Welcome to the Superman Shell Game


You know those shell games con men play? Three cups, one ball. Everything moves around very quickly and you can’t trust your eyes. Every time you think you have the cup with the ball in it locked down, you find out you are wrong. And, sometimes, there isn’t even a ball at all.

Welcome to Hollywood’s biggest shell game: the Superman movie franchise’s development. Since the last installment in 2006, no one has been able to accurately predict which cup has the ball — or if there even is one at this point.

Watch the dealer slide the cups around and make your choice. Will we get a sequel, a complete reboot, a mix of the two (a requel), a Justice League movie, a spin-off of the television series “Smallville” or many more years of speculation? It all depends on which day it is and who you ask.

Is Brandon Routh returning? No one knows. Not even him. Some insiders insist that Routh is the one sure bet to return to a new movie — whatever form it takes — while others are just as certain that he will not return.

Other parts of the equation change like the wind, leaving myriad questions unanswered. Will the next movie be an origin story? What will the costume look like? Will there be a Clark Kent cameo in the upcoming “Green Lantern” movie? Does Warner Bros. really need to make a movie to fulfill a court order? How do the families of Superman’s creators — Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel — factor into all of this? Will Mark Millar ever stop lying about his involvement? How does Matthew Vaughn qualify as “a very well-known American action director”?

Seemingly, no one has these answers and it’s frustrating. Sure, some people will tell you they have the answers, but they don’t.

Not too long ago, a web site came out and assured everyone that Superman was in active development at the studio. Their “inside sources” had confirmed as much. Heck, even Routh said at this summer’s Comic Con that he had heard there was new momentum. Then, Diane Nelson, head of the newly-formed group DC Entertainment, said there were “no current plans for Superman.” You would think she might be someone who would know the state of the franchise, but were any of them lying? Or is it possible they all heard exactly what they said they did?

If there is one thing you learn from following the development of the Superman movie franchise, it is that people will hear what they want to hear. Two people can hear the exact same words and one can make a case that it means a sequel, while the other swears it means a reboot is in the offing. It happens all the time.

If there is anything we do know, and all seemingly can agree upon, it’s that Bryan Singer will not direct the next installment. Singer (who directed “Superman Returns”) has a million things on his plate, but Superman is not one of them.

Rumors had The Wachowski Brothers involved, perhaps in a producing capacity, while James McTeigue would direct. McTeigue addressed that situation in an interview with First Showing this week:

    “Maybe some truth to … I’ve had some discussions, the Wachowskis to a lesser degree, but the Superman franchise is in a strange kind of place at the moment, I think they’re still trying to work out the mechanics of how that can come together.
    I think I would be interested in doing it if they let me do it the way I wanted to do it. I would say that, if you take the Richard Donner Supermans and the last Superman [from Bryan Singer], I think that Superman is probably ripe for a bit of a change up. I think society has changed around the core idea of what Superman was.”
    And I’m not saying you do the ubiquitous dark Superman, I’m not saying that … I’m just saying that I think there are some things that you could excise from the Superman mythology that people would get into it, if you took the world that he was in and changed that a bit, and maybe even project that into the future a bit. I think you don’t really have to play into the origin story anymore. I think there’s a whole bunch of things you could do to make that film more alive and exciting again.”

Whenever you hear anything about the Superman movie franchise anymore, it will be instructive to remember McTeigue’s words: there “maybe some truth” to it, or there may be none at all.

In a shell game, nothing is ever as it appears.

Follow Sean Gerski on Twitter at

12 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Josue #

    Love you guys!! Greatest article. DC Enterprises needs to open their eyes! Superman first!! Then the rest. I love your comparison to the shell game.

    I want Tom Welling to be the next Superman! BR is amazing but he is to much like Reeves, time to see a different face when we think of Superman!

    I love Reeves, he will live on forever! But we need a new Supes! And it should be Tom!

  2. Vanna #

    Great article. To me the whole thing is becoming like a sick soap opera where a particular story line goes on and on till you are sick of it and you have lost all interest in the resolution.
    Some of the ideas thrown out there scare me and if they go forward I will not bother watching the result. Superman should not be dark, he is the very embodiment of lightness and hope. Sure you can give him problems and issues to overcome beyond fights with one monster after another. I liked the emotional realism in Superman Returns.
    Give the audience a truly good story with action and great special effects and they will return. Quit worrying about pleasing everyone because it will never happen. Just remember most people care more about the story and other attributes than whether the red or blue is too dark.

  3. Jon #

    It’s been a rough ride. The shell game is a clever analogy. McTeigue’s interview doesn’t get my hopes up, maybe if it were 2007… As much as I love the animated features that have been produced, it’s time to get a live series going. I do think that anyone who gets the next installment in production should be praised, whether we agree with the choice of universe or not.

  4. Disco #

    I really hate what is happening to Superman these days.

  5. Dani #

    Clever article – and it certainly has been a frustrating process to watch unfold.

  6. 6

    I want a sequel.

  7. stargazer #

    I want a sequel too. And more Brandon Routh’s Superman. He makes a fantastic Superman/Clark, and it’s a big, big shame if we never see him in the role again. Ugh, WB sucks.

  8. Don #

    I want a sequel too.

  9. DJ PETE #

    I prefer Batman. When is the next Batman movie due?

  10. Alexis #

    Excellent story — terrible situation. 🙁

  11. stargazer #

    yeah, like I said in another topic, if WB don’t have any plan for Superman, I don’t have any plans on paying to watch their tentpole movies. :/

  12. Noah Vogt #

    A good yet sad article! WB is Superman’s true kryptonite

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