Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? | Teen Ink

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

October 31, 2019
By Fifteen SILVER, Plattsburgh, New York
Fifteen SILVER, Plattsburgh, New York
7 articles 1 photo 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
Missed it by that much-Maxwell Smart

In 1992, Superman got beaten to death by the alien creature Doomsday in the highest selling comic book of that year. In 2016, Superman was stabbed to death by the alien creature Doomsday in Batman V Superman, that year’s highest grossing movie. No one showed up to the second funeral. By 2016, Superman was a joke, only ground further into comical dirt by the forced grit of Zack Snyder’s grim vision. How did we get here? Why do we hate Superman now? Maybe our culture has grown beyond him, maybe a good story with Superman is impossible in the 21st century. On the other hand, maybe it isn’t the foundation or personality of the character that made him this way. Maybe it’s the reverse, a rejection of those core ideas which created the current Superman vitriol. The last son of Krypton should be a hopeful, purely good figure, a figure that we need in our glib age of incertitude and impeachment. Instead of a role model though, our Superman is a sad murderer with computer generated lips. It’s not a progression of the character, it’s studios cutting and pasting elements from successful works in an effort not to tell a compelling or enjoyable story, but to maximize profit. Ironically enough, the man who stands for truth, justice, and the American way was killed by capitalism. It’s less dramatic than Doomsday. 
The year is 2005. DC Comics and Warner Brothers release Batman Begins.The film is a critical and box-office success, and more importantly, puts Batman in the limelight a way he hasn’t been since the eighties. It brings to the screen a reinvention of Batman for the modern day while maintaining the dark, brooding atmosphere characteristic of the Caped Crusader. It’s 2006. DC Comics and Warner Brothers will collaborate again to release Superman Returns. The film grosses 200 million on a budget of 270 million, receiving moderate critical praise. Returns updates the classic Richard Donner Superman series for the modern day while maintaining the foundation of hope and good deeds the character was built upon. The movie drastically underperforms, and the message is clear. People don’t want a happy superhero. 
The year is 2008. Warner Brothers and DC Comics rocket to the height of the cultural zeitgeist with The Dark Knight, raking in critical praise from every outlet and grossing 1 billion dollars against a production budget of 150 million. The film will be nominated for eight Oscars and win two. It is the highest grossing film of 2008, and the 43rd of all time. Superman is not as fortunate. No film for the Man of Tomorrow, but he is present on television as the Superman-less Superman show Smallville enters its eighth season. It isn’t NYPD Blue, but it’s popular enough. A grim, brooding superhero has just made Warner Brothers enough money to buy 1,000,000 Supreme Bricks, and Superman is still somewhat within the public eye. Warner Brothers got an idea. 
The year is 2013! Warner and DC roll up with their new blockbuster, mind-blowing film, Man of Steel. “Don’t worry guys, we’re gonna get it right this time. The message has been delivered, read, capitalized, and nailed to every signpost in town. You don’t like that corny nonsense. This ain’t your Dad’s Superman. My God, is this guy sad and frustrated. He’s gonna blow up Metropolis and kill the bad guy in cold blood! That wouldn’t have happened in the 40s,” As a marketing pitch, it wasn’t too off base. Batman was way cooler in his reboot than your Dad’s Batman in the 60’s, surely Superman will be exactly the same. 
Superman was not exactly the same. Man of Steel more than broke even, not Dark Knight numbers, but 443 million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. The issue here wasn’t financial, as in the case of Superman Returns. The issue was the reception from viewers. The internet exploded with hot takes, think pieces, and amateur reviews all centered around the movies tone. The problem worsened with Man of Steel’s follow up, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, (note that Superman no longer has top billing), which doubled down on the tone and failed so spectacularly with audiences that the next movie, Justice League, was reshot extensively, much to the detriment of the film. Clark Kent’s alter ego would cameo in 2017’s Shazam but is otherwise dead to the big screen. 
It wasn’t Superman’s fault. In the making of the film, Warner Brothers looked at the success of the Batman reboot and instead of using their resources to produce a quality film for the man of steel they used them to push him to be more like Batman. Darkness, grit, and realism are excellent qualities in a film, but they are not the panacea for a weak franchise. The Dark Knight trilogy flourished not because it separated itself from Batman’s silly adventures in the 60’s, but because it returned to his roots as a pseudo-noire gangbuster. Superman needs to do the same. Warner Brothers has been making their films by committee to ensure maximum profit, but their formula stopped working. Instead of changing their game plan, however, they blamed the intellectual property, deciding it was at fault and dropping it by the wayside. 
The tide, however, is turning. With the staggering success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the irreverent comic movie is having a renaissance. Captain America, himself a corny 40’s superhero, is more popular than ever. If Warner Brothers wants to make a profitable Superman movie, there is no better time than now. The climate is right for the happy superhero to return. All they need to do is hire people who care about the source material rather than a brain trust of investors. It only took until 1993 for Superman to rise from the grave in the comics, maybe it’s time he came back to the cinemas too. 

The author's comments:

I wrote this for English Class and publishing is extra cred! Here's to an extra point on the average 

Also I don't know what picture I picked, my computer wouldn't load it.

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