WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Warner Bros.’ Justice League, in theaters now.
As the DC Extended Universe of movies grew, the audience had one constant in the form of Henry Cavill’s Superman. He was our window character into this dark and dangerous world, from his first appearance in 2013’s Man of Steel. We watched as the Kryptonian found himself on Earth, struggling to find his place in the grand scheme of things, wondering what kind of man he could be for the entire human race. It’s a search for identity and purpose that was carried over into 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, where we witnessed the entire world reacting to the idea of “The Superman.”
Clark Kent spent the better part of this sequel taking the blunt of humanity’s hate. Although he presented himself as nothing but a savior, he was pegged as a an unwelcomed meddling force akin to a god that shifted the entire paradigm of life and power in society. On top of that, his international actions made his relationship with the US government all the more difficult. Dawn of Justice truly presented us with a bleak world, one that was both cynical and judgmental. It was a world wary of saviors, no matter where they came from: the bright skies of Metropolis, or the dark streets of Gotham. This world, where aliens attack and supervillains manipulate the narrative, was one devoid of hope. That is, until the arrival of Justice League.
Near the end of the movie, Lois Lane’s voiceover tells us that we have finally managed to emerge out of the dark, that the world has been saved and that it can now look to the light, an anti-thesis to Bruce Wayne’s grim monologue at the start of Dawn of Justice, when he said that the light was nothing but a lie. When the credits roll on the superhero team-up film, it’s clear that the world these characters live in has been changed. No longer is it the dark and hateful world of movies prior. No longer are the people tied to the ground with their heads hung low. No longer are they desperate. Instead, they now know that they can look to the skies, hopeful for a better world that is entering an age of heroes.
This is a shift that began in the closing moments of Batman v. Superman, and was carried over and deepened in the Wonder Woman film. After Superman sacrificed his life to defeat the unstoppable monster known as Doomsday, the world was left in mourning, finally accepting Superman for the hero he was meant to be. But with him gone, this simple spark had faded into despair, the only possible source of hope for a better tomorrow extinguished by a world that stomped on it repeatedly.
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