We Should All Want Warner Bros To Make A 'Superman: Red Son' Movie

Fans of D.C. and Superman were treated to some odd news this week, as it was revealed through a twitter interaction between legendary comics writer Mark Millar and Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (via Den of Geek) that Warner Bros is considering making a film adaption of the revered miniseries Superman: Red Son.

In the exchange, Vogt-Roberts lamented a failed pitch he gave to WB regarding an idea for a Red Son adaptation, only for Millar to respond that he had heard of two other directors who had talked to D.C. about it in recent months.

For the uninitiated, Superman: Red Son is an alternate timeline miniseries written by Millar in 2003 which posits what would happen if, in the 50s, Kal-El’s Earthbound pod landed in the Soviet Union instead of rural Kansas. Spanning several decades, the story centers around the arms race that Superman’s presence creates, and the U.S.’s efforts to stop him by hitching their cart to Lex Luthor and a CIA agent by the name of Jimmy Olsen (an idea borrowed by Zack Snyder for Batman V Superman). It’s kind of a crazy, one-off story with an even crazier ending which I won’t spoil here, and needless to say something few Superman fans thought they would ever see on the big screen, at least not outside of an animated setting.

Of course, the possibility of a Red Son movie raises an array of questions, including whether or not you’d bring Henry Cavill back to play him, whether you set it in the past, whether you stick to the Soviet setting and Russian Superman or whether you modernize it and do something weird or different in another timeline and locale. But those are all intriguing questions, questions we’d like to see answered.

Millar later walked back his tweet in a comment to Den of Geek, implying that WB, like any major studio, was using their library of D.C. comics to woo in good writers and directors, instead of specifically courting someone to make a Red Son movie.

Quote:

Millar: "Is this something they're genuinely planning? I have no idea. I've got pals at Warner Bros but never discussed it with them. I think they're just going through their back catalogue of big books and hoping to lure in good directors as opposed to any particular interest in developing Red Son..

"There's always 50 conversations for every comic book movie that gets made and as far as I know this is something that is very much just at conversation stage."

Millar’s point is astute. We’re always going to hear stories about people meeting with these studios to discuss potential deals and project. Think to the infamous meetings between The Rock and D.C. before they settled on a Black Adam movie, or Vin Diesel parlaying talks with Marvel into rumors that he would play any number of characters in the MCU before he became Groot; or that sizzle reel that made the rounds a few years back when Joe Carnahan was jockeying for a Daredevil reboot, before Marvel’s deal with Netflix.

Marvel and D.C. have an insane, never-ending library of properties, runs, and stories which could make for a never-ending supply of comic book and superhero movies well beyond the very meticulous plans that these companies have for their forthcoming releases, and at the end of the day only a fraction of pitches even make it through to the development stage, yet alone to production and screen.

But here’s the thing; as crazy as it might sound, a live-action Red Son adaption is exactly the kind of thing D.C. could use to differentiate themselves from Marvel, the kind of thing that would stop them from having to play catch-up with a company that’s way too successful at this whole cinematic universe thing. We’ve had four DCEU films so far, and fans and critics have only ever been able to agree on one (this summer’s fantastic Wonder Woman). Having a connected universe of films is something DC should never give up on, but why should they handcuff themselves with the same rules that the MCU has when things change so wildly from one film to the next?

D.C. already has several live-action cinematic universes. The movies don’t exist in the same plane of reality as the CW shows, and even those shows use several parallel dimensions to house their various characters, not to mention Gotham on Fox which is a whole other thing. Even Marvel has managed to sail through the complicated waters of their film rights, despite Fox doing some pretty crazy things of their own with all of their X-Men related properties, on both big and small screen.

So why not do a movie that isn’t set in the DCEU? They’ve tried the Henry Cavill Superman thing and it doesn’t really work, since Snyder’s interpretation of the character is inconsistent at best and divisive at worst. People have their own specific ideas of who Superman should be, but once you tear into some of the weird stuff they’ve done with him in the comics, you’d find that it’s a surprisingly malleable character. Not only with Red Son, but with things like Max Landis’ phenomenal Superman: American Alien, one of the best comics I’ve read in recent years.

With 80 years of Superman comics, it’s hard to get fans to agree on any particular interpretation of the character. It would probably be an easier pill to swallow if you doubled-down on the idea that whatever you’re doing with the character doesn’t mess with what people think of him, because it’s a one-off, because it’s specifically based on something weird. And that’s not something limited to Superman, Batman and most other long-running D.C. characters are the same way. It’s why Gotham works. D.C. lets Bruno Heller do some weird shit with that array of characters because they don’t have to worry about shoehorning those interpretations into any other show or movie. And it’s not like audiences are confused about why Gotham exists at the same time as the Arrowverse shows or the Snyderverse movies. So if the guy who created The Mentalist can do something interesting and original with a beloved array of characters, why can’t we get a Red Son movie?

Maybe I’m wrong here. After all, D.C.’s already tried some weird stuff with their characters and, like I said, the only thing we’ve ever been able to agree on is what’s arguably been their most milquetoast, by-the-numbers movie in Wonder Woman. But Hollywood is an industry that thrives on big risks, yet always seems to forget them. WB should remember that their last, biggest risk, Mad Max: Fury Road, became one of the most revered films of the current century and took home six Oscars. If you give creators some agency with these properties that they’ve grown up with, which they love, the results may surprise them yet again, and may give fans something more exciting than yet another DCEU movie they’ll have to watch with their eyes half-closed and with their noses pinched.