#2. They Don't Know Why The Dark Knight Was Good
DC has bet it all on the screenwriting prowess of David S. Goyer, since he was the co-writer of The Dark Knight trilogy. This makes perfect sense, except that it makes no fucking sense. Here's what Goyer had to say about the writing process for the Batman films:
Chris is great, the best experience I ever had was working with Chris ... It's a very open environment. We fight, we argue ... Chris is always going to take the last pass on these scripts going in. He's a writer as well as a director, kind of 50/50, and so he's always going to get in there and take that last crack at it.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"I got people to care about other people's weird dreams. I can do anything."
When you look at it that way, it sounds like Nolan is actually the screenwriting genius and Goyer is just along for the ride. But that assessment really short-sells the writer of such films as Blade: Trinity, Jumper, The Unborn, and Ghost Rider 2. Let's take a closer look at some screens from The Dark Knight:
See how the film manages to be dark and colorful at the same time? Both scenes are bathed in a strong blue, with patches of orange (from the flames) or green (from the Joker) to liven up the scene. Compare that to the promo images from Batman v Superman:
Don't adjust your monitor brightness. It's meant to look like that.
All of Superman's colors are faded and washed out, while Batman is nothing but gray. Hell, in Man of Steel, the red S on Superman's chest -- in broad daylight -- was more faded than the Joker's lipstick at night.
"But Cracked, what's so bad about gray?" you plead (while listening to Macy Gray and reading The Picture of Dorian Gray). The problem is that the color gray makes us sad. And nobody goes to a comic book movie to feel sad, even if they did knowingly watch Green Lantern. But don't tell that to DC, because they're going all-in with the horrible bleakness, even for Superman ...
#1. They Don't Understand Why Superman Is Important
Remember when Snyder directed Watchmen? That at least made some sense. Snyder does bleak films, and Watchmen was supposed to be a cynical look at the limits of superheroes in the real world. But then they unleashed Snyder on Man of Steel, and that's how we ended up with a bunch of "realistic" gobbledygook about interplanetary genocide.
So now that they've got Snyder determining the general tone of all the film versions of their superheroes, DC's doubling down on the dark-n-gritty. This may work for Batman, but this will kill Superman faster than a Kryptonite enema. Take a look at this screenshot from Superman: The Animated Series, which ran from 1996 to 2000:
The series is colorful and optimistic because Superman is an inherently optimistic character. Superman's always been the everyman people's champion who can do anything and right any wrong while never stooping to the bad guys' level. His earliest nemeses were corrupt public officials and landlords. (And let's not forget that his archenemy, Lex Luthor, is an evil CEO.)
And when you embrace this characterization of Superman, it's not impossible to have the hero address serious issues. Here's one of the greatest Superman moments of all time. It's a perfect, self-contained scene from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 2005 comic book series, All-Star Superman:
You couldn't spare one minute of this from the 90 minutes set aside for destruction porn?
Superman is the ultimate aspirational hero we wish we could have and could be. And without further ado, Snyder's opinion of that particular line of thought:
I think that, honestly, the thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, you know? How tightly they cling to those ideas ... I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt, and it's not fun or funny. And I guess for me, it was like I wanted a hero in Superman that was a real hero and sort of reflected the world we live in now.
Yup, Snyder noticed that Americans love the idealized, heroic Superman, and his response is to give us the exact opposite thing. He actually said that Superman is not supposed to be fun.
By the way, Superman killing Zod? That was Snyder's idea too.
Look, we already have enough harrowing shit in our lives. America is one of the most depressed nations on the planet. And DC Comics, we don't need you invoking 9/11 in a fucking Superman film. We need a dose of optimism, and you need to stop getting your asses handed to you by a raccoon nobody knew the name of three months ago.