Up, Up, But Still Close By
How the pilot to the new Superman show differs from the SnyderVerse, and how it's kinda similar too.
“Hi, Lois Lane. Welcome to The Planet.” - Man of Steel
The finale to the Christopher Nolan produced, Zack Snyder sci-fi superhero film Man of Steel, bleeds ok enough into Superman lore. Of course, I’m not meaning the climax, where an all too unnecessarily epic fight of sheer destruction and obliteration occurs, ending in a neck snap heard around the world (the snap did bear some dramatic weight at least), but the closing sequence, when Clark Kent arrives at The Daily Planet. Granted, this version of his journalist persona is more a hunk with glasses than the awkward personality he’s typically introduced as having, but it works all the same. He’s found his place in this world, and is ready to get started.
The opening to the new CW TV show Superman & Lois works extraordinarily as a primer for who Clark was, is, and has become - all without the flash of a two-and-a-half-hour action overload. We go from spaceship discovery to upbringing to the first appearance as a hero to marriage to present, with a most wholesome voiceover from the man himself. Roughly five minutes into its first episode, and we believe a man can fly all over again. Not to suggest that this will be the same or better than the Christopher Reeve series…
Man of Steel’s a movie, yes, and has different expectations, sure. Cinema can be bombastic as it’s on a bigger screen than television, which can be serialized and has to grab attention between commercials in more dramatic ways. Totally understandable, but they’ll be compared for depiction all the same.
SnyderVerse v ArrowVerse? Not completely.
A 4 hour cut of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is coming to HBO MAX soon, and the teaser trailers that have been released appear to suggest a more aggressively bleak picture than the theatrical cut, which was a shabbily put together wreck, at least in terms of Superman, post-death and present resurrection. All over Snyder’s version of the Man of Tomorrow, there’s wall-to-wall religious allegory and symbolism that scream with the force of a hammer hitting a head, and this new Justice League will likely not let up. It would be tiring if it weren’t so profound in its persistence, but silly it remains.
In our first episode, Superman & Lois presents our hero and renegade journalist team in family mode, reckoning with the turmoil and rewards of raising twin teens, navigating a flailing job market for writers and newspeople, and saving the world from time to time. There is a weight constantly on Clark, a man who feels needed at every moment, but by contrast to Snyder’s Batman v Superman, it doesn’t have an air of apologetic burden. He’s happy to help, ecstatic even, but does have personal problems as anyone would. And that balance of responsibility with a near all-powerful individual takes on a new angle when he becomes a husband and a parent. There’s something relatable here.
Batman v Superman has a montage where Superman is being a hero, usually in biblically lit slow-motion, looking exhausted and sorry. He even drags a boat through ice, with an anchor on his shoulders. One event after another, his spreading of hope is more a campaign in living a dour fate. He doesn’t dread his position, but maybe is confused at everyone’s criticism of him, good and bad. He can’t quite figure us out, and ultimately finds a second wind through the one person that does figure with him, Lois. He’ll sacrifice himself for her, and for the world too.
How are these depictions similar? Are they at all?
They take place in different stages of Superman’s life and show him in wildly different scenarios, but the show does share some heart with its more blunt counterpart. Both costumes look alike, for starters. There are lens flares and reaches for epicness here and there. Surface level, mostly.
The one major common thread is Lois and his relationship with her. In Batman v Superman, Lex Luthor pushes Lois off a building. Immediately, Superman flies across the world to catch her safely. In Superman & Lois, as he’s falling from space with kryptonite embedded in his chest, he hears a beacon initiated by Lois. He’s revived and, without hesitation, pulls the shard out of his body and makes it home as Clark.
Why did Lois call him? Their sons were in trouble. Superman, falling to potential death, was brought back for a family emergency. No matter the action pieces or the extravagant overload of style, the Snyderverse does understand the attachment and affection these two characters share for each other, and the Arrowverse understands how to show a “you are my world” moment without having to say it.
In all likelihood, if the bigger movies were to do the family story, there’d be some Cain and Able arc going on. In all likelihood, if the show were to do some high-stakes action, it’d be on a much simpler and smaller level. One extreme is better than the other for audiences, so it’s up to you dear readers to choose your preference. Where Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and the teasers for the new Justice League cut go large and in charge, Superman & Lois would never trade Earth for the sky. It wouldn’t and shouldn’t have to, as there’s room for both. More than enough room.
“No one ever dreams of the problems, but every life has them - even the extraordinary ones.” - Superman & Lois: Pilot
Both movie quotes from Lois are excellent, but one is sweet and to the point, while the other breathes deeper and lingers longer.
Take your pick.
Based out of “Hollywood South” New Orleans, Bill Arceneaux has written about movies and moviegoing for publications like Big Easy Magazine, Film Threat, Bayou Brief, Occupy, DIG Baton Rouge, OffBeat Magazine, The Hammond Daily Star, and others since 2011. A member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and Rotten Tomatoes approved, his favorite films range from APOCALYPSE NOW to ROMAN HOLIDAY, depending on which way the wind blows. Find out about his latest exploits on Twitter at @BillReviews!