I’m surprised at the lack of word from Hollywood about another Superman film. Sure, there were mumblings after The Dark Knight of a similar venture to be named The Man of Steel, but despite Kevin Smith’s championing of JJ Abrams to take the mantle or the rumours about a Wachowski Brothers trilogy, it seems that next-to-nothing is happening. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the Superman character – largely because there is no really character and attempts to add it have simply tried to inject angst where it doesn’t belong. Still, he has the potential to make fantastic movies, as a large part of the character is simply spectacle. I thought I’d just jot down my own advice for anyone out there looking to make a Superman movie.
Do feel free to reboot the franchise. Superman Returns wasn’t as bad as it’s made out to be (it just wasn’t very good), but it really messed up continuity for any movie following. We don’t care about Superman and his super-powered son, and it just convolutes what should be a straightforward narrative. A clean start might help us get back into the mood. Plus, there’s no way you’ll match the Donner movies by staying “in-line”.
Don’t go darker. It worked for Batman, because that’s the kind of guy he is. It is possible to do a good, upbeat superhero film – look at the first two Spiderman movies. Superman isn’t meant to be beaten down by the world, he’s meant to bring colour and brightness to it, while representing what’s best in humanity.
Do figure out a theme and stick with it. Superman’s hard to get a handle on. He’s a champion of the peace and justice, but what’s it like to be Superman? What does it mean? I don’t mean that you should get caught up in existentialist philosophy, but if you can figure out what it’s all about, it’ll give the movie a firmer grounding. Might I suggest a world of cardboard speech?
“That man won’t quit as long as he can still draw a breath. None of my teammates will. Me? I’ve got a different problem. I feel like I live in a world made of… cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can’t you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am.”
Don’t just give us more Lex Luthor. We’re the first to admit it, Superman doesn’t have the best rogues gallery. Nobody knows any of them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – no one knew Zod before Terrence Stamp showed up and he’s the best villain of the original films. Luthor is one of the most interesting characters in comics and keep him around, but don’t just give us a tired Superman vs. natural disasters caused by Luthor smackdown. And if you do give us Luthor, show us the iconic character from the comic book, not some loveable conman with ego trouble. He thinks he’s the hero in all this, remember that.
Do try and integrate him within a wider DC on film universe. Christopher Nolan doesn’t want Batman to coexist with the superheroes (and I mostly agree with him), but Superman is the lynchpin of the DC universe. Feel free to start tying things together (albeit in small ways), like Marvel have been doing over the past few years.
Personally, I’d love to see a well-plotted trilogy or maybe even more. Introduce elements in the first film that payoff later on. I’m not sure I buy Mark Miller’s “end with Superman alone as Earth’s sun turns red” arc, but something similar would be nice. Make the thing feel epic, but, above all, make it fun.