Is it happening? After years of speculation and other Superman projects at various levels of development, it looks like it is. Man of Steel 2 looks like it’s in its early stages of development, with Henry Cavill back in the fold (maybe?) Warner Bros. Discovery has been trying to get its house in order regarding the DC cinematic universe. Black Adam, the Shazam and Aquaman sequels, Blue Beetle, and The Flash are already coming down the pike. Matt Reeves is actively building out Gotham in terms of Batman, and Patty Jenkins is hard at work on Wonder Woman 3. The odd man out is the red-blue blur himself — well, not as of late. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been actively campaigning for a Black Adam vs. Superman film with Cavill attached. (so have some fans).
In a comic book film landscape geared towards a lot of darker stories, lately, there have been a lot of discussions about what Superman could be in a modern-day context. I would argue that you already have a template set within the films Superman has appeared in over the years. With a Man of Steel 2, you don’t necessarily have to discard the Snyder verse templates to elevate the Superman character to the “beacon of hope” mantra many have come to know and love. Allow me to explain. In 2013’s Man of Steel, you have a Kal-El character caught between two worlds. He’s not caught up to his abilities and what they mean to himself and Earth. While some perceive him as an alien threat, Kal-El elects to forge a shaky alliance with humans over the nationalistic views of General Zod. He decides at the end of the film.
With 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Kal-El has to deal with the ramifications of that choice. Humans are often afraid of what they don’t understand. The fact that Superman has no constraints makes people uneasy because they can’t control it. He gets pushback from Batman, who has become a bitter, angry version of himself, and also Lex Luthor, a person who wants what he has. This comes as an ultimate crisis of faith for Superman — he later sacrifices himself because of his love for Lois Lane. The Superman we know shows himself in 2021’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Kal-El is resurrected, embraces his Krypton heritage with the black suit, and comes to equal up the odds in the fight against Steppenwolf.
You have already laid the groundwork for the charismatic, curl-having journalist by day, but protector always. In Man of Steel 2, you can acknowledge that with continuity, other heroes and villains exist depending on what and where the DCEU is. (who knows). However, to re-acclimate this character to audiences, it has to be more of a self-contained story. Since the last time we’ve seen him, what has Kal-El/Clark learned about the world and himself? How is the world reacting to him, seeing threats, and taking his good heart for granted? It wouldn’t hurt to see Superman do conventional superhero things to start.
In previous films, you’ve already had Superman fight Kryptonian threats like General Zod and Doomsday, which caused damage to Metropolis and even killed him. Lex Luthor is still right there; he remains Superman’s ultimate enemy. He might be a constant character throughout these stories until he’s ready to strike again on a more massive scale. If you choose for Kal-El to discover the remnants of Krypton, Brainiac is also there to challenge him. Given his high level of intellect and ability to transfer his consciousness, that’s a different foe for Superman to fight than we’re used to. Metallo (especially the journalist John Comben version) would be a formidable test, given his proximity to Lois at first and his need for Kryptonite. Just don’t go Superman IV: The Quest For Peace on us.
There are a lot of options DC can go with. However, the main obstacle is this tug-of-war to returning to the Christopher Reeve days of the 80s. I don’t believe you can do this because the Christopher Reeve portrayal of the Man of Steel can’t be duplicated. They tried to do this with Superman Returns, and it wasn’t successful. However, you can capture the same charm and essence of those films without copying them. The world Superman is fighting to save in those films has changed dramatically. It would be a disservice not to acknowledge that to some extent. If every other character in the DC pantheon can evolve, so can Superman. Allow Cavill to show what he can do entirely and bring your audience along for the ride.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Discovery