There’s been a lot of talk going around the internet about a rumor that Warner Brothers doesn’t believe a solo Superman movie can be successful.
Which is completely divorced from reality, as a solo Superman film can absolutely be a success. WB just needs to not repeat past mistakes and not be afraid to do something new, while at the same time embracing what Superman is and not trying to drastically change him into something they think would “resonate” more. Superman has been around for eighty-five years. He resonates fine. He’ll be around long after the people currently in charge of WB mess up some movie slate and bail out in a golden parachute. Superman is also bigger than petty Hollywood ego politics, and WB needs to realize that.
Here are some key ways they can make Superman successful again, if they’re not afraid to try them:
Be Inspired By Donner, But Don’t Copy
As good as Superman: Returns is, one of its biggest problems was trying to continue a movie series that began twenty-five years before its release. That plays to nostalgia, but it alienated a large portion of the potential audience who had no connection to those films. You can mine the Donner films for inspiration both on screen, in terms of the themes they got so right, but also behind-the-scenes with the philosophy that went into the first two films.
Verisimilitude. That’s the word Donner mandated the movies abide by. They made the films realistic and believable, while giving Superman the respect and reverence he deserved. Hell, they had the guy who wrote The Godfather write first draft of the script. Superman deserves that level of reverence. WB wouldn’t have a DC film franchise if it weren’t for Superman in the first place, so they shouldn’t treat him like some throwaway cameo.
Let Donner’s idea of Verisimilitude once again be the driving force behind a new Superman movie. Have Superman be an inspiration as he was in Donner’s films. But don’t try to make a carbon copy of them. Let their spirit show in what’s done behind and in front of the camera, but don’t be afraid to make it a modern superhero film.
Give Audiences a Villain They Haven’t Seen in Multiple Films
While they’re taking inspiration from what Donner did, don’t repeat the villains again for a very long time. Audiences have seen Lex Luthor and General Zod far too many times. It’s time to break that cycle and introduce new villains from the comics.
The Superman: Lives script in the 90s, which Kevin Smith was famously involved with, had the right idea. Brainiac was the main villain in that movie (and the script even had a Batman cameo at the funeral). That script obviously had some famous late-90s DC movie quirks, but it got the main villain right. And I have to admit I do kind of love it; even with the polar bear guards and giant spider.
Superman has more, and better, villains than Luthor or Zod. WB should not be afraid to use them. I’d love to see a full-on comic Brianiac on the big screen; Skull Ship, Bottled City of Kandor, and everything. How amazingly cool would that be?
Metallo, Parasite, Eradicator, Cyborg Superman, even Bizarro. There are a lot of villains to choose from, WB just needs to not be afraid to break the Luthor/Zod time loop they seem to be stuck in.
Do NOT Do What JJ Abrams Tried To
On the other side of the coin, do not try to do what JJ Abrams attempted with Superman: Flyby ever again.
He tried to reboot Superman with an edgy modern take. Krypton didn’t explode. Luthor was a secret Kryptonian. And they basically made a new Zod with Ty-Zor. It was Superman fighting a Kryptonian Civil War, and the action was pretty much identical what we eventually saw with the Neo vs Smith fight in The Matrix: Revolutions.
Every single person who ever complains about Man of Steel should be required to read JJ Abrams’ Superman: Flyby script to truly see how terribly wrong a Superman movie could be. With the rumors of WB wanting JJ involved in a Superman movie, I really hope he learned his lesson from the backlash over that script.
Superman Does Not Need to be ‘Reinvented’
This is something you see a lot of people preach when it comes to making a new Superman, and it’s the exact philosophy that led to that blasphemous JJ Abrams Superman: Flyby script. For 85 years Superman has been a shining beacon of unwavering morality, always standing up for what’s good over evil. Sure, there have been reboots and revisions in the comics over the decades, but the core of who Superman is has never changed. And there’s no reason why he has to change for the movie.
People will turn up for a good Superman standalone film. But WB also has to respect their audience and realize that we’ve all seen Krypton blow up multiple times before. We’ve all seen Superman’s origin. And we’ve all seen way too much Lex Luthor and General Zod.
WB doesn’t need to reboot Superman again. They have the perfect man with Cavill. We’ve seen his origin. We’ve seen him deal with Zod and Luthor. It’s time for WB to give Cavill an epic solo outing where Kal can save the world from one of Superman’s many threats.
Henry Cavill is also very well read with Superman. He knows the character as well as any of the comic writers. Give him a seat at the table creatively. Trust him. He will give you an ideal to strive towards. You’ve already stumbled and fallen. It’s time to join him in the sun. Cavill can help you accomplish wonders.