There may have been a time when Man of Steel seemed a risky proposition, but it has come and gone. While Zack Snyder's Superman reboot is smashing box office records, the Hollywood rumor mill claims that Warner Bros. and DC Comics are already planning the next step.
Some reports claim that both Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer are already working on a sequel, but rumors of a Justice League film refuse to die. All the smart money rests on the studio moving to a Man of Steel sequel first, but as Snyder and Goyer have explained in recent interviews, writing that story won't be easy; and any potential sequel means Kal-el will have to broaden his horizons.
Lest anyone believe that Superman's duties to the world minimize the importance of his American upbringing, it is Kal-El himself who states in the film that he's about as American as it gets. Clark Kent's Midwest upbringing helps shape his character as both Clark and Kal, but now that he has emerged onto the world stage, his duties extend far beyond the United States.
As Snyder explained in an interview with BBC Radio 4, while the Man of Steel sequel may still be years away (or releasing next year, according to some) the director already knows how Superman's responsibilities will be changing in his next feature film:
"He has no choice but to become global... That literally has to happen. But for me I was really interested in – and maybe it’s because Barack Obama’s president now – it’s okay for Superman to be American. He’s quintessentially an American creature and creation. I wanted to pay homage to the superhero as coming from the heartland of America, and the “Why?” of that.
"I was really interested in just how American he was, and I think in the best possible way, the Kevin Costner cornfield kind of way. Which is why I really wanted Kevin and Diane Lane to play those parts [Ma and Pa Kent] because they really represent a believable America but an America that is also… we do it in the most realistic way we can but still all of the icons are very much represented in a way that I don’t know exists for real. But you want it to. Like a Norman Rockwell documentary… handheld Norman Rockwell."
At the risk of seeming exclusionary to any Superman fans from outside of America, it's hard to disagree with Snyder's claims that Clark Kent represent much about the homegrown, quiet character of the American farmer - a side to his character that comic book writers (and screenwriters) have tapped into for decades. And while Norman Rockwell never featured an airplane-strewn main street reduced to dust in his paintings of small town America, the quiet calm of Smallville serves its purpose in the movie as well as ever.
Talk of a Man of Steel sequel may center on proposed villains in conversations among fans - and it's hard not to, given the fact that Lex Luthor's presence is felt, even if it's never seen. But even if Lex is being bandied about by Goyer and Snyder, the screenwriter explains that dropping Superman into our modern world means several answers have to be answered before a 'villain' can be introduced.
In an interview with BleedingCool, Goyer claims that the challenges facing Superman are much closer to home:
"The challenge for us moving forward is how to depict Superman in a world like this, in a world where Twitter exists, in a world with social media. To me, the interesting challenge is “Could he solve hunger in the horn of Africa? What would he do with the Arab Spring? What would he do in Syria?... Does he have the wherewithal or the knowledge to intervene in something like this?”
To me, that’s the interesting challenge. It’s easier for Batman because he just exists in this little pocket of the world, he’s not violating sovereign airspace every day."
As for which villain will be next to test Superman's resolve...
"There is musing about Lex Luthor, conversations that Zack and I have had on set, but it all depends on what happens over the next month. There are obviously those Lexcorp easter eggs in the film and clearly you can see from that, to the extent to which we can intuit things about Lex, it’s not the Gene Hackman version. This is a Bill Gates-like Lex that is probably worth 50, 60, 70 billion dollars. It’s a very different Lex."
Although Snyder has set the record straight (numerous times) about leaving the door open for Justice League characters, it's clear he thinks Superman needs more time to grow before joining the rest of humanity's superheroes (for what it's worth, star Henry Cavill agrees with him). Yet anyone paying attention to the numerous easter eggs and hints embedded in Man of Steel sees the seeds being planted for the future, specifically where Lex Luthor is concerned.
Luckily, Goyer did give a few more details on how this group of filmmakers will continue to change the nature of Clark's 'secret identity,' but given that the quotes relate to certain spoilers for Man of Steel, those who have yet to see the film should stop reading now.