Warner Bros. and DC are now three major films into their Extended Universe. Despite generally solid box office and fan support, Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, and Suicide Squad have taken a critical drubbing – especially with regard to the darker feel of their first two offerings. Initial rumors even suggested that Suicide Squad went through extensive reshoots to lighten its tone.
Justice League producer Deborah Snyder recently spoke with Forbes about the backlash over the more brooding Superman (played by Henry Cavill) – something which will may change during the superhero assemblage. She felt that, as an alien with amazing powers, Kal-El required a proper struggle to bring his tale down to Earth. His passage from reluctant extraterrestrial to champion of Earth is represented in the early days of the DCEU, as Snyder clarifies:
“Zack really loves Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey. And these characters are just so mythic, and their journeys – I always say their journeys are what we can relate to. Because we can’t relate to their powers, so what do you have? That’s the great thing about our Superman. He is more relatable. 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.’”
According to Snyder, deconstructing the archetypal superhero is more relatable and more human. The producer's take is that, without the conflict, Supes is only a cardboard cutout of a character:
"So I don’t think that’s dark, I think that’s just who we are. People are complex, we’re not strictly just the good Boy Scout trying to do good. He does want to do good, and I think all of the things Superman represents are who he is, but he also stumbles along the way and learns from it. To me, that’s so much more interesting."
Naturally, arguments over Superman’s true nature stretch back decades. Throughout his nearly 80 years of existence, devotees have debated whether the Kryptonian import should be held as a paragon of virtue or display the emotional range of his adoptive world. The backlash over Supes’ grittier personality may have left a bitter taste in some fans and critics’ mouths, but it does make for a very melodramatic story arc, except perhaps for those who hated the “Martha” moment.
Conversely, Superman’s "rebirth" in Justice League could allow the DCEU’s architects to rebuild him as the more optimistic character many casual viewers are used to. It may be too little too late for some fans, though, who already feel betrayed by the somber portrayal from Batman V Superman and Man of Steel. Hopefully, when we finally meet the born-again Savior of Metropolis, he’ll embody the perfect blend of light and dark.
Suicide Squad is in theaters now; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without a release date.