More than it has in some time, the cinematic side of the DC Universe is gaining momentum. Freshly learned that James Gunn and Peter Safran have been named co-CEOs of the new DC studios, fans are worried about the future. This positive step comes after the electrifying news that Henry Cavill is indeed back as Superman. Combined, these moves mean a substantial change in the DCU, and no one can predict exactly how it will all play out at this point.
However, with Cavill’s return, “The Last Son of Krypton” is seemingly poised to regain its rightful place at the forefront of DC’s movie slate. It’s hard to believe, but although Cavill played the hero for nearly a decade, he hasn’t been substantially involved in a new project featuring the character since. Justice League was released in 2017. (Zack Snyder’s Justice League doesn’t really count.) With that in mind, there’s so much untapped potential for Superman in the DCU.
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Even taking into account the quartet of movies where Christopher Reeves delivered his iconic portrayal and Brandon Routh’s memorable turn in The Return of Superman, these films barely scratched the surface. There are a number of classic comic book stories that could provide excellent source material for Cavill’s Superman project(s), and taking a look at just three of them offers a glimpse into this rich array of possibilities.
Superman All Star
It might be best to go back to basics. Superman fans have since seen Steel man was criticized for being too dark and violent. Borrowing from one of the most beloved Superman stories of all time could help put the character back on track and remind fans why he’s such a legendary hero. by Grant Morrison Superman All Star is centered on his last days; after being overexposed to solar radiation, it has one year left to live. From there, the story plays out all the hits, from Superman revealing his secret identity to Lois Lane teaming up with her to battle a massive monster.
The story also features plenty of heart, as Kal-El speaks with his father and has a climactic confrontation with his nemesis, Lex Luthor, which includes the villain crying after seeing Superman’s vision for Earth. There is no happy ending here; Superman dies, so an adaptation would probably have to make a lot of changes in order to make room for future films. However, borrowing from Superman All Star could be a fitting way to showcase the main elements of the hero and his supporting cast while restoring the bright tone he’s known for.
A new Superman movie is an appropriate time to start fresh, so it would be best if it avoided returning to the same villainous pit fans have seen before. General Zod and Lex Luther have been introduced before, but “The Man of Steel” offers plenty of compelling antagonists. In the modern world, Brainiac might be the most compelling option. A cross between a brilliant alien and a cold, callous machine, Brainiac has changed a lot over the years, so there are several versions of the character to choose from. In a word, it is typically a very advanced supercomputer which, sometimes, has ambitions of universal conquest. He also seeks universal knowledge despite his characterization as a super-genius that easily surpasses even the smartest humans on the planet.
As one of Superman’s classic villains, he’s battled the hero many times, but Superman: Brainiac definitely packs a punch. Kal-El learns that Brainiac shrunk a Kryptonian city and was responsible for the deaths of many Kryptonians. Of course, Brainiac is targeting Earth, and it’s up to Superman and Supergirl to stop him. While this is a standard heroes vs. aliens story, this one carries a lot of weight and could also be a logical way to bring Supergirl into the DCU.
Superman: President Luthor
As mentioned, Luthor has been featured in several movies, as Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, and Jesse Eisenberg have played him over the years, not to mention Michael Rosenbaum’s television portrayal on Smallville. But there’s a reason the villain has so much stamina; he is the perfect foil for Superman. The motives for his hatred of the hero have varied over the years, but more often than not it boils down to a battle of good and evil.
This struggle can be amplified if the next Superman movie borrows from the “President Luthor” storyline. As his name suggests, Luthor becomes President of the United States and uses his power to make Superman’s life a living hell. He also learns Kal-El’s human identity and uses it against him while trying to take advantage of an alien invasion in an attempt to pose as an all-powerful leader. There are plenty of options with this story alone; the DCU could keep it somewhat grounded and focus on President Luthor’s domestic misdeeds, or it could go as far as the aforementioned struggle with aliens. Either way, building on “President Luthor” would be a dynamic path that could cement Luthor as a heinous villain and spotlight Superman’s patriotism.
These are just a few examples, and there are countless other Superman stories that could serve as the basis for the hero’s return to the DCU. Whether it’s playing up the hits, spotlighting a new villain, or revisiting Superman’s nemesis, the possibilities are endless, and there’s reason to believe that any of them could help turn “The Man of Steel” into a beloved character.
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