James Gunn Superman Title Change Needs To Earn It

By Zack Zagranis | Published

james gunn superman

James Gunn’s sizable ego may have finally gotten the best of him. The Guardians of the Galaxy director took to Instagram yesterday with a surprising announcement about his upcoming Superman project. According to James Gunn, the movie previously known as Superman: Legacy will now be called simply Superman, and frankly, we’re not sure he’s earned the right to use that title.

The Definitive Superman

james gunn superman

Let’s start with the obvious one: why? Why change the title when the press and everyone else, including James Gunn himself, have been referring to the movie as Superman: Legacy for almost a year at this point? Gunn hasn’t given any specific answers, but we have a theory.

According to the director’s Instagram post: “When I finished the first draft of the script, I called the film Superman: Legacy.  By the time I locked the final draft, it was clear the title was SUPERMAN.” In other words, Gunn was so pleased with his work that he decided that it should stand as the definitive statement on The Man of Steel. Let’s just hope his decision was born from the actual quality of the work and not the director’s own hubris.

Superman Is An American Icon

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Because if James Gunn is going to call his movie just Superman, he better make sure it communicates exactly what makes the character so beloved. Otherwise, he’s doing a disservice to one of history’s most enduring fictional characters. Superman isn’t just a comic book character–He’s an icon.

Richard Donner’s Superman

It may seem silly to quibble about a title, but remember, of all the movies to feature the Last Son of Krypton, only one has been called Superman. Richard Donner’s original 1978 classic is still considered by many to be the definitive big-screen version of the character. James Gunn must realize that by dropping Legacy from the title, he’s essentially putting his vision of Superman directly up against Donner’s.

Other Filmmakers Avoided The Comparison

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No other director has yet been bold enough to take Donner’s title, both literally and figuratively. When Bryan Singer made his Superman movie following a string of failed sequels to the 1978 original, he made sure to call it Superman Returns, subtly acknowledging his debt to Richard Donner by promising a return to form. Likewise, when Zack Snyder was handed the keys to the DC universe, he called his Superman movie Man of Steel to signify that he was going in a different direction than Donner.

Superman Isn’t Like Gunn’s Other Heroes

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So far, only James Gunn has had the guts to copy Donner’s original title of Superman. By getting rid of any other qualifiers, Gunn is begging fans to think of his Superman as the only Superman. The question is, does his Superman deserve that honor?

Gunn has proven without a shadow of a doubt he knows how to write a redemption story. Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad, and Peacemaker all deftly handle the theme of lovable losers managing to make something of themselves when the chips are down. That approach won’t work for Superman, however.

Superman isn’t a lovable loser. He’s not a scruffy, rough around the edges anti-hero with a heart of gold. Superman represents the human ideal, the best of all of us.

Put Respect On That Name

james gunn superman

If James Gunn is going to call his movie Superman, he better have more up his sleeve than the crass humor and tortured pathos that defines his other work. Superman isn’t Rocket Raccoon, with a metric ton of childhood trauma weighing down his soul. Superman is truth, justice, and, most of all, compassion.

Superman might be just a name word, but it’s a name with 86 years of meaning behind it. It’s a name that’s been defined by the blood, sweat, and tears of countless creators. Hopefully, James Gunn remembers that.