Following the critical failures of Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the future of the DC Extended Universe looked bleak. Fortunately, Wonder Woman broke the curse, earning acclaim, and the money to match, with its optimism and faith in the human spirit. However, the film's success raises an important question: Where does the DCEU go from here?
One rumor that spread rapidly over the weekend suggested Warner Bros. is plotting a "new direction" that involves the introduction of Supergirl in Man of Steel 2. But while that assertion was quickly shot down, if Wonder Woman's triumph is any indication, then Supergirl is precisely what a Man of Steel sequel needs.
One of the criticisms of 2013's Man of Steel -- and, by extension, Batman v Superman -- is that Superman was depicted as too dark, and it's difficult to argue with that. Although the iconic hero says few words in his own features, he's presented as brooding and aloof; he may actively go against his parents' wishes to keep himself hidden away from the world, but he takes no joy in helping people. In Man of Steel, he paid no heed to innocent lives as he tussled with Zod in Metropolis; Batman v Superman showed him hovering above distraught masses like a bored god. He sacrificed himself (at least temporarily) for the sake of mankind, but he barely had the opportunity to rescue anyone besides Lois Lane on-screen before he gave his life. Thus, his sacrifice, and the response to it, felt unearned. With hardly a smile, Superman had a brief but miserable existence in the DCEU -- and that's why Supergirl is the shot in the arm he needs.
For one, the arrival of Supergirl could dredge up, and answer, some questions about Superman's motivation to save humanity, especially considering how browbeaten the ordeal appears to make him. If Kara were introduced, it's likely she would have been in stasis for years and, therefore, new to Earth, and in need of an education about mankind. Who better to teach her than her famous cousin? In doing so, Superman would have to face some hard truths about his chosen people, his decisions and what it means to be a hero. That could open the door for Man of Steel 2 to do a little introspection, and prevent a story from the title character's perspective, something sorely lacking from both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.
Taking that a step further, Supergirl could teach Superman something as well. If Man of Steel 2 skewed younger with the character, she could be presented as optimistic and joyful and, yes, perhaps a little naive. Superman could watch her gleefully discover her new powers, then revel in the thrill of using them to benefit others. In turn, Superman could learn to lighten up a little (and maybe smile now and again). Supergirl could wash away some of the years of cynicism, and help him learn to love being a hero, readjusting -- if not fully changing -- his attitude.
Additionally, seeing as she was old enough to remember life on Krypton when she left, Supergirl could provide Superman with valuable insight on Kryptonian culture. Man of Steel delved into what life was like on Krypton, but from the perspective of a scientist (Jor-El) and a military leader (Zod). Supergirl would be able to offer a different point of view. She could teach Kal-El about everyday life on Krypton, and tell him about his family and their legacy; together, they could miss the Krypton they never had and share in the loneliness of being the last of their kind. They'd forge a special bond, with Supergirl shouldering some of Superman's burden, making room for a little more joy.
What's more, Supergirl is among the most recognizable faces of the DC Universe, thanks in no small part to the popularity of her current television series. As such, her big-screen introduction would potentially open the DC Extended Universe to a new segment of fans. Of course, that doesn't mean the Supergirl in Man of Steel 2 would need to be a carbon copy of Melissa Benoist's version of the character. The CW's Supergirl has been on Earth for quite some time; Man of Steel 2's Supergirl could be fresh out of her pod, wide-eyed and curious. Supergirl could echo Wonder Woman's Diana, in that she stubbornly maintains her compassion, even in the face of adversity, while also grappling with the tragic past Diana never quite had -- that is to say, how Kara was ripped from her home and her people, while Diana chose to leave.
Supergirl would also bring a new dynamic to the DCEU, not previously in a young or female hero (of which there are few). For one, Man of Steel 2 could tackle her rage. In dealing with her loss, Kara has a history of struggling with anger; in the comics, the character was once a Red Lantern, best known for their violent fury. Although Man of Steel 2 would be unlikely to introduce the concept of Red Lanterns, the movie could find Supergirl attempting to balance her rage with her loss and learning how to control her powers.
For another, Supergirl would add another female hero to a film lineup thick with male characters. Wonder Woman has taken the lead in many Justice League spots, and Mera will debut in the film as well. However, beyond that, the DCEU doesn't have many women superheroes. (While Lois has been great so far, she's relegated to supporting character and doesn't possess any superpowers.) As such, Supergirl's introduction would bolster the DCEU's roster of strong female characters in an organic way.
Plus, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment seem far less hesitant that they were before about bringing two different versions of the same character to the screen. In the early days of Arrow, the television drama introduced a version of the Suicide Squad, only for the team to be removed from the field to make way for the film. Likewise, the once-prominent Deathstroke disappeared from the series once Warner Bros. "had plans" for the fan-favorite character in Justice League. However, the studio has since changed its perspective. For instance, the upcoming Flash movie will star Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, while Grant Gustin plays the hero on TV. Additionally, Deathstroke has returned to Arrow. It seems, then, that having two Supergirls -- one on TV and one on film -- would present little problem.
Supergirl could bring a lot to Man of Steel's sequel. From her optimism to her rage to her dynamic with Superman, she would be an important asset to the DCEU. In addition to her strength as a solo character, she could also help rectify what many perceive to be a problem with Superman's big-screen characterization: his darkness.
Arriving Nov. 17, Justice League stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.