Thank Zod for Joss Whedon’s reconstruction of Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE

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Thank Zod for Joss Whedon’s reconstruction of Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE

Now that we have all seen JUSTICE LEAGUE, I think we can agree that the movie is, largely, a bit of a shit-show. I won’t re-review it now (you can read my non-spoiler review here) but it’s a whole heap of mess and, objectively speaking, not a good film.

But I’m not speaking objectively. I’m speaking as the proud owner of a site born of a love of Superman, and being a Superman fan at the movies has been pretty rough recently. Back in 2006, we got a decent Chris Reeve derivation, but he was also a bit of a stalker, happy to take an engaged women on a romantically charged date, and he missed the first five years of his son’s life. In MAN OF STEEL, he was an uncertain drifter, trying to find his place in the world and (we hoped at the time) on his way to being the leader the world needs. Then BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO arrived and really broke our hearts. Here, Superman seemed interested only in the safety of Lois Lane, and within the few lines he was given, there were some big gut punches (“No one stays good in this world” being an historic low point in the character’s history).

Three movies in nine years, and not one of them gave us the warm, confident, inspirational leader that made us all fans of this guy in the first place. Sure there is is a passionate minority who love the Superman in PORNO (and they are welcome to him, I’ll probably never watch the movie again) and that group are quick to accuse me and most Superman fans of being impossible to please (a theory completely bollocksed up by my gushing of Tyler Hoechlin in just one fucking clip of SUPERGIRL) but for the majority, to get what we love in Superman, we had to cast covetous looks to Captain America over at Marvel, and later to this summer’s WONDER WOMAN. Two characters that were written with charm and sincerity as their film makers openly admitted to using Superman as an inspiration to do so.

While others were inspired by Superman, Snyder seemed embarrassed by him.

This wasn’t just demonstrated in the work itself, but also in interviews the director gave. He told of how he didn’t like secret identities and to prove it, PORNO went out of its way to make sure it was Clark, not Superman, who was buried in the ground. He talked about how he couldn’t make the red overpants work , where seventy five years of artists before him had. He didn’t do much to hide the fact that he didn’t particularly understand and get Superman of the past and opted to take inspiration from deconstructionist takes of the character from people like Frank Miller. Snyder took the photo in this article, but even ran down the costume when praising Cavill’s presence in it.

All this  pretty much left Henry Cavill playing Batman with Superman’s powers. WB, still of the opinion at that point that Superman needed to be “modernised”, doubtless hoped Snyder’s attempt to make Superman palatable for himself would have the same effect on the audience. It didn’t.

When the world so strongly rejected PORNO, JUSTICE LEAGUE was a ship already out of the harbour, but the message got through: people wanted their DC heroes (and especially Superman) to be…heroes. Snyder’s JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 2 was quietly cancelled and in a charm offensive, the production promised change. In an overt admission of the way they approached the characters in the past, Deborah Snyder said:

People don’t like to see their Heroes deconstructed

We can only guess what the Zack Snyder final cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE would have looked like; sadly he and producer Deborah Snyder had to leave the production for matters of far more importance than the well being of this movie.  We hear that Superman would have remained an antagonist for longer than just the Hero’s Park sequence, and that lines up with information I have been given. It would also be consistent with the Flash time travel cameo and Bruce’s fevered dreams in BvS. What we do know, thanks to some horrible CGI air brushing, is that none of Snyder’s Superman shots survived to the release JUSTICE LEAGUE.

This is Joss Whedon’s Superman and it’s the best Superman we’ve had on screen since the eighties.

For the first time in recent memory, the Superman on screen is written by someone who doesn’t feel he has to hold his nose while writing him. After he’s shaken out of his post resurrection daze Superman acts like…well he acts like SUPERMAN. With Lois he is warm and reassuring as she confesses she doesn’t feel like she’s been her best self during his absence. He doesn’t judge, he nourishes. With children, he is patient and kind, indulging their questions for their podcast. With his colleagues he is supportive and inspirational. Taking pride in his position in the team.

Where Snyder’s Superman frowned and glowered, Whedon’s smiles as he watches a Steppenwolf fist whizz by. He announces his arrival with Flash by calling him a “slow poke” – a Dad joke in its gentility and lack of malice and instantly creating a bond between them (not to mention that delightful post credit sequence). Whedon’s Superman is on the constant search for civilians in peril, and in what limited screen time he has, Superman makes an incredible impact with both his powers and his manner. And boy does Henry Cavill (labouring under a CGI lip which never, ever works) seem to be having fun. I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that Cavill had the capability to be a great Superman and so it’s proved. His belly laugh with Cyborg, his line about “truth” and “justice” are sold completely. This Superman is only around people for a short while, but he makes them ALL feel good in his company.

Whedon has a reputation for quips and subversion, but he writes heroes. He doesn’t deconstruct and no one is more interested in the good of people. He was already one of my favourite writers before bringing back Clark Kent, and giving me this franchise’s FIRST FUCKING SHIRT RIP.

I’m gushing now, and that’s because I found water in a desert. We have been denied Superman for far too long and so to see him again has left me high. So let’s be clear, a very low bar has been cleared and in the future, I want better movies . Whedon has brought him back to a level which should be the bare minimum. I want to see big, bright, well-written films in which Superman is challenged and tested. I want to see him as the beacon everyone claims he is in this movie. I want to see him used as lens under which to examine our humanity. Superman can be all these things and more and there is a long way to go.

But at least he’s here now. My fav’rit is back.

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