3 on 3: Does ‘Man Of Steel’ effectively set up a shared DC Universe on film?

We already gathered here at HitFix for one “3 On 3” regarding “Man Of Steel,” but we decided to go another round now that the film’s in theaters and people are starting to weigh in on the film.

I’ve actually been surprised by the response to the film. I never considered that people might find it controversial or that there would be a huge debate about certain elements of the plot. It just didn’t occur to me, so I’m a little flabbergasted about some of the conversations I had this weekend.

Once again, Greg Ellwood and Kris Tapley joined me to answer three questions that we still have about the movie. Check out the conversation below.

1. Does “Man of Steel” pave the way for a Justice League movie and a new DC Universe on film?

Gregory Ellwood:  After the semi-disastrous “Green Lantern” it certainly helps justify the cost.  Warning though, don’t expect a “JL” movie to be greenlit anytime soon.  Distribution Presidents have little to do with the creative output of a studio, but when Warner Bros. Chief Dan Fellman is lose lipped to the Wall Street Journal noting, “”It’s more than just a franchise for us, it really opens up the door to do combinations of the DC Comics characters…We can build them up like Marvel did and benefit from the history of DC.”  That sure sounds like an eventual “Justice League” movie to me. Eventually. After other characters are established first.

Drew McWeeny:  The film is positively laden with Easter Eggs, some obvious, some less than obvious. If this is ground zero, then I’m excited to see what Batman looks like in this world or what the Flash looks like. I think the film more than proves that anything that can be drawn in the DC universe can be brought to life, so it’s a matter of how richly they’re willing to imagine the world around Superman. The main lesson I hope they take from Marvel is that they shouldn’t be afraid to be literal when they translate something from page to screen. Embrace the weirdness. Go for it. You want to use Martian Manhunter? Go for it. Just treat it seriously and don’t do things by half-measures.

Kristopher Tapley:  It’s funny because one of the things I thought of when watching the film was, “Boy, I can totally see how they would do the Flash now.” The way the effects dealt with super speed with the Kryptonians, zipping around with insane bursts and fighting all along the way, it was pretty sweet. But yeah, I think this absolutely paves the way. Wayne Industries and LexCorp Easter eggs are fine and good but this is a new vision of the DCU and the sky’s the limit. The depiction of Krypton in particular indicates that there is a lot left to be explored here.

2. What other Superman characters and villains would fit into the world director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer have created?

Gregory Ellwood:  Well, once you introduce a Krypton this imaginative it’s hard to eliminate any potential villain.  Brainiac, Doomsday and even Darkseid would work. Why not throw some Justice League villains into the mix like Despero or Amazo? Heck, why not go really cosmic and bring in the Anti-Monitor (too soon, right?).  The real question is what do audiences want to see next? Can the general public live without getting Lex Luthor until a third film? Something tells me that answer is sadly more obvious than it seems.

Drew McWeeny:  While I absolutely want to see some of the bigger and crazier villains from the Superman rogue’s gallery, I suspect Lex Luthor has to show up in the next film. One of the things that critics of the film seem upset by is the destruction in the last act, and a great way for Goyer and Snyder to tackle that head-on would be to have Lex Luthor step in to pay for everything to be repaired. He could easily start to win people over to the idea of Superman as a menace instead of a hero, and a righteous Luthor is always a more interesting Luthor. Once they get him right, then bring on the freak parade.

Kristopher Tapley:  I’m ready for Brainiac. BRING US BRAINIAC. And I don’t think the new direction precludes something like the bottle city of Kandor because who’s to say what the history of Krypton is in this film? We see it at its end, and yet it’s still so realized and fleshed out. And given that that mega battle that takes up the entire back half of the film is akin to the Doomsday brawl from “The Death of Superman,” I think there is definitely a way into that (particularly, again, with an unexplored history of Krypton). Lex Luthor has to happen eventually, and that’s fine, but this franchise desperately needs to branch out into other antagonist territories.

3. What does the film’s divided critical reception mean?

Gregory Ellwood:  Sadly, it will probably be enough critical ammunition for the filmmakers to hire someone to write “jokes” into the screenplay.  Perhaps more witty one-liners for Lois Lane?  In all seriousness, the more money it makes the less pressure Snyder and crew will be on to deal with critic complaints. Maybe.

Drew McWeeny:  It means Zack Snyder has a problem with critics. Or, more accurately, they have a problem with him. I have read several reviews that have been well-argued and are obviously coming from a place of sincere passion, but I’ve also read many that seem like Zack Snyder once beat someone up and took their lunch money. I’m amazed by the venom directed at him, and I think the Chris Nolan backlash has also been building for a while. What ultimately matters here is that audiences are responding, and word of mouth seems very strong so far. I look forward to seeing what happens with the sequel, if only to see if people are ready to give this creative team a fair shake at that point.

Kristopher Tapley:  This has been highly frustrating to me. I feel like it boils down to a level of fatigue (and frankly, in some cases, a lack of imagination). Critics are rarely willing to embrace the comic book subgenre as it is and something like this, so potent in its embrace of what the fans want, probably never had a chance. I hear cries of “it lacks humanity,” and then I think about how its emotional beats affected me. I hear “numbing action,” and then I recall complaints over a lack of it in “Superman Returns.” This film serves, to me, a single purpose: re-introduce a character, offer a sense of scale for a new universe on film and don’t slow down to over-tell a story we’ve heard over and over again for 75 years. I think it succeeded.

“Man Of Steel” is now playing in theaters everywhere.