Why DC probably won't make another Man of Steel movie

Superman's history on the big screen spans decades, starting way back in 1948 when he starred in his first serials. Three years later, the Man of Steel starred in the first feature film based on a DC character: Superman and the Mole Men, a black-and-white movie meant to test the waters for the eventual Adventures of Superman series that ran for six seasons. In the years since, Supes has gone on to star in seven additional films. But despite being one of the most famous comic book characters in history, it's growing more and more likely that DC may resign Kal-El to a supporting role as they continue to expand their movie universe. Here's why DC may very well never make another standalone Superman movie.

Supes is too good to be interesting

Being such a goody two-shoes may have resonated with earlier generations, but in today's crowded superhero movie market, Superman gets buried behind a pack of characters far more nuanced than the one-dimensional super alien. Conflict is an important part of any great story, comic book movies included. While there's plenty of external conflict for superheroes to show off their various powers via an impressive display of special effects and CGI, internal conflict is what makes the difference between a mindless blockbuster and a great movie.

When it comes to Kal-El, kryptonite isn't his biggest weakness; perfection is. He's so good that rarely, if ever, is it believable that he's truly struggling with any kind of existential crisis—and it's those kinds of plots and storylines that help audiences invest in and connect with a character. Man of Steel attempted to depict that version of him, but the end result made Superman look needlessly emo and brooding. And while a darker version of the hero has existed in the comics, it's difficult to successfully translate those longer story arcs into a condensed two-hour movie.

With great power comes great boredom

Marvel seemed to learn an important lesson faster than DC: sometimes, your most famous characters just aren't leading men. In Marvel's case, it was Hulk. After two movies met with middling success at best, they realized the big guy works better in a supporting role. As creator Stan Lee has said, he was just too powerful. Superman suffers a similar burden.

Having a protagonist that is virtually impossible to ever really defeat means there aren't really any stakes. Sure, he may get banged up and bruised, but how many times can a bad guy whip out kryptonite? What's the likelihood that this incredibly rare substance from a destroyed planet is suddenly in abundance? It gets tired fast. After seven feature films, the one and only danger to Superman has been exhausted. And without a credible threat to the protagonist, there's no real story arc. In fact, there isn't much of a story.

Superhero team-ups are becoming more popular

The days of the solo superhero flicks are seemingly numbered. Even the titular A-list heroes like Captain America aren't alone in their respective franchises once you get past the origin film, and even then they may have super-pals tagging along (case in point: Deadpool had Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus). Considering the source material itself is ripe with cameos from other hero types, it makes sense that the films would follow suit.

The first sign that Supes may be regulated to costar status was the news that Man of Steel 2 was on "permanent hold" (a more recent, officially unconfirmed rumor claims the movie is back on). Next was the rumor that the studio was so happy with Affleck's Batman that they requested his part be increased in Batman v Superman. Following the film's release and critical response, WB announced it was making changes to its film slate. Noticeably absent: another standalone Superman movie. From the looks of it, DC may be choosing to let Superman lead the Justice League in lieu of helming a solo film anytime soon.

It's not financially worth it

The decisions studios make will always come down to money—specifically, how to make as much of it as possible. And DC's Holy Trinity—Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman—are arguably three of the most famous superheroes in the world: Batman and Superman are so popular that DC has relied heavily on the two of them since day one. Of the 30 movies based on DC characters that have been made since 1951, only 11 haven't Superman or Batman. Of those 11, guess how many did well at the box office?

However, even when it comes to their two top dogs, DC has really only had one character who's consistently generated loads of cash at theaters and overall merchandising, and that honor goes to Batman. Two of The Caped Crusader's movies (The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) made over one billion dollars each worldwide, making the films some of the most successful in Warner Bros.' history. By comparison, every Superman movie since 1978 has made a combined gross of $2,389,808,930, and that includes Batman v Superman. The Batman franchise is the fourth most successful franchise in film, behind Star Wars, James Bond, and the entire MCU and ahead of Harry Potter. Superman is in 13th place.

All that being said, there's always a powerful bond between a studio and its proven brands, and even if he hasn't been as consistently super at the box office as some of his peers, few franchises are as time-tested—or instantly recognizable—as Superman. There are plenty of solid reasons not to make a standalone sequel to Man of Steel, but according to our current Lois Lane, Amy Adams, the studio's still "working on a script," so you never know what might happen. He made it from Krypton to Earth as a baby without needing his diaper changed, so you never know: maybe he'll end up flying in another solo adventure after all. Stranger things have definitely happened.