The DC Extended Universe – or “Worlds of DC,” as it is officially known – all began with Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel. That movie’s depiction of Superman was controversial at best, since it had a Nolan-ized The Dark Knight-style take on a character that didn’t suit that kind of visual palette or gruff personality.
Since then, Superman’s portrayal in the DCEU has only gotten worse. Warner Bros. seems to be leaving him by the wayside, since he was dead for most of Justice League and the studio’s focus is on lesser-known properties. But hope isn’t all lost. Here are 10 Ways To Fix Superman In The DCEU.
10 Make his personality more positive
In the comics, Clark Kent is shy and nerdy and friendly, but the DCEU has characterized him as a brooding, mopey, angsty guy. It’s nothing like Superman is supposed to be. It’s like if the emo Peter Parker from Spider-Man 3 was how Parker was depicted full-time. It just feels wrong.
This shameful misstep came in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but Batman and Superman are two very different characters. Their outlooks on the world are polar opposites. This dichotomy would’ve been interesting to explore in the DCEU if Man of Steel hadn’t depicted Superman as a Batman knock-off.
9 Don’t go so dark
The brass at Warner Bros. seems to think that ever since The Dark Knight made $1 billion at the box office, every single superhero movie needs to be dark and gritty. Even some of their lighter recent fare, like Wonder Woman, has had a gloomy, Snyder-esque quality to its visual style.
But this isn’t the right way to frame Superman. He’s just not that kind of character. Aquaman and Shazam! mark a step in the right direction, with a brighter, more colorful palette and a more optimistic tone. This is the way Superman needs to be portrayed on film, not lumbered with bleak visuals and a cynical worldview.
8 Show him as a beacon of hope
A large part of what makes the MCU so successful is its depiction of the public’s opinions of its heroes. When we hear Peter Parker’s classmates playing “Kiss, Marry, Kill” with the Avengers, we get a sense that Earth’s mightiest heroes are celebrities in this world and it makes the whole thing feel more grounded.
The public’s opinion of Superman is a powerful narrative tool, because it’s very important to him that he’s seen as a symbol of hope. Whether he is or isn’t could make a significant plot development. The DCEU has attempted to depict this, but botched it so far.
7 Give him more hopeful parents
Clark Kent’s love for the salt-of-the-Earth human parents that raised him is endearing in the DCEU, but as characters, they’re pretty dreary. Martha told Clark that he didn’t owe the world a thing, while Jonathan was willing to let a bus full of people drown to keep his son’s alien superpowers a secret.
In the comics, he was raised by more hopeful parents who gave him the values that would make him the brightest, most positive, most cheerful superhero who ever lived. That’s why he’s the leader of the Justice League. The DCEU’s Superman is in no fit state to lead a team of heroes.
6 Develop him as a character on his own
The dark, moody take on Superman in Man of Steel proved to be so divisive that Warner Bros. execs have buried the character in every DCEU movie since then under six feet of more fan-friendly characters like Batman and Wonder Woman. Man of Steel gave us a unique take on the character, but by the end of the movie, he was the same mopey, angsty, whiny guy.
That movie should’ve shown him develop from that guy into the Superman we know and love – the bright-eyed optimist – and since it didn’t do that, and he hasn’t changed yet, we need to see him develop on his own as a character in a solo movie to go from being the moody brat that’s getting on everyone’s nerves to the all-powerful symbol of heroism and nobility he is in the comics.
5 Stop all the killing
Superman doesn’t kill! It’s one of the undeniable truths of the character. He’s not a murderer. He stands for truth and justice and everything good, so he doesn’t kill people. Now, if he’s really forced to, like if the only way to save a school bus full of kids is, for whatever reason, to kill someone, that would be an interesting way to test those morals.
But if you don’t establish those morals and have him kill people when it’s not even entirely necessary, then he’s not really Superman. Until he stops killing (and until Batman stops killing, too), the DC Comics fan base will remain unappeased.
4 Let Henry Cavill run with it
One of the areas in which the MCU has succeeded where the DCEU has failed is casting. Actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. have been given the freedom to make their MCU roles – Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, respectively (obviously) – their own.
In interviews, Henry Cavill always comes off as a nice guy with a hint of shyness and a positive worldview. On paper, this makes him the perfect actor to play Clark Kent. The issue is that the scripts and directors of these movies haven’t given him the freedom to explore the character on his own terms.
3 Give him a more traditional costume
Superman’s current costume in the DCEU is really ugly. Sure, they got rid of the red undies to make the costume more grounded and serious in line with the tone of Man of Steel, which wasn’t a terrible adjustment. But the colors are way too grimy and dark, and the chainmail material looks hideous.
The wardrobe department behind the MCU’s movies have found a way to make the classic costumes from the comics work on-screen. They look realistic and cool, but they’re not too far removed from the original comic costumes. If the DCEU team takes a leaf out of their book, Superman can have a much better cinematic look.
2 Confront him with a worthy villain
Superman’s villains in the comic books are just as iconic and brilliant as Batman’s, but it wouldn’t seem that way from the DCEU movies. Michael Shannon’s General Zod was instantly forgettable, while Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther was a shameless rip-off of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
The Joker is a terrific Batman villain – specifically a Batman villain, as opposed to anyone else’s villain – because he represents everything that Batman is not. Batman is precise and calculating; the Joker is an agent of chaos. In the comics, Lex has the brains where Superman has the brawn. But the DCEU hasn’t properly portrayed that.
1 He knows his purpose
The DCEU’s Superman is unsure what his destiny or his purpose in life are. But the Superman we know from the comics is absolutely sure what his purpose is. He’s Earth’s protector. His unwavering belief in the goodness of humanity makes him the alien that is sworn to look after us.
The only thing that torments him is the fact that he can only be in one place at any given time, and therefore can’t save everyone that needs to be saved. For Superman to work on film, he has to know his purpose, and instead struggle to reconcile his inability to save everyone with his Boy Scout attitude.