At the moment we have two different live-action versions of Superman. In 2013, the DCEU finally got off the ground with Man of Steel. Actor Henry Cavill took on the mantle of Superman after Brandon Routh's short Superman career in Superman Returns. The other current live-action Superman sometimes drops in on The CW's Supergirl, portrayed by Tyler Hoechlin. Still, Christopher Reeve's Superman quite probably remains the most memorable and loved live-action version of Superman. On the other hand, aside from live-action adaptations, Superman has also had a number of animated appearances in series such as Justice League, Superman: The Animated Series as well as animated movies such as Superman: Unbound.
Different versions of the character had different powers and even slightly different personalities. Depending on the movie or TV series, the Man of Steel was portrayed with varying degree of success. While some infractions may have been superficial, others have permanently stained the character. From ludicrous plotlines and ridiculous powers to complete mischaracterization and tarnishing of the Superman name, movies and television have committed gross sins against the Last Son of Krypton. These lapses in judgment can considerably damage a hero, so we're taking a look at 16 times TV and movies ruined Superman.
16 SUPER DESTRUCTION (MAN OF STEEL)
DCEU’s Man of Steel was not quite the reboot the fans had hoped for. However, to say that the movie was a complete disaster would be utterly misleading. Man of Steel did many things right, although it's failures are always more vocally discussed. However, we do have a bone to pick with Man of Steel. And no, we are not talking about Superman killing Zod. Although some may consider it to be out of character for Superman, there is a reason for what he did.
However, what we absolutely cannot justify is the negligent wanton destruction of the city during Superman and Zod’s showdown. Smashing through buildings and destroying everything in his wake does not seem like something Superman would or should be doing. Superman wants to protect humanity and yet here he is putting everyone in danger without a second thought.
15 SUPER-ROOFIE KISS (SUPERMAN II)
While we may look fondly on the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, they were in no way perfect. And no, this is not about the glaringly obvious budget issues of Superman IV, nor the dreadful writing of Superman III. We’re going after Superman II. Superman's miraculously discovered superpowers to be more precise.
At the end of Superman II, Clark Kent kisses Lois Lane and wipes the memory of his identity from her mind. The "scientific" explanation is that Clark is such an amazing kisser and has therefore managed to erase Lois’s memory with heightened emotion. Yep, you read that right. You really can’t make this stuff up. Even for the '80s this is too much. No offense to the legendary John Hughes, but this plot device seems like something he would use in one of his romantic comedies.
14 SUPERMAN ABANDONED HUMANITY (SUPERMAN RETURNS)
We need to talk about the wonder that is Superman Returns. A movie that went from critically acclaimed to panned in the span of ten years. Superman Returns, in case you didn’t know, is supposed to be a sequel to Superman II, whilst ignoring the third and fourth movie completely. Can’t say we blame the studio for making this decision, regardless of how unconventional and ludicrous it is.
Starring Brandon Routh as the titular hero, Superman Returns sees the return of the Man of Steel after five years of absence following the end of Superman II. Yes, we are to believe that after promising the president to always be at the world’s disposal, Superman decided to take a five-year vacation, abandoning Lois and humanity for no apparent reason. Sorry Warner Bros., this really doesn't sound like something Superman would do.
13 NO COSTUME (SMALLVILLE)
When word got out that Superman was coming to Supergirl, many were screaming for Smallville’s Tom Welling to be cast as Kara’s cousin. But, although we may remember Smallville with nostalgia, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that the show did many things very wrong, especially rgarding Clark Kent.
The original idea was to give us a look at Clark Kent’s teenage years in Smallville. However, by season seven the show had essentially become Metropolis. Still, with ten seasons and Clark in his 20s, Smallville still did not give us Superman in costume, until the very last episode. It didn’t make any sense that Clark was running into a bunch of DC heroes and Justice League was all but formed, yet he was still not Superman. But that’s what happens when you drag out a show that should have ended years ago for a quick buck.
12 NOT-SO SUPER (SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES)
Superman has long been criticized for being incredibly OP. Considering his overwhelming set of powers, one can see where the criticism is coming from. However, when it comes to on-screen adaptations, most have decided to nerf the Man of Steel to a certain degree. The DCAU Superman has often been labeled as the most nerfed version of Superman.
While, it is true that not every iteration of Superman in the DCAU suffered such a considerable loss of powers and abilities, the Superman from Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League certainly did. In an effort to make the threats to Superman seem believable, the creators went a bit too far. There's just something unnerving about Supes being taken down by mere bullets or overpowered by the likes of Toyman.
11 SUPERMAN KILLS ZOD (SUPERMAN II)
Superman and Lois kill Zod and Ursa in Superman II and no one bats and eye, Superman kills Zod in Man of Steel and everyone loses their minds. Clearly, Superman II has long escaped everyone's memory, considering how much hate Man of Steel got for having Superman kill Zod. If you're thinking well this doesn't make any sense, you're absolutely right.
Not just because Superman has killed Zod before, but because of how it all happened. While Henry Cavill's Superman shows pain and remorse after taking the life of his enemy, Christopher Reeve's Superman had no such grace. In fact, once Superman kills Zod and Lois kills Ursa, the two have a joyous reunion, seemingly unaffected by what they just did. Definitely, not Superman behavior.
10 BROODING (BATMAN V. SUPERMAN)
Man of Steel may not have been the perfect Superman movie, but Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was far worse. Although as a Batman movie it did not do all that bad, as a Superman movie it did so many things wrong. What most fans noticed and disliked about Batman v. Superman is the way in which Superman is depicted. Brooding is usually associated with Bruce Wayne. One could even say that he’s the undefeated champion when it comes to brooding.
On the other hand, Clark Kent is not supposed to be the brooding type. Something the movie clearly did not get right about Clark is his personality. Snyder made Superman just as brooding as Batman and completely missed the mark, failing to capture the duality of the two heroes and essentially destroying any chance he had at making the conflict between the two heroes believable and meaningful.
9 SKIRT-CHASING CLARK (SMALLVILLE)
Ever since the very beginning Smallville relied heavily on teenage drama, complex and tragic romantic relationships, tortured friendships and love triangles. Young Clark Kent proved to be quite the chick magnet, immediately winning the hearts of both Chloe Sullivan and Lana Lang. Over the course of ten seasons, Clark has been romantically tied to a number of girls, in one way or another.
Although a superhero show, Smallville often delved deep into romance drama territory, the kind found in Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. The seemingly endless angstfest often made Clark seem like an overly dramatic, mopey, skirt-chasing, hormonal teenager. While we get that this is a very young Clark Kent, his excessive interest in girls and lack of interest when it comes to stopping the forces of evil was largely out of character. By adjusting the show for a younger audience, the showrunners butchered Superman.
8 THE "S" SHIELD (SUPERMAN II)
Superman’s Kryptonian superpowers such as flying and heat vision all make sense. However, over the decades, Superman has been loaded up with tons of other powers, whether their development makes sense or not. This is true for the comics, as well for movies. The notion that Superman can have any power the writers decide to give him was kicked up a notch in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
A particularly ridiculous ability that Superman developed in Superman II was throwing his "S" shield and having it turn into a massive cellophane trap. The cringe is strong with this one. And if you’re thinking that what we just described must look rather stupid, you’re right. It looks incredibly stupid and makes zero sense. Out of all Superman's powers, this has to be the worst one. Luckily, it didn't stick around.
7 SUPER CREEP (SUPERMAN RETURNS)
Superman is one of those clean-cut heroes, perhaps even the epitome of everything that is righteous. In fact, the Man of Steel has often been criticized for being too perfect and too boring. Which is why no one had ever expected Superman to become a creepy stalker and homewrecker. In Superman Returns, after coming back to Earth, Superman engages in some very questionable behavior, such as spying on his former girlfriend Lois Lane, who’s now engaged to another man.
Good guy Supes uses his superpowers to spy on Lois and her fiancé and takes Lois, an engaged woman, on a secret romantic flight. Now, that doesn’t sound like something Superman would do. Despite all the criticism regarding Superman’s infallibility, it is doubtful that anyone wanted to see this kind of Superman.
6 NO GLASSES (SMALLVILLE)
There’s a suspension of disbelief which allows us to buy into the idea that a pair of glasses is enough for Clark Kent to disguise himself. It is quite unfathomable that people who’ve seen both Superman and Clark, especially Lois Lane, can’t put two and two together because of the glasses. However, regardless of how silly Clark’s disguise is, the glasses have become an essential part of his identity. Which is why it really sucks that Smallville’s Clark didn’t have glasses.
Aside from several episodes, mostly in later seasons, Clark did not wear glasses to differentiate himself from his alter-ego, Superman. The show actually had like three "glasses" moments, but they never lasted long. Which begs the question, why even do it? Either respect the comics and give Clark his glasses or just let it go altogether.
5 NOT A SYMBOL OF HOPE (DCEU)
Despite of what the symbol on his chest suggests, the DCEU Superman doesn’t do much as far as being a symbol of hope goes. Thus far, he’s been detached from humanity and even acting like a god among men. Neither Clark nor Superman give off that regular guy kind of vibe. Instead, Superman's existential crisis has led him to alienate himself from humanity.
The DCEU Superman doesn’t play by the book, doesn’t respect the rules of the governments or authorities of mankind. Even though those same humans idealize him to the point that statutes are built in his honor. But the Man of Steel seems to be too preoccupied with his own issues to notice and truly care about the ones he saves. The point of Superman is to bring people hope, yet after watching two Superman movies, we're not feeling it.
4 SLOW-DEVELOPING POWERS (SMALLVILLE)
When it comes to superpowers Smallville really took its sweet time developing Clark’s powers. At first, Clark was only aware of two of his powers -- super strength and super speed. The rest of his powers developed at a slow pace. Very slow pace. Seriously, it took ten whole years for all of Clark’s powers to finally develop.
While it does make sense for Clark to grow more powerful as he gets older under the Earth’s yellow Sun, it doesn’t make sense that other Kryptonians arriving to Earth developed the full set of Kryptonian superpowers in a very short time. The creators clearly wanted to prolong Clark’s development to keep the audience interested with a new power each season. But instead of entertaining, it was annoying. We had to wait ten years for Clark to finally take to the skies.
3 DEADBEAT DAD (SUPERMAN RETURNS)
Superman Returns may have impressed the critics and the audience upon its release, but it’s safe to say that the movie hasn’t aged well. After re-watching Bryan Singer’s Superman reboot many have found countless faults with the film that had previously escaped their eye.
One of the mid-boggling aspects of Superman Returns is definitely Clark's illegitimate son. In an already lackluster movie, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s offspring was a pointless and distracting addition. Most of the time, the kid was just gaping at the air and wondering around without actually having any part in the story. Superman, on the other hand, turned into a deadbeat dad with no connection to his own son. Definitely, not something you hope to see in a movie about the superhero of all superheroes.
2 CLARK’S NEO PHASE (SMALLVILLE)
Clark Kent’s costume in Smallville, or rather lack thereof, is a hotly discussed topic even now, six years after the series finale. Clark’s outfit often alluded to his red-blue spandex from the comics. He was often seen in a blue t-shirt and a red jacket, which earned him the name red-blue blur. Season nine, however, is an entirely different beast.
For reasons still incomprehensible to pretty much everyone, Clark adopted a neo-punk look, donning on an all-black outfit topped off with an ankle-long coat in the style of The Matrix. Dubbed by many as Neo Blur and Emo Blur, Clark’s new costume did not receive the warmest of welcomes. Obviously, whoever decided to give Clark such a grim look had little to no regard to the source material nor the character. While we may not be thrilled with the costume the Arrowverse Superman got, Smallville’s Neo Superman is far, far worse.
1 ALMOST CASTING NICOLAS CAGE (SUPERMAN LIVES)
By this time, we’ve all seen the horrendous pictures and some videos of Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel. In spite of what we would like to believe, this is not some kind of an elaborate joke. Back in 1997, Tim Burton scripted a Superman movie and cast Nicolas Cage of all people as the titular hero. The surviving footage and photos of a long-haired Cage in a shiny sculpted Superman costume is bound to make fans go ballistic.
And as if casting Cage as Superman wasn’t enough, the script for Burton’s Superman Lives involved some pretty weird stuff. At one point, Superman is killed by Doomsday, resurrected as a spirit which then impregnates Lois Lane, who gives birth to a son that grows up in just three weeks and takes on the mantle of Superman. The best thing about this movie is that it never got made.
Which movie or TV series do you think ruined Superman the most? Let us know in the comments!