The Problem with Superman in Justice League
Ever since I watched Justice League, one particular part of the movie bothered me, Superman. If you still haven’t seen Justice League, this post will spoil the movie for you. You have been warned.
We need to talk about Henry Cavill’s Superman, guys. He’s back from the dead, and he’s smiling and joking! The Superman we all love has finally arrived, and he’s glorious. I can’t wait to see what Cavill will do with a less gloomy, more hopeful, version of the character.
Sure, his “I like truth, but I’m also a fan of justice” line was one of the cheesiest lines in the entire movie. But I loved it.
And yeah, as soon as he shows up, he solves the whole plot and beats the crap out of the bad guys, but he’s so charming! And that post credit scene with the Flash/Superman race Easter egg is great.
Plus that fight between him and the Justice League was one of the coolest scenes in the movie.
But hold on.
The more I’ve thought about the actual act of bringing Superman back, the more messed up it seems.
Batman’s plan to resurrect Superman is to have the Flash and Cyborg dig up Clark’s corpse to bring it to the Kryptonian ship, which still hasn’t been cleaned up for some reason, and use the same machine that turned Zod’s dead body into Doomsday to try and revive Superman. And then if he happens to come back evil, he will hurl Lois Lane at the monstrosity and hope it heals him with the power of love.
Batman kind of just hopes it will work, which is decidedly un-Batman-like. Batman knows the ship can bring dead people back to life, but he also has no evidence it will bring back Superman without turning him into an abomination, like Doomsday. It’s nice that Bruce has faith in Superman, after trying to kill him in BvS, but this is a dumb and disrespectful way to bring Superman back. This is the one part of the movie that I can’t get out of my head how bad it is.
Yes, I know Batman says he doesn’t know if it will work, but that he has faith that it will. It may seem like Batman is making a leap of faith.
But he’s not.
Batman is not taking a leap of faith because we know Superman is going to come back. Warner Brothers was never going to permanently bench their second biggest character so early in the franchise. Batman plays the role a plot device for the movie makers who know they have to find some way to bring back Superman in a way that audiences will accept within the logic of the DCEU. Since the audience knows the Kryptonian ship can bring dead people back to life, it is a convenient choice to resurrect Superman quickly and correct the mistake they made in killing him off so early.
The problem is that DC directors and WB execs are cramming too many different storylines into too few movies without earning them. They want to be at the same level as Marvel, but they haven’t taken the time to build up the characters and their relationships with each other. These characters have brilliant chemistry and teamwork, but so far there has been little attempt to faithfully adapt these characters faithfully in the DCEU without turning them into nightmarish, deconstructed versions of themselves. Justice League begins this process, but they have a long way to go. They need to let the characters and the movies breathe. Most of the DC movies have had a problem trying to fly before learning to flap their wings. Audiences barely got to see Superman’s origin story before he sacrifices himself in BvS. The Death of Superman is a great story, but you need to understand that the reason why it is so powerful. The Death of Superman comic was written in the 90s, after there had been over 50 years of Superman comics. The DCEU does not have anything close to that amount of history.
If Captain America dies in a future Marvel movie, his death will have the weight of the entire Marvel cinematic universe behind it. Over a decade in which audience grew to admire and love Chris Evan’s portrayal of the character across many movies. It will be heart-wrenching for the audience because they love Steve Rogers. WB/DC did not put in the time or the effort to build up to that kind of emotional crescendo before adapting The Death of Superman, and his sacrifice feels hollow.
Then bringing him back in a way that feels like a rushed attempt to patch up a critical error in story-telling further keeps the audience from connecting with the character in a deep way. Justice League brings back Superman and he’s much closer to the Superman of the comics, which is great. But there are other, more thematically satisfying, ways they could have brought him back that don’t feel forced and involve neither grave robbing nor characters being used as plot devices to fix the mistakes of BvS. DC needs to take the time moving forward to actually develop their characters. People all over the world love the characters of the Justice League, WB needs to figure out a way to help them love the DCEU versions of the characters.
Those are just my thoughts on how DC handled the Death and Return of Superman in their movie universe. What do you think? Agree with me? Think I’m crazy? Let me know in the comics.