Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen Batman V Superman, you may want to skip this.
I know what Superman is supposed to be — a mix of uncommon virtue, selflessness, strength, power, and heroism — but for years, everyone has said that Superman is too bland a character. I don’t happen to agree and I’m glad that character still exists in other mediums, but that base presents a hell of a challenge for the filmmaker charged with crafting a story that will draw the masses. A filmmaker charged with extracting value from an immensely recognizable and somewhat dated brand. So here we are with an angry alien God in a red cape whose goodness is somewhat obscured by the human failings imparted upon him by his simple Kansas farm boy upbringing. So here we are, throwing stones at him because he isn’t composed only of love and the want to serve man as its gentle hero, moving all danger away from us even when he can barely fight it back. I was guilty of this after Man of Steel. I don’t feel that way anymore.
One of the many supposed absolutes people would like you to take away from Batman V Superman is that this Superman is broken. But while he may not live up to the ideal that some have, I’d contend that he’s a perfect match for the world Zack Snyder has built. One that is, quite probably, a cynical reflection on Snyder’s view of this world and one that shows a mix of affection, ambivalence, and fear toward the Superman. Is this how we’d react to such a hero? I think it is. We’re suspicious and driven by our fear. Driven so quickly by it when we don’t fully understand something. We love to attach blame without considering whether it is justified or not. Blame is tangible. We can understand the unexplainable and random, and make things seem less big and frightening if we can assign a cause and point a finger.
In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is blamed for the deaths of those he does not save and the peril he puts others in while attempting acts of heroism. Is this fair? It’s not an easy question, but the response pushes him to a dark and cold corner of confusion. He’s not in Kansas anymore.
People don’t appreciate a champion unless he is without fail, smiling broadly, and hungry for more. They don’t want a hero who has to rise from a place of doubt over whether he is meant to be a protector only to make the ultimate sacrifice. Not with this hero. Apple pie and picnics, freedom, and unwavering goodness. The Superman we want (and need), but not the one we would likely deserve and certainly not one that would make for an interesting character.