Warner Bros. shouldn't struggle to make Superman relevant for audiences since Man of Steel already did that for them. The studio is reportedly confused on how the iconic superhero relevant to today's world. The character has survived and thrived for 80 years for a variety of reasons, primarily because of how universally relevant he's always been. In 2013, Zack Snyder answered the question that no Superman director truly did since Richard Donner himself. The key to making Superman relevant is to drop him into our real world and let the story build off from that thesis. Man of Steel made Superman relevant to the 21st century, so WB shouldn't be struggling to find a solution to a problem that has already been solved.
The question of Superman's relevance on a holistic level is strange. Superman has been a core part of pop culture for almost a century. From the moment he hit the comic pages in 1938, Superman was relevant to people at that time, and he continued to be relevant throughout the rest of the century. Then, he became a worldwide sensation with Christopher Reeve's Superman, quickly becoming a household name. Superman has enjoyed multiple stints in animation, live-action films, and television since then - not to mention having strong numbers in merchandise sales. All of this being said, Superman is clearly relevant to the world right now. So why does Warner Bros. reportedly have trouble with the character?
To look at things from their point of view, they relaunched Superman in 2013 with Man of Steel, following up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and finally Justice League before temporarily shelving the character. To them, these three films didn't work. When peeling back the layers, there is a lot more success than failure present. Man of Steel generated $668 million; Batman v Superman followed it up to $872 million before Justice League fizzled with $657 million. Throwing Justice League out of the equation, the other two entries did solid numbers. Clearly audiences showed up to see the films. While critical reception was lacking, not much else was. Arbitrary goals of $1 billion aside, both films performed up to standard at the time. Historically and economically, Superman has proven to be relevant.
Story-wise, Man of Steel made Superman the most relevant he could have possibly been. The character of Superman works best when responding to the era he was placed in. Superman: The Movie is firmly placed in a post-Vietnam America. Audiences were looking for a strong, idealistic sense of hope and Christopher Reeve provided just that under Richard Donner's vision. Then Man of Steel responded to America in 2013, with Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan setting out to tell a Superman story that embedded the most iconic American fictional character into a world that wouldn't accept him. In other words, Superman has been firmly placed in our world. This Superman grew up in the 1980s and made his debut to the world in a post-9/11 society. The part of Superman that needed to shine most was his immigrant roots and that is exactly what the film did.
Man of Steel is essentially a story about an illegal immigrant who was sent by his parents to America for a chance to survive, even if it meant the end of their own lives. That immigrant is adopted by a kind American couple, raised with the right morals and guidance. His adopted parents, knowing how broken the world is, go through many lengths to protect this illegal immigrant from being discovered and, in turn, hurt. He then goes on journey of self-discovery, is forced to choose between two cultures, battle through the worst of both, and eventually decide to be the bridge between them. Overall, a future Superman film can and should touch on these themes more. Superman's immigrant story shouldn't be left to just two films and there is a lot more to tell using the platform that Superman brings. Ultimately, Warner Bros. shouldn't struggle with creating a relevant Superman story; the blueprint has been sitting right there in 80 years of history.
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