Directed by Michael Chang
Written by Joe Kelly
George Newbern as Clark Kent/Superman
Pauley Perrette as Lois Lane
Robin Atkin Downes as Manchester Black
Superman vs. The Elite is based on the story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way” that was written by Joe Kelly, and appeared in Action Comics #775. I am not certain how much this movie deviates from the comic, because I’ve never read it. Maybe when I read the digital copy that came with the Blu-ray I’ll comment on it. But for now, we’re focusing solely on the movie. And overall, it was a pretty good movie. Maybe one of the best that DC has produced. Spoilers after the break.
It’s a pretty simple story, that you’ve likely have seen bits of before. One of Superman’s villains, in this instance The Atomic Skull, escapes from prison, kills some people, and of course gets captured by Superman and put in prison again. This leads to the debate about whether or not Superman shouldn’t just stop these villains once and for all. You know…kill them. But of course, Superman doesn’t kill anyone. In comes The Elite.
The Elite is a group of British heroes led by a telepathic/telekinetic named Manchester Black. I’ll give you 3 guesses about what they don’t have a problem with. That’s right, killing. They believe that when someone is a threat to people, then they should die. Superman being Superman and all tries to show them that killing is wrong. Of course Superman fails, because it would be a very misleading title had he succeeded. However, after the Atomic Skull escapes again, the general public is in favor of The Elite killing him, which Manchester Black does. The public begins to favor The Elite over Superman, thinking that his ways are obsolete. But Superman stays on The Elite despite the public being for them. The Elite decides that they just need to get rid of Superman so they can do their thing.
It is at this point where the movie starts to go down a bit. The Elite clearly become the bad guys because they strike a clearly confrontational/dictatorship tone. Superman fights them, during the fight, the public sees just how awful The Elite really is, and Superman wins the fight and public perception. I think this ending is weaker than it could have been, because I think it would have been better to not make The Elite the clear villains of the story. To me, a stronger ending would have been to keep The Elite as heroes. Let them kill the bad guys, protect the civilians, and stick with the moral argument of whether or not they should be killing. That argument is the strong point of this movie.
Should heroes kill bad guys? It is a long established trait of Superman and Batman that they don’t kill. Why? Because it is a line that they will not cross because it could take them down a dark path. But if that is the case, then what does that say about heroes that do kill? Are they really not heroes after all? What happens when we translate that thought to the real world?
Editor’s note: the first part of this entry was written on 4/14. The rest of this entry was written after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
And with real world events fresh in our minds, what do you believe? There was a nice, short documentary on the Blu-ray about the morals of Superman. There were two schools of thought being represented. One was that there are certain people that do terrible things, and those people deserve to die. The other school of thought is that everyone is entitled to a trial by jury, and should be sent to prison. Both groups consider their ideas to be justice being served.
I had more to say about the message of the story, but I just don’t have it in me. One of my wife’s cousins finished the race 5 minutes before the bombs went off. Maybe we’ll revisit this issue another time. For now, get on Netflix and watch the movie. It is well worth your time. I will leave with one thought I’ve been having today after seeing some friends’ reactions and their thoughts on a well-publicized filibuster that wasn’t that long ago. If your moral stance doesn’t withstand the test of adversity, then it isn’t much of a moral stance.