By Kyanna Ouyang
Surprise, surprise. Superman is alive.
Yeah...we all saw that coming. The thing is, if he didn’t miraculously return from the dead, that would have been the biggest surprise DC has yet to offer.
For one, 2016’s Batman v Superman signed its own death warrant with that wholly unemotional finale—seriously, DC, why can’t you just let the dead rest in peace? Those pieces of vibrating s***—I mean, dirt—completely undercut any possibility of pathos in his absolutely mournful funeral scene. I walked out of that theatre not grieving Clark Kent, but the superhero film industry.
Yes, we understand, a Justice League movie without Superman is like a Disney film without a Prince Charming...oh, wait, ever heard of Moana? Ok, like Star Wars without Han Solo—do remind me, what happened in The Force Awakens? My point? DC needs to leave the stone age of the never-ending franchise where no one Ever. Really. DIES.
The complete inability to die is plaguing the blockbuster world, and what’s dying instead? Our sense of excitement, that rush of adrenaline, followed by a plummeting heart, sorrow tugging at our emotions that are too seldom invoked and all too often buried under the woes of 21st century: mountains of work, Trump, climate change, bees dying (look, if bees dying can stir up such despair, what more evidence does DC need to see that their fans are desperate for a good bawl?)
Superheroes are dropping dead like flies to this disease of immortality. Those we shed tears over—Loki, Groot, Nick Fury, even Batman—have all made miraculous recoveries. It’s hard to think of anyone who has remained six feet beneath the ground: Wolverine, a few X-Men, all coincidentally in parallel timelines or the future.
The superhero industry is not the only area of infection; the plague has long afflicted the neighboring industry of action as well. Bond’s invincibility against death might be the staple of his silver screen existence and perhaps the reason for his timelessness in the action corner of cinema, but the key is that he is the first and ideally, the only. The rest of them—Jason Bourne, John McClane, Neo, just to name a few--really don’t deserve that superhuman immunity against death (though Jason Bourne, or rather Matt Damon, has faced worse, namely being trapped on various planets). More recently, WHAT was going on with Colin Firth’s character coming back from hell in Kingsman: the Golden Circle? Seriously? The man was shot point-blank in the face! If somone can be impervious to a bullet through his brain, how can we even bother to care anymore?
It might seem like a catch-22 in this world of never-ending franchises: kill off a character and you might end up with no franchise at all. But it’s a worthy risk to swing the scythe. Han Solo’s tragic death is cause for celebration, as Harrison Ford repeatedly told us, not because we hated Han Solo, but because he was sacrificed to keep the Star Wars franchise real and in contact with the audience’s pent-up emotions. Even better, the complete demolition of the heroes of Rogue One was refreshingly depressing. Jyn and Cassian enwrapped in each other, after finally finding family, love and a home, swallowed by blinding light, imprints in the audience’s tear-filled eyes an image that is arguably more lasting than that of the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin watching in post-death bliss the merry celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi. In summary, go Death, beat Life!
Superman or no Superman, Justice League will likely remain casualty-free. For one, solo movies are already in production: Aquaman is out next year, Wonder Woman 2 in 2019. The extended universe of DC is only just budding. On the other hand, Marvel fans have been pressuring for Iron Man’s death to keep the Marvel catalogue of superheroes dynamic. So, perhaps there’s one surprise we can look forward to.