Three DC Cinematic Universe Controversies: A Short Discussion
Man of Steel: Clark Breaks Zod's Neck
What I want to do, here, is defend three decisions made for the DC cinematic universe of live-action films.
I say "defend" because, from what I have been able to discern, large sections of the Internet have been profoundly opposed to these things --- "these things" being condemned as "betrayals" of the iconic comic characters of Superman and Batman. Even the treatment of the Joker, in Suicide Squad, is seen as something of a disservice to that almost equally iconic villain.
I am, of course, talking about Clark snapping the neck of General Zod in Man of Steel.
I am talking about Batman's seeming lethal fury in the warehouse fight scene in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I am talking about the sexy playboy treatment of Joker in Suicide Squad.
Man of Steel
Large sections of the Internet have been disappointed with the treatment of the Superman character in Man of Steel.
I want to start by saying that I love, love, love this film! I consider it a masterpiece, which gets an easy 9 out of 10 from me. I consider it to be the definitive live-action reboot of the character. We begin (again) from here.
For me, it's like all the George Reeves stuff (the original television Superman), all the Christopher Reeves stuff (with all due respect and sympathy for his catastrophic spinal injury), and all the Dean Cain stuff (Lois and Clark television series) --- NEVER HAPPENED!
I've talked about my love for this film in a proper review, here on Hub Pages.
Superman does not kill!
That is what they say.
However, in snapping Zod's neck, it's not like Clark killed an ordinary, mortal Earthman. He killed a similarly, yellow sun-enhanced super-Kryptonian, who, himself, was attempting to kill a family of innocent, ordinary, mortal, non-super-powered native Earth humans, with his heat vision.
Now, one reviewer on the Internet actually said that Clark "didn't even try" to "aim [Zod's] face in another direction."
- First of all, yes he did.
- Second of all, even if Clark had managed to turn Zod's face in another direction, then what?
- Third of all, again, Zod was also a yellow sun-enhanced super Kryptonian. What's more, even back home, Zod was more formidable than most Kryptonian citizens because he had been a professional soldier all his life. He had been a seasoned, battle-hardened warrior.
- Where did Clark learn to fight? "On a farm?!?!?!?"
- The fact is that Zod was not going to stop until he incinerated that family of Earth humans.
Question: What non-lethal options did Clark realistically have in the moment? What non-lethal options did Clark realistically have at any time?
Let's remember that Zod went crazy AFTER his evil, though rationally and sanely conceived plan of literal global genocide was thwarted with some help by the U.S. military. (Remember the codex containing the genetic sequences of a billion Kryptonians, ready to be reborn on Earth?)
Zod's homicidal, yellow sun-enhanced super Kryptonian fury (backed by a lifetime of professional military experience) rose to a desperately maniacal level.
What non-lethal options were available?
Question: If Clark had no choice but to kill Zod, then perhaps this story should not have been written, which put the Man of Steel in the position to kill, thus "betraying" the character of Superman.
Answer: I obviously have to disagree with that. This scenario in this movie is not unlike Satan's temptation of Jesus in the Bible. Both Jesus and the Man of Steel rebuke the Devil. Make no mistake, Zod was offering a position of power: right hand of the ruler of New Krypton. This is an offer Clark rejects, saying that "Krypton had its chance!"
Therefore, far from "betraying" the character of Superman, Clark's act of breaking Zod's neck puts the exclamation point on his pro-Earth stance. This, in fact, gives us the Superman, who is the mightiest defender of "truth, justice, and the American way."
Last I checked, America was on Earth!
Let's move on.
We are, of course, talking about the Batman warehouse fight scene, in the film that I have called a "conceptual abomination": Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The first thing to say is that I have never gotten on board with the notion of holding fictional characters, or anybody else for that matter, to absolutes.
They say that Batman does not kill under any circumstances.
I'll ask the question I asked in the previous section of this essay: What non-lethal options did Batman have in this situation?
The Dark Knight has no "super" or mystical powers. If Superman had been there, this cosmic level being would have had a number of options by which to save his mom, "Martha" (as in "Why did you say that name?!?!?!?!")
Superman, for example, could have leisurely walked into the warehouse --- totally unaffected by all the artillery --- and knocked out each thug with a very light tap on the head with his pinky.
According to DanCo., Superman is known to have bench-pressed the weight of the Earth for five straight days; and at the end he only produced a single drop of sweat.
Then Clark would have faced the leader of the thugs, the coward holding his gun on Martha, in hopes he could wiggle out of the situation. However, as you all know, Clark can move faster than an ordinary human being can even think.
Before the head thug could have even considered thinking about pulling the trigger, Clark could have frozen the gun solid with his freeze breath, or incinerated the gun with his heat vision; and then knocked him unconscious with the tap of his pinky finger.
Clark also has most of the powers of the Flash. He could have simply rushed in there at the speed of light, taken Martha, and have been gone; and further more, he could have done it in a way that none of the thug ever realize that he had been there.
I believe that Clark, like the Flash, can vibrate his body so fast that he can "phase" through solid objects. Of course, he does not usually use this ability in a fight, or anything like that.
Or, Superman, using his senses could have located his mother, anywhere on Earth, by her breathing, or her brand of perfume, or simply her speaking in a whisper. Then, using his X-Ray vision, he could have found the exact spot she was in the warehouse, and then swooped down and flown her away, while the thugs would have been utterly powerless to prevent this.
Now, it goes without saying that Batman does not have anything remotely resembling these kind of options.
Let's remember the situation. Batman is there to save Martha Kent, Clark's mother: a ordinary human woman of Earth. She has no super or mystical powers. She is neither a villain nor a hero. She is an innocent.
Let's not forget, then, that Batman is all about protecting the innocent.
Batman knows that, in a situation like that, the leader of the thugs will cowardly isolate himself from the action, holding the hostage at gunpoint as a last resort of escape, in case his plan --- whatever it was --- goes awry, which it did.
Now, Batman therefore knows that Martha Kent --- the innocent victim, let's remember --- is, for the time being, relatively "safe."
Batman has to deal with the other thugs. And he has to deal with them in such a way that, when he puts one down: for an extended period of time, if not forever.
In other words, it seems to be an absolute tactical necessity that Batman either kill or, at very least, profoundly incapacitate each thug --- so that not one of them can be around to provide a distraction to him, as he tries to extract Martha from homicidally-intended clutches of their leader --- by, say, attacking Batman from behind, as he is executing, what turned out to be a pretty elegant hostage-extracting maneuver.
Here's my point: This is not a Batman out of control. This is not a Batman gone rogue. It is not usual to see Batman killing; and it would, perhaps, not be desirable to see Batman killing on a regular basis. But this was a special situation in which the Dark Knight was true to the superhero code of protecting the innocent.
Furthermore: You could argue that Batman should never have been put in such a distasteful situation, because such a conceptual abomination as this movie is, should never have written, much less been put to film. I do make this argument.
Add to that the fact that we know that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was not the film that director Zack Snyder wanted to make --- as Midnight's Edge reported. Snyder wanted to follow up his masterpiece, Man of Steel, with its sequel, Man of Steel 2. Batman V. Superman was a movie that was forced upon him by the Warner/DC suits, who was disappointed by the fact that "Man of Steel" did not make a billion dollars-plus in worldwide ticket sales.
The suits basically hoped that: Okay, one superhero didn't make us our billion-plus; maybe two superheroes will, or three. I am referring not only to the inclusion of Batman, but also Wonder Woman, to fight Doomsday.
Question: Even if all that is true, and Batman V. Superman is a movie that was forced on Zack Snyder, he and his team should have done a better job with it, shouldn't they?
Answer: Frankly, I don't know because I have not, as yet, seen Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, there is one thing I do know: This movie did give us a truly formidable Batman, one that can even "defeat" a cosmic-level being like Superman with time to prepare. And this movie did make us begin to see that the Dark Knight truly is one of the greatest fighters in the DC universe.
This is the Batman that was sorely needed in the Justice League movie: one that can figure things out, come up with winning strategies for a variety of situations, and throw down!
Finally, I have gathered that large sections of the Internet have been displeased with the depiction of Joker (played by Jared Leto) in Suicide Squad.
As I have mentioned before, I think that this treatment was appropriate. First of all, it is a good thing to add this dimension to the character: a heterosexual man interested in S-E-X.
Second, the treatment of the Joker is not about the Joker. The depiction of the Joker, in this movie, is about how Harley Quinn sees him. It is about why Harley was sexually attracted to him and how she came to fall in love with him.
To that extent, as I have argued elsewhere, it makes sense from a creative and commercial point of view to give a depiction of Joker that makes millions and millions of women sit in theaters and say to themselves, something like: You know something? If it wasn't for the fact that he's such a homicidal maniac, I could see myself, sort of, going for a guy like that.
I thought an interesting scene happened when the "Suicide Squad" was at the bar, talking about "normal" life and all that. Harley has a hypothetical daydream about her "puddin'" as a normal, suburban "yuppy" and she as his normal, suburban wife and mother of his child.
This scene, incidentally, is why it was important to cast Joker as a young man in shape, who looks good in a suit.
Anyway, there is a Gladys Knight song called Midnight Train to Georgia.
There's a line in that song: "I'd rather live in his world, than be without him in mine."
I think this captures Harley's overwhelming desire for her man. After all, on his account, she threw away her career as a psychologist in order to become consort to Gotham City's Clown Prince of Crime.
Thank you for reading!