Warner Bros greenlit a sequel to Man of Steel even before it opened, but the first week’s numbers show that was a wise decision; the movie is a hit. But it’s a hit that has divided some audiences, and now with the reboot out of the way screenwriter David Goyer, producer Chris Nolan and director Zack Snyder can move forward with all new things in Man of Steel 2.
What does a Man of Steel sequel need? What elements would make for a richer movie? Here are my seven demands for what needs to be in Man of Steel 2:
Metropolis As A Place
Sure, the entire finale of Man of Steel took place in Metropolis but a) most of it was destroyed and b) it was a generic city. I want to see a Metropolis as textured as the many screen versions of Gotham City. I want to see Suicide Slum, the dark side of the gleaming city. I want to see a high tech, almost science fictional city, the bright yin to Gotham’s yang. I want to have a sense of place when we see the city streets. Too many previous Superman movies treated Metropolis as just New York City, but it's a town that reflects the general hopefulness of Superman as a character. Bring that to the screen!
Introduced into the Superman mythos in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen*, the Newsboy Legion is a scrappy group of dead end kids - or little rascals, if you must - who live in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum, sling newspapers and get into occasional scrapes with the law but mean well. Man of Steel was desperately missing a man-on-the-street point of view, especially for a movie so obsessed with how Superman’s presence would impact the world. The Legion can be shorthand for that reaction, with each of the kids viewing Superman in their own way. They would also add some humanity and humor, needed in the semi-sterile and dour environment of Man of Steel.
Lex Luthor As A Businessman
We’ve never seen businessman Lex Luthor onscreen, despite John Byrne remolding the character as a tycoon way back in 1986. It’s time that we got a Lex who is a captain of industry and who seems to have the best interests of Metropolis - and the country - at heart. Let Lex rebuild Metropolis - perhaps using salvaged Kryptonian tech to make it more science fictiony, as it has been in great Superman stories of the past - and begin waging a campaign of doubt against Superman. But whatever happens, he cannot be the villain of Man of Steel 2. At least he can’t be the villain at the front; he can be revealed as the puppetmaster behind the scenes, setting the stage for his big plan in Man of Steel 3.
Maggie Sawyer and the SCU
Metropolis’ SCU is the Special Crimes Unit, and in a super-powered world they find themselves tasked with cases involving monsters, freaks, flying guys and aliens. Maggie Sawyer heads the SCU, and she’s a great character in her own regard - a tough, skilled gay woman who makes no bones about her orientation. In the comics SCU assists Superman with superpowered cases, and since Supes hopefully won’t be breaking the necks of all his enemies, they could come in handy in future adventures. They also help illustrate the ways society changes around the presence of Superman, a theme dropped in a big way at the end of Man of Steel.
This secret genetic research facility has a long history in Superman comics, and their attempts at cloning and genetic manipulation can easily create threats that are Superman level. In the comics they’ve tried to clone Superman before, so how about have them get a hold of Zod’s body and use his DNA to make all sorts of superfreaks? You’ll notice that many of the items on this list come down to the same thing: picking up the dropped thread of the question asking how Superman’s presence impacts the world. One way is that a superpowers arms race is created, and Cadmus would be one of the players in that. But a movie Cadmus should reflect the complicated nature of the comic book Cadmus - their experiments yield heroic characters like the DNAliens, but also the occasional problem and monster.
The ‘Easter Eggs’ in Man of Steel suck. A LexCorp logo isn’t an Easter Egg, and having Wayne Enterprises on a satellite isn’t that exciting when we have had seven Batman movies in my lifetime. There was a weird theory that the female soldier at the end of the movie was Carol Ferris, but that’s pretty plainly not the case. What Man of Steel 2 needs is a heaping helping of the DC Universe, from name-dropping other cities to bringing in minor characters to even referencing the existence of other superheroes. Fans went apeshit over every little tidbit doled out in the Marvel movies, but Warner Bros seems all-but embarrassed to be stuck with a shared universe. Revel in it. Have someone make a phone call to Barry Allen in the Central City Police Department. Get into a fighter jet built by Ferris Aircraft. Have somebody recall the Justice Society. DC invented the shared universe, so Warner Bros should embrace it.
Superman as hero
Above is one of the best pages of any Superman comic ever, and it shows exactly what was missing from Man of Steel. Superman is a character of impeccable moral authority, imbued with a sense of empathy as mighty as any of his other powers. This is what sets Superman apart from other heroes, the way that his real interest isn’t slugging it out with baddies but being there to help, protect and guide the people of the Earth. I’ve heard the irritating defenses - “It’s his first day on the job!” - and there’s little that can be done to change how bad Superman performed in Man of Steel. But Man of Steel 2 MUST change that. If nothing else on this list comes to pass, this is what the movie needs to address and nail completely. The next time we see Superman on movie screens he must be confident, cognizant of his power and - most of all - dedicated to helping every single person he can, whether that be by saving them from an alien or giving them a hug at the moment they need it most. Superman isn’t one of us - he’s better than us. He’s the ideal towards which we strive. Let’s get striving, Man of Steel 2.
* They had originally appeared in Star-Spangled Comics in the 1940s.