One can see where Zack Snyder was going with his Man of Steel follow up, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, in retrospect. The director’s cut released recently spelled it out, as well, as Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel was trying to universe build in the same way Marvel’s first run of films under the Marvel Studios banner did. Whereas Marvel was looking for a light, popcorn type of feel that wouldn’t demand much out of its audience Snyder and Warner opted for something much more complex. Marvel’s universe instantly accepted that there were superheroes who could do wondrous things, with the consequences only being dealt with if the plot needed it.
Snyder’s DCCU posited some pretty high level things throughout Dawn of Justice. If Superman were to appear on Earth we’d handle it in wildly different ways all at once; Snyder wanted to get the human reaction to these “meta-humans” and how that informs so much of the world around them. Snyder’s intent was to go for something more awe-inspiring than anything else. It’s one thing for someone like Batman to show up, as a normal guy with cool toys who fights crime is weird but vigilantes have existed since the first crime was committed.
It’s how Tony Stark and Iron Man can not inspire the same sort of world changing view in the Marvel universe; he’s a cooky billionaire who just created a weapon. It’s what partially inspires Iron Man 2 and its Libertarian viewpoint. Tony Stark’s suit is a weapon people want to use, nothing more, and for all the amazing things it can do it’s made by man. We can accept that someone is just that smart and talented enough to create it, at least in that cinematic world.
Superman’s sheer existence challenges the perspective because Snyder thought, rightly too, that if Kal-El shows up our perception of ourselves in the universe is permanently altered. We are not alone in the universe, for starters, and for as much as it’s a mathematical certainty we aren’t alone in existence having proof of it changes the grander scope of how humanity as a whole looks at itself in the grandness of it all. That’s what Snyder wanted to look at in the grander scope; how does humanity react to all of this happening at once, especially in light of a tragedy of epic proportions?
Essentially he asked how would humanity have handled 9/11 if 9/11 had changed how humanity as a whole looks at itself in the grand scheme of the universe.
It didn’t hit with audiences like he thought, of course, and despite making nearly a billion dollars it didn’t change the newfound DCCU like many thought it would going in. And with the massive box office of the third Captain America film an adjustment of tone would be needed for the burgeoning universe that Warner wants to craft out of DC Comic properties. And it all comes back to one film that’ll be viewed, properly, as the same sort of game changer that Iron Man itself was in crafting the new wave of comic book films wholesale.
James Gunn had a slight problem when crafting Guardians of the Galaxy going in. His two biggest stars (Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper) weren’t going to appear on camera and he had a property that wasn’t well known going in. His solution was madly brilliant as he crafted a fun, wildly entertaining film that focused on more of a grander story (about a bunch of misfits coming together against impossible odds) than a star vehicle. It was about the collective, not the singular, and that was a huge change.
Even The Avengers was a singular, star driven vehicle of a film in that it was about all of these massive heroes coming together into one.
Guardians gave us a new type of dynamic, a deviation from the star vehicles that the first wave of Marvel Studios films were based off of, and now it’s becoming a new way of crafting a film when the traditional model isn’t quite appropriate. Captain America: Civil War was by default an Avengers film in its own right and Warner/DC has taken the Guardians to Suicide Squad in this way.
Four years ago this film would’ve been a Will Smith vehicle, pure and simple, as the star power of Hollywood’s biggest summer draw would be used to amplify what could be the biggest film of the summer. Instead this is a film that is being posited as the DC version of Guardians of the Galaxy, which is an interesting change over the past couple years.
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Tags: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of justice, David Ayer, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Monday Morning Critic, Suicide Squad, Will Smith