Editorial: Does the Man of Steel Need Room to Breathe?

Posted 7 years ago by Movies


Note from Tommy: I’d like to welcome James Abels to the team of Top Hat Sasquatch contributors.

In the massive shadow of the Batman vs. Superman announcement, speculation has crept out of every corner of the Internet. This is big news, for both DC comics, and fans. Though, to me, it feels a bit off, and I’m not referring to Affleck.

It is clear that DC is making strides toward building their movie universe, from the ground up, and it would seem as if The Man of Steel will be the foundation. Although, when I take a closer look, it was in no way seemingly crafted to serve this purpose. It is also evident that maybe the threat was a little too ambitious for a re-introduction to Superman as well. Before you start an online petition, let me explain.

I would consider Superman the quintessential DC character, even though Batman tends to clean up at the box office. What I mean is that Superman is essentially God. Aside from Kryptonite, there isn’t much you can threaten him with. This has always been an issue for DC to face, and translating the character to the big screen makes it even more complex. The stakes need to be high for Superman, and Man of Steel delivered that. Though, where do we go from here? How can the stakes be higher than saving the entire human race?

Upping the Ante

Enter Batfleck. They have eluded by way of Dark Knight Returns quote that the juggernauts of justice may be throwing down, but I have a theory. Obviously they can’t just save planet earth again, we’ve seen that, and one guy did it.

Let’s pretend they fight early. Batman, the box office hero, wins the fight. This is what we gather from the quote, and as unreal as it may seem, this is how it tends to play out in the comics as well. Pretty straight forward, though lacking consequence. We know either of them are going anywhere soon, though if an immense threat were to emerge, jeopardizing the victor…

An instant recipe for high stakes action, and we leave Superman in an interesting position. Bruised, but far from broken, as he overcomes whatever Batman has thrown his way, and must settle his differences to lend him a hand. Slightly reminiscent of the moment seconds after the Dark Knight Returns quote where Bruce suffers a heart attack and Superman catches him.

Assuming Affleck does his job, we will have a much stronger emotional connection with Batman than we did with the humans of earth in Man of Steel, thus seemingly higher stakes. Also if the threat is big enough, we can throw planet earth, or a key landmark or five in the mix. Allowing Superman to save the day, and the movie remaining a Man of Steel sequel. All is well in Metropolis; or is it?

This still doesn’t quite sit well with me. I think, if done right, it’s a good move for fan service and gearing up for DC’s movie universe. Although, I really think Superman needs room to breath. Not to mention a bit more time before we see another actor assume the role of Batman.

Man of Steel left us with a conflicted, inexperienced, Superman who snapped more sky scrapers than his villain. I really feel he needs a proper sequel to both reap what he has sewn and allow him time to master the art of self control. This also allows us to be thrust into a team-up movie with Superman being the “boy scout” that we all expect the character to be. Not to mention elaborating on the Daily Planet subplot that was only teased in the last scene of Man of Steel.

This brings us back to Superman’s issue with scale. There isn’t a threat in this theoretical sequel that can trump saving earth, without the risk of threatening the life of a main character. Nor, without Batman, are there many characters that can bring that same level of tension. He should be saving earth now; not when we first meet the character. Not when he is still learning to use and control his powers.

If DC knew a Batman, Superman team-up was the future of the franchise, why not work that into the first movie? Man of Steel was an entirely insular movie. He fell from the sky, he has no knowledge of other heroes on earth, or are there even other heroes? Were the events of the Dark Knight trilogy just happening “over there?” If so, why did no heroes respond when the earth was being threatened? You would think that kind of thing would have made the evening news.

I think this just shows DC’s lack of foresight in building a universe around their movies. It could have been as simple as ending the movie with Clark Kent, on the job, typing a headline acknowledging Batman’s existence, or further eluding to a possible team-up scenario. The crowd would have gone wild as the credits rolled. It really seems to me that there isn’t much planning on DC’s part, but I sincerely hope they prove me wrong.

  • Some great ideas, James! While I’m excited about the sequel, I totally agree that it seems a bit too soon. Man of Steel could definitely use a Batman-less sequel.

  • Vaporman87

    Much as I enjoyed Man of Steel, I’ve always felt that Supes was a bad choice for creating movie franchises around. And for all the reasons that James mentions here. He’s too powerful, and suspending disbelief for the sake of making Batman a match for him is too much to ask from me.

    I really wish DC would explore some of their other properties with bigger budgets. Start by giving them some screen time in one of their “big guns” outings, then ease into a new franchise.

    I just really have a hard time getting into all-powerful superheroes. I’ll take an Iron Man or a Batman any day.

    • James Abels ‘Jabels’

      Yea, Batman is a Marvel character that DC happens to have the rights to. This is why DC heroes tend to work best in games, and animation and Marvel’s characters do well on the big screen.

      Thor on the other hand, is a DC character, but Marvel tends to handle this by always keeping Asgard in their back pocket. Thor is unrivaled on earth, but it’s easy to always send him back among gods. A little hard to send Superman back to Krypton though.

  • Xian

    I disagree. The timing and setting is uniquely perfect for this kind of conflict. The problem with the experienced paragon Superman is there is very little place left for the character to go once fully developed. See Superman Returns, forced to tamper with Superman’s romantic life and philosophical place in the world as its central conflict.

    What you see as a handicap instead enables a rookie Superman to tangle with and be developed alongside Batman. Another solo sequel would see us a seasoned Superman too smart, experienced, confident, and established to be baited into fighting with, much less losing to, a Batman. Moreover, putting us through another solo film of rookie Superman just to get him to that place of seasoned Superman, just do undo that experience in having him job to Batman would undermine the DC Cinematic Universe far more than seeing Superman develop WITH Batman.

    Once Superman has gained experience from Batman and the League, we can go back to the solo sequels (ala Thor 2 post Avengers) to have a film that features an experienced Superman far closer to the expectations fans like you have for the Man of Steel… do the solo sequel now and you’re stuck with a lot of housekeeping and rookie Superman frustrating you. Mix that housekeeping with Batman and the League and it’s world-building and meaningful character interaction.

    Superman and Batman being juvenile characters to each other now explain their deep bond later as they inform each others’ characters… having them meet already formed, there’s very little give or take.

    • James Abels ‘Jabels’

      You make some great points, and I mostly just wanted to get the question out there, and back it with my opinion on the whole thing. Though when it comes to them growing together, didn’t DC say they were looking for an older Batman that has been on the job for a while?

      I’m not sure I think older, despite his age, and I certainly do not think Dark Knight Returns when I think about Ben Affleck though, so who knows. It’s all up in the air right now and we can only speculate. I don’t even think they have a script yet. Also like I said in the article, I totally hope for the best. I want to be blown away by the DC universe as I have been with the Marvel movies, and I’m much more a DC fan than Marvel even though it’s tough these days.

  • Dex

    I’m pretty much right there with you, James. As I was watching the machines in Man of Steel destroy the Earth I couldn’t help but think “Where do you go from here?” They planted a few tiny seeds for Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp but it should have been more.