I find myself thinKing about your stuff; the thing I like best about “Moral Premise” is it’s the book to turn to when you’re suddenly asking, “Why am I writing this again?”
It seems to me that all the “myth” movies, from Superman to Spiderman to Batman to Iron Man to Gladiator to Matrix all are about the responsibility of saving everyone when you have the power.
I just read an outline for Gladiator, and I could see that Maximus (Russel Crowe) wants “nothing to do with politics” but gets pulled into a battle with evil. It’s like the Edmund Burke quote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Is this the point of all these movies?
Is my moral premise:
“Running away from evil leads to disaster and isolation; butFacing and fighting evil leads to victory and freedom and togetherness”?
I guess my question is, do I have no wiggle room here? Should I embrace that moral premise, and stop wondering why I’m writing this???
I think most of the “super” stories can be defined by a moral premise that you articulated. But in such clear cut hero/villain stories I think there are dual moral premises that are related to a foundational one, like what you suggest. We might call these “secondary” moral premise statements, which are organically related to the foundational one. But it’s the secondary premise that is more likely to connect to non-super human audiences.
But in both cases the values in conflict must be universal … if you want to avoid niche audiences.
What you wrote:
Running away from evil (isolationism) as a value to find happiness vs. Fighting evil (engagement) as a value that leads to happiness...
...is the proverbial FLIGHT v FIGHT dilemma. It is definitely a universal concept that appears at all levels of the humanity condition. It's evident in (a) a confrontation I witness on a street corner between a pimp and a whore, or (b) the Bush Foreign Policy Doctrine vs. the Obama Foreign Policy Doctrine. Fight or flight is everywhere and the answers are not easily answered.
You are perfectly safe keeping this simple and direct moral premise as the heart of your story, if that is what you focus on.
But you can give your story more personal and human death by looking deeper into the “human” story that exists in the “super human” diegesis.
THE INCREDIBLES is also about:
Battling adversity alone leads to weakness and defeat;
but Battling adversity as a family leads to strength and victory.
BLIND SIDE (yes it’s about fight vs. flight) is also about:
Courage to do what is difficult but foolish leads to dishonor; but
but Courage to do what is difficult and wise leads to honor.
SUPERMAN II (1980) is also about:
Pretending to be someone we’re not leads to fragility; but
Being whom we were made to be leads to superlatives.
DARK KNIGHT (2008) is also about:
Revengeful, self-service leads to nihilistic desperation; but
Sacrificial public service leads to purposeful hope.
And there are manny other examples.
So, I think your fight or flight is a good place to start, but I think you can also go deeper, to another layer, that will give the basic “super” movie an even more “human” connection that everyone in the audience will get. Not everyone will get “saving the world” because they can’t. But the secondary moral premise (exampled above) are value dilemmas we all deal with.
This moral identification is one of the 20+ techniques filmmakers and authors use to get audiences/readers to identify with their characters on a physical, emotional, and moral level.
Since you have been writing "short" stories for years, and your material is well accepted by the mainstream public, (if I were you at this point), I’d just write it and see if a moral premise (at the secondary level) doesn’t pop out later on. Don’t feel you have to figure it out beforehand. That can be a hinderance. Trust your instinct.