what fucks me up is that znyder adapted the most intricate and dense comic book deconstruction and then a few years later adapted the archetype of those superheroes totally straight.
yes, man of steel is a totally straight superman story. the narrative context has changed, but the beats are all there: krypton boom, kents, walks the earth, holo-jor-el, becomes superman. what has changed are the times (~they are a… something i forget) and the technology to give new scope and spectacle to the mythos. don’t let purists throw you off. donner!superman is still a revolutionary superhero movie and there’s a reason every superman adaptation pays it homage (*though not as much as purists think). it came off of twenty years without superman (adventures of supermen ended in the 50s) and fully utilized the groundbreaking visual effects of its time. the hopeful optimism reflected what people wanted during the turbulent end of 70s, and while the movie has the fantastical goodness in spades, it also very much kept the reality of those times, too. there was a war going on then, too, and it was the advent of television, when you could suddenly see all the death and destruction. it was shocking and it made people retreat to the fantastical, but it was still there. clark saves lois and millions of others by turning back time, but this action unleashes zod, leads to the invasion in part 2 and puts superman in one of his first live action moral dilemmas, an extremely personal one at that.
watchmen and man of steel don’t just come off the dust of 9/11 and a globalized world where everyone knows everything all the time. it’s coming off the 1980s storm of serious comic fiction. watchmen was created specifically to be unfilmable to be a visual spectacle. the irony is that znyder believes this is what exactly what movies ought to be. story not just through exposition or linear plot development, but story through layered frames, just like a comic. bringing me to this moment in both movies.
here are four iconic supreme hero archetypes facing the probable ends of their worlds. one is a dream but it’s the narrative reality. the shaping of the world by even inactive superheroes, of rejecting the inner hero they are. dan and laurie have to peel themselves to see the truth of each other, and the tragedy is that they have to do it while the world ends. lois and clark are facing reality, and the narrative will proceed to show us how they get out of it, how they stop the invasion and, with bvs, we see how that reality has completely altered because of these actions. in their true physical heroic forms they save humanity.
*smallville is a wonderful example of a show steeped in donner!superman but still totally destroys most of the narrative set up by those movies. it borrows more heavily on the aesthetic side. supergirl is lauded (by purists lol) as being the true inheritor to donner!superman, but it’s actually more new adventures and man of steel. man of steel itself uses donner!superman as a template of what Not to do, and as a result ends up being smallville’s more ambitious little sibling. the overlap between superman stories is a given, all having the exact same foundation, but man of steel and smallville are practically kaleidoscopic when compared. the 90s animated show is also very much Not beholden to donner!superman. purists who stay stuck in this nostalgic ideal are what they are: stuck. this idea that superman hasn’t been Happy Hopeful or has Never Been Dark is just not true. not even golden age superman is wholly black and white. every good superman story balances and contrasts the hopeful with the unstoppably evil, this is how they create conflict for the indestructible protagonist.
to bring this back around to znyder and another reason i really love both these scenes. one exists in the world tearing down heroes and the other in o world just starting to create one. they mean different things and have different effects, but are thematically and visually tied because they are the original archetypes, based and influenced and contrasted against each other. zack snyder less chill than i do lol
Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.