In Defense of the DCEU Superman

I recently re-watched Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice to get ready for the upcoming Justice League. While watching them I was stricken with how much I enjoy Henry Cavill’s Superman. I won’t pretend he is perfect but many are far too harsh on this version of Superman. What I intend to do in this article is take some of the common complaints about this version of the man of steel and express how these common complaints are either flat wrong or missing information. Let me preface by saying my favorite Superman is Tom Welling from Smallville. I loved his performance over 10 years. That said, Henry Cavill does a great job as well.

1. Superman Never Smiles

This is true in Batman V Superman but it is still true to the character and I will explain why soon. Man of Steel is full of Superman and Clark smiles. One of the best scenes in all of the DCEU is when Superman learns to fly. This scene is full of fun and emotion. Check out those teeth below.

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Here are another few instances debunking this idea that Cavill’s man of steel is always brooding.

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Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. In Batman V Superman we have a very different version of the character and that is OK. Clark is feeling beat down and highly rejected. He goes to save the love of his life and ends up causing several people to lose  their lives. From there the world starts to divide against him and see him as an enemy. Not long ago he killed the only remaining survivor (that he knows of) of his race. As an alien, there is little room for him to feel anything but rejected and alone due to the circumstances.

The hero then gets sent on this journey to take down the Gotham bat and sees all the violence and terror that this vigilante is dealing. There is a lot of pressure on him to save the world and, frankly, much of the world doesn’t want his help. Then add onto that when he goes to face the people at court and the entire room is lit up in flames by a bomb. Not only did he just witness the deaths of dozens, he helps clean up after the incident (extended edition only) and then gets accused of being a co-conspirator. Yeah, he’s going to have a tough time with that. Feel free to argue with me and say he was too broody. I agree, he’s a broodier Superman than any we have had before but he has some reason to be a bit less jolly and I find it refreshing.

2. Superman Doesn’t Kill

At the end of Man of Steel Superman snaps Zod’s neck thereby killing him. Many still gripe about this. One of the things I find most ridiculous about this argument is that people seem to think he wanted to kill Zod. I’ve watched the film many times and there wasn’t much he could do. Perhaps he could have tried to fly out of the building with Zod but I don’t think that would have been the best solution. Zod was the more trained and capable Kryptonian. In this moment, Clark had to decide whether he save these humans he didn’t know and kill the last known survivor of his species or risk fighting a superior enemy that could potentially destroy the entire planet. I personally find it extremely heroic that he chose to eliminate his last link to his home planet in order to save people he didn’t know. In addition to this, his reaction upon killing Zod clearly shows his feelings on the matter.

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He had no desire to kill another being but was forced to do so. Cavill isn’t the most amazing actor but the emotion portrayed in the above image is clearly remorse and extreme sadness. He didn’t want to take a life but he had little choice.

3. Superman Wouldn’t Allow so Much Collateral Damage

There is a high amount of damage done to the city in Man of Steel. There is absolutely no denying this. What I find funny about this complaint is that, if you watch the fight over again, Superman rarely causes any of this damage. In fact, nearly all of the damage to the city is caused by Zod directly or indirectly as a result of his throwing Superman into buildings and what not. Watch the end battle for yourself. You will see about 3 times that Superman causes damage on purpose whereas Zod causes massive damage more than 11 times throughout the fight. One of Superman’s times is when using steel bars in order to hit Zod. I’d hardly even count this as damaging property compared to Zod cutting buildings in half with his heat vision and throwing Superman through 5 or so buildings.

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Ultimately, I’m of the opinion that two gladiators of this caliber are likely to destroy the city. Add onto that the fact that Clark had just barely became a hero. He had no idea what he was doing and was mismatched against the seasoned General Zod. Even still, he prevented damage by trying to send Zod high into the sky and take him away from the city at one point. In the end, this complaint is ridiculous both because two super powered people are likely to cause this kind of damage and because Superman was not the cause of most of it.

Conclusion

Henry Cavill’s Superman is not the best out there but it is a refreshing take on the character. I love the conflicted feelings that come from the character and the depth that exists. Superman is one of the least interesting DC characters to me as he doesn’t really sway. He is firm in being “righteous” at all times and this version shows us something a bit different. This Superman is still fighting for justice and peace but he isn’t a jolly go lucky unrealistic man. Instead, he has feelings and he is overcome by them.

What makes this Superman even better is his love for humanity. He sacrifices himself in order to save the world. I absolutely loved his death scene in Batman V Superman. I personally didn’t expect DC to kill one of their biggest heroes so early on in the DCEU. Granted, we know he will be back but I was amazed to see Superman go so selflessly into that good night. The death scene and minutes afterward still leave me full of emotion due to the music and way it is cut. Superman was a true hero in the film and this is a great rendition of the hero even if it is different than the norm.

I suspect that the resurrected version of the character will be a bit brighter. We can already see that Justice League is far brighter than Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and this will likely be the theme going forward due to the massive backlash from fans about the DCEU being too dark. As a huge fan of the darkness I will miss it but I am ultimately happy to see the DC characters share big screen.

 

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