To start, let me say this: I’m no lover of Zack Snyder’s overall oeuvre, I have never seen and do not plan to ever see 300 or his Dawn of the Dead remake, and definitely not Lgend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
However, I did enjoy his The Watchmen film, as it’s likely the best movie version of that comic we’re ever going to see, and I can appreciate what he’s doing with his Superman movies in a way that I think most people are willfully misinterpreting.
After I saw Man of Steel, I read a lot of articles that piled on the backlash bandwagon about how Superman shouldn’t cause so much collateral damage, and how he is supposed to have a credo to never kill, so he shouldn’t have killed General Zod. Nevermind the fact that the collateral damage was almost entirely caused by Zod in the film, and the film also goes out of its way to create a situation where killing Zod was the only real option Superman had to prevent Zod from killing more innocent bystanders.
My thought was that it seemed pretty clear that the series (since everything is a multi-part series nowadays) was setting up the public’s not-so-pleased reaction with the fallout from these two aliens’ climactic battle as grist for the next entry in the series.
I felt like the people complaining about it were jumping on a bandwagon that refused to accept that maybe this was an intentional choice the filmmakers made to create a more interesting dilemma for Superman other than just “Lex Luthor got a shard of Kryptonite and built another weapon,” which has been used in essentially every other Superman film ever (of which there were five, counting Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns).
After all, the biggest argument from the “Han shot first” anti-special edition Star Wars camp is that if Han doesn’t shoot first, he has no character arc. The theory is that by shooting first, the film establishes Han as a flawed scoundrel, an outlaw with no real allegiances. Over the course of the movie and the series, he gradually redeems himself through selfless acts and gains some sense of duty beyond protecting his own neck. If he lets Greedo shoot first before he’s willing to fire, he’s already principled at the start. He starts out good, and stays good.
I appreciate the fact that people want Superman to be a paragon of “truth, justice, and the American way” as he classically was in comics from eighty years ago. However, the number one complaint against Superman as a character is that he’s not interesting because he’s so powerful that any battle is a foregone conclusion. That means you have to find some other way to make him interesting. Since Snyder’s Superman movies consitute a reboot of the character (including re-telling his classic origin story), it seems fair to assume that the over-arching plot of the three is the journey of Kal-El becoming the Superman we know and love. He is therefore, in my book, allowed to make a few missteps and poor judgement calls before becoming the fully realized icon of all that is right with the world that he is in the comics.
Let us also not forget that he’s been rebooted, re-imagined and tinkered with countless times in the comics as well. There’s room for more than one version of this character, I think, and if you insist that he’s just got to always be the classic Alex Ross picture of infallible strength, then I don’t know how interested you actually are in the character.
That sort of thinking, that every new incarnation of a known character must align exactly to previous versions, is what leads to the Ouroboros-esque likes of nostalgia porn, like the recent Full House sequel or Girl Meets World. People attest to being really excited for those things, but then they don’t actually watch them because they already know exactly what the contents are. They just want to take comfort in knowing that somewhere on their cable dial (or Netflix queue) these things exist, being completely unchallenging and re-affirming something they liked in childhood.
By the end of the Snyder Superman series, I expect he will have become the symbol of truth and justice that we all know him to be, and it will be all the more powerful for having watched the character’s journey, rather than simply starting out good and staying good.