For some reason, every one is under the impression that Superman is boring, or dumb, or sucks. I hear it from everyone. Even other comic nerds are sometimes hesitant to give Supes the chance, especially after the particularity dour Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. And, look, I agree, those were not great examples of good Superman. If they treated it right, Superman could provide one of the biggest tentpole movies in years, a showcase for giant set pieces, fascinating villains, and supporting characters who are good enough to earn their own movie. Sadly, as we inch closer and closer to Justice League, it seems like we're staying closer to gloomy wannabe Jesus Superman. But that's not how you do it. Here are the 15 things you need to make a great Superman movie.
15 The Super Hero’s Super Hero
One of the most appealing aspects of Superman is that friendly nature of his. He just wants to be friends with everyone. He’s an encouraging mentor whereas Batman is much more “do fifty backflips while dodging gunfire, and if you mess up once you have to do it again”. And that means Superman can be used to help introduce other heroes. Whether that’s a teen hero like Blue Beetle, a seasoned vet like Wildcat, or even a morally ambiguous anti-hero like Hitman, everyone is excited to meet him – and he’s just as excited to meet them! He's that happy of a dude. It’s a minor aspect of his character, but an important one that could be used to help spread and expand a cinematic super hero universe naturally. Want to introduce some new characters? Have Superman meet them. Want to give the audience the perfect idea of who that character is? See what they do when they meet Superman. Even having him be the lynch pin of the Justice League is a great way to introduce us to countless other heroes. If Superman showed up at your door and asked for your help in saving the Earth, wouldn't you? And that easy entrance can be used to pretty much introduce anyone.
14 Please, For The Love Of All That Is Holy, No More Krypton
Because it does not matter. All Star Superman (the best Superman book ever and one that’s probably going to be referenced again by the end of this article) had the best version of it – we saw it for all of two panels before it exploded. That’s it. While people like Zod can show up and turn the other survivors into another threat, there’s no reason to make us spend any extended time on the planet beyond that. All it does is detract and distract from the current adventures, and that’s a problem. Did you really care about ghost Russell Crowe? Or were you just mildly amused because ghost Russell Crowe is fun on principal? Krypton is dead and gone, a sad reminder of the fate that could befall Earth someday unless Superman keeps an eye on things. And yes, I know there’s a Krypton show coming, but really, all that does is prove my point. Are you excited at all? Or was your thought “Wait, what? Why?” Superman is exciting when he gets things to do. And all Krypton ever does is slow everything down and try to explain why he can do things. Just let him do things!
13 Metropolis Is the City Where Anything Can Happen
Metropolis in the comics is nuts. See, in the comics it’s able to exist in this perpetual state of anything, in a way that Gotham and Marvel’s version of New York can’t. There are patches of Metropolis that feel like a sci-fi wonderland, full of transporters and labs. Other areas feel like a well lived city, a northern neighborhood of Chicago. Everything is brick and connected. And then you have an area of the town that’s so down on its luck, it’s actually called “Suicide Slums”. The city can really provide for any and all story possibilities, and you can explore any kind of conflict within. Though, seriously, how great would a movie be if Superman was flying around fighting Zod or something, and they crashed head long into the Suicide Slums? And all of a sudden people are just throwing maltov cocktails from their windows because that’s the kind of thing that happens in that part of the city.
12 Krypto Better Show Up, That’s All I’m Saying
So, here’s the thing about Krypto. He’s a dog from space who has super powers. That’s the whole premise behind the character. I don’t care how we get him – he came with Supergirl, he came from another dimension, he was a normal dog who was affected by Superman showing up, whatever. It does not matter. What matters is what Krypto means: a Superman story where there are no limits. Where the very nature of the universe is light enough and optimistic enough to support a dog that has super powers. Besides, he can also provide some of the best easy visuals for making Clark Kent the best guy in the world. At his core, Clark just wants to go and play fetch with his family dog, it just so happens that they both can fly and play using a tree instead of a stick. It’s an acknowledgement of the sheer ridiculous nature of the universe, and it means we get a cute flying dog with laser eyes who wants to help his person save the day. Who doesn't want that?
11 Supergirl & Superboy Both Explore The Power Of A Symbol
Supergirl has been a great super hero show, and it's been doing a great job of exploring the power of the S. But because of the constraints of the show, we never really get the chance to explore it fully in junction with her cousin. Seeing a movie where Superman and Supergirl actually play off each other would be a fun exercise in the kind of family buddy film we never get anymore. They feel more like siblings than cousins, and their interplay is always fun. Likewise, introducing Superboy could bring us a lot of fun situations. The idea behind Superboy is that he's a fairly successful attempt to clone Superman, who is locked in at roughly sixteen years old. So we get to see teen Superman, and follow his journey and feelings about the S on his chest that everyone assumes he loves. He's the odd kid brother who doesn't know if he wants to be a "lame" good guy like the rest of his family, but always does the right thing in the end. Superman realizing he's not alone in the universe is a massive shift for him in the comics, but he's been significantly improved since they added that aspect to him. So why not give it to movie Superman?
10 There Are So Many People He Can Fight
The fun part about Superman is that he’s so strong, he can deal with conceivably any crisis. And while that can sometimes result in boring results, with creators who aren’t willing to explore that, it can also be a blank check to show Superman dealing with every kind of crisis. Think about it: none of these guys could or should be main villains, but as increasingly difficult pawns that Luthor or Brainiac throw at Superman? They’re all great little visual threats that would make for an exciting five-ten minute aside in the story. Metallo, the robot man powered by kryptonite! Livewire, the former DJ who’s been turned into living lightening! Bizarro, Superman but dumb! Mongul, space Stalin! Parasite, the energy vampire who can also drain people completely dry! And those are just the ones off the top of my head! The point is, Superman being able to deal with anything means he should be dealing with everything. Have him fight visually interesting bad guys all over the place and seriously push him to his limits, and it’s going to be more epic than Avengers 3 & 4 combined.
9 Manchester Black Shows Us Why Superman Has To Be Superman
Manchester Black is relatively new when compared to most elements from Superman. He was created by Joe Casey in 1999’s What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, And The American Way as a counterpoint to Superman. Unlike people like Lex and Brainiac who only see themselves as good guys, Manchester is actually fairly committed to saving the day. He’s the leader of a brutal super hero squad called the Elite, who do actually try to save the day when they can. But when it comes to super villains, the telekinetic and telepathic punk is perfectly willing to kill – even when they’ve already been beaten. Which is something Superman can’t abide. He poses as a dark reflection of super heroes in general, and Superman in particular. What separates heroes from villains? And why do our heroes need limits? Because with out them, you get people like Manchester Black, who allows his personal thoughts to dictate everything he does, under the assumption that everything he does is right. He’s the perfect snarky villain to pose that question to Superman, and makes for an interesting bad guy with some great philosophical questions for our hero while they duke it out.
8 Brainiac: Space Siri is Scary
HOW HAVE WE NOT GOTTEN A BRAINIAC MOVIE? Brainiac is an alien consciousness that travels the cosmos, trying to acquire every last bit of information that the galaxy has to offer. And to ensure that he doesn’t miss out on anything, he proceeds to either shrink and contain the planets he encounters, or outright destroys them. Some stories have him as a flawed device built by kryptonian scientists who went rogue, some stories have him as the thing that actually had a hand in destroying the planet. But no matter what, he’s a completely alien force that invades on a quest for knowledge that will probably end in him trying to blow up a pretty big chunk of earth. Like the other best Superman villains, he’s a reflection of the kind of threat a Superman without his morality could pose: a cold, unfeeling alien force that thinks it knows best.
7 Lex Luthor: Evil Tony Stark
Lex Luthor is also amazing. And he’s not the ridiculous (but fun) Gene Hackman of the old films, or the perpetually creepy Kevin Spacey of Superman Returns, and he’s definitely not the weirdo Jesse Eisenberg guy we saw Batman vs. Superman. Lex Luthor is Tony Stark, in a world that Tony never got better. Lex is brilliant and completely self-centered, committed to the expansion of his power and name. And the thing is, he can be an incredibly charming, jovial man with a taste for culture and an appreciation of hard work. But he’s also incredibly petty, taking any perceived slight as a declaration of war. He should be the best guy in the world, but his one sided rivalry with Superman (which Superman really shouldn’t understand) ruins him. We should want to like Lex, but his own self destructive tendencies make us hate him. And you put all that emotion into a guy who also owns like, a million death satellites and death robots? He’s the best possible nemesis, an opposite of Superman. He’s the one we’re supposed to admire, this ruthless captain of industry who can do anything he wants because he’s clawed up the social food chain. But we’re drawn to the good man who, when given the choice, decides to use all the power in the world for good.
6 Superman Isn’t Complicated Or Brooding – That’s The Point
Clark Kent isn’t a terribly complicated guy. He was raised in small town America before his drive to do the most good with his potential led him to Metropolis. He’s nice, always opening doors for everyone and making sure to say “please” and “thank you” whenever it’s appropriate. He likes video games and watching the game and hanging out with friends. He’s a cool dude. The thing is, he has the powers of a God. And that’s the whole point of Superman. The premise behind the entire series is to ask what if a normal man, raised by the kind of standards that we call good, could do anything? Could he be a good person, and stick by those morals, no matter the temptation to use those powers for something else? He shouldn’t be constantly trying to figure out where he’s from or trying to convince aliens that man is good. Superman is too busy just doing what he can do. He’s the guy who sees a car turned upside down, and rushes over to help. Stop trying to make him morally jaded or confused. The tension is whether this good man will have the morality to keep being a good man. His character arc is a more of a character confirmation – the story of how a good man doesn’t have to bend his morals, even when he could easily fix everything by doing so.
5 But He’s Still The Toughest Thing In Existence
That’s the other thing. So, Batman wants to go fight Superman. That’s nice. Doesn’t matter how much kryptonite he throws at Superman, Superman can explode it by looking at it hard and then backhand Bats through a mountain. Superman gets nuked in the face on occasion, and gets rights back up. He dragged the Earth out of the way of a giant laser. He lifted infinity. He can pretty much do whatever he wants, and the films have never really done a good job of showing that. A great Superman movie could have him go against an entire army of Terminators and just ruin everything while on his way to punch out a volcano. There’s no limit to the kind of set pieces you could do with this guy, and that opens up a movie by any director worth their chops in action scenes that would blow your mind so many times it’s horrifying. That GIF? That's right above this paragraph? That's Superman punching the God of Evil (like, the concept of evil, if it had a God) so hard in the face that he breaks the sound barrier. And then he speeds in front of said God, so he can slam him into the ground. That's what Superman can do.
4 Super Reporter
Super heroes working within the press has been a constant since they were introduced in the 1930’s. Spider-Man, the Question, and countless more have some connection to the free press. But none of them have the first amendment as such a core part of their character as Superman. He’s committed to truth, justice, and the American way, which means exposing liars and villains throughout society when they commit crimes. He’s essentially God, he could do whatever he wanted to do in his free time. But he chooses to spend his time uncovering the truth and bringing news to the public. And thanks to his powers and sense of self, he can’t be bullied into printing lies or omitting facts. In a world where the free press is actively assaulted and belittled by members of the government, it’s vital that we have people in media who still stand for the freedom to report the truth, and to honor those who fight tooth and nail for it. And speaking of…
3 Lois Lane Is Good Enough For Her Own Movie, Damn It
Lois is amazing, and the movies have never once realized that potential. Lois is the fiercest woman in the world, someone who can single handily bring down an international cabal of arms dealers. And when they put a hit on her life, she’s still knowledgeable and resourceful enough to get out of most situations. She’s defined completely by her commitment to the truth, which is what draws Superman to her and helps make her stand out against the typical gaggle of super hero love interests. Superman may be important to her, but it’s what’s at the core of Superman that matters to her. She’s not orbiting him constantly, it’s her own adventures and missions that draw her into stories, instead of just being “_____’s girlfriend”. She’s a die hard hero who jumps into danger if it means that she can uncover some terror or foul play. She’s every reporter from Spotlight but in a world with laser beams. Make the movie actually somewhat about her? And you’ve got one of the most interesting movies of the year, even before Superman shows up to fight dinosaurs.
2 Superman Actually Being Superman
Here’s something that, strangely enough, we actually haven’t seen too much of in recent Superman films: Superman actually being Superman. His whole deal is to try and save the day for people trapped in impossible situations. And the crazy part? The few moments where we actually get those scenes tend to be the most memorable in the movie. Think the crashing shuttle in Superman Returns or the oil rig fire in Man of Steel. Superman punching his way through a city sounds good in theory, but in reality it’s a depressing, horrifying spectacle. Instead, focus on stuff like Superman having to save the city from something. Look, this might just be because I’m still mad at Man of Steel for having Superman choose to stop the robot in the middle of the ocean instead of the one in the middle of the heavily populated city, but it’s a serious misreading of the character. He should be all about saving people, and less focused on just punching things. Because just punching things can get boring.
1 A Modern American Myth
Superman is one of the purest American stories that's ever been created. He's an immigrant from a place gone forever, who finds himself taken in by American culture. He grows up respecting truth, justice, and the pursuit of both. And then he realizes he's a God. And what does he do? He doesn't become king, or live an easy go life, or even whatever he wants. He still holds true to the morals of humanity, and even finds true love in it. Superman is a fully inspirational story, but also he punches robots and dinosaurs all the time. He faces off against selfish robots, short sighted "heroes", and the kind of person we trick ourselves into thinking is the best. And at the core of it, on the grandest scale possible, we see that man is ultimately good, and that under the right circumstances? Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely. We have the capability to be better than we are. And that given the chance? A farm boy from Kansas would still choose to spend his life with a woman that he loves, even if he could fly through the sun. There's a reason he's approaching 100 years old, and still an icon.