Richard Donner Had Some Strong Opinions About The DCU's Superman

Richard Donner Had Some Strong Opinions About The DCU's Superman
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Superman was written as the archetype of a hero that stood for "truth, justice, and the American way." The DCU's recent take on the hero has let that slip away, and the director who first brought Superman to the big screen took offense to that.

Richard Donner directed 1978's Superman: The Movie, often regarded as the film that set the original standard of superhero flicks. A few years before his death in 2021, he gave his opinion on the current state of Superman.

He said that overall, filmmaking is in "strange, dark days" – but Superman was meant to be different. He was a hero, a "fantasy" that fans still believed in.

"He's not treated like that anymore."

The insult seemed obviously directed at Zack Snyder's version of Superman in the DCU played by Henry Cavill.

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Snyder has a distinct, cynical style of filmmaking, one that was perfectly suited for his Watchmen movie in 2009. Superheroes weren't all that heroic; they were gritty and dark and gloomy. They were egotistical criminals who often resorted to cold-blooded murder.

He took that mindset (to a lesser extent) into Man of Steel, the first movie of the DCU. Superman snapped necks, leveled cities, and battled his demons as he dealt with the consequences of his battles.

When asked about his grim heroes in 2019, he didn't mince words: "Wake the f*** up."

He considered it idealistic to want innocent heroes who never lie or steal or kill. He thinks those fans are living in a "dream world."

To Donner, that's exactly what superheroes are meant to be – a fantasy.

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This new take on Superman (and the rest of the Justice League) has divided fans. Some like that their heroes are now flawed and deal with emotional turmoil over their choices. Other fans agree with Donner's thinking; superhero movies are meant to be an escape into a fantasy.

Snyder isn't the first author of Superman content to take a darker approach. The 1990s comic series Death of Superman is an obvious example. Injustice – a comic prequel to the video game of the same name – made Superman into a terrifying villain.

Donner's opinions on the character might be coming from a long-gone era. This might just be the modern take on superheroes; gone are the days of a fantastical Superman fighting solely for "truth, justice, and the American way."

However, Snyder hasn't returned after the failure of Justice League, Cavill is officially out as Superman, and DC's direct competitor in Marvel continues to dominate the industry with fantastical characters in a "dream world."

Donner might have had a point.