First of all, I guess we should remember that we’re talking about a stray comment from a teenage actor. But fan sites on the Internet today were ablaze with reaction to a quote from actor Dylan Sprayberry, who plays a younger version of Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent character in director Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” movie:
“When Zack [Snyder] and I were talking about it the first time, he was saying how Superman, they want to give it a more edgy feel like ‘The Dark Knight’ but also make it more realistic and emotional so it’s not just the all-american superhero that saves everyone. He has dilemmas and love and struggles throughout the whole movie, especially when he’s a kid.”
Can you guess which word had fans worried?
If you guessed “edgy,” you’re right. Edgy like “The Dark Knight.”
There’s been an undercurrent of concern about the tone of the Superman movie, which comes out in 2013, since producer Chris Nolan — who with the “Dark Knight” movies made Batman a blockbuster character but has added new depths of darkness to the already dark hero — took over the efforts to bring Superman to the big screen.
Bryan Singer’s 2006 “Superman Returns” didn’t completely work, in part because of its slavish devotion to the Richard Donner classic but also in part because of its somber, even moping, tone.
I think we’ve seen that a downbeat Superman movie doesn’t work. The tone just doesn’t fit with the character.
It’s the success of Nolan’s Batman movies — the third of which comes out this summer — that has led us to the point that some people are expecting Snyder’s “Man of Steel” to be dark. And kind of dreading it.
Make no mistake, there’s some angst to the classic Superman character. He is — at least in many versions of his story, but not all — the only survivor of his planet. He is, literally, a stranger in a strange land. There’s a reason he separates himself from the rest of the planet either by going to the Fortress of Solitude or the depths of space. The guy is lonely.
It is the loneliness that we all feel, at one time or another, even in a crowd. Who hasn’t felt alone and unreachable, even by those around them?
In the current Cartoon Network series “Young Justice,” the Superboy character — the Superman clone from recent comics — is mostly alienated from his companions, is often hostile, and is shunned by Superman himself.
But Superman isn’t a dark character. Not even in the best interpretations, the “Superman” and “Justice League” animated series. In some episodes of those series, Superman is considered suspicious by the U.S. government, even a rogue.
But he’s still Superman. So much so that in “Justice League Unlimited,” Batman chides Superman, noting that the (literally) child-like Captain Marvel is replacing him as the happy-go-lucky member of the League.
“He’s … sunny,” Batman says, intimating that quality is exactly what other League members have always liked about Superman.
So today we have a random comment by a teen actor who’s certainly not setting the tone for “Man of Steel.” He didn’t write the script. He’s not behind the camera.
And we also have some anxiety by longtime Superman fans that their hero — who can, if not properly written and played, seem like a stick-up-his-butt do-gooder prone to noting that airplanes are still the safest way to travel — is being turned into an angst-filled mess, a version of Hamlet in spandex.
We’ve got a year to go until we see if Nolan and Snyder’s “Man of Steel” is dark and edgy.
Regardless of whether their version is or is not, the fact of the matter is that our version — the one we’ve known for three-quarters of a century — is not.
Not dark. Not edgy.