Don’t let the box office figures fool you. Superman is in trouble.
Yes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice racked up heady numbers during its opening weekend. And even while the second week figures plummeted, the momentum is enough to ensure we’ll see more of the big guy again on the big screen.
That doesn’t tell the whole story.
Watching Batman v Superman was a dispiriting experience for anyone who grew up on either the George Reeves TV series or the Christopher Reeve film franchise. Gone was the stoic do-gooder who saved the day with an aw-shucks demeanor.
The Man of Steel is now a tortured soul who can’t figure out how to fight the bad guys without getting in trouble. He barely spends any quality time with Lois Lane in the new film either, apart from a quick bathtub interlude. It’s a PG moment for anyone alarmed at the concept.
Here are five ways to fix Superman and restore him to his proper place in the film universe:
1. Lose Zack Snyder
The man behind the camera for both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman clearly doesn’t understand the core concepts behind the character. That’s not a crime. It’s still time to separate Snyder from Superman ASAP. Heck, Snyder’s track record itself doesn’t quality him for such an important task anyway. Watchmen? Sucker Punch?
2. Bring Back His Sense of Humor
Remember how Reeve’s Superman dispatched with that two-bit thug on a boat in the 1978 movie? “Bad vibrations?” he asked after a criminal made the mistake of hitting him with a crow bar. That Superman had a sly sense of humor, and it took the edge off the fact that he had god-like strength. The new, allegedly improved Superman played by Henry Cavill wouldn’t know a joke if Lois handed him a Henny Youngman book of one-liners.
3. Make Him Fight Bad Guys
We’ve gotten the in-fighting part of the Superman legacy out of the way. Now, let’s scour the DC Comics source material and find villains worth Superman’s time.
4. Have Clark Cover Breaking News
It’s silly that people look at the bespectacled Clark Kent and don’t immediately say, “Hey … you look just like Superman!” It’s just part of the comic character’s mystique, and we’re more than happy to buy into it. But Clark is essential to Superman. They complete each other. The bumbling Daily Planet reporter balances out the superhero lurking within. Focus on Clark the next time around. Give him a great story to report on, and have him dabble in social media to help tell it. That will make him more modern while reminding us why his alter ego matters.
5. We Still Love Boy Scouts
We live in the age of the anti-hero, witness the upcoming super-villain scrum called Suicide Squad. That’s all well and good, but there’s still some room in our culture for Boy Scouts. Just ask Patrick Wilson, who played a grown-up one in season 2 of FX’s Fargo. It may be harder to write a character whose hat is impeccably white. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Superman should be one of those rare souls. He deserves nothing less.
Christian Toto is a freelance writer and editor of HollywoodInToto.com.