Man of Steel was profoundly much better than I had even thought it would be. My bar was pretty high going in, of course, because I’m a big fan of Zack Snyder and he had a fairly epic cast. Throw in $250 million or so for a proper budget and going in this was the Superman film we had hoped for. Throw in Chris Nolan producing, and his machine behind Snyder, and you got perhaps the best film of 2013 so far. I can’t imagine anything beating it but I’ve said that before, in years past, and have been profoundly challenged on that notion by any number of films.
But one thing keeps coming into mind about Man of Steel. Where do you make a sequel from here?
It’s the one thing that the Superman franchise never really was able to do properly. There’s a reason why the original Superman is significantly better than any of the sequels; trying to make him interesting is easy. But trying to put him in danger is difficult because Superman is the perfect hero. He can fly, is impossibly strong, has heat vision, etc. Any villain is necessarily at a disadvantage unless he’s exactly the same as Superman and I kept thinking. How do you do one? Time for a list, mainly because I’ve got nothing else witty to say about World War Z that isn‘t snarking on Brad Pitt for snark‘s sake. And let’s face it; sometimes you go the SEO route instead of the long form approach in headlines.
5. Kryptonite works once as a sequel idea
You can change out villains but once you introduce Kryptonite as Superman’s weak spot you can’t keep using it over and over; it makes for a dull sequel. In many ways it’s why the Die Hard franchise had to evolve from “Bruce Willis trapped in something” to a more generic action franchise. There’s only so many times he can get stuck in a place being taken over by terrorists, with his wife somehow caught up in it, before we stop caring or get bored with it. It’s the easiest trick to use to make Superman vulnerable, cinematically, but it only works once. After that it’s reaching.
4. Superman’s villains are going to be rough to translate into the more gritty, realistic Snyder universe
We said for Batman and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, of course, but Superman has the same problem. Trying to craft villains from the comic book world has to be tough, especially in a Nolan type universe, so trying to find a villain who’ll be the following has to be tough; cinematic, a threat to Superman and able to port over into the real world.
3. Superman can’t go full dickhead or else ruin the good vibes he’s supposed to have
Superman was kind of a dick in the sequels to the original franchise, honestly, because they had to . No one had a clue on how to top the original film, of course, and as such they turned Superman into kind of a douche for dramatic purposes. For a guy who’s supposed to be the embodiment of hope, of course, and for him to be turned evil (or just dickish) didn’t really work. Major changes to a character won’t work with him because Superman doesn’t need a dramatic arc to prove his goodness, for lack of a better word. Turning him bad, even if it’s only temporarily ala Spider-Man 3, won’t work this time around. Superman is being positioned as the paragon of hope and you can’t quite piss on it now.
2. You won’t have nearly as stellar a supporting cast like you did on Man of Steel
Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner aren’t going to return in nearly the substantial role, if not in anything more than a brief cameo, for the sequel. They have served their purpose, of course, so they don’t need to be in the sequel but let’s be fair. You’re not going to get actors with that kind of gravitas for a sequel, only a franchise opener. It’s rare that big time cast members, especially in the comic book genre, come aboard. Normally it’s big but not massive stars; Johnny Depp isn’t going to become Lex Luthor, you know?
1. Comic book films are the toughest to make sequels to
There’s a reason why The Dark Knight stands out as both a rare sequel better than the original regardless of genre. Sequels are tough business for any genre but in particular comic book films. A sequel to Man of Steel, which was pretty brilliant, has a tough time trying to figure out where to go next.
I loved it in theatres, loved it on DVD and its game 5 of the NBA finals so I’m going to wrap it up briefly.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
World War Z – Brad Pitt vs. Zombies. Yawn.
Skip it – The book is brilliant … and the movie has nothing to do with the book.
Monsters University – A prequel to one of Pixar’s bigger hits
See It – There’s Pixar and then there’s everything else.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .