When Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel released into theaters, it marked a new direction for the character. On the surface, there were certain changes such as Superman no longer sporting the red trunks while Superman also had a body akin to a bodybuilder vs a swimmer. Altogether, this fit with Snyder’s vision for a Superman movie asking the audience to go deeper than simple good vs evil. This was present in Man of Steel, with a major theme being the debate of nature vs nurture.
On Krypton, the next generation of citizens are genetically designed and programmed to fit a certain role in society. This is why Kal-El aka Superman is special from the start of the film, as he’s a result of the first natural birth in many generations of Krypton. This gives Kal-El the opportunity to not have his life determined by his genetics thus providing him with free will. This comes to play multiple times throughout his life as he journeys to discover who he wants to be in the world vs simply following a pre-determined route, unlike Zod.
With Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder introduced different themes as characters such as Batman and Lex Luthor entered the narrative. Out of the many themes present, a theme that interested me was god vs man. Other interpreted it as an overall commentary of absolute power which also checks many of the same”boxes” off.
When talking about god vs man, the movie does a blatant job of showing how people across the world view Superman as a savior-type figure. On the other side of perspectives, Lex Luthor views Superman as not only a powerful figure but as a god unable to be “all good.” Lex doesn’t think humanity can join the gods in the sun, which is a contradiction to what Jor-El told Kal-El. Instead, Lex is determined to bring the gods down to the level of man. Characters such as Batman become insecure as they begin to feel powerless in a world of gods among men. It’s interesting to see how Batman and Lex start with essentially the same viewpoint of Superman, aiming to make him appear less “godly” yet only Batman sees the error in his ways.
Another interesting part of the films, partially overlooked by many, is the importance of Lois Lane’s character. In Man of Steel, she’s the first human outside of Clark’s family to not distrust him or view him as a freak. She instead comes to know him, and they eventually fall in love. By the time we watch Batman V Superman, Lois is the emotional core of who Clark is. This is highlighted when Clark has a vision of his father, Jonathan Kent.
During the vision, Jonathan tells him the story about how he lost faith in the world after having to decide between saving his farm or the Lang’s farm. Jonathan has this pessimistic view of the world until he meets Martha, who becomes his joy and “light” in the darkness. This relates to Clark as Lois not only becomes his heart and joy but also his true tether to humanity and who he is. Lois was there and helped him on his journey to becoming Superman and likely what kept Clark going after a bad day.
Now we enter the details Zack Snyder recently confirmed about the original version of Justice League before Warner Bros. demanded rewrites. In this version, Darkseid is able to kill Lois Lane, suggested to be pregnant, causing Superman to become vulnerable to the Anti-Life Equation. Through the Anti-Life Equation, Superman becomes a powerful enforcer of Darkseid similar to the evil Superman seen in Earth 2.
In the comics, the Anti-Life Equation is a mathematical formula that allows the user to eliminate the free will of any sentient being. The full formula is loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side.
When reviewing each part of the equation, it’s interesting to note that Snyder had introduced each part to Superman since Man of Steel including the concept of free will. Having Superman controlled by Darkseid with the Anti-Life Equation in a way is ironic. There were early reports that Darkseid desired Superman as the codex in his body was the key to completing the Anti-Life Equation. There’s no confirmation of that but having Superman confront each aspect of the Anti-Life Equation in order to defy it would bring a thematic satisfaction to the character’s journey.
In order for Superman to defeat Darkseid and defy the Anti-Life Equation, he would have to reclaim his self. This would end the movie with a Superman fully embracing of who he is and a fully formed Justice League. In a way, it would make a new era for the character within the DCEU as he’d have a fresh start narratively. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Lois wouldn’t die in the new timeline started by The Flash’s time travel shenanigans meaning Lois and Clark could start their family as well.
Comment with your thoughts below. Would you have liked to see this journey for the DCEU Superman? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll see you on the next editorial!