It’s been almost a week now since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice landed in theaters, like a mutated alien-harbinger of our cultural doom; and while the devastation of director Zack Snyder’s demented duel is far from having settled, I’ve seen through the dust enough to realize one of the most important things missing from this Man of Steel sequel.
Many have argued that, like our faltering government, we get the Superman we deserve; that the motivations of our ultimate fictional hero are susceptible to and influenced by our collective failings as a civilized society; that every generation has its own version of the character.
It’s a sound theory and a logical one that I’m certain helps hopeless fans justify being entertained by the darkness of Warner Bros. Pictures’ “fledgling” DC cinematic universe. But, with all due respect, those fans and filmmaking decision-makers don’t ‘get’ Superman – at all.
If Warner Bros. wants to make a film with dark commentary on our culture I’m behind them one-hundred percent – it might even end up being a good movie – but you can’t slap a spurious red cape on it and call it a Superman film. If you don’t leave the theater feeling a little bit better about the world, then it wasn’t a Superman movie.
When times are darkest, that’s when we need our most positive and hopeful hero, fictional or otherwise; it’s not when we turn him into the worst example of our weakest selves. In times like these, with terrorism, racism and religious persecution in the news 24/7, we go to the movies to escape, not have reality jammed down our eye-sockets.
Jim Croce famously warned, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,” and I’d like to add to his list of pop culture commandments by saying, ‘You don’t make a Superman movie without using John Williams’ high-flying Superman theme!’
When you hear that famous music (and I hope you are listening to it while reading this), without any words it tells you everything you need to know about the character and what he stands for; and, dammit, what American society and humanity as a whole should stand for.
Zack Snyder should listen to this music every day before he gets out of bed…heck, we all should! You can’t listen to the Superman theme and vote for Donald Trump; you can’t listen to this music and have anything but good will towards your fellow man; and you can’t listen to this theme and make a bad Superman movie. (I know, there is Superman III and IV and Superman Returns…but at least their heart was in the right place. At least they had a heart.)
Superman is NOT the brooding, conflicted, angst-ridden character portrayed in Snyder’s films and in some of DC’s recent comic-book renditions. He should always and unwaveringly represent hope and everything that is good and great about the human race he defends. Even though he is not one of us, he should always represent the best of us.
A fan remixed the Man of Steel’s first costumed flight with the John Williams’ theme – note the improvement!