Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #452: Superman May Fly Again?

Welcome to the show folks...

Christopher Nolan, the auteur behind the revival, both creatively and financially, of the
Batman franchise has been tapped to "mentor" the revival-reboot of their former flagship hero Superman.

Now some folks are looking at this news and see an attempt by Warner Bros. at turning Superman into The Dark Knight, making him all dark, moody, and broody, instead of the idealistic Man of Steel fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.

Well, yes and no.

Nolan's success with the Batman franchise comes from the simple fact that he understands the nature of that franchise, what made it so popular, and translated it very carefully onto film.

All he has to do, is repeat that with Superman.

To do that he has to ask questions like these:

1. What is the nature of Superman?

Superman is an immigrant success story, a refugee who literally arrives with nothing, has his special gifts brought to life by his new home, and uses those gifts to become that new home's greatest champion.

2. What is the nature of Superman's relationship to his world?

Superman is both an idealist, and an ideal. He's god-like in his power, yet humble in his attitude, believing that his power should serve a greater good. He's a ray of sunshine in a world rampant with cynicism and opportunism.

3. What can be done with the Superman story?

A lot can be done with Superman, especially when the script doesn't waste over half the movie with him mooning over Lois Lane like a whiny emo-kid. It's about a man out to save the world whether it wants to be saved or not. I say plan a trilogy to be played out over the next decade, with a definite beginning, middle, and ending. You can skip the origin story, everyone knows it by heart, and just leap right into battling baddies like Brainiac. (The franchise needs Brainiac, too much Luthor was one of the factors that stank up Superman Returns.)

I also would like to suggest to Mr. Nolan that he consider input from animator Bruce Timm, and writer/producer Paul Dini. They defined the characters for a generation of fans for the past 20 years, and have a deep understanding of those same characters, their status as modern folklore, and how to adapt those characters for changing times.

I think together they could take the franchise to a whole new level.


  1. I hope this is a sign that DC/warner Bros has gotten it's act together with Superman. This might mean they kicked John "Giant Spider" Peters to the curb.

    Kevin Smith had a speech where he explained the real problem with Superman in the past, is has been run by old coots who have no clue what he is really about except for their childhood memories of the George Reeves TV show.

    With Nolan in charge this might also be a sign of Dc working up to a Batman/Superman Film.

    They cool it with Lex Luthor, there were 4 films with Lex, except for 3 but he was substituted with a no brand ripoff. When they do have Lex, he is always doing some hair-brained scheme that too silly even for the current comics or Animated Series

    Darksied, Brainiac, Metallo

  2. Darkseid could almost endure a trilogy as a bad guy, kind of the way the Emperor SHOULD have been in the prequels, but they would really have to downplay the new gods angle for movie audiences. Actually, Mongol might be better choice: An alien conqueror setting his sites on earth... etc etc. Then there's Gog... ugh could be really good or really bad. An Imperix trilogy could be... interesting.

    Let's face it, 1 & 3 were heavily grounded in reality with #4 straining that set up past the tolerance limit. Superman always seems best with really fantastic stories. Having someone with those powers just solving terrestrial bound problems gets old. (really, do we need it any more after movie 1?) Movie 2 achieved greatness by giving Superman some real super challenges (the 3 criminals) they should learn more from it.

    The creators definitely need to read the best Superman stories and learn what makes the core of them work. "What's so funny about truth, justice and the american way" remains one of my favorites of all time. I hear All Star Superman was really great. What others would you guys suggest?

  3. The thing that bothered me most about 'Superman Returns' is the fact that, right after he'd made the first 'X-men' movie, Brian Singer said one of the best things I've heard about superhero movies - the trick is, don't try to act like you're smarter than your source material. This is a big problem that several directors (such as, say, Ang Lee and Tim Burton) have. Hell, after he got the directing gig, Singer sat down and watched every episode of the old cartoon, which (as someone who's always been iffy on mutants) is probably the X-men at their best. I have no idea how you can do one franchise with that attitude, and then just kinda fumble around pointlessly with Superman. (Then again, I'm not sure how much of the movie's problem is the directing)

    I agree about the origin story bit, too. We've had a strong superhero movie presence for more than a decade now; we're probably allowed to turn the 'first act' into a quick 150-second montage. I mean, nobody expects a Zombie Apocalypse movie to spend half to all of its length to explain the premise; I'd like to think we've reached that point with superhero movies.

    Also? NO! NO GOG! That never goes well. Really, nobody in the industry learned what they should have learned from 'Kingdom Come' - including the guy that wrote it! - hence, the need for Silver Age-bent writers to keep trying to find ways to use the, er...implied?...villain-thingy from it. (Writers with an Iron Age style, conversely, just see 'Kingdom Come' as a convenient source of toilet paper.)

  4. Heh, you speak true about Gog. The only thing I was thinking of with him is that he's new and flexible enough that they can do almost whatever they want with him without offending fanboys (I mean, we've seen both a human edition and a massive space alien edition) with a distinctive look that might work ok on the big screen.

    I have no idea how you can do one franchise with that attitude, and then just kinda fumble around pointlessly with Superman. (Then again, I'm not sure how much of the movie's problem is the directing)

    Yes I was reading a review...
    Ah! here it is!

    Well... just read the last paragraph for yourself to see where Singer went wrong.