Aside from Wonder Woman, critics and audiences have not been kind to the DCEU, and this I believe is a misunderstanding of their content. One common criticism levied against DC, is that their superhero movies are too dark. However, in my opinion, this should be praised rather than criticised. They tackle dark and human subjects, making the films more relatable and the characters more compelling. For example, Suicide Squad, which was intended to be more comical, deals with Harley’s PTSD and Killer Croc’s casting out by society because he looked different.
This idea is present across the films. Take Batman in Batman V Superman. People accuse director Zack Snyder of not understanding Batman because his Batman kills. Batman has strict rules against this the comics. However, this is a Batman far further along in his story than any other we’ve met. He suffers from severe PTSD. The Martha scene made Bruce realize he had become what he despised: a killer. This carries on in Justice League, where Bruce doesn’t kill. His killing was part of his arc, not a misunderstanding.
Let’s move to Superman. DCEU Superman is criticized for his ‘unwillingness’ to save people. However, he does save people. For example, when he saves a little girl from a fire in Mexico in Batman V Superman. When he kills Zod to save a family in Man Of Steel. He saves Lex Luthor, the bad guy who was going to burn his mother alive in Batman V Superman. He continually saves and eventually sacrifices himself for a species that rejects him. The evidence people cite to say Superman doesn’t want to save people is sans context, e.g. destruction. In Man of Steel, Clark only discovered the extent of his powers days before fighting a military general who wants to destroy humanity. Three separate lines of dialogue in Batman V Superman state no civilians are at risk from the final battle.
Some may counter this by saying Superman isn’t human, but he is. His birthplace was Krypton but the DCEU deals with something so many adaptions of Superman forget: that he was raised on Earth. This is shown in Man of Steel when he chooses Earth over Krypton, and in Batman V Superman when he describes Earth as “his world”.
DC’s willingness to deal with dark issues sets them apart from their competitors. So, yes, these films are dark, but they have to be in order to tell the stories they want to tell.
An extended version of this article is available here.
by Michael Fraser