Comics on Film: Does Superman Need, or Even Deserve, Another Solo Film?

Comics on Film: Does Superman Need, or Even Deserve, Another Solo Film?

Aug 28, 2015

Look, I’ll admit it: even I find this piece's headline ridiculous, especially considering what made up the bulk of Comics on Film a couple of weeks ago. But, you can't help what people talk about, so this seemed like a good opportunity to address it.

The question of whether or not the original superhero deserves another solo effort in movie theaters is something that seems to have come up recently. With the surfacing of a rumor indicating that Mad Max (and one-time Justice League: Mortal) director George Miller would be taking up the next cinematic adventure for the Man of Steel, yet another rumor has cropped up that would seem to say that Warner Bros. is now unwilling to “risk” another Superman film.

So, for this week’s column, it seemed prudent to try and parse this out a little bit, and examine a couple of different questions.

 

First: Does Superman Deserve Another Solo Movie?

The very basis of this question uses a normative term, with the implication being that Superman is, somehow, less than other DC Comics properties, and assumes to a degree that he is.

That’s ridiculous.

Of course Superman deserves another solo movie. He’s Superman! The archetype of an entire genre that moviegoers, comics readers, radio listeners, and TV watchers have all been flocking to for over three-quarters of a century! To ask if the character that would pave the way for other superheroic creations deserves to be on the screen once again is laughable: Superman is an institution. He’s the embodiment of what makes so many superhero characters so strong and enduring -- on the page, on the screen, and in the real world.

If you try to objectively examine the character’s popularity since he first lifted a car over his head in 1938, Superman has always had more and less prominent years in equal measure. He defined the entire genre in the 40’s and 50’s, and ebbed in the 60’s when people were more interested in a campy Batman and the creation by some guys named Stan and Jack of what would become the Marvel Universe.

In spite of excellent takes in the comics, he was disregarded for much of the 70’s, before becoming the premiere star of the superhero movie genre through the early eighties. In the 90’s, the world reacted with shock and sadness when DC Comics killed him off, while his prominence has decreased up through today as other, "edgier" comics characters have gotten more popular by comparison.

That being said, using Superman’s current status in pop culture as some kind of benchmark to decide how "deserving" he is of a new, dedicated movie is both debatable, and a relatively useless barometer for measuring whether or not the public would ever again have interest in seeing another solo Superman film.

So, just to reiterate, the answer here is an emphatic yes: he deserves another solo movie.

 

Second: Does Superman Need Another Solo Movie?

Now, this is a much more reasonable and interesting question. In regards to Warner Bros. and their extensive and upcoming plans for creating a cinematic version of the DC Universe, 2013’s Man of Steel is the foundation upon which all of the other films are being built. Superman is going to appear in both next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and he will most assuredly be front and center in both upcoming Justice League films.

If the recent Suicide Squad is any indication, it also seems clear that Superman is a powerful force in this new DC film universe, with Amanda Waller expressly mentioning Superman as a possible reason that more super-powered beings have come out of the woodwork (as we mentioned here recently).

With the studio’s penchant for cameos from other characters – especially the ones we already know about going into next year’s crossover film – it’s also a distinct possibility that Superman could appear in a film like Green Lantern Corps or The Flash.

While critics were divided on Man of Steel, the majority of audiences enjoyed it. Only 56% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes praised it, but the film features a much higher ranking among audiences on that same site, with that rating sitting at 76% approval from the people who actually paid to see it. That would seem to indicate that most people enjoyed the film, and that’s on top of the “A-“ CinemaScore it earned in the summer of 2013.

It also depends on what WB’s plans are for Superman through Justice League parts 1 and 2, and beyond. There are plenty of other franchises they could launch that could feature Superman, with the Legion of Super-HeroesSuperboy, or Supergirl immediately coming to mind. Still, it largely depends on how you define the word “need.”

If a need is based on how many appearances the character is getting elsewhere, then no: Superman probably doesn’t “need” a new solo film…at least not right now.

 

If there’s a point to this endeavor, it’s this: the time will come for Superman to take flight in a solo film once again. If he’s a regular fixture in the movie-based DC Universe for the foreseeable future, and continues to be accessible to audiences in a well-regarded manner, then some solid appearances elsewhere in the new movie universe may be enough for now.

Still, there’s one crucial element that these rumors have all failed to take into account, and that’s timing.

Warner Bros. is reportedly scrambling to increase a cinematic focus on Batman due to their alleged satisfaction with Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight in next year’s crossover film based on unconfirmed reports from an internal screening. While most audiences, moviegoers, and comic book fans adore Batman, there’s still no solid guarantee that Superman’s appearance in this film won’t create anticipation in the minds of audiences for a new, dedicated Superman adventure on the big screen.

Batman v Superman is extremely reliant on Superman and his supporting cast to function: you have the big guy himself, Lois Lane, Perry White, Martha Kent, the body of General Zod, Mercy Graves, Man of Steel’s General Swanwick, and of course, a brand new iteration of Lex Luthor all driving forward the plot of the upcoming film. The Man of Steel is also, clearly the premiere and defining hero of the new DC Comics film universe. He's the catalyst that's pushing the entire thing forward.

While it might be hard for some people to imagine right now -- largely because they're so pre-occupied with what's right in front of them -- a good enough movie can change anybody’s mind, and Dawn of Justice could have the potential to make audiences demand more of Superman in addition to Batman, Aquaman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League.

In any event, one thing is for certain, even if we don’t know exactly how or when:

Superman Will Return.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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