I was supposed to be done with this. I didn’t want to talk about this movie anymore because every time director Zack Snyder, writer David S. Goyer, and actor Henry Cavhill try to convince me their Superman is the best version ever I actually hate the movie even more. Go back to my first impression V-Log of Man Of Steel. I didn’t hate it but I thought it was a terrible Superman adaptation. We shouldn’t be on this again. I’m pretty sure after my last rant I said I wasn’t going to go into this anymore.
But instead of FINALLY reviewing Stan Lee’s Super 7 movie review here we are again. Not so much because of Snyder but someone had to post this to Twitter:
Calling me and others who think Steelman is nothing like Superman (although Cavhill would have been a good choice as Superman) “hypocrites” is rather insulting and this is a guy whose work I tend to enjoy. To make matters worse, Forbes contributor Mark Hughes is quite happy to talk about how much he loves Snyder’s work on this movie and Watchman, so he’s not escaping comment either, and it’s rare I look at the interviewer in these rants. So here’s the article, which you should read first to get all the context, and here comes my rant.
Snyder revealed some interesting information about how Batman came to be involved in the story, about how Batman and Superman will face off in the movie, about how Watchmen is a good template for approaching a world where Batman and Superman coexist, and about the new costumes — including the giant picture of the costumes that’s hanging on the wall in his office (feel free to freak out).
Any chance the new Superman costume has color?
One thing that comes across clearly when speaking with Zack Snyder is his passion for these projects, and how much thought he puts into the worlds and characters he builds on screen. You might be surprised to find out some of your assumptions about him or his films are probably very wrong. There are layers and ideas at work that too often go unappreciated, and as a fan of Snyder’s work I was happy to have this chance to explore those issues in depth with him.
How unbiased do you think this interview is going to be? I will say this, though. While I may not be a fan of Snyder’s vision I am not about to say he lacks passion for that vision. He’s not a bad director. It’s just that his style clashes with what I find interesting. It’s very dark and flashy and what I’ve seen of Sucker Punch makes no sense to me and I’ve seen at least one video review that shows seeing the full movie wouldn’t help. I’m not putting down his skills as a director. I’m questioning the decisions he made in portraying Superman.
ZS: Frank [Miller]‘s book really made me see that comic books, and Batman specifically, could really reflect political and social concepts that I felt like maybe before I hadn’t imagined were possible. Watchmen, of course, I sort of see in the same light — that being, this comic that’s able to shed light on what I would say is our reality, but do it through the sort of metaphor and mythology of comic books, right?
For me, that’s really what The Dark Knight Returns did as well. When I read it, I felt like — of course I knew who Batman was and I was familiar with him as a comic book hero — but it was that book that made me say, “Gosh, you know this could be an amazing film.” At the time, I was just starting my college career, but I thought, “Wow this would be a cool movie!” I wasn’t sure exactly how that would manifest itself, but you know you dream when you’re a kid and you’re in college, “God, if one day I could make a Batman movie, that would be awesome!”
Then he made Man Of Steel, so mission accomplished. In other words, Nolan and Snyder both approached Superman as fans of Batman. That’s the wrong approach. That’s like approaching Superman as you would Batman, which would be just as wrong. Even Batman can’t be that light, and he’s pretty versatile in how he can be portrayed.
Because, the things you thought when you first read them, you try to recapture those feelings. I always say that about Watchmen, when I first read it I had an emotional response to it, and that’s what I always tried to get at when I made the movie. It was a certain way of feeling, and I feel like that was what I really pursued — those ideas.
A lot of praise in this piece goes to Batman (specifically The Dark Knight Returns, one of the two stories Miller wrote while still sane) and Watchmen, both very dark and cynical approaches to superheroes. Even in The Dark Knight Returns and more so in the post-sanity sequel, Miller shows a disdain for Superman. He’s the enforcer of the President’s desire to put down superheroes, including Batman, and…why is it in all these stories where the superheroes are forced underground that the supervillains don’t strike back? Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and even The Incredibles all have the same idea (although the Pixar movie takes a lighter approach) and in all three stories superheroes are outlawed and they comply but the supervillains don’t take the opportunity to take over the world or anything.
Anyway, Frank Miller hates Superman and Alan Moore has a cynical approach to what the world would be like if superheroes were real (to the point that only one has any actual powers and he’s an aloof godlike figure) and these are the influences that put him on a Superman movie. No wonder the man doesn’t understand Superman.
And I think those same opportunities exist for Batman and Superman, in the sense that they teach us about ourselves. I think Batman — now after Chris [Nolan]‘s movies and the way we track Batman through his cinematic history — he does have this license to enter our world and be a real character and not a complete cartoon, and he’s able to tell us about the way we live and our society. He moves with us, his morality — I think Superman probably less so, but I think Batman definitely sort of reflects us in a more personal way
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Batman has license to become a real character and tell us about the way we live? What? Is that the point of Batman? To tell us about how our society? As I’ve said before, superheroes and social commentary can be a bad mix, although not as bad as political commentary. It’s not impossible but it’s not why most of us watch a superhero production and if you want to risk insulting a large part of your potential fanbase, have fun with that.
MH: Superman is kind of the ideal of what we’d like to be, and Batman is kind of rooted in what we are. He reflects what we are, so to speak.
ZS: Oh, 100%. And I think that’s at the heart of that, you know.
That’s not quite right. A few readings of that line show’s it’s close. Superman IS what we aspire to be, not just his powers (although he does have ones most people want to have like flight, superstrength, and X-Ray vision) but also his heart and good nature. I don’t think Batman “reflects who we are”, though. At least I hope his current “broody loner” routine isn’t what we are because if it is we’re doing life wrong. Maybe the DCAU version of Batman. I wish I was that.
MH: When you came aboard Man of Steel, were you thinking in the back of your mind, “I could be the guy who gets to reboot Batman on film too!”
ZS: I gotta be honest, it definitely was a thing that…
See, he wanted to do Batman. The paragraph has that line and then goes into this, so I don’t know if editing was done or if Snyder went a different direction. I also don’t know if this was an e-mail interview or a transcript but that’s a weird editing choice.
after Man of Steel finished and we started talking about what would be in the next movie, I started subtly mentioning that it would be cool if he faced Batman. In the first meeting, it was like, “Maybe Batman?” Maybe at the end of the second movie, some Kryptonite gets delivered to Bruce Wayne’s house or something. Like in a cryptic way, that’s the first time we see him. But then, once you say it out loud, right? You’re in a story meeting talking about, like, who should [Superman] fight if he fought this giant alien threat Zod who was basically his equal physically, from his planet, fighting on our turf… You know, who to fight next? The problem is, once you say it out loud, then it’s kind of hard to go back, right? Once you say, “What about Batman?” then you realize, “Okay, that’s a cool idea. What else?” I mean, what do you say after that? …But I’m not gonna say at all that when I took the job to do Man of Steel that I did it in a subversive way to get to Batman. I really believe that only after contemplating who could face [Superman] did Batman come into the picture.
Considering his stated influences I’m not sure I believe that but benefit of the doubt and all that. He goes on a bit more about getting the Batman…not team-up but fight. And that’s another issue. You’re bringing in both of the World’s Finest (since Nolan has no interest in bringing in Robin, lest he kill Batman’s brooding loner street cred) members together and your first thought is “who would win in a fight”? Can we please please please please PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! end the “what if Batman fights Superman” thing? I’m tired enough of this as it is. But to base a whole movie around it?
Going back to the DCAU, while Superman and Batman didn’t get along at first (unlike their first ever comic book meeting and I wish I had that issue, where they met on a boat just as something happened and immediately decided to join forces) they didn’t have a fight. There was no drag down, knockout battle. They begrudgingly worked their own angles, then finally worked together, and foiled Lex and the Joker’s plans. THAT’S what I want to see in a team-up movie. Even the fight in The Avengers between Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, was your typical misunderstanding battle (one hint that it was a Marvel universe) and was not the important part of the movie. We didn’t go in to see these guys fight, we came to see them join forces for the first time in live-action and it was glorious. Easily the best superhero team-up movie ever. Then again, look at the competition but that’s another article.
MH: This year is the 75th anniversary of the first published Batman story, of course. But when the Man of Steel sequel hits theaters, it’ll be the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first appearance in comics as well. And this year happens to be the 40th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first live-action appearance, in the Cathy Lee Crosby TV movie on ABC. And on top of all of that, your Man of Steel sequel releases during the 35th anniversary of the first Christopher Reeve Superman film, too. So there’s all of these anniversaries and all of this history coming together around this production. Had you realized how significant the timing of this film was going to be? And that you’d be launching the first movie really showing and firmly establishing the much bigger DC Universe on film at this important time in everyone’s history?
I’m willing to bet that’s a doozy of a coincidence but if they don’t market it that way, since the whole trilogy is in this to some extent then somebody at Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s marketing divisions should be fired.
MH: People are always looking for the set photos and things. Feel free to tell fans, “Wait for the official release, it’ll be epic and that’s the way to experience this.” They’ll only get to go through this once, where you see Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman for the first time together like this, and it should be something better than a cheesy picture on an iPhone.
ZS: The one nice thing is that, the schedule is designed carefully so that I don’t know that that’ll be [a problem]– but who knows, these cats are pretty good at getting the drop on us with these photos. But, when we finally do show it, it’s gonna be real fun. And it’s true, you gotta make sure– you’re gonna want the real shot…
Please don’t do that, folks. Hughes is right, the official reveal will be much cooler if you wait for it properly. Otherwise your like my cousin’s son, who doesn’t want to wait until it’s dark to set off the fireworks. You lose some of the magic.
MH: When I first saw Watchmen, I came out thinking “That’s the way to approach a DC superhero team-up universe where the characters exist together, pseudo-realism and peering into the political implications and social backlash that would exist against costumed vigilantes, and really showing us the true nature of the sort of violence that would occur rather than sanitized bloodless, restrained application of force.”
The level of cynicism in there is depressing, and sadly the direction comics have gone. Remember when superhero comics were fun wish-fulfillment? I live in the real world. I don’t call it “escapism” when what I’m reading is a clone of the nightly news.
ZS: …I think with Superman we have this opportunity to place this icon within the sort of real world we live in. And I think that, honestly, the thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, you know?
Here it comes, folks. The reason I’m not reviewing Super 7 tonight.
How tightly they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version but more the movie version… If you really analyze the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things– I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world, because those rules are different. He’s done all the things and more that we’ve shown him doing, right? It’s just funny to see people really taking it personally… because I made him real, you know, I made him feel, or made consequences [in] the world.
Funny, I keep hearing about how Superman killed Zod and his crew in Superman II, a Christopher Reeve movie. You know, sometimes it isn’t just the fact that Steelman kills Zod but that they purposely set it up to have him kill Zod with no build-up and no payoff. Those RARE times Superman was forced to kill? His grief lasted more than a huge scream for the audience and there was a lead-up to it. Nothing about the lead-up had to be Superman killing anyone and could have just as easily been about Superman trying to force Zod into the Phantom Zone gateway before it closed.
Think about that scenario. Zod and Superman are just far enough away from the event that they aren’t being sucked in. Zod refuses to go because he still plans to terraform Earth and will use the opportunity to kill his hated rival’s son who cost them Krypton 2 as Zod wanted it. Huge fight still happens, Zod ends up caught in the pull of the vortex and tries to pull Superman in with him, with Kal-El just barely escaping the vortex before it collapses. Not only do you get an awesome fight but the specter of the Kryptonains returning because they still have their ship and other technology. It’s brilliant.
No, they specifically wanted Superman to kill…to show why Superman doesn’t kill. Instead of Earth dad being all “you’re going to do something great but for now do jack nothing and let me die foolishly” he could be extolling the virtues of all life being precious, even your enemies. Now when Superman is in a position where it seems he has to kill he remembers what Jonathan told him and finds another way. You’ve achieve your goal without ruining the character in the eyes of many. Or base the story around Superman not wanting to kill and make his pain over having to do say carry weight through the finale, with Lois or his mom comforting him for more than five seconds and actually SEEING Clark vow not to kill again. Give us a reason to care about this rather than being pissed off that you ruined one of Superman’s biggest character traits! Go back to the comic stories where Superman killed and see how they handled the fallout because THAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST FAILING!
I felt like, it was the same thing in Watchmen. We really wanted to show it wasn’t just like they thought, like the PG-13 version where everyone just gets up and they’re fine. I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt, and it’s not fun or funny. And I guess for me, it was like I wanted a hero in Superman that was a real hero and sort of reflected the world we live in now…
Can I read that as “Superman wasn’t a real hero because he didn’t kill and the violence didn’t reflect real world violence”? Again, I don’t read, watch, or listen to Superman to experience the real world. It’s called escapism for a reason!
MH: He’s a big enough character and a good enough character, and the source material is rich enough, I think the material allows for a lot of these different approaches to the character. So when fans kind of feel like there’s only one correct way to approach it and only one right way, that’s a limited way of thinking about it, in my opinion.
You’re doing an interview! You don’t HAVE an opinion during an interview. I’m writing a commentary here. I can be as biased as I want to. You don’t have that luxury in an interview. During the interview with Frank McLaughlin a few years ago, the first time I interviewed a big-name celebrity and my second ever long-form interview, we ended in a mini-debate about the future of print comics. I STILL REGRET THAT! And my “interviews” are more casual chats than your typical interview. And it isn’t a “limited way of thinking”. It’s “this is the character I know and love and I want to see that character on the big screen, not some guy with the same name who isn’t even fitting that character”. Why do you think people hated The Lone Ranger?
ZS: I really believe this — and I think it’s obvious — I believe superheroes, they’re our modern myths. They’re our mythology in the modern world, and myth is designed to tell us about ourselves. In the ancient world, a volcano would go off or the stars would fall from the sky, and they would make a myth up around it to help ancient man to sleep at night or understand it, or at least to have a way of dealing with these things that were outside of their control. So, they’d make a story about a god on a mountain or whatever it is. And I think that’s kind of what our superheroes can do for us, they can help us explain our world a little bit.
What are we explaining again? Ancient myths were trying to explain what we know about now through science. Superman isn’t there to teach us how to do anything. Superheroes help us deal with the problems of life. They are escapism (there’s that word again), fantasy, wish-fulfillment. They do what we aren’t able to do and inspire us to be better. Man Of Steel didn’t inspire me to be a better person and I still don’t see what he did in the movie that inspired anyone else except maybe the solders.
Look, I’m not coming down on anyone who likes Man Of Steel. Go watch the V-Log again. I didn’t hate it. But for the love of Rao please stop trying to convince me that Steelman is a perfect update for Superman because if that’s were we are now than we’re in horrible shape. When the productions from around World War bloody 2 have more hope, light, and fun than the stuff coming out today, we’ve really failed as storytellers and as a people. I love Batman and all, but Superman shouldn’t be Batman and Batman isn’t the default mode for superheroes. The superhero genre HAS no default mode.
That’s really it. I don’t care anymore. Defend Man Of Steel all you want. You don’t care about my opinion and I’m sick and tired of defenders demanding I follow their viewpoint. I don’t like their version of Superman. I GAVE it a chance. I went to the Wal-Mart early screening at a higher price than I usually pay for a theater that seems to have upgraded their sound system a bit since last I was there at least. I went into the movie with an open mind. I LIKED the movie. I just didn’t like their take on Superman and no amount of calling me and others who share that opinion a hypocrite or telling me how this is a new interpretation or a “realistic” take is going to change my opinion. Everything that to you was good is to me part of the problem! If we can’t agree to disagree that’s on you. I’ve done with this unless you want to find some new way to insult my point of view for the crime of not sharing yours.