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How to Make a Good Superman Movie In Ten Easy Steps June 28, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Comics, Observations, Popular Culture, Science Ficton.
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In the aftermath of the mildly disappointing 2006 “Superman Returns”, the idiots at Warner Brothers spent months scratching their simian heads trying to figure out why this movie didn’t have “Batman Begins”-type bank. Well, in the four years following, the nimrods decided to just go ahead and “reboot” the reboot of the franchise…and have Christopher Nolan do the next Superman movie. In an interview with MTV News (that has nothing—NOTHING, I say!—with the upcoming Nolan movie “Inception” in theaters July 16!), this is what he had to say about doing a Superman movie:

As the producer of the upcoming “Superman” film, Nolan is already hard at work on the story alongside his “Dark Knight” collaborators Jonah Nolan and David S. Goyer, but the project remains so early in development that casting hasn’t even been considered yet.

“I haven’t even thought about it, to be honest,” Nolan told MTV News during a recent press junket for “Inception,” his forthcoming thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. “All of these things, whether you’re doing a ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman’ film, it’s all about story first. It’s all about figuring out exactly the tone and the meaning of the story and how you’re going to approach it. Casting comes later. All of those considerations come later.”

Even if casting isn’t an immediate concern, Nolan already has plenty of history to look toward as he and his collaborators find the story for “Superman.” For Nolan himself, the filmmaker considers director Richard Donner’s first adaptation in 1978 as something to aspire to. “I was hugely struck by the Donner films in the ’70s when I was a kid,” he said. “In 1978, I saw [“Superman”] and it had such epic scope to it. It took on this incredible, iconic figure and gave that iconic figure an appropriate framing. It made quite an impression on me. It’s definitely one of my childhood touchstones of what epic cinema can be.”

Oh, dear. There are two red flags in this passage: first, his “casting comes later” statement and then his invocation of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman movie. Casting hardly comes “later” when it comes to Superman, especially in light of the ’78 movie—Christopher Reeve pretty much owns and will own any interpretation of Superman. Hell, that was part of the problem with “Returns”—poor Brandon Routh—who did a pretty damned good job, considering that he was saddled with being a broody, stalkery git for most of the movie—can’t get any respect. The other problem with “Returns” was that it damn near aped Superman: The Movie.

In light of the above statement by Nolan, I offer my ten suggestions about how to make a good Superman movie:

1. Keep the John Williams theme.
I’ve got it as a ringtone—you can bet when it goes off, people know what it is. This theme, like all of John Williams’ themes, has become indelibly identified with Superman. Change it, and you’ll have fans going, “Bwhuh?” So don’t screw with it.

2. Keep the uniform–no stupid changes (like an S on the belt buckle or frakkin’ around with the color palette)

This interpretation of the uniform was…dull. Look at the muted colors. The blue is okay, but what is going on with that cape and boots? Singer was going for an “X-Men”-ish “update” of a uniform that, frankly, needs no updating.

I think this fan’s design looks like both a good “update” while remaining faithful to the ’78 design.

3. Get an actress who can play a believable Lois Lane.
Don’t get some waif who doesn’t look old enough to drive a car, much less be a Pulitzer Prize-seeking, hard-as-nails reporter for the Daily Planet. Lois Lane is a grown-ass woman, people. If you’re so inured to the ’78 movie, take a gander at Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and do that.

4. No kids. Unless Superman is rescuing them.
This was the major complaint about “Returns”—Superman now has a kid? Huh? Well, where do you go with THAT? Have Lois and Superman in court fighting for parental rights?

5. ACTION. Superman is a hero–show him doing heroic stuff, dammit.
Remember in the run-up to Superman Returns how all the television spots showed Superman doing stuff? And remember how disappointed you were when all that stuff happened fairly early in the movie and the rest of it turned into a bad ripoff of Lex Luthor’s ’78 land grab scheme? More of the former and less of the latter, please.

6. No more Lex Luthor, unless he’s either created or is joining forces with Brainiac
While Kevin Spacey did a pretty good job as Luthor, what was missing was…well, a real threat. Luthor is Superman’s arch-nemesis, but not his ONLY nemesis. And having Luthor being a land grabbing idiot is just plain lazy. If you must go back to the well with Luthor, have him be a villain—a real, EVIL person. Not a cartoon character.

7. A CREDIBLE VILLAIN. Brainiac. Darkseid. The Parasite. Mongul.
All of the above can go toe-to-toe with Superman. These are epic villains who can deliver a third act smackdown that, with good CGI and a good director, would have audiences drooling in their popcorn. Dudes, you have enough for four freakin’ movies. Get to it.

8. Stop retelling the origin. Donner got it right. Stop going back to that well.
Seriously. Stop invoking the Richard Donner movie every single time. If there was one thing that derailed “Superman Returns,” it was Bryan Singer’s inexplicably slavish devotion to the Donner movie. Singer couldn’t see the forest for the trees; as such, we got something we didn’t need: an “introduction” into Superman. We all know who Superman is, what he can do, where he comes from. This time, start in Metropolis and go from there.

9. Keep Brandon Routh. He’s as close to Christopher Reeve’s interpretation of Superman/Clark Kent as you’re going to get.
I think a recast at this point would be disastrous. Routh himself has repeatedly said he’d love to come back and play Superman again. Frankly, I can’t see anyone else playing Supes; besides, like I said before, the man did a good job. It’s not his fault that the story kinda sucked.

10. For the love of Rao, stop trying to “deconstruct” Superman.
I don’t need or want to watch a movie where the director is trying to be “deep” and help us plebes understand Why The World Needs Superman. After getting me pumped with the Superman march, I want to see Superman being the inspirational, optimistic, indefatigable hero he’s been for 72 years.

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