Last night, I had the chance to witness Batman vs. Superman and I have to say...it was exactly what I thought/hoped it would be. It was bloated and ridiculous and cheesy, but also visually stunning with lots of great lines and very solid storytelling choices as well. It was, in many ways, the opposite of the Christopher Reeve/Christian Bale era stories which all seemed somewhat grounded in reality and simply went full-comic book. It perhaps didn't quite rise to the level of Superman Returns or The Dark Knight or The Avengers, but it was definitely better than the recent Marvel sequels (Thor 2, Iron-Man 2 and 3, Avengers 2, etc.). I'm sure I'll see it again, and I'm very interested to see where Justice League goes from here.
But there's one thing I noticed in the movie that seems to be the root of the problem: Everyone Hates Superman. I'm not just talking about the characters in the film, but the directors, the audience, and the screenwriters as well. For whatever reason, no one seems to understand, appreciate, or even want to acknowledge the actual character of Superman as he's existed for decades in the older films and comic books. Yes, they've created a super-powered hero that looks like Superman...but the personality, hopefulness, and leadership isn't there. In fact, if nothing else, that's the themes of the movie: Superman cannot exist. Batman seeks to destroy Superman because he feels that Superman is an alien with powers that must remain in check. He feels Superman is a potential threat and essentially cheating the system by answering to no one. While Batman might be outside the law, he's still bound by his own code and physical limits. Lex Luthor, too, hates Superman, but out of jealousy. He envies the Man of Steel's powers, wishing that his own superior intellect had the strength to match. In essence, I feel that 's the modern, cynical take on the character. Everyone, deep down, knows Superman is superior...but they just can't except it anymore. It's either too dangerous, too easy, too jealous, or too afraid to trust an "ultimate" hero anyone. A sarcastic violent Deadpool is fine, a persecuted group of freaks is exciting (X-Men), and a kid in his PJs swinging from buildings (Spider-Man) are great...but a noble, powerful hero? That's just boring/wrong/cheating/silly/unrealistic.
What I realized this morning, though, is that while Superman is universally rejected, Marvel seems to have taken everything Superman should be and placed it into Captain America instead. Captain America has always been Marvel's answer to Superman...and for some reason the writers and audience members accept his overly righteous demeanor and straight-forward leadership. There's something about Superman...perhaps not just his status as a character but as a cultural ideal, that's been poisoned. The character and the idea are still there, but they're wrapped in darkness for now. Hopefully, it'll return soon.
Of course, there is a little bit of hope; by the end of Batman vs. Superman, Superman emerges as the one true hero. Perhaps it's a sign of the turning tide. Of course, on the other hand, all the other Marvel heroes seemed poised to kill Captain America this May, so perhaps the debate will rage on. It has to...Superman is the key.