everyday can be better than the last. Hell, he might smile from time to time. He could even decide a hair curl is a good look for him! This could be the profound experience that allows Superman to be the hero all other heroes in the DC universe look up to and aspire to be.
These past two films may have been about the journey Kal-El takes to become Superman. After all, the first film was simply called Man of Steel, and not Superman. Throwing on a cape and being the perfect hero from day one would have been such a boring story to tell. Watching a man with god-like power stumble and fall on his rise to greatness — now that is a story worthy of the character. He goes from alien to savior, and finally becomes Superman.
If this is the road Snyder and DC have been walking, then I have to salute them for it. It proves that they are very much about the journeys their characters take and not just about the villains they face.