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How to Fix the DCEU’s Superman

I remember the first time seeing the teaser trailer for Man of Steel. It was just breathtaking. Mixing great visuals, a musical piece from The Lord of the Rings, and Jor-El’s inspiring speech, it was setting up what looked to be a new era for Superman. But, the film was a bit of a letdown, being very bleak, gloomy, and a deconstruction of Superman’s cultural impact. And Superman, played by Henry Cavill, was morally torn and, well, very, very angsty. This was a new approach to Superman that I had never seen before, and for a while, it was interesting.

Then, he trashed Metropolis, and snapped General Zodd’s neck despite a multitude of alternate ways to defeat him. So much for being the Man of Tomorrow. And don’t get me started on Jonathan Kent’s frankly absurd belief that the world would reject a god-like superhero. And when it turned out aliens were real and walked amongst us earthlings, how did the world react? Was there rioting in the streets? Religious wars? Mass hysteria? The end result was this:

And then, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out and we all know what a train wreck that was. Superman grew increasingly angsty and hypocritical, and always looked utterly miserable when performing feats of heroism. And, then he died, and nobody cared! Why? Because there wasn’t a reason for us to care about the world’s greatest superhero.

Then, he was resurrected in Justice League, a year after the character died, with little fanfare. Aside from the awful CGI bottom jaw, this Superman was suddenly now like his classic, Golden Age persona (“Citizens!” and all that). This was a complete one-eighty for the character, who never learnt to embrace the idealistic destiny Jor-El suggested. Now he’s suddenly acting like Christopher Reeve‘s iconic version of the character.

Now, word on the street is, as posted by The Wrap, that Cavill is supposedly out as Superman, a cameo in Shazam could not agreed upon, and a Supergirl film is being made. There has been no confirmation or statement from Warner Bros., so take this development with a grain of salt. Either way, if Cavill is out, then is that the end of Superman in the DCEU? For now, most likely, unless they do that Flashpoint film as an excuse to reboot everything. How would Superman be treated in whatever plans Warner Bros. have next for the character?

Well, there are a few to consider. For starters, actually make him a likeable character. Cavill was decent as Superman, but was more angsty than heroic. Or do a balance of both, so there is that conflict and humanity to latch on to. Making Superman a boring character is never a good thing. Hence why Clark was the least interesting thing about Smallville. His alter egos of Clark Kent and Superman are meant to remain individually distinct, and not so they blur together. Yeah, the glasses are silly, but it’s a staple of the character’s mythology. Also, for goodness sake, make Jonathan and Martha Kent supportive parents, not paragons of cynicism.

Superman was such a cool character to me growing up, thanks to Lois and Clark, the Reeve films, and the 1990s animated series. He was idealistic, heroic, yet funny and kind. The poster boy for American values. Not some deconstructed gloomy sad sack who trashed cities. He died in what should’ve been a monumental moment in cinematic history, and nobody cared, because there was nothing to care about. And you can’t do that again in a big budget live action Superman film for years to come. We all know the Christ imagery is closely related to Superman’s iconography, but it isn’t detrimental to him as a person. So maybe tone down that imagery for a while.

We already know he is a selfless superhero, and the identity of Clark Kent is necessary for him to live a normal life. He’s a symbol of hope, justice, optimism, decency, and the American way. His motives and ideals should be clear, be comfortable in both of his lives, and he fights bad guys without sacrificing innocent lives. And I apologise for going on and on about this, but Superman’s death in Batman v Superman was meaningless and empty. Optimus Prime got a more heartfelt send-off.

Aside from correcting his character, it really would be great if they explored Superman’s lore a little more. Aside from the iconic look, there’s more to Superman than the cape. Lois Lane could probably carry her own movie, and is a big part of Superman’s world. But so are his parents, Smallville, the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. Come to think of it, Lois and Clark focused entirely on those things.

Throw in some more “out there” ideas that Marvel has proudly embraced. Kryptonite should be included, but what about the various shades of it? Have some other characters show up like Lana Lang, Pete Ross, or even Krypto. Supergirl would also be welcome. There’s a Kryptonian monkey named Beppo, who snuck aboard Kal-El’s ship and landed on Earth with him. Heck, put him in too!

And then there are the villains. Lex Luthor and General Zodd have been the most recurring in the various films, and some variety wouldn’t hurt. Seriously, can we please recast Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg‘s performance was all over the place. Bring back Michael Rosenbaum. He was amazing as Lex in Smallville. Then there is Brainiac, commonly portrayed as the one responsible for destroying Krypton. That’s a good jumping off point. Other notable villains include Bizarro, Cyborg Superman, Jax-Ur, Lobo, Metallo, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Parasite, and Toyman. The list goes on. Darkseid would probably show up sooner or later, though he would be more suitable for a Justice League movie.

I don’t really want to suggest replacement for Henry Cavill if he is truly out of the DCEU. I thought he was alright, but sadly wasted. He has been in other, better roles. My favourite has to be in The Tudors as Charles Brandon, an honour-bound but troubled man. Why was Cavill’s version of Superman so all over the place?

And he does seem to be continuing the “curse” of portraying Superman, bringing misfortune to them. Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, and Christopher Reeve are exclusively associated with the role, struggling to find work afterward. And when was the last time Dean Cain, Brandon Routh, or Tom Welling appeared in the spotlight? If Cavill is to be replaced, his successor should be someone who embodies the key traits of Superman, but should bring their own fresh take on the hero. That, and need a good script and story to not make Superman boring again.

And, bring in John Williams’ iconic Superman theme song from the Reeve movies. Danny Elfman mixed into his score for Justice League as a dark reprise. It is an important part of Superman’s film legacy. Does anyone remember the theme of Man of Steel like they for the previous films?

How do you think that Superman should be handled in the DCEU? Who should replace Henry Cavill if he has hung up his cape? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell

1 Comment

  • I don’t agree with everything here, but I do agree that superman is in a pretty low place right now.

    I would prefer if they ‘rehabilitated’ him in an emotionally honest way, if in the next superman movie they gave him an arc where he changed realistically into the version of supes we wanted to see in a way that made some logical sense. But we all know thats not going to happen. . . it’s been 40 years since Supes had a movie everyone liked. I’m almost certain it’s going to be another 40 before he gets another one. He’s just too hard to get right, and everyone other than Donner who’s tried has failed. I would prefer we never get another Superman movie ever again rather than deal with the fan agonizing everytime someone tries and fails.