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22 August, 2008 / Erik

Superman Needs to Hit Things

“But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all.”

— Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov

Well, trust me, Mr. Robinov, all the fans out there are very happy to see the end of the Batman vs. Superman project. It would be the wrong tone. But, I notice the plan is to “reintroduce” Superman.

I cannot say this strongly enough. Superman does NOT need to be introduced again. Small children in remote jungle villages have his calling card. There’s not a soul in the western world ignorant of the basic elements of his story. Everyone, for all practical purposes, knows exactly what the S-shield means. A fictional character can’t be more introduced than Superman is already. Richard Donner’s 1979 film is the perfect distilation of the origin. It can’t be done more perfectly than that.

And yet, people keep telling that story. Hollywood is obsessed with chapter one.

What the audience craves is chapter two: Superman faces a lethal threat. With his fists.

Superman hits things. That’s the the three word pitch. The who can be debated by development people and fans alike, but the basic element of the story is this: Superman uses all his physical prowess against an opponent who is a legitmate threat to Superman’s life. No kryptonite, no cutting Superman down to our level.

The closest a Superman film has ever come to this is, sadly, the fourth film. In the so-called “Quest for Peace,” Superman confronts Nuclear Man, a sub-Bizzaro concotted by Lex Luthor and cheap producers. The film was made by the Cannon Group, notably for low-budget fare like Masters of the Universe. However, this is the only time a big screen Superman really fights a enemy with his fists. Even in Superman II, the fight with the Kryptonian villians is largely gags and people throwing stuff at each other. By remaking “Superman,” Bryan Singer denied the audience a Superman who brawls.

“We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the [DC Comics] characters allow it.”

— Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov

Mr. Robinov, Superman is not a dark character. This is almost entirely the point. Despite god-like abilities and talents, Superman does not impose his will on others. Not only does he enjoy the things that he can do, he enjoys how he can help other people. “Dark” is the reason Superman Returns is a failure. Completely lacking joy, the film wanders about as Superman attempts to put his life back together. That’s not a Superman story, that’s a movie of the week. This goes for the other properties in your stable as well. Dark works for Batman because the character is intrisincly composed of darkness. Your spreadsheets prove it. However, very few long-lasting superheroes come close to the darkness of the Batman.

Tone is key. Miss it by even a degree and a project collapses.

But I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You’re Warner Bros. Pictures Group President. Clearly, you should know a film is not a hula-hoop.

[Link to the Wall Street Journal article concerning WB plans for DC Comics]

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Louis / Aug 22 2008 4:04 pm

    You’re right, they should just make a movie where he fights.

    But, the studio is paranoid that teen girls and their middle-aged moms will get lost, asking “But, HOW can he fly?” Hence, the need for origins.

  2. RedQueenAR / Aug 22 2008 6:37 pm

    Also Woman in Peril = NONESSENTIAL.

    In the wise words of Rachel Dawes: “Let’s not do that again.”

    [Note the tone of that scene revealing how obligatory it really was!]

  3. David S / Aug 27 2008 6:41 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Superman fights with his fists with the addition of he saves a small child from a random incident, restores water to Mexico and saves the entire population of three remote African villages from some horrible fate. All the while fighting some badder than badass monster of a villain. Or something like that.

  4. Grant / Jun 9 2010 9:48 pm

    This news really is music to my ears… or should that be eyes? Anyway, Singer’s film had such potential to create a new kind of Superman movie that could have become a modern classic, alas he instead chose to do something that was closer to a remake than a new chapter in Superman’s life. They need to get a director like Zack Snyder who knows how to bring a comicbook to life through film, it would be so awesome to see Supes fight a powerful villain like Darkseid, Brainiac, Doomsday, or even Bizarro, with lots of slow motion face punches to give it that comicbook feel.

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