It's anybody's guess what filmmaker J.J. Abrams will do now that he has signed a big, profitable overall deal with Warner Bros. -- but some fans are hoping that, given his history with the Superman franchise, Abrams might bring the Man of Steel back to the big screen now that he's at the company that owns DC. Abrams, who brought new installments of Star Trek and Star Wars to life, just signed a deal with Warners to make TV and film projects for them. Not too long ago, though, Abrams was pitching Superman: Flyby, a 2002 script that would have revived Superman in the years before Superman Returns.
Ironically, Henry Cavill actually screen-tested for Abrams's Superman movie, so there are shots of him in pre-Man of Steel super-suits that came as a result. The film would have been a strange reinvention of the Superman origin, in which Kal-El wasn't sent away from a dying world but rather from one in a state of civil war, where Superman's father Jor-El and Jor-El's brother Kata-Zor were the key players. The film would have seen Superman battle a group of evil Kryptonians and revealed that Jor-El committed suicide while in prison.
Over the summer, rumors flooded the internet that Abrams might be taking aim at Superman and Green Lantern, and while the sources of those rumors were not especially credible, it's worth noting that a lot of fans welcomed the news: while Abrams can be an acquired taste, his years in genre entertainment have proven that he is a guy who can get stuff done and get movies made. In the time since Man of Steel, people able to motivate Warners to get a Superman movie off the ground have been lacking, and while fans love Cavill as Superman, sequels to Man of Steel have now been delayed for so long that there is talk of Cavill moving on.
For that reason alone, Abrams seems like a solid choice to revitalize the flagging Superman brand. Added to that, you have his history with both the property and with Cavill, as well as the fact that putting their high-profile new hire on one of their biggest franchises of all time feels like something that Warners would see as a solid return on their investment, and you can see why some fans are thinking that an Abrams-Superman marriage would make a lot of sense.
With James Gunn's The Suicide Squad poised to take place in a world where David Ayer's Suicide Squad happened, but doesn't particularly play into the events of the follow-up, the next question would be whether a prospective Abrams Superman movie would more resemble Man of Steel or Flyby, and that, too, would be anybody's guess. A total reinvention of the mythology like Flyby would likely demand a recasting, which would profe controversial with a lot of fans, but that isn't to say there aren't any other actors besides Henry Cavill that the audience could become invested in.
Interestingly enough, at one point Abrams and Flyby adviser Christopher Reeve reportedly were keen on the idea of bringing Smallville's Tom Welling into the movie universe to play Superman in Flyby. Another candidate who expressed interest was Jerry O'Connell, who would go on to voice Superman in The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. If Welling was a serious consideration back then, one has to wonder whether, in the absence of a new deal with Cavill, the studio might entertain the notion of bringing Everybody Wants Some!!! and The Domestics star Tyler Hoechlin, who plays the Man of Steel on The CW's Supergirl, in for an audition.
Of course, if he were going to go in a CW direction, there's the old rumor that Jared Padalecki tried out for Flyby...and it seems like we've heard something about his schedule opening up a bit after the next season of Supernatural is up.3comments
It is difficult to know whether Warners would prefer that Abrams -- who in addition to Star Trek and Star Wars helmed projects like Felicity and LOST over the course of his career -- come on to boster a project like Superman or whether he create something new and put new toys into the company's IP toybox.
Fans will have to wait and see what comes next, but certainly it's hard to argue that Abrams coming to Warners makes a new Superman movie, with the involvement of the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker director, less likely than before he came on board.