Well, it’s official: James Gunn will direct the first movie in Warner Bros. Discovery’s ambitious and aggressive reboot of the DC universe, Superman: Legacy. While not a surprise, the announcement is a clear signal that Gunn is fully invested in casting away the DCEU and putting forth his vision of a cinematic universe that involves a radically different version of the Man of Steel.
But what, precisely, will audiences see in Superman: Legacy? At this point, moviegoers only know what — and who — will not be in it: Henry Cavill, any ties to the DCEU, and a cynical and violent vision like what Zach Snyder had put forth in 2013’s Man of Steel. While Gunn’s film is still being written and has yet to be cast, it’s the perfect time to wonder what the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director should include in his Superman reboot.
A younger, fresher Superman
Look, I love Christopher Reeve. He will always be the definitive Superman. The less said about Brandon Routh, the better. And I fully acknowledge that while a lot of people love Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel, he was never for me. That’s why I’m so excited for Gunn’s reboot because it gives everyone a chance to find a newer, better Superman.
Who could that be? I’ve already tackled the question in another piece. There’s a million ways Gunn could go: traditional (Darren Criss, Jacob Elordi); emo (Paul Mescal); beefcake (Charles Melton); and yes, a non-Caucasian Supes (Eli Goree). All of these choices work for me because Superman is a malleable character. He doesn’t need to be one set thing. OK, maybe he needs to be a little in shape, but that’s it.
Make Superman optimistic again (or MSOA!)
Let’s start with the obvious request: make Superman optimistic again! One of the biggest issues audiences had with the DC Extended Universe’s Man of Steel was the somber tone surrounding the character and his first two movies. To many, Cavill’s Superman just didn’t feel like the symbol of hope that the world knew and loved. Though Christopher Reeve’s Superman set the bar for how the hero has been portrayed, Tyler Hoechlin’s run as Superman has been hailed as one of the best.
The latter’s version of the hero should serve as an example of how Superman should be portrayed in the modern world. The CW series Superman & Lois displayed the right balance of lighthearted optimism and grounded realism that should be brought to the character in DC films. We’ve seen countless Superman iterations be unnecessarily violent (Man of Steel) or downright evil (the Injustice games); how about we have a film that returns to his roots as one of comic book’s most optimistic, and heroic, characters?
A more comic-accurate Lex Luthor
Jesse Eisenberg’s eccentric Lex Luthor was an acquired taste that many people didn’t enjoy. Introducing a new Luthor that fits the mold of his comic book counterpart can revitalize the iconic supervillain for the new DC Universe.
The filmmakers should also take cues from some of the more beloved versions of the ruthless and power-hungry scientist, such as those played by Jon Cryer (Arrowverse), Clancy Brown (DC Animated Universe), and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville). Audiences should also get to see him battle Superman face-to-face in his high-tech Super Powers-era “warsuit,” which can show just how Lex can rival the Man of Steel in both brains and brawn.
Clark should be an investigative journalist
Much like Matt Reeves’s The Batman focused on the vigilante’s detective skills, James Gunn’s Superman film should have Clark use his intellect as an investigative journalist to stop the film’s main antagonist. Perhaps a supervillain like Lex Luthor or Darkseid can be at the head of a grand criminal conspiracy in Metropolis that Clark must unravel so he can save the city.
Superman has displayed an extraordinary intellect that should make him as great a detective as Batman. His supersensitive hearing, X-ray vision, and microscopic vision should be useful in investigating crime scenes for clues as well. But that isn’t to say that Supes should operate alone. Lois Lane has also proven herself to be an exceptional investigative reporter and should serve as his partner out on the field.
More of Superman’s rogues gallery
While Superman may not have the most well-known rogues gallery, that is because many of his greatest and most powerful villains have been underutilized on the big screen. Villains like Darkseid, Brainiac, Bizarro, Metallo, Toyman, Mongul, and Lobo haven’t quite gotten the chance to make their mark facing the Man of Steel in theaters, so a reboot can allow some of Superman’s lesser-used enemies to shine.
The Batman successfully had the protagonist face multiple villains like Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, Carmine Falcone, and even the Joker. Suppose Superman does investigate a web of crimes in Metropolis in this new film. In that case, the story could introduce many of the hero’s adversaries and have them all be part of this conspiracy to create a unique but cohesive narrative.
The start of a new Justice League
James Gunn seems ready to wipe the slate clean for the entire Justice League with the end of the Wonder Woman and Aquaman films. This will likely make way for Gunn to introduce a new version of the League, which should be easier this time around since moviegoers are already familiar with most of the members’ origins.
However, if Gunn plans to make a new super team for the DC Universe, he should plant the seeds for it as early as possible. Just as Iron Man set up the formation of the Avengers, Gunn’s Superman film could end with the Man of Steel being approached by someone like Batman with a plan to form the iconic group of heroes to defend Earth. It would make sense for the first film in the rebirth of the DCU to include the seeds that will eventually grow into the biggest and most famous super team in comic books.