Not broken, not alone

In this opinion piece Daily Planet writer Jainam Turakhia shares his thoughts on the "Snyderverse" and how the story it tells is important to him, and others.

It’s been a year since “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” came out and, it not only throws the theatrical release off the game, but also ended up being a global phenomenon. Not only did it change the view of the critics and haters but also had them interested towards the continuation of Zack’s story. 

But what story?

If you’ve been watching Zack’s arc for quite a while you surely would notice the pattern. The inter connected arcs, cohesive tone, etc. But in everything that Snyder had planned, the most impactful was the theme he was putting forward with his vision. A theme of a united world. Today it’s been termed as “dark and edgy” but what does it really mean? Where does it lead us?

“Zack really loves Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey. And these characters are just so mythic, and their journeys – I always say their journeys are what we can relate to. Because we can’t relate to their powers, so what do you have? That’s the great thing about our Superman. He is more relatable. Someone said, ‘It’s so dark,’ and I go, ‘Well, is it dark? He’s going through real problems that we go through as people every day.’”

Deborah Snyder

Superhero films are today’s mainstream media. Ideas and thoughts can reach the fastest throughout the world if put forward via these mediums. That itself shows how much power the genre holds. And as they say, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Superhero films have the responsibility to talk about the issues of the world that people tend to ignore and tend to mess with. 

“But Superheroes are meant for fun!”

Escapism. Sure they’re meant for fun but if every film ends up being fun, where does that lead us? It’d really be a waste of power if it’s never utilized for good. At least, that’s what I understand from today’s superhero culture. The auteurs, apparently, tend to challenge this culture. Talking about real world issues with a fictional touch. Maybe sometimes in a fun way because a general audience still is yet to get used to watching films that aren’t purely meant for popcorn entertainment. Which is understandable considering majority of the films made today are action comedies. Not a complaint but maybe a disappointment for me because mostly, all comic book content looks the same to me now. 

“That’s why maybe I like stepping out of the genre, but then there’s filmmakers who really bring the thought provoking cinema back to the genre. Todd Phillips and Chris Nolan are some of my favorites from DC, and The Russo Brothers, Chloe Zhao, James Mangold on the Marvel side. And then there’s my favorite.” 

Zack Snyder

I love his work, not simply because it’s visually beautiful and dark, but because I feel invested. There’s a theme. There’s something being criticized in those films. There are questions raised and answers being given. Those films don’t fear being challenged. For months, I constantly challenged “Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman” and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” Every decision on these films are weighted. In retrospect, the theme became more and more stronger. I can proudly say on record that the “Snyderverse” has been the most hopeful cinematic arc I’ve ever seen. Yes, hopeful.

How does that even make sense? “Batman vs. Superman” was dark and edgy, right?

Let’s go back to the roots — “Man of Steel.” The establishment itself was about an alien immigrant who was sent to earth from a world where the society had collapsed due to its technological advancements and the fundamental structure as a whole. Every being was born with a pre-determined role in the society with no choice of course correction. How can a society operate without having free will? “What if a child aspired to be something other than what the society had intended for him or her?” That question began our journey with an alien child who had been given all the possible choices given to Kryptonian society via the “codex.” 

Basically giving him an opportunity to be whoever he wants to be. A break in the stereotype. Which apparently, the Snyderverse was. One possibly similar explanation to this decision could be like the climax of “In Time” (2011) by Andrew Niccol. They couldn’t change the system with a small number of years but with a million years they can break it. No one has to die before their time. If time is available in abundance, no one has to fight for another minute. If people have an element of choice, no one has to end up bound with one purpose and one purpose only. It was criticized for being different from its predecessors, but that’s the whole point of it. Not being bound by what came before and simply giving out an original take on it. 

Henry Cavill as Superman in “Man of Steel.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Throughout the film we see Clark question his purpose in the world. His father restricted him because he wanted him to be ready when he chose to do anything. He believed that when the world knew who he really was, it would change everything. Their beliefs, their notions of what it means to be human. Everything. There’s more at stake here than just their lives. It’s the lives of people around him. The reaction from Pete Ross’s mother justified Jonathan’s concern as she credited Clark’s miraculous rescue to divine intervention. Others might fear him. Or hate him. He’s an alien immigrant. The government could be after him. They might try to weaponize him. If he rejected that, they might threaten him or treat him as a threat. 

Jonathan wanted Clark to make his own choice when the time came, whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not. He wanted him to be free. That’s why he died in the tornado scene just so he could convince Clark that he had to wait. He wasn’t ready to come out because even he was waiting for the right time. And then general Zod came. Clark wasn’t sure if humans could be trusted or not. I mean, if you’re going to choose humans against your own kind, you got to be damn well sure you’re confident about it. People of earth would obviously want him to choose them, but Kryptonians are his people too. Clark made a choice to stand with the human race. His biological father’s words, along with the morals of his Earth parents, helped him make that decision. 

Now Zod’s plan was to protect and ensure the survival of Krypton. Earth didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t ready to adapt and co-exist. Superman didn’t agree with this ideology and, hence, he had to stop him. In doing that, he destroyed the last ship that could’ve rebuilt Krypton. Now Krypton is gone and can’t come back. And that destroys Zod’s purpose. And since he has no element of choice, losing his purpose is like losing his soul. And without his soul, he’s just an agent of chaos. Doomsday. Thematically and psychologically speaking, if Superman was raised with the thought that he has to help people no matter what, and like the haters criticize him for questioning his decisions about saving humanity, then the time wouldn’t be far away. He decided what was good and what wasn’t for humans. He eventually ended up being a tyrant. See what I did there?

“Forge a silver bullet against the Kryptonians so the day does not come madam when your children are waiving daisies at a reviewing stand!”

Lex Luthor

So, setting his morals was very important to understand the difference between saving the world and destroying it. 

I will come back to this later with a reference to “Batfleck.”

“You were sent here for a reason and even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.“

Pa Kent, “Man of Steel”

Both of his fathers reasoned their wait as per their ideologies. Jonathan Kent wanted Clark to be what he wants to be but until he’s ready, to stay in hiding. Meanwhile Jor El wanted him to learn what it meant to be human first so that in turn, he can inspire them to be better because if humans went down the same path as the Kryptonians, they could lose their element of choice too. So maybe the reason Kal-El was here was so he could guide them to a better path. And maybe that’s why the entire Snyderverse revolves around his actions.

“The symbol of the house of El means hope. Embodied within that hope is the fundamental belief in the potential of every person to be a force for good. That’s what you can bring them.”

Jor-El

But all of these beliefs blow away in the wind after Clark realizes how much mankind hates him. They’re ready to kill each other just to prove that he is the bad guy. The question arises whether there should be a Superman or not?

For a brief period of time even he starts believing that his life was a bait, that Superman never meant anything. So much doubt and confusion for someone who’s supposed to be the symbol of hope arose. But eventually, he accepts that the world isn’t perfect but if not for this world, he wouldn’t have found his family. Martha and Lois. He accepts everything the world thinks of him and sacrifices himself for the world. 

“It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love”

Oscar Wilde, “An Ideal Husband”

Kryptonians would’ve accepted him and yet he chose the humans, even after all the hate, because he understood the difference between right and wrong. Good and evil. And he understood that people of earth simply are the way they are because of all the history they grew up with. They’re just misguided, but there’s still hope. He believed in humans. He sacrificed knowing that they were worth it — which came into fruition when Bruce Wayne, an almost irredeemable vigilante, redeemed himself. Let’s consider him to be the first person Superman inspired. I say this because Superman represents each and every one of us, and he is the answer to all our questions and our notions.

“The single point at which everything we know and everything we question exist in one place; the ultimate crossroads in the journey of discovering the true meaning of ‘self;’ the collision point of science and religion, tangible and ethereal, physical and philosophical; the place where a question that may never truly have an answer can be embodied in a singular character; in many ways, that is the why of Superman.”

Zack Snyder

When we talk about Bruce Wayne in this world, he is broken and fallen. He still believes in saving the world but his ideology of what humans are has changed ever since he witnessed the black zero. He now thinks of criminals as weeds, “pull one up, another grows in its place.” Which, in a way, defeats the purpose of Batman because he is supposed to believe in people no matter how worse they are. Because he’s been through enough and he believes in a second chance for everyone. But here, we just don’t see it. He’s branding or killing people off who come in his way.

That’s not Batman. He doesn’t see the difference between saving the world and destroying it. Now if we look at this ideology from Superman’s Point of view, he’d have been the same if he wasn’t taught by his parents about what it means to be human. If they hadn’t taught him the difference, then maybe he’d have ended up being a dictator who thinks he’s trying to maintain peace but he’s simply ending up to be a tyrant. So, in a way, Superman overcame what Bruce was going through even without realizing. That’s good parenting on the side of the Kents! 

When Batman saw Superman be selfless he realized that all this time, he was looking at Superman as an enemy of the world, but the same guy just sacrificed himself to save it. He realized how wrong he has been all this time with his perspectives and at that moment, he redeemed himself. Otherwise, we’d have somewhere down the road, ended up with a batman similar to Kevin Conroy’s Batman from CW’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event. An irredeemable vigilante.

Superman helped him redeem himself and in turn, he took it to himself to not let this sacrifice go to waste. He united the defenders of earth, the Justice League that stood against an enemy who believes in everything opposite of what Superman was raised to be. Superman’s existence is based on free will. The choice to be who we want to be rather than what society wants us to be. On a larger scale, Darkseid wants to take away that free will which makes him the perfect opponent of Superman. And with Bruce sacrificing himself, Superman ends up being a fully unleashed beacon of hope who unites the world against this tyrant. He made them believe that no matter how difficult it is, we are never truly alone in the world. We are sure as hell not broken. Hence we have a Joseph Campbell quote written on his crest:

“Where we had thought to stand alone, we shall be with all the world”

Superman’s suit on display at last years AT&T Discovery District in Dallas, Texas “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” exhibit. Photo by Jason Laboy

This all comes down to when cyborg is offered the power of the motherbox while he is communicating with them. The motherboxes understand his fears and weaknesses and tricks him by offering him a way out that will unite him with his parents and he wouldn’t have to be broken or alone anymore. To this, Victor realizes that ever since Diana met him, his life hasn’t been the same. She left mankind because she thought they were irredeemable but she’s trying to love again. Flash, someone who was playing it under the belt, is unleashing himself even though he doesn’t know if he’ll survive it, all because he realizes his responsibility and he knows that his heroes (i.e. his father and Superman) would have wanted the same from him.

Ever since they came in together Victor Stone realized that he’s not just a Cyborg, he’s human and he matters. He doesn’t have to feel alienated because he’s different. It’s a privilege to be different and it’s a bigger privilege to be with people who love you and respect you for that. He isn’t meant to be grounded. Flight is his nature. Superman, all his life, was judged for being different but he overcame it and decided to be the bigger man, and that’s how he became the hero. It’s Victor’s chance now. And he is not ready to give up. So he takes a stand and destroys the motherboxes by countering them and acknowledging that he’s not broken and not alone. 

“Snyderverse” speaks out for literally anyone and everyone who’s facing problems in life. Who is angry, sad and depressed. Who is an immigrant and feels unsafe, who is different from the usual crowd and feels unfit for society because the society is too orthodox to accept them. Who isn’t making it through. 

The “Snyderverse” speaks for all of them through Superman. It’s okay to have emotions. It’s okay to have doubts and fears. It’s okay to be different. But what matters is that you don’t give up. You owe it to yourself to fight back. The world is messed up, but it still has hope if you choose to not give up. Every person has the potential to be a force for good. And what’s more hopeful than that? 

Loving, accepting and being proud of who we are — and rising with that belief! That’s what Superman means and that’s what the “Snyderverse” means. So, whatever happens, never, even for once, think about giving up. The world would be much better with you in it. Even if you are messed up. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. If Superman can do it, then so can you. 

Jainam Turakhia

Jainam Turakhia has been a fan of DC for as long as he can remember, but what really tickles his inner creativity is Zack Snyder's vision for the DC Universe. From there Turakhia has traveled to a lot of destinations exploring works of other artists who make movies or write books/comics. Zack Snyder however, is always his hometown. He loves watching, and analyzing, anything and everything. Still a student from India studying Chartered Accountancy, Turakhia's passion for stories doesn't seem to end.

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