Will Superman Get Short Shrift in the DCEU?
After watching this video compilation of Zack Snyder commenting in interviews on his conception of Superman (seriously--do take the time to watch this)
(and kudos to creator Akil manaz for posting it in another thread), it has dawned on me that we may be witnessing a bit of a shell game going on with our expectations about Superman's role in the further development of the DCEU.
What is all the worry about? We're all familiar now with the recent rumors from Umberto Gonzalez that Batman will get more screen time than Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; and that Warner Brothers likes Affleck's Batman so much that Affleck's reported deal for a Batman trilogy will form the hub of the expanding DCEU. Then it was reported that Man of Steel 2 (which has yet to be officially confirmed even) has been placed on indefinite hold--although Gonzalez claims that this rumor is false and that MoS 2 is without a doubt in the pipe, most likely to appear in 2019 or 2020. It is further rumored that WB wants George Miller to direct the film, but Miller is said to be torn between directing MoS 2 and Justice League Dark, either of which are his for the asking. But, more rumor has it, if Miller does not pick MoS 2 it might not get made at all!
Anyway, the fear among Superman fans (summed up here) is that Superman won't feature prominently in the DCEU because Warner Brothers doesn't feel Supes is as popular and marketable as Batman.
I would say this: Superman fans, take heart about the treatment of Superman in the further development of the DCEU. Clearly, Snyder truly "gets" the importance of Superman as the foundation of the cinematic universe. Whether WB execs will allow Zack to fulfill his vision does remain to be seen... But given that Snyder appears to be the DCEU's chief architect, and WB is reportedly giving its DCEU directors a relatively high degree of creative freedom, my expectation is that at the end of the day we should see an awesome Man of Steel 2--and that Supes will shine brightly in the upcoming Justice League movies, Parts 1 and 2.
My guess is that by making it look like Superman could get short shrift in the DCEU, Warner Borthers and Zack Snyder are probably playing a bit of a head game with the fanbase: it serves to make the seemingly invincible Superman more of an underdog to us (and as such more human and relatable)! In other words, he is the underdog in this setup of expectations.
How Will Superman Be Developed?
Perhaps slightly off topic but still fairly related is the fan base's concern that Synder's Superman will continue to be painted from a dark palette both emotionally and thematically, and will remain to some extent a troubled soul (not unlike Batman's 'Dark Knight' iteration come to think of it). But I think such a start to the character in Man of Steel is part of an evolution. Snyder comments in the above linked video that
I never felt like a [superhero] movie should exist in the real world before, but I feel like Superman should... All the Superman movies that have been made exist in some weird stylized world where everyone's, like, apple pie and Chevrolet and it's... like the American Dream in a weird way... [T]he thing I find interesting is... being able to release the character from that world, where he's been stuck and shackled, and bring him to our world and see what he does.
Similarly, I commented on my own analysis of Man of Steel that the scene of Superman first learning to fly in that film represents "breaking free not just from earth’s gravity but also in terms of who he can be to us, the film audience as well."
Fans tend to develop rather rigid conceptions of what a superhero character should be, according to their own personal tastes. That is to be expected. But it seems that Man of Steel created something of a sharp divide among the fan base about whether Superman should eternally remain like the rosy-cheeked Richard Donner directed Chris Reeve portrayal, on the one hand, versus a more fallible and seemingly less certain-of-himself character as Snyder has developed him thus far, on the other. I should think that some fans fear that their beloved 'old fashioned' version of Superman epitomized by Donner and Reeve is, in their view, definitive and timeless--but also may have become unappealing to theater audiences in today's far less "apple pie and Chevrolet" America. And that accordingly Superman will either 1) be relegated to a second tier character by WB if kept traditional, or 2) changed into a broodingly complex Batman-like character because that is what sells tickets and toys these days. And profit is and always has been what drives the enterprise of filmmaking, at least for major studios.
I do think that what we will see in Batman v Superman is a continuation of the theme begun in MoS of Superman "finding himself." In that regard here is something to consider: If Kal has any wisdom at all (and he should--he's Superman, after all) should he really ever be entirely comfortable as a god-like being? That status sets him apart, obviously. But also, he as much as anyone else must surely recognize (as Batman evidently will feel in BvS) that so much power concentrated into the hands of a single person is an inherently risky proposition--and arguably not very a healthy thing for humanity, in many ways. As Henry Cavill points out in an interview regarding Superman
He’s a complex dude. People think Kryptonite can beat him. No. The only thing that can really beat Superman is Superman. His own noggin messing with him. His own moral choices. When you have that to start with, the storytelling can really delve into something rich.
Anyway, I think that, ultimately, to make Superman a more psychologically complex, vulnerable, and relatable figure as he would exist in the real world will be more compelling than depicting him as a static icon. Superman will always remain a symbol of hope for the best things inside of humanity. But I trust Zack Snyder to develop this in a more intriguing way than by keeping him on a pedestal all the time.