One of the biggest criticisms I hear from people who hate on comic book movies (specifically, any movie that isn’t made by Marvel Studios) is the lack of adherence to canon. Don’t get me wrong, I think that having respect for the original creator’s vision of a character is important, if only to honor the work they’ve done, but other than that, I have to ask… who honestly cares?
“Suicide Squad,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Fantastic Four,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…” It’s a pretty long list, one filled with box office hits and bombs alike, and almost all of them throw canon out the window (a move that continually invites endless criticism from diehard fans). The thing about these movies, though, is that for the uninitiated, they’re almost all incredibly fun to watch.
Batman and Superman
A prime example of anti-canon poopooing is the portrayal of Batman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Batman has canonically taken a strong stand against the whole killing thing, attributing his non-lethality to his superhuman-like expertise in martial arts; but in this movie, he kills a lot of bad guys.
The thing is, though, if this movie was the first appearance of Batman as a character, nobody would have batted an eye at his brutality. He would have been just another badass, brooding protagonist like all the others we enjoy watching kick some ass.
The portrayal of Superman in “Man of Steel” follows the same thread of thought as well. Superman is too brutal. He, like Batman, has canonically been a non-murdery fellow, but the DC Extended Universe has chosen to take a darker path with their movies. The level of violence and destruction happening as a direct result of its heroes is unusually high, which has fans feeling a bit betrayed, but again, the lack of adherence to canon isn’t the same thing as lack of quality.
Retroactive Continuities and Parallel Universes
If you live in a world where canon is law, retcons and multiverses are a pain in the ass. What once was true is often thrown into disarray with retcons. If this “retcon” is a new phrase to you, the basic idea behind a retcon is that writers have an interesting plan for a story that doesn’t fit in the current incarnation of a universe (or the current social and political climate), so they rewrite history.
The multiverse concept is just as head-spinning as retcons are. In the example of DC comics, the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze Age superheroes all existed in different universes (keep in mind that this fact is a lot more complicated now thanks to… retconning). Multiverses are a convenient way to start each character over from scratch and try something new. Sometimes that something new sticks, and that particular trait continues on into the next incarnation of that character, and sometimes it doesn’t (is Aquaman a man, or an Atlantean? I forget).
Because of the existence (and frequency) of retcons and multiple universes, I have to ask, why should anyone bother arguing over canon if the people in charge of maintaining it aren’t even willing to do so? The number of characters that have died and undied is baffling at this point. Don’t even get me started on what Marvel has done to Wolverine over and over and over (and over).
In the end, these are just stories, meant to entertain. Introducing new variations of your favorite characters doesn’t change the versions you know and love, it simply provides a new way for a different demographic to enjoy them. So, let Batman kill some thugs. Sure, it’s not the morally upright Batman I know and love, but it’s still a Batman I enjoy the hell out of watching.