In its infancy, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was intended to be a straight-up sequel to Man of Steel. That all changed once director Zack Snyder decided to use the film to re-introduce the Dark Knight, but Warner Bros. is reportedly actively working on getting Superman another shot at a solo film. At the moment, all we have are rumors (and our own speculation) about what to expect in Man of Steel 2. Regardless, it’s easy to see that DC is bound and determined to win back the audience goodwill it may have lost with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) to date.
More specifically, the company is likely looking to redeem the character of Superman in the eyes of those who believe that Snyder’s take thus far has robbed him of the optimism that has long been the character’s trademark. Case in point, Henry Cavill has played the role twice already and has never earned the kind of enthusiastic response that Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot received in their appearances as Batman and Wonder Woman, respectively.
Most attribute this to the way Superman has been written rather than Cavill’s performance. So assuming that he stays onboard, here are a few ways in which the untitled Man of Steel sequel could course-correct.
1. Lighten him up (and fast)
Both times we’ve seen Superman, he’s been tormented by the burden of his powers, whether in deciding to reveal himself to the world (Man of Steel) or bearing the responsibility for the destruction his epic battle with Zod wrought on Metropolis (Batman v Superman).
In Justice League, we’re hoping that the ongoing fan criticisms of the DCEU and the levity revealed in the footage carries over into a brighter take on Kal-El.
2. Develop Clark’s world and his personality
Part of what made the original Superman film so charming was the way in which the film handled Superman’s dual identity. But thus far, the DCEU has held back from showing any of Clark Kent’s personality, aside from his devotion to his mother. His in-glasses scenes in Batman v Superman really only consisted of a brief interaction with Bruce Wayne and disagreements with Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) about his work.
We haven’t really gotten a sense of how Clark interacts with the world at large or how he struggles with his secret identity. Once he is presumably resurrected alongside his alter-ego, here’s hoping that a Man of Steel sequel plays off the promise of fun in the 2013 film’s final scene.
3. Focus on emotional stakes over destruction
Both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman hinge on epic battles filled with computer-generated destruction and larger-than-life action. While we will (of course) get more of these in a Man of Steel sequel, it would be nice if the film centered more on the emotional stakes rather than overwhelming the third act with gratuitous bombast.
Getting a more complete picture of Clark’s life will no doubt open the doors for such a turn and naturally lead into a finale that feels more personal than cataclysmic.
4. Allow him to fully embrace his role as hero
Man of Steel and Batman v Superman focus on a very specific arc for the last son of Krypton. Since he is forced to sacrifice himself to defeat Doomsday in the latter film, it essentially confirms his standing as Earth’s protector, a status that was heavily debated (even in Senate hearings!). When he does return, it’s likely that he will no longer be a figure of such extreme controversy, as even Batman warmed up to him by the end — thanks in large part to “Martha” — and recognized him as a hero.
With any luck, a Man of Steel sequel will see Superman become the unsullied symbol of hope we know him to be.
5. Dig deeper into the comic book mythos
The primary villains of the DCEU films featuring Superman so far have been Zod, Lex Luthor, and (kind of) Doomsday. With the exception of the last one, these characters have all been explored on-screen before, with Luthor appearing in four of the five live-action Superman films that preceded Man of Steel.
Comic book fans know that there is a vast array of worthy foes and memorable storylines to be mined for future DCEU releases. Perhaps the “Death of Superman” reference at the end of Batman v Superman is a sign of what’s to come.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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