Superman on Film – Evolution Over Nostalgia

Henry Cavill

Forbes writer Sheraz Farooqi has published an interesting opinion piece focusing on the future of Superman on film, while looking back at the evolution of the character to date, and whether fan nostalgia has hampered the success of the Man of Steel’s cinematic exploits since Christopher Reeve.

The numbers show that every time Superman pushes forward, the audience responds by showing up. Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner’s Superman was a transcendent leap after the George Reeves-led Adventures of Superman television series of the 1950s. Adjusted for inflation, Superman: The Movie made over a billion dollars. The next time Superman truly pushed forward was 2013’s Man of Steel, bringing in the highest box office since then with $668 million. 2016’s Batman v Superman continued the upward spike, giving Superman another cinematic layer and singing to the tune of $872 million.

For Superman to truly thrive, the character must be allowed to evolve in the same way Batman or Spider-Man evolved from iteration to iteration. If audiences and critics can accept that Tom Holland is a different Spider-Man from Tobey Maguire and can also see that Robert Pattinson is a different Batman than Adam West, surely we should understand Henry Cavill is different than Christopher Reeve.

Whether Cavill suits up as the character again or the franchise opts to reboot, one thing needs to happen either way, evolution.

Read the complete article at

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September 10, 2020 7:12 pm

I don’t understand why some people would think that nostalgia would be a bad thing when it comes to Superman. I like the classic version of Superman and so do many other fans as well. In fact Brandon Routh’s Superman (which is a continuation of Reeve’s Superman), was met with high praise from fans when he returned to the role of Superman this past winter. Which says to me that people want the nostalgia. Hopefully there will be some news of Routh’s coming back to the role of Superman soon. As for Hoechlin, he doe show promis for his Superman… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Superman2878
September 10, 2020 9:43 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

Oops! I meant to say does show promise not doe show promis. And I also meant to say the more we have of Superman the better. I accidentally put an a instead of of. Oops
Lol 🙂

Last edited 2 years ago by Superman2878
September 11, 2020 1:13 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

They already proved that “going back” was not going to take this character forward. SR was great BUT it couldn’t generate enough excitement where it needed to,…… at the box office. SR is going on 15 years old!! It’s no secret that you perfer the yesteryear versions of this character (and I don’t mind them as well) but these movies cost $200 mill+ and they have to generate $500 mill to break even. They’re simply not going to take any expensive chances. Especialy with the money tightening take over by ATT. You want a degree of nostalgia, watch Man of… Read more »

September 11, 2020 2:08 pm
Reply to  redcape

True Superman returns was 15 years ago, however the 2019 crossover wasn’t. That was very recent and people loved seeing Routh back as Superman. So I say bring back Brandon Routh. He’s the Superman everyone needs right now.

September 16, 2020 1:04 pm
Reply to  Superman2878

I liked BR’s role in Superman Returns l! That’s why I can still watch it today. Will always be disappointed we didn’t get a sequel to that as well.

Regarding the crossover. The thing about him donning the cape again,… it was the BIGGEST event to come to the crossovers!! An unprecedented and unexpected move on their part. But knowing the CW and their structures I think I appreciated seeing him portray Clark Kent more so than Superman.

September 16, 2020 4:38 pm
Reply to  redcape

I felt that he was amazing in the crossover. My only regrets are that his Superman didn’t face off against Luthor, fight in the last battle against the anti-Monitor, and that they didn’t give him more scenes. I would have really liked to have seen him give some sage advice to both Tyler’s Superman and Supergirl. I’m glad that we can at least agree that Brandon is great as Superman in SR. 🙂 With the positive response he got at the crossover, maybe it would be enough to warrant a show on HBOmax, or a few stand alone films separate… Read more »

September 10, 2020 10:57 pm

Agree completely, one of the reasons his comics have endured for 80+ is new takes on the character. I love Christopher Reeve but his portrayal and films aren’t the be-all end-all Superman, the character has so much more to offer than that one version.

September 11, 2020 1:14 pm
Reply to  Last

You’re right………. and it was called Man of Steel !!

Last edited 2 years ago by redcape
September 10, 2020 11:00 pm

Counterpoints: 1. That billion dollar (inflation adjusted) film from Richard Donner, starring Christopher Reeve, was in many ways a pushback from “evolving” the character. Despite his comic book counterpart being a television reporter for nearly a decade by the time of the film’s release, movie Clark was back to just being a “mild-mannered newspaper reporter”. While it definitely made some stylistic choices all its own (especially in regards to Krypton), the 1978 film hewed very close to “traditional Superman”. 2. Following from that; Richard Donner once said that a Superman project should feel like being reintroduced to an old friend.… Read more »

September 11, 2020 12:38 am
Reply to  afriend

I’m so hoping for a Routh Superman miniseries or special as well afriend. I believe it would be a major let down if nothing was announced this weekend at DC Fandom. They had used the John Williams Superman theme a month ago to advertise the event. I hope that I won’t be let down.

September 11, 2020 6:27 am
Reply to  afriend

[quote]1. That billion dollar (inflation adjusted) film from Richard Donner, starring Christopher Reeve, was in many ways a pushback from “evolving” the character. Despite his comic book counterpart being a television reporter for nearly a decade by the time of the film’s release, movie Clark was back to just being a “mild-mannered newspaper reporter”. While it definitely made some stylistic choices all its own (especially in regards to Krypton), the 1978 film hewed very close to “traditional Superman”.[/quote] But it really wasn’t that traditional The 1978 script took ideas from the origin story and expanded them to fit the world… Read more »

September 11, 2020 6:35 am

“It’s not Christopher Reeve’s Superman” is a tad reductive when it comes to the complaints surrounding MoS and BvS, but the 1978 film has definitely been hanging over the character’s head since then and it has done insurmountable damage on the character in the long term. It’s ironic that the writer brings up Batman, because his different film interpretations make comparatively minor changes and for good reason; Batman doesn’t have the range or relevance that Superman does. Superman is the only character, in the comics, that has been a complete reflection of the times. It’s odd how, when it comes… Read more »

September 11, 2020 8:08 am

Except, it’s not that anybody wanted Henry Cavill’s Superman to be Christopher Reeve. They wanted him to be Superman and sadly, Henry has never gotten to play that. These projects are cranked out from a cynical point of view or from the point of view that Superman is not cool and piling on tons of over-compensation for that and that does not work for Superman and it’s not want most people want from the character. There’s a gazillion dark and brooding vigilantes at this point Superman offers something different and it’s something very much needed right now.

Last edited 2 years ago by MattComics
September 12, 2020 1:18 pm
Reply to  MattComics

Well, Im not sure if that’s all correct regarding what was accomplished in MoS. Let’s keep in mind that Snyder’s MoS WAS a re-boot,…a starting over point. What’s needed right now, as you put it, doesn’t necessaryly mean that’s what going to generate a billion dollar box office movie. I think that Marvel has proved hands down people WILL pay to see cartoon-ish garbage. With Superman we’ve all seen the big saves, villians, the showcasing of his powers, relationships, you name it. So trying to conjure up some story line that’s going to bring people to their feet is at… Read more »

September 13, 2020 10:18 pm
Reply to  redcape

It’s such a misconception that SR failed because of nostalgia. SR failed because it was boring. A nearly 3hr runtime and Superman has 2-3 scenes where he actually does something super, The plane rescue, the montage and when the Kryptonite island raises. The rest of the time he’s just sulking around pining over Lois or flying around stalking Lois. And you’ve made it abundantly clear your disdain for Marvel, but they aren’t cartoonish and that’s not why they are successful. Marvel is successful because they are true to their characters. We’ve discussed this before, but you don’t seem to want… Read more »

September 14, 2020 1:47 pm
Reply to  JasEl

Well….boring is your definition of SR as well as mine defining a majority of Marvel’s as being cartoon-ish. I never found SR boring but there were elements in the story line that were made or turned into negatives that became focal points. And now a day, negatives always get the attention. (except when they’re in a Marvel movie, of course) As far as SR. Singer and company were the one’s that added story elements that caused more negative attention than the entire movie itself. But had the WB/DC not listened to the internet babble and gone on with the planned… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by redcape
September 11, 2020 1:41 pm

STM was 42 years ago!!! In1978 there were no cell phones, home computers or any of the overbearing formats we have today. You heard about movies in magazines or on some TV program. STM was new at the time. The special effects were new as well. No one had seen anything like it. The movie in it’s entirety generated an audience, not just Reeve’s performance. Where there is a sense of “newness” and unfamiliarity people in general gravitate towards that. That’s why all the first time on screen characters (usually) generate big money at the box office. But after that,… Read more »

Super El
September 15, 2020 11:32 pm


How Charismatic and Amazing must Christopher Reeve have been, to the point that people just keep pushing this narrative that he was TOO GOOD as Superman, to the point that they actually pay people to write blogs about it apparently.

Imagine actually believing that Nostalgia is the reason for “Man of Steel” faliures, when that very same nostalgia is the reason why those horrible Star Wars Sequels kept making money.

Super El
September 15, 2020 11:35 pm

Also, I love how they don’t adress the fact that they’ve actually made LESS money when they tried to “evolve” the character in Man of Steel?

September 16, 2020 10:59 am

It’s a very good, fair article. But quote: “When Reeve’s Superman showed himself to the world, saving Lois Lane from the helicopter, the world cheered. That America needed that Superman.” It wasn’t just America, the rest of the world needed that Superman. I agree, us nostalgic types need to move on and learn to accept the new ages of Superman – however, I will argue that in the 2020s’, we also need a moment to ‘cheer again’ Though, nobody is saying we need a replica of Christopher Reeve. Haven’t we had enough of the divisive world that we live in… Read more »

September 16, 2020 1:38 pm
Reply to  zendog

Yes,…it would be great IF they actually could recreate that “excited” movie feeling again. BUT…… the market has been saturated with superhero movies. (good or bad, you can’t say Marvel isn’t responsible for that). Pretty soon it becomes repetative and the audiences know that. And now a day if Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t like it, then it’s almost an automatic failure. It’s almost impossible to know or gauge what’s actually going to be the next BIG deal. Do they even need that degree of excitement? If you look at the last few Marvel movies that made a Bill+, did any of… Read more »