Should Superman Be Dark?

As with many other superheroes these days (particularly DC ones) Superman is getting a much darker cinematic interpretation than audiences have ever seen before. But is this a good thing, or a bad thing?

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By SpiderFrank4 - 9/5/2013


Let me start by saying that I did enjoy Man Of Steel. It was an entertaining film and I liked the approach they were taking to the story…. however I think the execution could have been better. Despite the storytelling flaws that have already been pointed out, the “darker” approach to the character I think is slightly questionable. While I’m all for filmmakers taking superhero stories seriously there’s a difference between “serious” and “dark”. A “dark” tone implies that bad s**t goes down and things don’t necessarily work out for the best and this is something that I feel has to compliment the characters, settings and themes of the material in order to be called for. It works great for a character like Batman, whose stories are based around tragedy and the whole “life’s a bitch and then you die” shebang, but with other characters that aren’t meant to be all about feeling sorry for themselves too much darkness can be a bad thing.

Take Superman for example. He’s the ultimate symbol of hope and inspiration for the whole world; the guy who endlessly strives to prevent destruction and loss of life. However, in his latest film he sort of failed on both of those accounts. While in the end he did defeat the bad guys and save the day in the grand scheme of things, a good portion of Metropolis was totally leveled (like 9/11 times thirty!) and Supes ended up having to snap Zod’s neck. Yeah…wasn’t really feeling the hope and inspiration there. What’s more, the Superman I know would have been crippled with guilt at these outcomes but in the next scene he’s happily destroying government property without a care in the world (what an uncaring asshole!). The point I’m making is that many would say the dark elements don’t really mesh very well with the traditional interpretation of Superman’s character. Not to say that a new, slightly different interpretation can’t work, I like the fact that Snyder and co tried to make Superman a somewhat edgier character who can be pushed to cross certain lines, but I don’t think it worked too well in this film as while they clearly establish the moral code that Superman is theoretically obliged to abide by they never really show the consequences of when he breaks it. Another example would be when a rowdy trucker harasses Clark in a bar and while he at first simply brushes the guy off, as he knows that he doesn’t pose any kind of physical threat to him, he subsequently destroys his truck out of spite. I realise this moment was just thrown in as a gag but nevertheless it makes Clark look like an immature child who never really learned anything from his patron saint of a father (even if the trucker did totally deserve it).



Allow me if you will to compare Man Of Steel to Richard Donner’s Superman. Yeah, obviously the two are rather different and are meant to be that way but I think that Superman captured what the character’s all about in a way that Man Of Steel didn’t. Donner’s version is much more light hearted and even has a tinge of goofiness attached to the villains (which I admit can be seen as a flaw) but it also has it’s fair share of dark and serious dramatic moments, like for instance (SPOILER ALERT) when Lois…um…dies. For me, what makes the film so good can all be summed up in one scene: the helicopter rescue, which remains one of my favourite movie scenes of all time. It starts out with a very dark situation; a woman is dangling towards her doom from a crashed helicopter suspended atop a very tall building. A crowd gathers below to look on in horror, as they are certain she’s going to fall to her death (as the flight control guys on the roof are obviously too horrified to do anything). Then, a mild mannered reporter clad in a hat and specs (who by lucky coincidence happens to be an alien with superhuman powers) stumbles across the scene and thinks to himself, yeah…that’s not gonna happen! He proceeds to shed his mortal attire, donning a heroic red and blue outfit complete with cape and “S” shield, and then fly up and catch the woman and the helicopter just in the nick of time. A tragedy has been miraculously averted, that incredible John Williams theme music kicks in, the crowd below cheer with delight and the audience are filled with an indescribable feeling of joy that can only be created by watching a movie. It’s such a well-done scene it gives me goose bumps every time I watch it (I’m sad, I know). In retrospect, Man Of Steel doesn’t really have anything like that does it? That triumphant moment when the hero reveals himself to the world and stops a disaster in it’s tracks. The equivalent in Snyder’s film is the scene in which Superman flies down to the three or four people he managed to save after vanquishing the bad guys (and half of the city) and the sex changed Jimmy Olsen says in a quiet awe tone of voice, “he saved us”. Now that moment would have worked a lot better if the characters weren’t standing in the devastated wasteland that was once Metropolis and there were a huge crowd of citizens present to show that Superman had in fact saved more than three people. During that scene I had to tell myself that they were probably able to do a city wide evacuation just before the destruction reached biblical proportions (but really, what are the odds of that??) in order for it to make any kind of sense. And I sooooooo missed the John Williams music (stupid Zimmer).

I think the main problem with Man Of Steel is that they don’t get the balance right in terms of tone. It jumps back and forth between hopeful and optimistic and dark and depressing with nothing substantial enough to bridge the gap. They should lean either one way or the other in my opinion. There are a lot of epic action sequences to entertain the eye but there’s so much that it kind of overloads itself and everything the characters are fighting for gets lost in the chaos. And on another note, in terms of cinematography, the hyper-realistic shaky cam and dull color tones didn’t really make it feel like a Superman film to me. So to sum up, do I think that the onscreen Superman should be dark? Well, personally I feel that the lighter interpretations have worked better so far (I even found Superman Returns to be more emotionally satisfying to be perfectly honest).

Regardless of what I think however, it looks like we’ll continue to see a darker interpretation in the future seeing as the next Superman flick will be a Batman crossover. Hopefully they’ll pull it off a little better next time (let’s see what you got Affleck!) Please share your own thoughts in the comments.
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SpiderFrank4 - 9/5/2013, 10:03 AM
OK, maybe I should have put more thought into that title.
dougieisrollingthejays - 9/5/2013, 10:59 AM
I agree with your thoughts on MOS except for the Dark. I think the film should be a little darker, its the only theing that DC has go ride on past Marvel. But I do agree the devestation was horribly large. Superman shouldn't let 15k people die.
CampBlood - 9/5/2013, 11:22 AM
CBM is being hijacked by Kia on my iphone
JoeMomma29 - 9/5/2013, 11:24 AM
Hmmmm I think Iamnotyou has some daddy issues that have not been resolved.
rbfn04 - 9/5/2013, 11:28 AM
Should Superman be dark? No, he shouldn't. That's stupid.

ThePowerCosmic - 9/5/2013, 11:31 AM
To answer the question...no he shouldn't. It doesn't work.
Maximus101 - 9/5/2013, 11:31 AM
I thought the tone was just right. Not as dark as the dark knight trilogy but not as soft and comedic as marvel movies.
Ocelot - 9/5/2013, 11:36 AM
Donnor films were trash, couldn't sit through that crap when I was younger cant do it now. Donnor's interpretation held the "Superman" character back for 30 plus years, couldn't take the character seriously pre-man of steel, thanks to Man of Steel, I finally can. It's no real surprise why the likes of Batman and Superman have surpassed the character in the terms of popularity. Though Man of Steel isn't the best comic book movie(it's nowhere near the likes of First Class, Iron Man or The Dark Knight), it's definitely the best Superman film there is and way better than trash that Donnor produced with that laughable costume that's always just looked silly and stupid. Thank [frick] Snyder strayed away from that joke of costume, I was rolling my eyes over the outrage over him changing it and removing the red underpants, when the new costume was first seen in the set pics.
Seejay - 9/5/2013, 11:44 AM

No, Superman should be a beacon of hope.

The character is a brave and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice, morality, and righteousness.

That is why many criticize Man of Steel.

But.. with that said. A compromise is probably good to attract a larger audience.
Ineedrevelation - 9/5/2013, 11:50 AM
@Batz

LMFAO!!!!!

Seriously though... what's up with all the editorials lately?

Slow news week?
THEDARKKNIGHT1939 - 9/5/2013, 11:51 AM
I just read Peace on Earth. That is a perfect example of who Superman is.
dckizzle - 9/5/2013, 11:59 AM
That's the dc tone for movies
Amazing512 - 9/5/2013, 12:02 PM
Every character, both Marvel and DC, have characters who have their "dark" moments, so it's not a matter of having a dark tone.
It's a matter of using the dark tone when it's appropriate. With that being said, I don't think MoS was the right time for Supes. If you're reinterpreting a specific story or Villian from the comics who is considered one of the darker villians or one of the darker stories, then do a darker movie, but don't use a dark tone just for the sake of using it.
musashi - 9/5/2013, 12:07 PM
I agree that Superman shouldn't be dark like the Batman trilogy. I could barely handle the destruction but once he killed Zod I lost hope. Superman is the ideal that I want my kids to look up to and strive towards.

I think that Superman should have a strong moral code and other things in the movie can be dark to test that. The strength of Superman is that he doesn't give in to the dark side.

That's why Superman and Batman works because Batman is darker and more violent than Superman.
musashi - 9/5/2013, 12:08 PM
Even Dexter has a moral code!
BlackFlash - 9/5/2013, 12:20 PM
Batman is the Dark one so NO Superman shouldn't be dark at all, I liked MOS but it seem depressing and dull in certain parts which just seemed odd to me for a Superman movie. It's going to be interesting to see the tone of MOS2 will they be able to make Superman shine or will it all be dark because Batman is now highjacking -_-
DeathAdder - 9/5/2013, 12:33 PM
Yeah in the next reboot, have Superman played by Chiwetel Ejiofer, L Cool J as Lex Luthor, Beyonce as Lois Lane, Tony Cox as Mr Myxlplyx and Dezel Washington as Brainiac.

That should be a dark enough Superman
IMNOTU - 9/5/2013, 12:39 PM
My theory is both Batman and Superman will have a Emo Cut Off! The soundtrack will consist of The Cure and My Chemical Romance with the winner being whoever can be more depressing.
xXkryptoniteXx - 9/5/2013, 12:46 PM
Superman doesnt need to be dark but just make him more less corny and campy. That is how I want my superman. Superman is not batman, he has his own issues and style. No corny and campy supes, thank you.
xXkryptoniteXx - 9/5/2013, 12:47 PM
Also man of steel movies tone is great, just make superman be smart by not make a destruction in the city. He can take the battle somewhere else. Leave the destruction of the city with darksied or doomsday.
Gnyah123 - 9/5/2013, 12:53 PM
the tone for man of steel was perfect!
it wasnt that dark
why ppl keep bringing up dark n light? etc...who cares
lol
DC n marvel have characters that are dark
deadpool dark wit comedy
blade dark
daredevil dark
hulk SHOULD be a light dark
the film with edward norton was a perfect tone n type of dark i want hulk to be!
the hulk in the avengers SUCKED! they made him look and act like a monkey at times if u pay attention to him and his movements

anyway

batman dark
superman shud be dark! we get to much light stuff
GL was dark which is fine by me
wonder woman shud be light but the attuitude and approach to the film shud be dark in a way shud be man of steel dark
tvor03 - 9/5/2013, 1:11 PM
The horse is already dead. I think cbm users should stop beating it now.
tron21full - 9/5/2013, 1:16 PM
look i have to admit, despite Zach saying that he is going to depict a modern day superman, i was shocked on how much modernism affects the Superman including the end. i was not expecting Supes to kill. but, todays world is a dark one. Superman is dark and has always been, like the events of Superman Vs. The Elites with Atomic Skull. the people around him wanted him dead and dupes could not deal with that. we do not under stand him. and vice versa. but again MOS depicts him having a hard time trying to cope with his chosen morality. should he have known what were the consequences when dealing with fear? Anger?
TheCaptain - 9/5/2013, 1:24 PM
NO Superman shouldn't be dark! I liked Man of Steel but looking back it wasn't great. It was really gloomy and dull for a lot of the movie when it wouldn't have hurt to be a little bit less serious. I'm not saying like the Richard Donner movie but he is SUPERMAN after all, we have Batman as the dark one. And not just the tone but the cinematography and color correction as well. The movie was just too drab and gray most of the time. I hope they change this for the Superman/Batman movie.
dougieisrollingthejays - 9/5/2013, 1:27 PM
@manofreal Ok so the 3 people we saw at the end of the movie were the only ones in metropolis still? No there were people under the rubble like them, only they didn't get saved.
Philvis - 9/5/2013, 1:34 PM
I really wish the people who comment on the destruction would read a Superman comic or even watch a DC animated movie/tv show. There is tons of destruction in those mediums, so I'm not sure why this is so shocking...unless those people are comparing it to Donnerverse. Also in the comics and animated movies/tv shows, Superman regularly gives a thorough beating to some of the villains. I really am not getting this whole Dark argument or that Superman is suddenly changed.
FordEl - 9/5/2013, 1:43 PM
MoS didnt feel dark to me. But it was grounded and the tone is just right. Superman was always a serious character anyways. Its the movies and media that brightened him up. So I suggest to not always refer to Donner because he isnt the creator of Superman. I find that annoying, how about go to source material instead of an interpretation of the primary source.
gmoney0505 - 9/5/2013, 2:06 PM
Supes wasnt dark. Just the world around him is. In order for him to be the hope the world needs, there needs to be darkness in it. Dont make any sense for the world to be already bright and hopeful and Supes comes in to be the hope the world needs. To be quite honest the world didn't need Supes in the original Superman anyway.
DanteSparda - 9/5/2013, 2:13 PM
Turn off the dark
dougieisrollingthejays - 9/5/2013, 2:16 PM
for my opinion though i'm glad they made it dark. I'm glad he killed zod. But I just didn't see the point to half the city blowing up.
AustinFan4Life - 9/5/2013, 2:21 PM
Yea, a sex changed Jimmy Olsen didn't appear in Man of Steel. If you're refering to Rebecca Buller's character, according to IMDB, she's was only cast as "jenny", the name Olsen never appears anywhere in the film & it's pretty asinine to assume that's a sex changed Jimmy olsen. See for yourself.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0770828/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

http://www.fandango.com/manofsteel_v527047/castandcrew

BreadPitt - 9/5/2013, 2:26 PM
WTF are you talking about?? If i was Supes, i wouldve destroyed that Air Drone/Spy too! Good go ahead let them spy on you. Moron
GIFfreyGinsberg - 9/5/2013, 2:43 PM
I liked the tone of MOS and hope that's what the DCCU retains for the upcoming slate of films!
Lhornbk - 9/5/2013, 3:16 PM
*sigh,* more fanboy whining about MoS and how Superman shouldn't kill and how Donner was better. Ummm......no. No more cheesy, bumbling Clark Kent, no more comic version of Lex Luthor (with bumbling sidekick and blonde-acting girlfriend--seriously, Lex Luthor had a sidekick?), and no more cheesy, "can you read my mind?" thought monologues by Lois as she's flying with Superman. And, although I loved the Williams theme, it was for a different Superman and I really liked the MoS music, it fit the movie. As for the suit, I liked the old one, and was wary of this new one at first, but ultimately I did like it and we definitely don't need any more of the underwear on the outside superhero outfits, although I would prefer a red belt just to break the blue up a little.
Minghagz - 9/5/2013, 4:22 PM
Batmaniac beat me to it. The tone was serious and grounded but dark???... I'm not sure why anyone would think it was dark?
Tech3099 - 9/5/2013, 4:35 PM
@SpiderFrank4

Props to you on the near perfect grammar of this editorial.
Seriously.

You got mad skills yo!
soforizo - 9/5/2013, 4:36 PM
From my experience all those who protest about there being too much destruction in MOS, either:

(a)are Marvelites,
(b)don't know Superman beyond the Donner films,
(c)are dove liberals (against capital penalty, depictions of violence, etc.) or
(d)all of the above.

TDK was dark. MOS wasn't dark, and sure as f'k Superman himself wasn't dark. Superman has a fairly dark gallery of villains and they should be portrayed accordingly in film.
Ranger14 - 9/5/2013, 5:36 PM
That's easy. NO!
BlueHawaiiSurfer - 9/5/2013, 5:52 PM
I agree I didn't think MOS was DARK, just more REAL WORLD
rkshuttleworth - 9/5/2013, 6:22 PM
Sure Superman has had problems to deal with, but no.
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