Anghus Houvouras on the scene that could have saved Batman v Superman…
Ok. Hyperbolic title. Engineered to illicit a reaction. There are those of us who believe Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn’t a woefully mangled train wreck (the Ultimate Edition anyway). I’m still a fan of the Snyder’s visually engaging strange narratives. I think Man of Steel is a solid Superman movie with some interesting themes and Batman v Superman is a stoic and unique blockbuster. While on the topic of the DCEU, I loved Wonder Woman and think Suicide Squad is so bad it could be classified as cruel and unusual punishment by the Geneva Convention.
I’m excited for Justice League. There’s a palpable sense of anticipation for me. The icons of the DC Universe are my favorite superheroes and seeing them assemble for a feature film gets my juices flowing. There are hints of interesting themes at play here. Elements that we saw in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman that could be really cool if explored further.
One of the biggest criticisms levied against Man of Steel and Batman v Superman was the dour version of Clark Kent audiences were introduced to. He was a more emotionally complex hero dealing with feelings of isolation and abandonment. A man with the instincts of a hero but constantly at odds with a world that both reveres and fears him. These loftier themes made for a more effusive Superman. We were constantly being told in the DC Universe movies that the Man of Tomorrow was a beacon of hope, but we never saw Superman being that inspirational.
Superman saves a little girl from a burning building. The onlookers gather around and stare at him with god-like awe while a stone-faced Superman is too busy pondering his place in the world to offer a smile. There are a number of visually exciting sequences showing Superman being heroic but we never get that raw moment of him being inspirational. This gaping emotional beat is something that has stuck with me through subsequent viewings. What the movie needed was one simple scene taken from one of the best Superman stories ever written.
Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman is 12 issues of pure golden-age glory. A comic that captures everything exceptional about the character and delivers what many consider to be the best Superman story ever told. There’s one scene in particular that so perfectly demonstrates Superman’s unique place in the superhero landscape. A young girl named Regan sits perched atop a tall building with tear-stained eyes ready to end her life. Superman appears from behind with a message of assurance letting her know that ‘You’re much stronger than you think you are.’ Then, in a simple act of kindness, he gives her a hug.
In one page Grant Morrison (with excellent work from Frank Quitely) provides one of Superman’s greatest strengths: his compassion. This is the kind of scene that could have filled that missing emotional gap. Not another instance of Superman using his strength or his powers, but a simple moment of humanity. That missing moment of inspiration.
I think a scene like this one would have quieted a lot of the naysayers who would need something a little more direct. A quick ray of sunshine to show that in-between massive acts or heroism and saving the world that there was a simple, kind man genuinely invested in the people he protected.