Warning: The following contains spoilers for Justice League
Superman’s return in Justice League is probably one of the worst kept spoilers in movie history. While it was fairly obvious that Henry Cavill would make an appearance in the movie as Superman, he was almost entirely missing from marketing, with trailers and posters merely acknowledging his absence and only showing the man himself in Clark Kent form in a scene the trailer angled as a dream sequence, but ended up being Snyder’s original version of a scene that played out differently in the final cut.
Considering Superman was weakened by kryptonite in the climax of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before being brutally stabbed through the chest by a giant bone spike protruding from Doomsday’s arm, it was clear that he didn’t merely go unconscious or pass into a deep coma. Superman appeared to be completely and legitimately dead, although the exact situation is called into question by the brief shot of dirt rising off his coffin before jumping to the credits.
After his death in the comics, Superman is revived by being placed in a Kryptonian Regeneration Matrix and comes out in a black suit sporting a mullet, leaving fans to speculate (with the aid of a few teases) whether or not Justice League would take similar inspiration, considering the crashed Kryptonian Scout Ship seems to have all the equipment needed to perform a similar process (including the fabrication of a new suit), and while that’s not entirely off the mark, the movie approaches the matter a little differently.
We’ve already seen a Kryptonian revived in the DCEU with Zod, and as we all know, that didn’t go so well as he became Doomsday, and that’s why Superman is dead in the first place. The Justice League doesn’t want to create another Doomsday with their symbol for hope, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are concerned that that’s exactly what will happen when Bruce says he wants to bring him back. Aquaman says that even if he’s successfully brought back, he might not have his soul. In a slight flip from his “even if there’s only a 1 percent chance [that Superman is our enemy], we have to take it as an absolute certainty” belief in Batman v Superman, Bruce is now preaching that even the smallest percent chance that he could be resurrected is worth a shot. Besides, he has a contingency if things go wrong.
After Diana explains that the Mother Boxes don’t contain power, they actually “are power,” Bruce comes to the conclusion that the cells in Superman’s body could be revived. The Mother Box has enough energy to terraform a planet, but Superman might be stronger than a planet, and his cells won’t decay. He proposes that they place Kal in the conducive aamniotic fluid of the Kryptonian Scout Ship’s genesis chamber, the power from the mother box could take care of the rest. After robbing Clark’s grave and taking the body to the scout ship, Cyborg plugs in and learns that Lex’s creation of Doomsday depleted the ship’s energy supply, meaning the charge necessary to trigger the Mother Box can’t be generated, but Flash thinks he can generate the energy necessary to activate the box by using the Speed Force.
Using the length of the ship to get up enough speed, Flash runs to generate electricity, transferring the energy into the Mother Box at the precise moment it hits the fluid.While it quickly revives the Man of Tomorrow, he seems to be missing some memories or is simply experiencing some sort of post-resurrection rage. He attacks the league on the steps of the Superman monument, specifically turning on Batman. The Caped Crusader implores that “the world needs Superman” to which the Man of Steel responds “but does it need you? Tell me, do you bleed?”
Seeing Superman is out of control, Batman calls for the “big gun” at which point Alfred delivers Lois to the scene. After all, Lois is Superman’s world, and “the key.” She’s able to calm him down, at which point he takes off with her to fly to the Kent farm where he recovers more fully before joining the team in the final fight against Steppenwolf.
After Zack Snyder delivered a more polarizing version of Superman for two movies, Justice League uses the character’s resurrection to pivot towards a version more popular with mainstream audiences, and the Superman seen for the rest of the movie is much brighter and full of smiles than in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, they even go as far as to have him literally say “I like truth, but I’m also a big fan of justice” as a fairly on the nose nod to the version DCEU detractors have been begging for.
Despite a few rumors, there’s still no Man of Steel 2 on the horizon (there’s not even a script yet), so it’s not clear what this means about the future of the character in the DCEU, but it’s fairly safe to say that largely depends on audience reception and box office. If this updated version of the character gains traction and the movie is a financial success, then we’ll probably see a Man of Steel 2 greenlit quickly. It’s already known that Warner Bros. is waiting to see how Justice League is received before moving forward with some in-development projects, specifically Flashpoint, otherwise, it may be more standalone and secondary characters for DC’s foreseeable future.
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