So Long, Superman: A Fan’s Lament As The Man of Steel Flies Into The Phantom Zone
It may have taken a while, but my faith in Warner Bros. figuring out the right way to handle Superman has withered away to nothing. Between September of 2017 and April of 2018, there were plenty of reasons to think things would work out and that we’d be getting not only a sequel to Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill, but also Superman’s presence being felt in other film’s like next year’s Shazam!
But then, as I’ve chronicled in other comprehensive reports, things went cold. Outside of deafening chatter about Cavill and his Mission: Impossible- Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie wanting to make a Superman movie together, and some whispers in July that Cavill may show up at San Diego Comic-Con to make some sort of announcement, nothing significant has happened. While we can speculate for days about why, exactly, the studio has completely abandoned trying to reach a new deal with Cavill and has scrapped any and all immediate plans for Superman for the time being, all that really matters is that it doesn’t look like we’ll see Superman soar for a long, long time.
The latest word on the street, going around Hollywood, is that following a highly-scrutinized leak last month Cavill’s camp- spearheaded by manager Dany Garcia- has tried to make Warner Bros. reconsider backing away. The studio has responded by not only continuing to back away, but by closing the door. The leak, I’ve always suspected, came from the studio. I said it back then, and I’ll repeat it here: It was their way of putting Cavill on notice, letting him know that they were done with him after growing frustrated over what they saw as needlessly complicated and aggressive negotiation tactics by Garcia.
These latest rumors of Cavill’s team trying to rekindle talks only strengthen my suspicion that the leak came from the studio, and not from Garcia as a way to strong-arm the studio- which was the other big theory. Folks thought she may have leaked it so that fans would freak out, creating an uproar the studio couldn’t ignore to help give her client leverage. And even if that was somehow the case, it didn’t work. Sure, they backed off and tried to act like everything was fine and that there simply wasn’t a Superman movie in production so they’d cross the Henry Cavill bridge when they eventually got to it, but it’s all pretty clear now.
A Universe Without Superman
Some fans have questioned why DC Entertainment hasn’t announced a formal slate since being placed under the new stewardship of Walter Hamada. But really, we don’t need one. The next couple of years are pretty clear to see.
Barring any major setbacks, the slate is as follows (and in this order):
- Wonder Woman 1984
- Birds of Prey
- The Flash
- The Batman
That right there carries us through 2019 and 2020. Then, when we consider other films that are being actively developed, it’s easy to surmise that the next year or two beyond that will include (in no particular order):
- Suicide Squad 2
- Green Lantern Corps
There are others I could mention, like Batgirl, New Gods, Blackhawk, Justice League Dark, or Nightwing. But, honestly, those films are still at the earliest stages of development, and as we recently discovered about Deathstroke, things can vanish pretty quickly when they’re at that stage.
The point is that they’ve got movies lined up from now to 2021, and you’ve got to imagine that an Aquaman sequel will probably make its way into the mix at some point if that film is a success. This means we’re unlikely to see a Superman movie- be it a sequel or a reboot- until at least 2022, but probably even beyond that.
In other words, the cinematic DC Universe will be without a Superman for years and years. Let that sink in for a moment. A DC Universe. Without Superman. Full stop.
In an age where there never isn’t a Batman or Spider-Man film in development, Superman is back in limbo. I say “back” because that’s where he’s resided for most of the last 31 years.
Between 1987 and 2006, Warner Bros tried and failed several times to bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen. Then, after Superman Returns didn’t exactly set the world on fire, he went back into limbo from 2006 to 2013- the year Zack Snyder introduced us to a new Superman in Man of Steel.
The character was then relegated to playing second banana for the theatrical cut of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then became a meme-worthy eye sore for his limited screen time in 2017’s Justice League. And that, my friends, is apparently going to be Henry Cavill’s legacy as Superman, since the studio seems content to make that the last time we ever see him.
It’s tragically fitting that Superman has spent so much time in a state of limbo that most closely resembles the Phantom Zone associated with his mythology. And yet, unlike in the comic book lore where the beings trapped within it can see the outside world but can’t interact with it, we’re the ones who can see in. We see Superman. We know Superman. We love Superman. He’s so close. And yet he’s always just out of reach. Unattainable. Left in the hands of overlords who seem to have no idea what to do with him.
In that sense, maybe it’s us- the diehard Superman fans- who are in The Phantom Zone. Everyone else’s heroes are thriving, and are never asked to sit on the sidelines, as new versions are created constantly. But not our Last Son. He remains frozen in place.
For once, I don’t have a hopeful message to convey. I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that Superman is on the back burner; That the next time we’ll see him it’ll be an all new take; And that it’ll likely have been over a decade since Man of Steel that Warner Bros. decides its ready to introduce us to this new version.
I don’t get why this happens with Superman; Why they always end up back at the drawing board when it comes to the single most iconic, legendary King of All Superheroes. All I know is that when they eventually get back around to the business of reintroducing him to the world, it had better be spearheaded by someone who loves the character and who knows what it is about him that’s made him a transcendent figure to the people of earth for over 80 years now.
Heck, even my amateur brain has come up with a Superman story that fans of the character have been giving me fantastic feedback on. If I can come up with a modern twist on the classic lore, something that keeps the character true to his ideals but places him in a contemporary context that makes him feel vital and relevant, then there’s no way that actual Hollywood writers couldn’t do the same- if not way, way better.
But for now, until Warner Bros. decides to actually find someone capable of creating such a story- which they seem to be in no hurry to do as they press forward on 73 movies involving Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn instead- us Superman fans will have to rely on older movies, TV shows, and comic books to get our fill. In this Golden Age of Superhero Cinema, that hardly seems fair, but it’s all we’ve really got now.
As his fans we’ll just continue to wait for our Kal-El to hopefully have his moment in the sun again, and cross our fingers that this time around it’ll stick.
So long, Superman. For now.