Does the DCEU Even Need a Superman?

Man of Steel

In the wake of a report that Henry Cavill is leaving the so-called DC Extended Universe, the immediate the immediate question is, of course, who will succeed him as Superman. At first glance, the notion of a DC Universe without a Man of Steel seems downright ludicrous. After all, he's the bedrock upon which that fictional world of superheroes is built. But while that may be true in the comics, there’s a case to be made that Wonder Woman better fills that role within the DCEU, serving as a better inspiration than Superman ever did.

If that's the case, then maybe this DC Universe really doesn’t need a Superman.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Given the critical and commercial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's only logical that Warner Bros. would want to replicate it. That effort began, somewhat retroactively, in 2013 with director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which was greeted with a decidedly mixed reception. While Cavill displayed flashes of the kindhearted hero that Superman should be, the film was mostly a dour origin followed by an even grimmer extended fight scene between the Man of Steel and General Zod.

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The film attracted a great deal of criticism for its casual destruction of Metropolis, which in a post-9/11 world seemed particularly tone-deaf. The ending saw Superman break Zod's to save innocent bystanders, a moved that sparked even more controversy. As a result, Superman became a polarizing, rather than inspirational, figure. Snyder carried over that morally gray tone into his 2016 follow-up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In that film, the supposed optimism of Superman was tested by the pessimism of Ben Affleck's world-weary Batman. The two came to blows before teaming with Wonder Woman to confront the threat of Doomsday, created by Lex Luthor and unleashed upon the world. Superman sacrificed himself to in the battle, leading the entire world to mourn his passing, and Batman to begin to assemble the Justice League in an effort to “bring hope back to the world."

However, the problem is, Superman was never actually an inspirational character in the DCEU.In the aftermath of the Kryptonian invasion and the destruction of Metropolis, the Man of Steel was viewed with suspicion, and not only by Batman. Heck, there was a Congressional hearing. It was only after his sacrifice in the fight against Doomsday that banners were hung in tribute, and hands were wrung about a world without hope.

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