James Gunn's new Superman movie is expected to fix the DC Extended Universe (DCU).
Zack Snyder's Man of Steel was a controversial film that divided critics and fans.
The film's darker portrayal of Superman, including his decision to execute General Zod, was met with backlash.
Will James Gunn’s new Superman movie be able to fix the DCU? It’s been a decade since the last Superman movie. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013), starring Henry Cavill, was a watershed moment for the character. Snyder’s film was controversial and sparked fierce debate amongst critics, movie-goers and ardent Superman devotees. Some were passionate about the film, ecstatic that Snyder had updated the character for the modern age.
Others were less pleased with Warner Bros and Zack Snyder’s darker version of Superman, a hero with doubts and uncertainty about his place in the universe. The fiercest debate swirled around Superman’s decision to execute General Zod, Michael Shannon’s character. Many DC fans and filmgoers were appalled that their image of Superman was distorted. The character’s image was still tied to the character’s legacy version, embodied in the comics and by Christopher Reeve, who starred in Richard Donner’s original Superman: The Movie in 1978.
These images of Superman conveyed integrity, hope, and the American way of life, none involving wanton destruction and execution, as seen in Zack Snyder’s film. Man of Steel updated Superman, but not in a way that people were expecting. Those more optimistic about the film commended Snyder’s exploration of Superman’s Kryptonian heritage and the film’s nuanced portrayal of his human upbringing. The realism in the film was fresh and savouring to them, less camp than the previous films and more grit, similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Superman’s big-screen reboot in Man of Steel fell flat with critics but became a success at the box office. However, its $6,680,000 total was a disappointment when comparing the film to DC’s rivals Marvel, who were churning out billion-dollar hits with their films like 2012’s The Avengers.
It was expected that Superman should equal or surpass a billion at the box office, similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Superman was the world’s most significant and influential superhero; the age of comic book films had dawned, dominating the film industry and the box office. Expectations were that a new Superman film should equal or surpass Marvel’s output, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Thus, the DC Extended Universe hobbled along, dragging negative critical baggage and dealing with a divided fanbase that didn’t support Warner Bros. films like Marvel fans supported theirs. Subsequently, each new film released by DC was met with backlash from filmgoers and drowned in poor reviews from critics, critics that seemed hellbent on forcing Warner and DC to conform to Marvel’s formula.
This formula emphasised light-heartedness and humour. In contrast to Marvel, the DCEU and Snyder’s films like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were both stylistically and thematically dark. Snyder’s subversive deconstruction of superheroes devoid of Marvel’s upbeat style proved too much for many. The release of 2017’s Justice League and its failure at the box office tipped the balance and ended the long-term success of the DCEU, ending Zack Snyder’s future at the company and plans for more films connected to the Snyderverse.
James Gunn’s DCU: New Leadership And A New DC Universe
Warner’s financial problems meant that the company would eventually be sold to the highest bidder, and indeed, it came to pass.AT&T bought the company for $85 billion in 2018 but then did an about-turn and sold Warner to Discovery Inc. for $43 billion. The merger enthroned David Zaslav as Warner Discovery’s new CEO. The change in leadership at the media company saw the appointment of co-CEOs for DC Studios: James Gunn, previously at Marvel as a consultant and director for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and Peter Safran.
After too many box office failures, Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav unveiled the company’s plan to breathe new life into the DC brand; part of this initiative has been the appointment of Gunn and Safran to spearhead the revitalisation of the DC Universe (DCU). The pair spent several months with writers developing the overarching story for a new DC continuity featuring famous and obscure DC characters.
Some DCEU projects in development were abandoned in favour of new takes, while others, like Peacemaker, continued within the new franchise. Gunn and Safran wanted to focus on storytelling needs rather than forcing creators to produce their projects before specific release dates. Speaking on the popular podcast Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum, Gunn said he and Safran consider the new Superman movie to be the true beginning of the DCU.
Goodbye Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill
The shakeup at DC Studios saw the departure of Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck, the core of the old DCEU. The news of Cavill leaving his Superman role was devastating, especially considering he just returned for a cameo in Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson’s Black Adam film. Cavill and the fans seemed convinced he would continue as Superman, and excitement started mounting for the possibility of a Man of Steel sequel. The news that Henry would exit the role and discontinue as Superman was a hard blow.
As the new co-CEO of DC Studio, James Gunn’s news that he would make a new Superman movie and cast new actors created a firestorm. Gunn and Warner Discovery came under immense scrutiny and severe criticism. Hindsight proved that critics maligned Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the unfair expectations placed on the film had begun to fall by the wayside, and the cult following that the movie enjoyed began to bubble into mainstream consciousness, resulting in a newfound appreciation for it.
The resurgent interest in Man of Steel coincided with Henry Cavill’s departure. Instead of Man of Steel II, James Gunn announced he would be directinga new Superman movie. A reboot of the franchise was the last thing on the minds of many DC followers. Some felt betrayed by Warner and James Gunn. Cavill fans were vocal in their disdain for the new project and Gunn, Safran and Zaslav’s new direction for DC.
Everything We Know About James Gunn’s New Superman Movie
With anger fomenting and Warner facing another volley of criticism from disgruntled DC fans, Gunn pressed on and dropped hints about his new Superman movie online. Gunn announced that newcomer David Corenswet would be cast as Clark Kent and suiting up as Superman.
David Corenswet Was Announced As The New Superman / Clark Kent in 2023
For Corenswet, the new face of Superman, the film will mark his first significant leading role in a major studio film, having previously appeared in projects like Pearl, The Politician, and We Own This City. Reaction to Corenswet’s casting was mixed. Many felt he looked the part of Clark Kent and Kal-El, but fans were still attached to Henry Cavill in the role and found it difficult to accept a new face.
James Gunn slowly revealed his roster of actors for the new Superman movie in 2023, with David Corenswet’s co-lead for Superman: Legacy, Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan from Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel starring as Lois Lane. Gunn selected Corenswet and Brosnahan as his main leads after months of audition tapes and in-person screen tests and before the WAG actors strike but continued to be in prep for the movie.
Nicholas Hoult Is The DCU’s Lex Luthor
The role of Lex Luthor was another hotly debated point of contention. Previous Lex Luthor actor Jesse Eisenberg was one of Zack Snyder’s controversial casting choices for the role. Many felt that Eisenberg’s interpretation of Lex was misplaced and that the actor was miscast. Gunn recently announced that his Lex Luthor would be played by Mad Max: Fury Road actor Nicholas Hoult. Hoult follows in the line of actors like Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey and Eisenberg, who’ve portrayed Luthor onscreen in the Warner Bros Superman franchise.
Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Mister Terrific Join Superman: Legacy
Gunn and his casting directors’ choices were undeniably good and redeemed the director and Warner in a few people’s eyes to a small degree. The rest of the ensemble also features Isabela Merced of Dora and the Lost City of Gold as Hawkgirl, X-Men: First Class star Edi Gathegi as Mister Terrific and Firefly actor Nathan Fillon as Green Lantern Guy Gardner. Fillion’s casting as Guy Gardner was welcome news to the ears of Green Lantern fans who have felt shortchanged that this important DC character has never appeared in a live-action film.
Anthony Carrigan as Metamorpho In Superman: Legacy
Further rounding out the cast for the new Superman movie is Barry star Anthony Carrigan, who is cast as Metamorpho. Carrigan’s character can transmute his body into various elemental components, stretch, bounce, and elongate himself. Metamorpho is often associated with Batman and his crew of Outsiders, a group of misfit heroes that do not fit into the conventional superhero team-ups like the Justice League.
María Gabriela de Faría as Angela Spica (The Engineer), Sara Sampaio as Teschmacher
Variety reported that María Gabriela de Faría, the Venezuelan actress best known for roles in Fox comedies Animal Control and The Moodys, joins the cast of James Gunn’s new Superman movie as Angela Spica, aka The Engineer. Angie’s powers stem from nanotechnology built into her body. Created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, she’s the second DC character to bear the name of The Engineer and was first introduced in The Authority vol.1 #1 in 1999.
Spica can modify her liquid machinery body to form different types of weapons. The Engineer’s powers are derived from nine pints of liquid nano-technological robots that have replaced her blood. This mentally controlled technology allows her to create nearly anything she can imagine, although she uses the technology mainly to create weapons in combat.
She wears the nanotechnology on her skin when in battle. It is capable of taking direct hits from atomic weapons without much-sustained damage. The armour and nanobots are vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses, which can temporarily short-circuit them and, thus, all of her powers.
Deadline also revealed Sara Sampaio for the role of Eve Teschmacher. First appearing in Superman and Superman II, the character was created by Richard Donner and Mario Puzo and is portrayed in the comics as Lex Luthor’s assistant turned love interest and right hand.
Sampaio steps into a role previously inhabited by Valerie Perrine in the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks and Andrea Brooks on The CW’s Supergirl. Sampaio is a Portuguese actress and model well known for her work with Victoria’s Secret; Sampaio most recently starred alongside Monica Barbaro and Diego Boneta in Paramount+’s rom-com At Midnight.
Skyler Gisondo as Jimmy Olson In The New Superman Movie
Jimmy Olson is a photojournalist working at the Daily Planet and is close friends with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Deadline reported that Skyler Gisondo, known for HBO’s Righteous Gemstones, will be cast as Olson. Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen in the first Superman TV show, the 1950s Adventures of Superman, while Marc McClure portrayed Jimmy in 1978’s Superman and its three sequels. Decades later, Sam Huntington played him in 2006’s Superman Returns.
Zack Snyder cast Michael Cassidy as Jimmy in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though the character was a CIA operative posing as a photographer and was quickly killed off. Many fans were upset that Olsen was used and discarded in such a manner, feeling that such an essential character in Superman’s canon should never have so easily been disposed of. Olsen barely received any screen time and was also completely changed from his comic book origins as a character.
Gisondo’s inclusion delighted the film’s followers, who commended Gunn for another stellar casting decision. Hopefully, Gunn’s Jimmy Olsen will have a more significant role in the film, and viewers will be able to see the close bond Clark, Lois, and Jimmy share.
James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy Script and Comic Book Influences
James Gunn is directing and writing the script for his new Superman movie. On his Threads social media account, Gunn stated that the script for the Superman Legacy is “99.9%” done, adding, “I’m always changing small things, but it’s been essentially done.” Gunn also confirmed that his new Superman film would not be another origin story. Also, Gunn posted a few comic book influences on his X social media account on the film. These include Grant Morrison’s influential All Star Superman and Superman For All Seasons by writer Jeff Loeb and artist Tim Sale.
Jeff Loeb’s goal in writing Superman For All Seasons was to capture the grandeur of the character. Hence, Sale’s artwork features Norman Rockwell influences that capture everyday life’s hidden majesty. Clark’s humble upbringing contrasts his godly powers, and the stunning artwork of Sale combines everyday subject matter with poignancy in the framing of a scene and the vibrant soft colour palette of the artwork.
Loeb and Sale also conveyed Superman’s grandeur through double-page spreads featuring breathtaking sky shots. Gunn’s reference to Superman For All Seasons is a clue that the director wants to emphasise that his new Superman movie will not be dour and grim but colourful and filled with optimism. Grant Morrisson’s All Star Superman also has a bright and vibrant colour palette.
The tone of both books is uplifting and hopeful, with tinges of old-school Superman from the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. These old-school themes of truth, justice and the American Way will probably be central to the new Superman movie.
Man of Steel didn’t push these values to the fore like previous Superman films by Richard Donner and Bryan Singer in Superman Returns. If Gunn does indeed make his new Superman movie more uplifting tonally, then he will have to avoid the pitfalls Snyder was attempting to avoid. The most obvious pitfall is being too sentimental, which Singer’s film was guilty of. The other is to be to camp and exaggerate the motifs and themes of Superman to the point where realism disappears, and all you are left with is a whimsical fantasy film.
Whether Gunn can merge the nuanced realism of Zack Snyder’s work and the optimism and vibrancy of older Superman films is up for debate. Gunn has a great cast, and while David Corenswet is not Henry Cavill, the young actor looks undeniably comparable to Clark Kent and Superman. Corenswet will be able to come out of Cavill’s shadow and embody Superman’s character to its full extent.
Many fans wondered if Gunn would be making his new Superman movie about a young Superman set in the past, considering that Gunn cast an actor younger than Henry Cavill. Gunn addressed these rumours on his Threads account. “I was never making a ‘young Superman’ movie, just a Superman movie!” Gunn said.
Previously, Gunn mentioned “the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman’s life.” These two contradictory statements will hopefully be clarified as time progresses. Gunn did not use Cavill because he claimed they would focus on an earlier part of Superman’s life. That might be true, but it also may have been a way to justify axing Henry Cavill. Hopefully, the latter was the proper motivation rather than the former.
James Gunn has confirmed that Superman: Legacy’s production was not affected by the Hollywood strikes and that the release date for the new movie will be 11 July 2025 with a PG-13 rating. The new Superman movie has also been confirmed to start production in March 2024.
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