The footage of Superman released at Comicon has been descried as darker. The poster for the movie has a Superman mostly hidden in shadow. The director, Zack Snyder, said the following, “A lot of the time, Superman is always this kind of big blue Boy Scout up on a throne,” he said. “We tried to make him within reach.”
There have been a lot of portrayals of Superman over the years. The earliest comics reflected the pulp roots of comics and featured a Superman that was far less gentle with criminals. Later comics had a Supes who was a bit of the practical joker and sometimes the jokes were a bit cruel. The most recent comic reinvention has a Superman who is more rebellious and angry.
But Superman isn’t dark. He’s the light. People look at the good guy in the first movie and say, “That worked because it was a simpler time.” Baloney. That same year saw the release of Deer Hunter, Halloween, The Omen II, Jaws II and Debbie does Dallas. It was decades after Film Noir gave us tortured heroes in film – and gangsters such as James Cagney were around even longer. People knew dark, but they decided that Superman was not that.
Everyone worries about Superman being relatable. He isn’t. Jimmy Olsen is relatable. Superman is the example – the paragon. But you can still care about Superman. The tie is that he cares about the people and the world around him. It has to be shown and be honest. That is how to make people like him and become invested in his struggles.
Not every story can be told with Superman. That is just the way it is. Find those stories that work with the character you’ve got and tell those.
Darkness sells movies. But good movies also sell movies. Give that a shot.
(Principal filming of the movie is already done and it is in post-production. It is too late for feedback. Plus I’m reading a lot into marketing and some comments on the ‘net. They could be wrong.)