The SOF Weekly Planet #1: “The State of Superman on Film”
If you watched DC FanDome 2021 this past Saturday, you were treated to all kinds of neat updates for upcoming DC projects like The Batman, Shazam! Fury of The Gods, The Flash, and more. But one character that got very little attention was the Man of Steel himself, Superman.
J.J. Abrams, the producer of the upcoming Superman reboot, was in attendance for FanDome, but he only showed up to offer some thoughts about the new Batman animated series he’s involved with, Caped Crusader.
There was hope Abrams would have something to say about the Superman film he’s currently developing with Ta-Nehisi Coates, but alas that wasn’t the case. And perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider how early things are with the project. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter several months ago, Coates isn’t expected to turn in a draft of his Superman script until mid-December.
So we are looking at a decent wait, with a new Superman film unlikely to arrive in theaters until at least 2023. And that’s optimistic.
The problem is that Superman fans have already been waiting for an eternity, and FanDome was just another case of the drought continuing.
Some fans have been waiting for a direct sequel to the last Superman reboot, Man of Steel, since 2013. Others have been waiting to see where Henry Cavill’s Kal-El goes next, following either version of Justice League. After all, he had just returned from the dead with a renewed sense of purpose, there were so many Superman stories left to tell, and Cavill himself seemed very eager to tell them.
But whether your jumping off point for a new Superman movie is 2017’s Justice League or 2021’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League, you’ve likely noticed that it doesn’t look like either film is going to lead to more chapters for Cavill’s Superman.
And if you’re a fan who didn’t enjoy that take on the character, and have eagerly awaited a reboot, you’re playing the same waiting game as the rest of us.
So let’s take a look at how we got here, and what the state of Superman on Film is.
As of this writing, the last appearance of Superman in DC’s cinematic canon was in 2019’s Shazam! where the character showed up as a favor to Billy Batson to surprise Freddy Freeman at their school cafeteria. Director David. F. Sandberg later revealed that there had been more planned for Superman, confirming an old scoop of mine, but unfortunately those plans fell through.
What’s interesting about the “canon” is that it looks like it’s about to get blown up by Andy Muschietti’s The Flash– a film which won’t directly sequelize anything that came before it, but rather introduce the idea of a multiverse where everything you’ve ever seen is now canon. That means that Ben Affleck’s Batman will be around for some of the film, but that Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight is also involved, for example. The film will explore Barry Allen’s ability to travel between alternate earths, rubbing elbows with other heroes and continuities along the way.
Muschietti’s film has long been viewed as a way for DC Entertainment to soft reboot their cinematic universe, using The Flash’s unique powers to sort of “reset” things and establish a foundation for the next wave of DC films. In this way, it’ll act as a bridge between the past, present, and future.
It’s a unique approach, where the studio and the creatives they hire are able to somewhat pick and choose which elements they want to build on and which ones they want to discard.
So far, there remains several holdovers from the previous set of DCEU adventures.
Aside from Miller’s Flash, Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry will continue to live on via Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will be seen again in a third solo film for the Amazon. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad retained several actors/characters from David Ayer’s 2016 film of a similar name. There was even an earlier version of the script for The Flash that included Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, until his issues with the studio reached a boiling point that led to them writing him out of the film.
So there’s clearly a willingness to build on the films of the last eight years, while moving away from some of the tonal issues that turned many fans off from the DCEU between 2013 and 2017.
But where does this leave Superman?
In the lead-up to Justice League, and for several months after its release, Cavill spoke candidly about those aforementioned tonal issues and heavily emphasized that he couldn’t wait to portray a more classic Superman in future films. His management team, led by Dani Garcia, also made it abundantly clear to the public that they had no intention of relinquishing the red cape just yet– even after reports noted that the studio was moving on in September of 2018.
The last bit of news regarding the Henry Cavill version of the character came in the form of industry reports in May of 2020 that he was close to signing a new deal. Trades like Deadline and Variety covered this news, adding that the plan wouldn’t be for more solo films, but rather for him to make several appearances in other DC movies. The rumored deal sounded similar to the one Michael Keaton was reported to have signed, where his Batman will appear in crossover films as needed but won’t be getting his own movies.
But the trail has gone cold ever since then.
When we did finally hear about a new Superman movie earlier this year, it was in the form of a reboot featuring a Black Man of Steel.
On the surface, that news could mean that Cavill’s run is officially over. But as noted with the creative direction planned for The Flash, there’s a very real possibility that he still exists within the DC multiverse and could be used for other big event films- which I explore further HERE.
In terms of the new film being developed by Abrams and Coates, next to nothing is known. All we have for now are rumors that it’ll center on a Black Superman, but seemingly not one of the existing Black Supermen (Calvin Ellis or Val-Zod). Instead, there are rumors that they may race-bend Kal-El, or possibly even create an entirely new character who assumes the mantle of Superman.
So when it comes to Superman on Film, things are really in a state of a limbo at the moment. Several possibilities are floating around the Phantom Zone for now, and we won’t know what’s coming until more is revealed about The Flash and the Abrams reboot.
Future editions of The SOF Weekly Planet will include analysis and insight into any and all updates about the Last Son of Krypton’s next flight to a theater near you, so keep your browser tuned right here, to Superman-On-Film.
Thanks for reading!