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 has “Prometheus” 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.