DC Missed Opportunity: Superman Returns

In 2013 Superman was repacked in a Zack Snyder directed film: Man of Steel.  This was a clean departure from the previous Superman adaptations that presented the character in a much darker persona.  The good news for DC fans, and those who love Superman, it worked; Henry Cavill brought a depth and look to the character till that moment had not been attempted.  Although the movie was a great kickoff to the DC movie universe, we now have the advantage of time to examine if there may have been a missed opportunity for DC to have formulated their movie universe different, mainly starting with the work of Bryan Singer in Superman Returns.

In 2006 we got the first return of Superman to the big screen in two decades.  The movie was a big deal to everyone who loved Superman, and actor Brandon Routh played the character perfectly to pay tribute to Christopher Reeve who previously held the characters mantle.  As we all know now, this film never had the opportunity of a sequel, and at the time was not well received by critics and its fan base alike.  With us looking at a new run of Marvel and DC movies to hit the box office soon, you cannot help but wonder if DC would be further ahead if they would have stuck with the more traditional Superman approach, rather than the darker adaptation we have today.

Let’s start with a few simple comparisons.  If you consider the DC movie universe to the Marvel cinematic universe we have the obvious comparison of Superman to Captain America.  For Marvel they started with a gritty Iron Man movie in 2009.  Following this in 2010 Marvel produced a sequel to Iron man and in 2010 they also brought audiences Captain America.  The point for consideration here is they let Iron Man be the arrogant and gritty character it is while keeping Captain America the morel compass of the Marvel universe.

In comparison to Marvel, DC made an introduction in 2005 with Batman that was very well done and starting the trend of a darker tone for the DC universe.  In 2008 we also have a sequel to Batman that is highly received by critics and the fan base alike.  Similar to Marvel, we see the movie Superman Returns in 2006, where Superman is presented as the moral compass of the DC universe.  It is a trend of the antagonist character introduction first, with the level headed character introduced second.  We all know now Marvel continues this character development where DC does not.

Superman Returns did present an opportunity at that time for DC to do things a bit differently.  Here are the top reasons we at 812review believe DC could have used the storyline setup in Superman Returns to have created a movie universe that might have put them ahead of Marvel.

  • The first was Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther.  Everything about his performance of the character was perfectly on point to be featured in a sequel around a new villain.  Since Brainiac was being discussed for the possible sequel, interaction between Luther and Brainiac could have been a great setup for a Justice League movie.
  • Another great setup was the son of Superman.  As the movie reveals, everyone figured this out; most importantly Superman.  If DC would have continued this story line they could have introduced Damian Wayne (the son of Batman) and created a Young Justice spin-off.  Not to mention the scene on the Yacht when Lex puts everything together and he realizes the young boy is the son of Superman.
  • During the scene where Metropolis is being ravaged by earthquakes there is a hero moment when Superman stops the globe at the top The Daily News tower from falling and crushing the crowd below.  Jimmy Olsen happens to be in the perfect spot to get everything on film, then while looking at the picture he just captured he recognized who Superman is; Clark Kent.  Although this is not officially revealed in the film, we believe it could be a story arc used in the sequel.
  • Since we have a character in Superman Returns that actually resembles the Big Blue Boy Scout, there is a clear team building opportunity between him and Batman that was lost in the actually produced Batman vs Superman.  This dynamic would have been similar to what Marvel proved, this dynamic works well with audiences.

Let us know in the comments below if you think there are any other points we missed.


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