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August 25, 2008

Comments

Matt

If we see some sort of "darkening" of the Superman character, I can guarantee I won't be there to see it.

I enjoyed Superman Returns, but I can definitely see that it doesn't leave itself open very well to sequels. The Superman/Lois romance was in a bit of an awkward place, and the Super-kid sure didn't bode well. But I think a back to basics approach is what's necessary, not a dark and brooding reboot.

-M

Mark Engblom

"I enjoyed Superman Returns, but I can definitely see that it doesn't leave itself open very well to sequels."

Yeah, there are definitely aspects of Superman Returns that worked very well for me, but Singer definitely painted the franchise into a corner with the addition of Super-Moppet. That, and Kate Bosworth wasn't believable for a second as Lois Lane (when did she start her career as a reporter...when she was 10?).

However, I suppose (in a way) Superman Returns kind of put a bow around the Richard Donner era by (A) strongly evoking it and (B) putting a positive, hopeful ending on this particular incarnation of Superman (the "Son becomes the Father, Father becomes the Son" theme from the first movie coming full circle)...so in that sense the movie works as an elegant coda for the Donner take on Superman.

As for the next Superman movie, let's hope more sensible, intelligent minds win out over buffoons like Robinov.

suedenim

I was kind of hoping to see Singer do a sequel, on the theory "OK, now that we've got all the weird homages and replications of the Donner movies out of the way, what's *your* take on Superman?"

Wes C

Come on guys, wake up!

Superman needs a retooling! It's sooo obvious.
I think if they added a glowing eye with a scar across it, some shoulder pads with spikes, two dozen pouches, a gun and best of all a "Grim and Gritty Attitude"™ we could have a real winner!

I'm not a huge Superman fan myself, but it's this kind a thinking that drives me cray!
"let's take the best parts of Superman and just throw it in the trash."

I would like to see a Superman movie where he fought Brainiac or some other powerful villain. Please, no more Luthor for at least a movie or two. Hell I'd take Terra Man or the Toyman over Luthor again! But going "dark" is most certainly not the answer for the Superman franchise!

I feel sorry for you Mark, I know what a Superman fan you are. It really sucks to have the characters you most love get such harsh treatment.

I've still not fully recovered from the 2 Fantastic Four movies ;(

Zeeb

I'd love a Braniac or Metallo to make an appearance in any subsequent film. But Luthor is too important to Superman to be cast aside; he should be an important part of any subsequent movie. At least post-Crisis, he's not just some villian who pops out of the woodwork to rob banks -- he's a piece of Metropolis. If he's done right, he could still be a great character.

Mark Engblom

"But Luthor is too important to Superman to be cast aside...

I strongly disagree. Yeah, he's an important villain, but come on...the character's been in four of the five Superman movies, not to mention most episodes of Smallville since it's 2001 debut. I think Luthor's gotten enough exposure.

Taking a page from the recent HULK movie, I think the next Superman movie needs a some intense battle scenes that, instead of a street in New York (as in the Hulk), could range all over the planet. Yeah, I know they tried that in the execrable Superman IV (complete with the random "Rebuild Great Wall of China Vision" super power), but with modern CGI tech, a world-wide battle could really highlight Superman's unique status and power level.

However, the problem for me is that Superman's rogue's gallery has never been much to get excited about. Sure, there's Brainiac, but he's got too much backstory to set up correctly. A few others, like the Parasite or even Doomsday might work as well...possibly even a new take on the Phantom Zone villains...but beyond those characters, I don't see a whole lot of possibilities. That's why I think brewing up a new Superman movie should be less about which villain makes the cut and more about capturing the true spectacle of the Superman character himself. However they can best show those unique qualities off, then bring in a villain that can best meet those parameters...whether it's a villain from the comics or an entirely new concept dreamed up for the movie.

I think we all get too caught up in spinning the supervillain "wheel of fortune" and take our eye off the real goal of blowing people's minds with the full array of Superman's powers and the mythic scope of his world. Enough of the moping "he's just like us" junk. We've been there and done that. How about some true SPECTACLE this time around?

Oh, wait....according to geniuses like Robinov, I guess moviegoers will only respond to dark and depressing superheroes. Nevermind.

meng

good riddance to Bryan Singer.

as many have mentioned the next movie really needs to be global or even galactic in scope... no more real estate schemes, Kramer vs Kramer type conflict or Party of Five type drama.

how about Braniac coming to Earth wanting to shrink Metropolis (or better yet the entire Earth) for his collection with a subplot of Luthor creating Bizarro to kill Superman...or if we really want to go global, Darkseid! (any rights issues with a Kirby character going big screen? )...

Mark Engblom

Gah! I can't believe I overlooked Bizarro! Mea Culpa! Yes, Bizarro would be a great choice for a movie villain....and he would also fulfill the "darker" element Robinov and Co. so desperately want to introduce. Yeah, Bizarro has traditionally been used as a comic relief element, but he can also be used in a darker, "Frankenstein-like" context (as John Byrne did during his Man of Steel mini-series back in the 80's).

But Darkseid? Cool visuals, but like Brainiac, I think there's just too much set-up to cover for him to be effective. Remember when Darkseid was featured in the Superman animated series during the 1990's? As you may recall, he was introduced slowly over several episodes, with various lieutenants and lackeys appearing before Darkseid himself showed up. Plus, I fear something like Darkseid is just too high concept for the general public to absorb.

ShadowWing Tronix

I don't know. Done right over a series of movies (like the subplot in the Spider-flicks featuring Harry's dealing with his dad and the Green Goblin horror that befalls his family) Darkseid could work. You might need Luthor for the first movie--and I'd love to have him return to his arch villain roots instead of the "I hate big business" icon of the comic reboot that Returns and the last four Superman series have followed (Ruby-Spears, Bruce Timm, Lois & Clark, and Smallville)--but for the second movie of the Donner films, we didn't need Lex *AND* Zod.

As for darker, yeah that's what Hollywood seems to be going for these days, and the comics have followed along, since a lot of the writers either came from Hollywood (J. Michael Stra..the Babylon 5 guy, for example) or want to go there. That's one of the reasons I was put off by Smallville. The Dawson's Creek style subplots and playing fast and loose with the DCU would be the others. Although at least it wasn't Lois & Clark.

(Actually, I'll give them credit for at least putting Green Arrow in the costume. Between Smallville, Heroes, and the failed Birds Of Prey series, I haven't seen a costumed hero in a live-action production not on the big screen or driving a Zord since Flash and MANTIS.)

In a related story, did you read the article in USA Today about Superman's origins being partly attributed to Seigel's father dieing during a robbery? The official report is heart attack but some people seem to believe he was actually shot.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2008-08-25-superman-creators_N.htm

meng

i think Darkseid might require a couple of movies ala Lord of the Rings just to build up the drama/tension and heighten the stakes

but Brainiac could be explained pretty succinctly in a couple of scenes: cold Ai Borg like collector/cataloguer goes around uprooting cities/cultures before they're destroyed, goes to Krypton before it explodes, now heading to Earth before Darkseid gets here. Luthor creates Bizarro in the meanwhile to complicate things

Darkseid/Thanos knock off Mongul and Warworld could work too.

llassiter

Singer painted the Superman Mythos into a corner that I don't enjoy. IMHO Singer's time is done.
Superman II was a dark movie compared to Superman I or III because of the worldwide threat from 3 Kryptonians from the Phantom Zone.
How about the Eradicator (in its humanoid form) trying to take over the planet and transform Earth into new Krypton? Kind of a cross between the perils of movie I & II. James Cameron could pull it off.

Zeeb

I should have clarified my point about Luthor...I don't think that Luthor should be the principal villian in a subsequent Superman movie, only that, as a fixture in Metropolis, it makes sense to include him in any future movie, even as a supporting character/villian (like Superman II).

I always liked the 90s animated version of Braniac, myself. Bizarro would be a great villian...but that would include Luthor, as well? Just as the villianous supercomputer from Superman III was a poor man's Braniac, I always thought of Superman IV's Nuclear Man as the poor man's Bizarro. It would be nice to have these guys done right.

Mark Engblom

"Just as the villianous supercomputer from Superman III was a poor man's Braniac, I always thought of Superman IV's Nuclear Man as the poor man's Bizarro. It would be nice to have these guys done right."

Interesting observations. I suppose a case could also be made that "Evil Superman" from Superman III was also sort of a poor man's Bizarro, in that he was a twisted "opposite" version with markedly darker costume colors.

And, sticking with the Superman III theme, maybe Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor) was a poor man's version of Terra Man, Superman's space cowboy villain ( based on that scene of a drunk Gorman wearing a giant foam cowboy hat).

greyman24

I don't get the Singer hatred. He was a saint to everyone when he resurrected X-Men, and now he's the devil because of SR?

To your point, Mark, as much as I hate to admit it, I sort of can see what Robinov is talking about when he says Superman is poorly "positioned." As several have mentioned (including yourself), he's been kind of written into a corner.

Now, do I think that he can be written out of that corner without resorting to damaging the character? Absolutely.

Always remember, though, this is the studio that gave us a Catwoman that had no relation to the character it was based on. It is the studio who allowed nylon nipples and butt-shots of Batman. Who thought that creating a character called "Nuclear Man" would be edgy. Who dubbed Nuclear Man's voice with Gene Hackman's.

I guess what I'm saying is that WB has had about as many misses with DC Comics movies as it's had hits. Think about it.

Con:
Steel
Batman and Robin
Batman Forever
Catwoman
Constantine
Supergirl
Supermann III
Superman IV

Pros:
Batman
Batman Returns
Batman Begins
The Rocketeer
Superman
Superman II
Superman Returns
V for Vendetta

There are several items in there that some would quibble over (like Supergirl or the Burton Batman movies), but there hasn't been a strong history of WB converting these franchises successfully. By this background, we've got about a 50% chance that they'll create another Schumacher-tastic take on Superman.

Ralph C.

I think what needs to be done is to find the essence of Superman, the core of the character, then put a good story around that core, then they can do all the CGI/special-effects stuff they want to do. You can have a good story with action and fun and drama-- they were able to do it with the first two Spider-Man films and the Iron Man film. Those films seem to grasp the essence of the characters, the core tenants of the characters, constructed a good story around them filled with drama, fun and action.

The wrong thing to do with a character is super-impose traits and characteristics that don't relate to it. I think, for example, Superman IS the light in an otherwise darker world, his devastating level of strength tempered by his clean-cut Midwestern upbringing. He might be felled by the darkness but never succumbs to it.

All this reminds me of the mid-1980s when "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Watchmen" comics came out. What a lot of people saw was the darkness of the characters in those stories. What those stories were really showing is the fact that the subject matter that can be written with these characters was wide open, unlimited. The late 1980s to the mid-1990s was about focusing on that one aspect-- the darkness/edginess-- and limiting the scope of subject matter that could be done.

This is Hollywood, though, and it seems that in order to make a kajillion-bamillion dollars one has to cater to the lowest-common denominator-- or so they think.

One more thing: I think the two best Batman films ever were the 1967 Adam West/Burt Ward movie because it was loads of fun, and the Bruce Timm-animated "Mask Of The Phantasm", the only Batman film I ever saw that truly captured the essence and core of Batman-- complete with drama, a bit of humor, lots of action, great acting.... and it was all done in less than 80 minutes.

I'm afraid Warner Brothers thinking is a bit skewed. Good stories cannot be told with accountants and marketing synergies as the driver of the 18-wheeler. Marvel has the right idea. Good luck, Warner Brothers.

BUKOOOM!!!

ShadowWing Tronix

I thought Nuclear Man was a decent concept, not counting his origin. He was able to give Superman a decent fight, the costume was--well, I've seen far worse, but it fit the character. Nuclear Man's biggest problem was that he showed up in Superman 4, their big "anti-nuke" movie. Like Captain Planet, these things are due to fail in execution becase the message becomes more important than the story. That never ends well.

Also, we shouldn't be surprised that "they" don't realise what made Watchmen and DKR so popular. That would take effort, and it's easier to rip off.

Brian

Well, I think we all agree-- to get the REAL Superman, it's time to turn the directorial reins over to Rob Liefeld.

While I wait for Mark to stop foaming at the mouth...(: I actually quite like Superman Returns, and think Singer is vastly underrated (I mean, if nothing else, we should thank him for getting HOUSE on the air). The X-movies had the advantage of getting out of the gate first, and really kicking off this recent wave of superhero movies. Singer's two X's are very good, but they also benefit from that glow, methinks. SR is the better movie-- one of the most strikingly poetic superhero movies ever-- but also the more adult film, without the easy adolscent entry points that the single entendre mutant myths provide.

But really, if we're going to talk outrage, shouldn't we be discussing the rumor of Cher playing Catwoman in the next Batman movie?

Mark Engblom

"But really, if we're going to talk outrage, shouldn't we be discussing the rumor of Cher playing Catwoman in the next Batman movie?"

I dunno...there's kind of an interesting symmetry with the Cher-as-Catwoman rumor and Nolan's Dark Knight:

Dark Knight: Featured a villain with mutilated cheeks.

Next Nolan Batman film: May feature a villainess whose cheeks are incapable of movement.

Seriously, I can kind of understand where Nolan's coming from on an older Catwoman, but I could only imagine Cher circa "Mask" or "Moonstruck" in such a role...not the frozen-faced porcelain doll of today.

Desca

Just want to approve- I am so over "dark" as the default idea when it comes to superheroes. It's done to death, absolutely unoriginal.

How about wonder, and imagination, and some fun? I was discussing this on another (non-comics) site. What we loved best about superhero comics as kids was the expansive sense of the possible they gave us. Not that they were armored killing machines, brutal badasses.

Which is why I appreciate Alex Ross's reimagining and illustration of superheroes. He reminds me why I enjoyed the heroes I loved as a kid. A certain majesty and beauty and mythology, and a smile, not just deathly nihilism that rabid fanboys seem to demand nowadays.

Mark, thanks by the way for your wonderful, richly visual blog. It's well done, and your enthusiasm is infectious! Great job, a pleasure to visit- thanks.

Mark. Engblom

Thanks for the kind words, Desca! Good to hear others also share my thoughts on the darkening of superheroes. Just when I thought Hollywood was starting to "get it" when it came to superheroes, nitwits like Robinov remind me that we've got a long ways to go.

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