What would Superman do? A question probably everyone has heard and/or asked at least once in their lifetime.
I’m no different. Superman around my childhood wasn’t about the hero he truly was, it was about his strength and the fact that he wore trunks on the outside. Ever since “Action Comics no.1,” Superman was an icon for a good physicality. I’d watch a ton of Bollywood action films where the stars would probably call themselves Superman because of the daring action sequences. My introduction was pretty much the same with the occasional taunting of trunks.
However, because of being so much into the idea of him, my dad brought me a VCD of Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, which were a major obsession for me.
After having a visual idea of who Superman was and how strong he truly is, my dad would, without actually knowing the phrase, use it still to motivate me to take good care of myself.
“It’s cold. Superman would wear an extra jacket to stay warm,” my dad would exclaim. “You want to be like Superman? Well, he eats vegetables. You gotta do the same.”
In many ways, my father defined Superman for me. He is completely oblivious of the hero and yet somehow managed to give me the idea of him and, after all these years, when I look back, I believe that is how he truly became an icon.
But icons don’t last without evolution. Today, I possibly wouldn’t see Superman or any other hero the same way as I did a long time ago. I’m evolving and I’d expect no less from my heroes. Back in the day, it was one episode at a time. Now, it has evolved to one arc at a time, which is great considering how cinema isn’t being limited to one thing but rather trying to play around with the same thing in a much bigger sandbox.
When “Man of Steel” came out, I was too young to acknowledge the fact that the story was about Superman. I’m used to him being in action sequences and stories around seven minutes long. Why am I being forced to see half an hour of unnecessary Krypton sequences and no Superman for at least about an hour or so into the movie? So, it was pretty evident back then, for me, that I was not ready.
Another two years passed by. I was more active on Facebook, which is where I first learned about “Batman vs. Superman.” Back then, it was just Spider-Man and Batman (obviously). I’d love the discussions around Ben Affleck’s casting as the new Batman and what it truly meant for Bale. I’d create short stories centered on Bale because I believed he’d always be my Batman, and if given the chance, how would I bring the character to life? This was all before I was introduced to “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” My intellectual enlightenment was nigh!
I remember being blown away by how amazing and dark the “Batman vs. Superman” trailer felt. I knew I’d watch it from day one. And before I actually saw the film, as I had never seen “Man of Steel” completely, I had no idea that Henry Cavill was Superman, or, as a matter of fact, who Cavill was.
More than likely, I never watched “Man of Steel” because of the bootleg version I saw. But when “BvS”Batman vs. Superman” came out, that truly was the moment (I’d say) I was blown away by a film. I felt a sensation that wasn’t pure joy but rather a sense of satisfaction one expects from a real story.
It was playing at my local theater, a single screen called “Cinemax,” in a dubbed Hindi version. My fifteen-year-old self was totally blown away in awe of the amazing visuals and I never expected how amazing and grounded superhero movies could truly be.
Months went by, and the extended edition came out. The only means I had to watch it were torrents. And I got a really great-quality version of it. Back then, it was the most storage-consuming film I’d had. I’d watch it over and over again with true obsession. Then one day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who also loved Henry as Superman, and he asked me what I thought of “Man of Steel.” Me, vaguely remembering the 144p version I once saw long ago, instantly badmouthed the film. That led to a minor disagreement. Back home, I thought about the conversation and realized that it was very senseless of me to argue without having seen the film. As a result, I was introduced to the film, which is now a ten-year-old grown-up baby!
Time went by, and my obsession for the two films increased exponentially. And then came the Justice League trailer. The most ecstatic I’d ever been for a DC film I hyped it all day and all night on Facebook and in real life and rightfully earned the title of “nerd.” Then came my phase of engaging in fan wars and arguments. Marvel versus DC. Quantity versus quality
Then “Justice League” (2017) was released. I attended the first day’s first showing at a theatre called Inox, which is now Inox Megaplex, an IMAX theatre, now my favorite hangout place. Back then, it was okay. Unfortunately, they had technical issues because of which I was forced to watch the opening sequence of Superman five painfully horrible times. The movie turned out to be okay. I came out of the theatre happy, but there was no sensation of satisfaction. There was no sense of awe, and definitely no sense of reward for waiting for almost a year for this film.
After a few days, rumors spread that there was a director’s cut with all of the incredible scenes and character arcs that director Zack Snyder had planned for the film. Reddit leaks started flowing in, and #ReleaseTheSnyderCut became an active entity of its own. I was proud to be a part of this. I’d talk about it with my friends for hours, and they’d think I was truly some kind of hopeless romantic for believing in something. But I never stopped.
Life happened. My career was going in unexpected directions (it still is), and I was experiencing emotional changes. I wasn’t sure what it was that was making me feel so immature and naive. What was it that was causing me to avoid people all of a sudden? I felt lonely. I shut myself off from everyone. That’s when Zack Snyder posted on Vero about a fan competition to see who could provide the best analysis of his film.
I did not understand at all what he was talking about. Film analysis? What is that? How does one do that? I wanted some sort of reward; that’s truly what I started with. But I couldn’t find anything since I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. Then the submissions came in, and I read how people had brought in their Easter eggs and mythological and philosophical findings. I was surprised. Truly. I had to know for myself. So, I’d take my discovery and watch the film while keeping that in mind, and so on. Within a month or so, my perspective on the movie changed. I no longer saw it as a regular superhero film. I was enjoying the process of understanding what it truly means to be human through a film about an alien existing in a world where everything seems broken.
After a while, I started engaging in these fan wars, and there I’d find problems that the haters would bring up. I knew one thing, frankly: if I don’t get it, I can’t defend it. So, in order to understand what it truly was about Superman that stimulated people, I started reading comics, and along with that, I wanted to understand how Zack Snyder’s filmography worked.
So, I bought a couple of Blu-rays and a Watchmen comic book trade, my first ever contribution towards something I love. I started finding things that blended in with the film’s motive. I started making notes in my broken English. I watched even more things. Not just superheroes, but also films. to understand how intellectual films truly worked. After a while, I started my own page (@thefilmmemer) just to have my words recorded. They kept evolving as my understanding of the film evolved. It helped me understand other films too, and most importantly, it became the reason why I started looking at Marvel from an emotional and intellectual perspective and started appreciating the themes presented therein.
After a point, if these films were to become my favorites, I had to have faith in them. And so, that was it. I trusted the films and challenged them with everything I could. From the most nave complaints to the most mind-boggling ones, to my surprise, they survived every wave. No matter what the question was, they had an answer for it. It somehow felt like my own personal Bhagavad Gita. These films had every answer to my questions and, after a point, I started feeling as if I were a part of the film as a whole. My insecurities slowly started disappearing. I learned the importance of self-love. I became emotionally stronger. And from someone who used to consider himself to be alone, I discovered true friends. The type that stayed. This path of self-discovery was important for me because it made me realize that, if the most powerful being in the universe can find it difficult and still find a way out, then so can I.
I found the answer to a question that’s been around my whole life. I found my purpose in life. I learned to believe, and all of this was truly rewarded when Zack Snyder’s justice league was announced. I wasn’t screaming. I’m the silent type. But internally, I had never felt this sense of victory ever before.
It pays to believe in something. As a final note to this letter of gratitude for the film that laid the groundwork for my journey of self-discovery, I’d like to thank Zack Snyder for making it all possible.
Thank you for giving me the answer to the question – What would Superman do?
He’d simply, be.