DC Films Still Doesn’t Know What To Do With Superman What happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images) A recent piece in Variety delved into the future of Warners’ DC films, the studio having long learned their lesson from the failure of Justice League, emboldened by the success of Joker, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. Suicide Squad is being rebooted, Harley Quinn is starring in her own supervillain spin-off, a new Batman is on the horizon and the Joker is more popular than ever; the studio is even giving Green Lantern another shot. But the future of Superman is murky, the studio reportedly unsure how to make the character “relevant to modern audiences.” Michael B. Jordan has pitched a fresh take on Superman, and the master of franchise reboots, J.J. Abrams, has had multiple discussions with the studio regarding the character, his solar-powered abilities no doubt providing exciting new opportunities for lens flares. But with no script or director attached, insiders believe that a new Superman film is unlikely to appear before 2023. It’s interesting that Superman, a character instinctively associated with the word “superhero,” is proving difficult to adapt to film in the age of superhero saturation. Is the character’s godlike powers and righteous attitude really too alienating for modern audiences? That’s usually the argument against Superman, but it doesn’t really explain his sudden absence from the big screen. After all, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Captain America are incredibly popular, and all share that childlike earnestness, the boundless optimism that defines Superman. So, why isn’t the Man of Steel thriving among his fellow do-gooders? Part of the problem might be his feverishly absurd mythology, one that is difficult to fully embrace without shifting the tone to comedy. I can easily imagine Bizzaro or Krypto the Superdog appearing in a sequel to Shazam!, but not a Superman film; Superman’s lore might be ridiculous, but he’s not meant to be a joke. In contrast, Man of Steel took Superman very seriously indeed, the character navigating the complexities of the modern world, but the film didn’t feel true to Superman’s personality. Zack Snyder’s sombre vision of Krypton, with its phallic spaceships and scaly outfits, was, unintentionally, even sillier than Shazam!; this stuff should be rendered in bright colors, and the costumes should be as outlandish as they are in the comics. Snyder genuinely tried to redesign Superman’s costume into something more sleek and intimidating, but there’s not much you can do with an outfit that looks like pajamas, especially when it’s as iconic as Superman’s suit. You can’t make too many changes, and you certainly can’t make it look “cool.” And that’s the thing about Superman; he’s not cool. He’s not funny. He’s not edgy. Unlike Captain America, he was never one of us. Like Wonder Woman, he is meant to be a beacon of hope in a dreary world. But he’s significantly sillier than Wonder Woman, just as silly as Thor and Shazam, but unable to pull off the irony. Obviously, this is a generalization, as Superman means different things to different people. And any character, no matter how quaintly optimistic, should be able to thrive, given the right story. But Superman occupies a very specific niche, a serious symbol of hope dwelling inside a bizarre universe. He doesn’t seem to share Batman’s malleability; the Dark Knight can switch between deadly serious and absurd to suit the times, while Superman remains stubbornly consistent. And in this crowded superhero landscape, Superman doesn’t offer anything unique. He preceded and inspired many of these characters, but nowadays, he feels like a relic from a bygone age, a time when a pair of glasses could be considered a disguise. Funnily enough, Aquaman was in a similar situation, weighed down by the baggage of a much-mocked mythology. But Aquaman’s brand was rebooted with the help of the beardy, tattooed Jason Momoa, who seems like he’d be a blast to grab a beer with. Superman, however, will never be that guy; he can’t be changed into a party animal. Superman has endured through the decades as an unchanging icon of hope, but that simplicity is proving an obstacle to cinematic success. Christopher Reeve’s Superman, released in the late seventies, was a faithful depiction of the character that proved immensely popular with audiences; arguably, the film was the first step toward today’s crowded superhero landscape. And standing amongst the diverse, interesting superheroes that fill the cinema, Superman feels more like an archetype than a fleshed-out character. Perhaps the Man of Tomorrow needs to take a decade away from the screen; the audience needs to miss him again. .