Though the current issues that the DCEU faces are well-documented, its biggest problem has always been Superman. The idea of a large shared cinematic universe has proven to be incredibly lucrative in many instances, but creating something of such broad scope also runs the risk of backfiring. This was largely the case with the DCEU’s early stages, particularly after Warner Bros. parted ways with Zack Snyder, who shaped the franchise’s earliest entries. The resulting tonal and narrative jumbled is something that has yet to be fully resolved, and it has seemingly irreparably harmed the DCEU.
The Warner Bros. Discovery merger further confused the issues by prompting a large-scale shake-up within the studio behind the DCEU. This makes the future of the franchise seem uncertain yet again, further adjusting the plans made after Snyder’s exit from the DCEU. What’s more, the cancellation of Batgirl proves WB’s poor planning with regard to the DCEU’s future, as the film made it as far as test screenings before being scrapped.
Though it may seem that the DCEU’s problems are worse than ever before, the franchise’s biggest issue has been the same from the very beginning: Superman. Though Henry Cavill delivered an excellent performance as Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the DCEU has consistently mishandled and wasted the beloved character within the franchise. By failing to do justice to DC’s most important and iconic hero, the DCEU’s biggest problem has always been the way it treats its Man of Steel.
The DCEU Started With Superman
The first entry into the DCEU was 2013’s Man of Steel – an origin story – which means that Superman serves as the foundation of the entire franchise. In regard to creating a wider DC universe, this makes perfect sense: Superman is most often the leader of DC’s many heroes, and he’s perhaps the most iconic superhero in all of pop culture, so making him the figurehead of the DCEU was a logical decision. However, it’s not without its problems.
By assigning Superman such a huge amount of importance to the DCEU, Warner Bros. doubled down on the character. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a mistake, especially as Henry Cavill so brilliantly portrayed the character. However, by making Henry Cavill’s Superman the DCEU’s most important hero, the franchise set itself up for a very specific sort of failure.
The Franchise’s Problems Began When The DCEU Started Wasting Superman
Though Superman first appeared in the DCEU in Man of Steel, it wasn’t until after the sequel, Batman v Superman, that the franchise’s problems really began in earnest. Though Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were both divisive, there was a consistent narrative thrust that belied a sense of structure and direction for the wider DCEU. However, Justice League – the film that should have offered the DCEU’s most triumphant moment to date with the formation of the titular team – thoroughly wasted Superman, and that’s where everything started to go wrong for the franchise.
The problems with Justice League‘s Superman stemmed from Zack Snyder’s exit and the film subsequently undergoing significant cuts and reshoots under Joss Whedon. Snyder’s original intention was to include more Superman in Justice League‘s story, but the theatrical cut of the film saw the screen time of Cavill’s hero drastically reduced. This is where the DCEU’s worst problems began, because it was the first inkling that the franchise was going to waste its Superman.
Superman Is Too Important To The DCEU To Be Absent
The character of Superman is simply too important to the wider DCEU to be absent from the franchise. After his brief appearance in Justice League, Henry Cavill’s Superman has been conspicuously absent from the DCEU, and it’s the biggest way in which the franchise has undermined its own DC credibility. As the DCEU’s version of Superman is the franchise’s founding hero, his absence is more than just a mistake – it’s a fundamental failing of the character’s story.
Not only is Henry Cavill’s Superman an important character, but he’s also the driving force behind the DCEU’s wider narrative. He’s the reason that Batman became involved in enacting his heroism on a global scale, and he prompted Wonder Woman’s return to the spotlight. The alien threat he brought to Earth kick-started every subsequent DCEU story, but regardless of his resurrection in Justice League, he’s not made a single full appearance in the franchise since. As the leader of the Justice League (and arguably its most powerful hero), the DCEU’s Superman should have remained a priority, because by refusing to focus on his story the DCEU has essentially cut ties with the actor without ever making a formal announcement regarding Superman’s continued place in the franchise.
Calls To “Restore The Snyderverse” Proves The DCEU Needs Superman
The Snyderverse’s massive popularity is a big DCEU problem, and it highlights just how much the franchise needs Superman in its stories. Zack Snyder’s original plans for the DCEU involved an exploration of the “Knightmare,” Snyder’s own take on the comics’ “Injustice” storyline, in which Superman turns evil after the death of Lois Lane. Snyder’s intention to have the heroes of the DCEU unite against Superman was an interesting one, and it shows just how powerful and important Superman is (or should be) within the DCEU.
The DCEU has seemingly moved on from Snyder’s biggest ideas, and though that may not have been a problem in and of itself, Warner Bros. snubbing the character of Superman has made it a grievous error. Calls to restore the Snyderverse stem from the fact that Snyder had a clear vision for the DCEU’s future, and it seemed to understand Superman’s importance to the franchise. Though Warner Bros. has confirmed the Snyderverse is over, the fact that there is a vocal contingent lobbying for Snyder’s vision to be restored proves that Superman’s character has been mishandled since Snyder’s departure.
How Warner Bros. Can Finally Fix The DCEU (With Superman)
Fixing the problems of the DCEU isn’t a simple task, but it can be achieved – especially if Warner Bros. finally embraces Superman properly. Bringing Superman back into the fold as the leader of the Justice League and properly exploring his role within the DCEU could help to repair the damage done by his years of absence, as well as better establish the extra-terrestrial elements of the DCEU previously introduced by Snyder. Doing this would appease those who felt slighted by the DCEU’s poor treatment of Superman, but it would also indicate that Warner Bros. has a clear plan for the character’s future.
Though Snyder’s early DCEU movies were divisive, there was a clear creative vision at work that contributed to the wider franchise. Since his departure, the DCEU’s Superman problems were simply swept under the rug, as Warner Bros. seemingly had no idea how to approach the character without Snyder’s input. Reintroducing Superman to the DCEU is key if the franchise is ever going to get back on track because he’s been its biggest problem from the very beginning.