[UPDATE: Videolab has admitting to misrepresenting Man of Steel's original color grading for the purpose of "comedy".]
Throughout the last decade, superhero movies have become one of the biggest money-makers in Hollywood - with a greater number of comic book adaptations arriving every year (with ever-increasing budgets and audience expectations). However, as more and more superhero films come through the pipeline, the danger of over-saturation looms large - and many moviegoers may soon need to choose which comic book movies they'll pay to see in theaters. For every Dark Knight trilogy or Avengers tie-in, there are plenty of fumbled hero stories that either underwhelmed or outright bombed in theaters.
The takeaway? Even fan-favorite heroes can underperform. In fact, one of the highest-profile misfires in recent comic book movie history was Bryan Singer's Superman Returns - which proved that even a feature film about the Big Blue Boy Scout isn't a sure fire franchise starter. If no hero is entirely immune to disappointing ticket sales, how do filmmakers differentiate their entries in the genre from others? In the case of Zack Snyder's divisive (but ultimately successful) Man of Steel, muted visuals and bleak color-correction was one answer.
Thanks to VideoLab, we have been given a new glimpse at what Man of Steel could have looked like - had Snyder and Warner Bros. not toyed with the original film hues. The contrasting video draws a stark comparison - shining, literally, new (albeit doctored) light onto Snyder's footage. Many moviegoers criticized Man of Steel's story for being too dark - especially for a Superman movie - but, even those who enjoyed and still appreciate the film, will probably be surprised by just how dark the final footage is in comparison.
Some fans are already claiming VideoLab darkened Snyder's version in order to produce a greater contrast, but either way, there's no reason to obsess over what was - so resist the temptation to fire-up an online petition for Warner Bros. to release a "Colorized Edition" of Man of Steel on Blu-ray. Instead, as VideoLab suggests in their video, at this time, the real question is: should Batman V Superman be just as bleak or allow for the Man of Steel to shine a bit brighter?
Check out the new coloration of the Superman suit below (the Man of Steel version is on bottom here):
Based on the Batman V Superman teaser trailer, as well as the preview for the teaser trailer, we know that Superman's suit will be a slightly lighter tone in the upcoming Dawn of Justice; yet, the film itself still looks to borrow heavily from Man of Steel's color palette (which, as VideoLab points out, Warner Bros. borrowed from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies).
Given what we know about the Batman V Superman story, it makes sense that Snyder will again rely on some darker imagery for the iconic face-off - since Metropolis (and Kal-El) will be reeling from the devastation in Man of Steel while Ben Affleck's aged Batman has suffered personal losses that, depending on how a viewer interprets the latest trailer narration, may have turned Bruce Wayne from a, comparatively, good man into a downright cruel vigilante. As a result, it's appropriate that Batman V Superman start with a somber visual aesthetic but, considering that the film is being touted as the Dawn of Justice, there's incentive for Snyder to evolve the film's coloration as his characters grow within the film.
After all, according to Bat-friend Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight: "The night is darkest just before the dawn."
That all said, to be clear, this isn't to say that Snyder should abandon the grittier (read: less comedic) tone of the DC Universe - since many viewers appreciate the world that Warner Bros. has been shaping. We're solely talking about minor adjustment in coloration of the film itself. As indicated by VideoLab, juxstaposing the ideological conflict in Batman V Superman (Justice V Hope) through clashing (but sometimes complimentary) tones would add another thematic layer to Snyder's visual tool belt - a layer that was already present in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns comic pages.
Given that the DC Movie Universe is set to explode in the coming years - dabbling into other genres and putting a diverse cast of heroes and villains onscreen - Warner Bros. (and future directors) will need to allow for variation in the DC Universe's onscreen aesthetics. As VideoLab suggests, a hopeful hero like Superman should fly in blue (not grey) skies - just as The Flash (coming in 2018) and other more light-hearted heroes, shouldn't be funneled through a color palette that was designed for one of DC's darkest and tortured heroes (a man who wears black/grey armor and pummels criminals in dark alleys).
Videolab has released a statement admitting that they altered Man of Steel to look drastically darker in their video - and that the video was supposed to be "goofy entertainment" rather than an expose.
Man of Steel is a very dark movie and the footage you see is actually 90% genuine but, at the end of the day, this is a comedy video and no one should be taking it so seriously. If the title didn’t give it away, the fact we stop our comparisons every 5 seconds for a dumb joke should have. It’s not a lesson on color grading. It’s not a hit piece against DC. It’s not, ‘Look at us, we ‘fixed’ the movie.” It’s not an insider expose on the inner workings of corporate filmmaking.
Don’t mistake a goofy entertainment video for something more. It’s a silly and slightly misleading opinion piece that’s being analyzed through a lens of legitimacy it does not deserve or warrant. The fact that this video is so popular should serve as a testament to Man of Steel, not to us.
Of course, as Videolab suggests, while they may have misrepresented Man of Steel's color grading, reaction to the video clearly hit a nerve. Specifically, many fans still believe that Snyder's film was too dark for a Superman movie - and remain hopeful that, in the future, viewers will get to see the Big Blue Boyscout fly in brighter skies.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman - June 23rd, 2017; Justice League - November 17th, 2017; The Flash - March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman - July 27th, 2018; Shazam - April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 - June 14th, 2019; Cyborg - April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern - June 19th, 2020.