So this post has nothing to do with rpg’s, homebrew, or world-building but I’ve been motivated by a few videos (originally Wisecrack’s video on Man of Steel, which I don’t completely agree with, and then later Nando v Movie’s amazing video on improving Batman vs Superman’s third act/) to write my own opinion.
Unlike Wisecrack, I don’t believe the DCEU wasn’t bad starting from this movie. Man of Steel wasn’t the greatest cinematic masterpiece, but it gave DC’s Cinematic Universe some potential. Instead, I believe Batman vs Superman is what started screwing up their Extended Universe. Admittedly, I was afraid this would be the case when I heard it was announced instead of a stand-alone Superman sequel, but I had hoped to be proven wrong.
Man of Steel was about how Superman becomes the person we know, but it means we don’t actually end up with the Superman people actually want to see until the very end.
He is sure of himself. Superman has decided to do the right thing even though people hate him and the government is sending drones after him and stuff. It also set up an easy sequel with the emotional fall out of his first murder. We should receive a movie where we can see him solidify the code developed from his experiences in the first movie.
The basic idea is that we could have a villain Superman can easily kill, like Lex Luthor, but because he slayed Zod, he can’t bring himself to do it. Perhaps he keeps getting nightmares and flashbacks at night that remind him of his deed. Lois Lane calms him down in these scenes, believes in him, and encourages him to do the right thing and not kill Lex, even though other forces may be telling him to do it.
Unfortunately I think the movies already killed Jimmy Olsen, but he could be the type of common citizen Superman saves who can see through Lex’s nice guy act. Jimmy is traumatized and encourages Supes to kill Lex, because no one else will stop him. Everyone else believes Lex is a great guy, and the few who know the truth don’t have enough evidence or power to cause real change. Lex Luthor could even be donating a bunch of money to the rebuilding effort from the first movie. Private scenes show that he is only doing it for his evil plan, or because he doesn’t like Superman, or both, but for now he seems to be a good guy.
It would be a sweet irony that people hate Superman for bringing the destruction from the first movie, even though he was trying to save everyone, but they all like Lex, even though we, the audience, can see him unfolding some evil plan. Probably doing stuff that hurts poor people, since that theme is relevant today.
What can Superman do?
We can get flashbacks from Clark’s father, from whom Superman learns to help people at the cost of his own life. Superman sends one of Lex’s goons during some minor action scene to the hospital and gets those PTSD flashbacks about killing Zod. After this, he decides to hold back for the rest of the movie, while still not holding back so much that he isn’t able to save those who need saving. This causes him pain later, but lines up with the lesson about self-sacrifice he learned from Daddy Kent.
The goon can’t be tracked back to Lex, of course. Louis and Clark are trying to pin down Lex, suspicious as they are about his activities, but her stories on him have been getting either squashed or disproved, and she’s beginning to lose credibility. Sure this will sound a bit like Daredevil, but at least Lois Lane is once again relevant andsmart. I think she lost some character in the transition from MoS to BvS and JL, so this is kind of important to me.
What can Clark Kent do?
The best way to learn about Lex Luthor’s motivations is to have Clark Kent interviews him, like in All-Star Superman. Realizing that Clark likes Lois just from a few stray glances, Lex explains to Clark Kent that if he works hard and becomes successful, he has a chance with her. Despite that, someone like Clark would have no chance next to someone like Superman. But it’s not his fault, the deck is stacked. Superman shouldn’t even be on this planet. His very existence is an insult to the idea that we have any control over our lives. Clark prods Lex about his desire for control, and Lex prods back about humanity deserving to establish their own fate without alien interference.
Clark is suspicious of Lex, but also partly convinced. He wonders if he’s doing the right thing. The public hates him, Lex seems to be doing a lot of good with his money, Clark seems to be doing pretty good at his job. Plus, he still feels guilty over Zod and all the innocents from Man of Steel. Maybe it would be better to stick to local, petty crime and just focus on his relationship and career. This echoes some of the ideas from the first Man of Steel, so we don’t want to stick around this idea too long, it just adds some mid-movie drama, emphasizes how good Lex is at manipulating people, and helps us empathize with him because Superman can (which in the end creates a more nuanced and interesting villain).
Actual Reporting and a Good Romance
In the end, Lois gets evidence on Lex. Clark helps her out, chastising himself for almost believing Lex, but also gaining empathy for the mass of people who also have fallen for Lex’s act. He can make minor use of his Superman powers to help them, like x-raying some doors or whatever, but the point of these scenes is that he doesn’t need to overly rely on them. Clark can be important, too. We see that Lois has fallen for him not just because he’s handsome, buff and super powers, but also because he’s a good person, talented, and funny. This will require some chemistry, but I believe in them. She loves Clark AND Superman, tells him so, motivates him.
Lois Lane publishes her articles. Finally, Superman has the evidence he needs to confront Lex directly. There’s a short stand-off where Superman says he read Clark Kent’s interview, and it lead to him believing in Lex. However, now, he realizes that Lex doesn’t want humanity to “live free”, he wants it to live without a guardian, leaving Lex to use his genius to control humanity as he wishes, without accountability. Superman seems sad, touting the potential good the two of them could have done for the world if they worked together. Lex tells him he is doing good for the world before unleashing his master plan.
Superman heroically saves a bunch of people who are all in danger at the same time. He tries to take in Lex but the villain beats the shit out of Superman somehow (mecha-suit, kryptonite, super-charged goon, take your pick. We can even use Bizarro like Nando suggests). Superman can fight back but doesn’t want to kill Lex. Unfortunately, Lex is too smart to be taken in unless Superman goes all in. He had already set up counter measures to freeze breath and other methods Superman used to bring in criminals earlier in the movie.
Reaction shots of the public and Mama Kent. She is worried he will die like her husband. The public sees and finally gets on Superman’s side. The government has to decide between using weapons on Supes or Lex (like the scene in BvS but this time it’s earned), and decides on Lex. Together, Superman and “humanity” (represented by the government in this case) help to bring him in. There’s also a quick scene where he saves Lex. This seems to not be as nearly big a deal to Superman as it is to Lex.
The gov agrees not to track Superman anymore with drones like they were in MoS. They joke that it wasn’t working anyway.
The President asks why he didn’t just kill Lex like he did Zod. Superman jokes he doesn’t do that anymore, but also says seriously that he can’t sleep. The President, with newfound empathy, replies that he can’t either. Just like Superman, he agonizes over every decision he has to make. But, he also realizes that he can’t save everyone. Superman says he knows, he can hear the President’s Intel briefings, but more than that, he can hear the people in need that they talk/read about. They bond over this shared struggle.
Superman tells him not to worry, that he’ll save who he can. The President looks relieved, explaining they have to keep up a happy face anyway to inspire the American people despite aliens and weirder things popping up (there’s your JL reference DC), but it’ll be easier knowing that Superman is out there. He tells him not to worry if he can’t save everyone, that just the fact that he tries and doesn’t give up gives him hope.
Over dinner at the farm, Martha, like a normal mom, gushes that her son inspired the President of America. She tells Clark the fact that he saves people without killing inspires world leaders, and therefore inspires all of Earth.
Superman honors his father’s memory, saying something about how he was right, humans weren’t ready for him before, but now they are (while hugging Lois and his mom). He realizes his purpose – to give hope.
End the movie with Clark Kent interviewing Lex again. Clark is clearly trying to bring the interview back on topic, but Lex keeps derailing it. He is still angry and confused that Superman saved him. Clark makes a suggestion about why Superman would do this, but Lex dismisses it, telling Clark that he clearly doesn’t understand Superman. It’s not his fault, Clark is weak (after all, it was Lois who led the investigation). On the other hand, Superman is a man of power, like Lex. No, he knows Superman is evil and biding his time. It has to be. Lex resolves to figure out his long-term plan.
Clark tries to convince Lex to use his intelligence for good, but Lex only argues that this is what he is doing. By stopping Superman’s plan, he is saving the world. And to defeat a man so powerful, while running his company, it will require a lot of brainpower. Clark gives up, leaving him to fume in angry silence.