The Problem With ‘Man of Steel’: Where Does It Go From Here?

Features
by Rodrigo Perez
June 20, 2013 5:03 PM
28 Comments
  • |

Is there a more loaded and fractious divide on a tentpole this year than Warner Bros.Man Of Steel”? Yes, it made a ton at the box-office (though it was only the 15th biggest opening of all time, well below “Iron Man 3”), but audiences and critics have been heavily divided. One could argue that the movie has split people even more than the ending of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” Movie writers have been gunning for each other's throats on Twitter, audiences are tearing each other apart in comments sections -- it’s all a bit of madness. And everyone feels like they have to weigh in. James Franco’s reviewed it, Kevin Smith has reviewed it and so hasPrometheus” writer Damon Lindelof.

And some of the heated discussion is down to what people expect from a Superman movie. “Superman: Birthright” writer Mark Waid was enraged at the film and its ending. Spoiler alert ahead: In the finale of “Man Of Steel,” Superman, played by Henry Cavill, is essentially forced to kill General Zod (Michael Shannon). It’s been a controversial move and even one that producer Christopher Nolan didn’t love at first (though director Zack Snyder and David Goyer eventually won him over; read about it here). Wade was incensed by the move, but also didn’t seem to like the movie in general either.

"There was no triumph in it,” he said. “None of Superman's victories in his movie are the kind of stand-up-and-cheer events you'd think necessary in a movie with Superman in it." Personally, we’d argue a myopic view of what any character should be, based on an existing text, is generally what prevents him from being resonant and original on screen and these kinds of changes to the Superman mythos were exactly what we liked about it (read our The Best & Worst Things About ‘Man Of Steel here). 

But the important question now that all the fury is finally starting to die down is, where does Superman, Snyder, Goyer and “Man Of Steel” go from here? Snyder’s made some hints. He’s told the BBC (via /Film) that, “He has no choice but to become global.”

“The challenge for us moving forward is how to depict Superman in a world like this, in a world where Twitter exists, in a world with social media,” David Goyer told Bleeding Cool “To me, the interesting challenge is: ‘Could he solve hunger in the horn of Africa? What would he do with the Arab Spring? What would he do in Syria?’" While that’s idealistic, fine and dandy and all, let’s face it, Warner Bros. is not going to greenlight an expensive “Man Of Steel 2” where Superman faces the world’s famine issues.

The main problem for Goyer, Snyder, WB et al, is who will be the main antagonist? Sure, Superman may be world problem solving in the beginning, that would make sense, but in all these super hero films, it’s comes down to the super villain. And with Superman, that leads to serious problems: Goyer, Nolan and Snyder blew their wad with Zod and the Kryptonian soldiers, so where do we go from here? It feels like there’s two options, bigger and badder, or laterally. 

A lateral move and obvious choice seems like Lex Luthor, and Lexcorp is teased twice in “Man Of Steel.” “Don’t forget that Lex is out there, doing who knows what…,” Snyder said recently. And with Lex Luthor being Superman’s most well-known foe, he seems like the logical choice. But how do we tackle this story? It’s been done in almost every Superman movie, including most recently, “Superman Returns.” Luthor is a tricky one because he has no super powers, but he inevitably gets his hands on Kryptonite, something Snyder has said doesn’t exist in “Man Of Steel.” Or at least not this first film. But if it does, and he uses it, aren’t we simply looking at another iteration of “Superman Returns”? Sure, Lex is a super genius, and we suppose his super mind could somehow involve Brainiac, but this also feels like a precarious road to go down.

The other option involves superhuman bad guys, and there are plenty of those in the murderer’s row of Superman villains -- Darkseid or Doomsday or even Metallo being some of the big bad examples. But the problem again becomes -- unless it turns into a Space Opera on another planet -- does it not boil down to a gigantic punch fest with a lot of collateral damage again? How is that going to be satisfying to the writers, let alone the audience?

Then there’s the dumb ending which we discussed recently. “Man Of Steel” avoids many of the silly Superman tropes, but then at the end, suddenly makes him a reporter with glasses so he can “hide” his identity. “We were able to sidestep the issue of the ludicrous glasses disguise in this film but going forwards, we’re going to find ourselves in a sticky wicket,” Goyer admitted in an interview. “Zack and I have definitely talked about ‘Okay, hmm, this will be interesting.’ Clearly Perry White and Steve Lombard see Lois kissing Superman at the end of the film. Perry’s not an idiot. Moving forward, he’s probably going to say to Lois 'What’s up with that?' We’re definitely going to have to go through some story gymnastics.” You can say that again, and talk about painting yourself in a corner....

Wouldn’t it have been easier to leave it with Superman roaming the Earth, the American government trying to track him down and then give yourself myriad options from there? This is to say, we don’t envy the job of writers penning a “Man Of Steel” sequel. So villains are certainly going to be an issue, but so is Clark Kent hiding in plain sight. How do you explain that in a realistic world of NSA probes, the FBI interrogating reporters (there’s a deleted scene where this happens to Lois) and drone strike ships tailing super heroes? It’s your move guys, but again, we’re glad we’re not in your shoes. Your thoughts? Has “Man Of Steel” put itself in an impossible position? Is there a logical way to go forward? Can this be side stepped by the “Justice League” movie? Weigh in below.

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

28 Comments

  • Mike | June 29, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    Where Superman goes next is obvious. Lex Luthor, but a much different one than Gene Hackman/Kevin Spacey. I'm sure that will get the Donner worshipers even more up in arms. Luthor will finally be a real villain on screen, not some real estate con man. I could see them using a secondary villain like Metallo working with/for Luthor. I also think they're setting up Luthor's War Suit that he wore on the old Superfriends/Super Powers show. The Kryptonian space exploration suits look a lot like his War Suit. They also have set up Supergirl via the prequel comic and that brief scene in the movie where there are those 4 pods and 3 of them have skeletons but one is open and empty. I also think that Zod's scout ships, like the one that picks up Superman and Lois in the desert, looks a lot like Brainiac's ship. I could see Brainiac as another potential villain going forward. There's also Mongol and Darkseid but they will probably save Darkseid for the Justice League movie.

  • Bruce Wayne | June 25, 2013 12:20 AMReply

    “None of Superman's victories in his movie are the kind of stand-up-and-cheer events you'd think necessary in a movie with Superman in it." - Mark Wade
    Starting with Batman Begins, Superhero films started giving fans a sense of"realism" and "darkness" or we can say, Filmmakers,wanted show audiences that they take these characters as serious as it's fans,per say.
    Now if there's a war/battle going on ,towards the end,the Hero/Heroes are exhausted as one in real life might be and just getting over said battle. At the end of the battle in Avengers when Tony stark wakes up from the dead,they didn't cheer and stand up waving their hands at the crowds. They were relieved. Same as our soldiers in real life would be. In TDK and TDKR ,Batman didn't have a parade for himself either. Apparently, some people wanted a parade for Superman. Thor,same thing. No party. Man of Steel,they moved on from what happened..UH OH.WAIT.. that's what we do in real life after tragedies whether it's man made,or natural disasters. The world keeps on turning and we move on.

  • Honks | June 21, 2013 5:00 PMReply

    Well nothing has been seen so far. It has made around 220,000,000 and it's the the end of the first week. I've seen it and I think it's way better that any other crap movies like Iron Man which has really almost the same plot, man in a Iron mask think, something wants to kill him and buioooooosh Iron Man wins him in a big fight, and of course it happens in Man of Steel but the whole story is generally more emotional and when you watch it it feels like as if you were standing in that scene while the world collides at your feet. I don't know, I love all superheroes and the Sci-Fi and those kind of films but something's got a hold on Superman, it's got this edge which makes me like him than any other superheroes.

    Anyway, I just hope it does well for the rest of the few weeks, I am not sure what other people think or if it's going to beet the Box Office and liking of Dark Knight Rises but I love the movie, it's exciting, dramatic and a bit of romance makes it sweet (hehe me - cheesy). It has a chance though definitely, not the best top 10 opening weekend Box Office but it will do...

  • Tom | June 21, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    The ultimate next movie should be aligned with the one character who he goes head to head in a fight with 'Doomsday' which Superman dies.. It would bring the human emotional element to the movie and set it up for a 3rd installment to bring him back..

    similar to the comic book series where he dies.. his symbol is dripping blood and they were giving out black arm bands..

  • safichan | June 21, 2013 2:28 PMReply

    This is the critic website that dont like superman returns, but they also dont like man of steel...guess what, as them to make their own superman movie...seems they dont even like everything that others made...

  • Thomas Rakewell | June 21, 2013 9:17 AMReply

    SERIOUSLY?! “To me, the interesting challenge is: ‘Could he solve hunger in the horn of Africa? What would he do with the Arab Spring? What would he do in Syria?’" If Goyer said this, he needs to go, he's just not up to the job. We're heading straight to Superman IV: Quest for Peace territory. I hope Goyer was joking or misquoted.

    The questions they need to ask are more like: how do we make this character interesting? How do we give him a flaw, that doesn't compromise his essential decency? How do we create a sympathetic villain, that still deserves to fail? How do we give superman SOME KIND OF PERSONALITY? How do we make the action meaningful, so people care about the result? What does Superman WANT, that he struggles to get?

    It's a tough character, because his infallibility leaves little room, but you can make something from that as well. The fact the character has so little room himself, to be himself, provides conflict to work with. Either way, the problems aren't how he'd solve world hunger, what would he do in this situation etc. etc.? Jeez. Get some new writers.

  • Alan B | June 22, 2013 8:29 PM

    Well, I was commenting on the writer of the article - not the film - hence the preposition "about". So of all the subjects you understand, English grammar isn't one of them, I guess? No wonder the Nolan brothers normally rewrite you, 'David Goyer' ...

  • David Goyer | June 22, 2013 6:25 PM

    Alan, I know more about the least interesting thing in the world than you'll ever know about that tiny penis of yours you're constantly playing with. That's why you're here choking on the exhaust of my fumes from the basement of your mom's house and I'm writing screenplays that command 7 figures.

  • Alan B | June 22, 2013 3:45 PM

    This. It's a pity that someone writing about a franchise DOESN'T KNOW THE FIRST THING about them.

  • KNEEL BEFORE ZOD AGAIN | June 21, 2013 12:20 AMReply

    So...according to you geniuses...Lex would be a retread but Zod wasn't? Right...

  • Donatello | June 20, 2013 10:49 PMReply

    Um if you knew anything they could first off use any of the New Gods stuff. But the real key element of where to go is the MULTIVERSE. There are sooooooooooo many options of what to do, it just amazes me how stupid people are about DC.

  • m | June 20, 2013 10:01 PMReply

    To reply to most of you, I think what the writer is getting at is the pure spectacle on screen in combination with the JL plans that the studio said that it has. For instance, if Superman keeps ramping up the mayhem and such in his own movies then it will be virtually impossible to have a JL film feel as if it is necessary or better yet said, having the other heroes do stuff won't feel as monumental, which is what the film will want to go for. They'll instead have to dumbdown the abilities of some characters. Now sure, if Luthor is the villain then that can challenge Superman mentally but that's mostly contingent on there either being kryptonite or a secondary villain to challenge him physically which might be the way they go but seeing as how this is a sequel the fans tend to want bigger, better, louder, faster, and more -er in general when they kinda started big and heavy. See even in the comics or with the Dark Knight Trilogy they were able to build up to a climax, with each movie or issue. This felt more like a sequel rather than a first/origin story because it was so big

  • Daryl Hannah | June 20, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    Lex helps rebuild Metropolis, becoming a media darling in the process, but also assembles all the Kryptonian tech he can from there and the Indian Ocean site and ends up making some kinda version of Metallo. DiCaprio or Gosling for Lex please. Someone big.

  • Andrew | June 20, 2013 8:29 PMReply

    Nice article; made some interesting points.

  • Alan B | June 20, 2013 9:34 PM

    Disagree. Perez is incapable of making an interesting point: he either regurgitates what occurred on screen or offers the most basic observations, so much so that you to reread the text because you can't quite believe someone said something so obvious. He's like the John Madden (the football guy) of film criticism.

  • Famez | June 20, 2013 9:22 PM

    Agreed. Asshats in here, including Alan, obviously.

  • kalel | June 20, 2013 7:40 PMReply

    Really? You find so many problems with the movie? IT CANT BE MORE OPEN TO MAKE A TRILOGY!
    LEX, DOOMSDAY, METALLO, BIZZARO,
    DARKSEID, BATMAN , KRYPTONITE ADDITION, KARA (SUPERGIRL).
    These are the first to come in mind that could make not a trilogy but like 3-4 more movies. All you need is a good plot!

  • kirk | June 20, 2013 7:38 PMReply

    Well, see Lex Luther is going to try to cash in on the material in superman's cape. A material not found on earth, since it doesn't burn up when he reenters the atmosphere. LexCorp will want it and British Superman won't give it up. Then Lex will pull out the kryptonnite and Miss Tessmacher will distract superman with guess what, since she'll be played by Christina Hendricks.

    Then superman will yell 'AHGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH' like ten times like he did in man of steel and we'll feel sorry for him. Zooey Deschanel will replace Lois Lane but she'll still have nothing to do and the movie will end. The End.

  • Jesus Jones | June 20, 2013 7:02 PMReply

    NOT the problem with this movie at all, the fact that he saves zero people in the final fight is the problem, literally no one cares about Zod in the grand scheme.

  • Len | June 20, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    The writer of this article clearly has no imagination. There are TONS of villains and TONS of ways to re-solve all these issues. Dont even get me started...

  • Steal My Sunshine | June 20, 2013 10:09 PM

    No: please start.

  • Alan B | June 20, 2013 5:56 PMReply

    Articles like this only serve to make me embarrassed for its writer. Apparently, he's figured out the next film needs a villain(!), that the hero has to hide his identity, and that the filmmakers have to change up the ending, ALL THINGS THAT ALL FILMMAKERS WORRY ABOUT WHEN THEY MAKE A SEQUEL TO A SUPERHERO FILM. But, apparently, the filmmakers have written themselves into a corner by including General Zod. After all, the LAST TIME Goyer and co. wrote an origin story featuring a villain that was morally resolute and commanded loyal followers (Ra's al Ghul) the filmmakers REALLY STRUGGLED with the bad guys in the next film. Can anyone even remember what villain was used for The Dark something or other? Oh, was one villain the material's ICONIC ARCH-NEMESIS? I can't remember. My bad ...

  • Alan B | June 20, 2013 7:29 PM

    Reply some more anytime someone comments about Refn, that'll make you sound intelligent.

  • Washington | June 20, 2013 6:38 PM

    Settle down and stop embarrassing yourself on the internet.

  • bohmer | June 20, 2013 5:54 PMReply

    They could write Clark Kent as being a hipster foreign reporter with tattoos uncovering the news around the world in a Daily Planet "vice" sub-webzine. He could uncover a fringe situation in asia and tweet about it. And save the world.

  • Josh | June 20, 2013 5:45 PMReply

    The Lex Luthor of the comics who is basically an evil Bill Gates that sees himself as humanities savior will do fine. Supes is a god who wants to be a man, Luthor is a man who wants to be a god. I'm sure he will rebuild Metropolis and start a plan to turn humanity on Superman. I'm sure Lexcorp gets first dibs at all that kryptonian tech lying around.

  • darensmith | June 20, 2013 5:38 PMReply

    my best friend's half-sister LOVED that movie.

  • Anonymouse | June 20, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    seriously? there is a treasure trove of stories spanning decades in the comics world numbering in the thousands (or damn near). how about, uh, reading a few of them for a little inspiration? penning a sequel to Man of Steel has got to be one of the easiest jobs on the planet for any creative. what a non-starter.

Email Updates