So, Jeff Robinov, president of the Warner Brothers Pictures Group, tells reporter that they’re going to make Superman “darker” in their upcoming new film that they hope relaunches the franchise.
“Darker” isn’t necessarily something I associate with Superman.
However, “complex” is, and I get the feeling that Rubinov may have conflated the two.Â Superman’s strength as a character, once you get past the Depression-era common-man power fantasies and Silver Age weirdness, lies in the fact that he is actually hampered by the fact he can do almost anything.Â His ethical center (and all-American upbringing, natch) forces him to be restrained.Â While he could easily take over the world and rule with an iron fist, he doesn’t – he provides a touchstone, a guidepost for us.Â (And the other heroes in a shared comics universe, but let’s switch over to the single-character, movie-friendly take.) He’s also bound to a morality that forces him to work within the law, unlike Batman or even Spider-Man, and has to take the high road, which is likely to be very difficult when you can shoot lasers from your eyes with an offhand thought.
This connects with Superman’s biggest villain and best cinematic rival: Lex Luthor. While the Luthor/Superman conflict may be a bit played out on film at the moment, I could argue that the core of their animosity makes for a compelling central point that the movie audience could relate to with very few changes from the source material. Luthor’s a regular human being who is convinced that this alien has to have an ulterior motive – that no one is as perfect and ethical, as good as this man appears to be. He may be a criminal, true, but it takes Superman to drive him to the outlandish lengths he goes to, as seen in comics like Action 510-512, where the man brainwashes himself and becomes the Kryptonian’s BFF just so he can betray him. I feel like the hammy, if enjoyable, performances by Hackman and Spacey probably should be left behind and remembered fondly and replaced with something a bit more reserved and mannered, where the nastiness comes across as that much more brutal.
The irony of an alien representing the best we have, fighting against the worst isn’t lost on me, and hopefully won’t be lost on the filmmakers. If played properly, this struggle would make for drama at least as interesting as the whole baby daddy thing (and the attendant stalkerism) that muted a great deal of my affection for Superman Returns once I got past the atmosphere and feel of the piece.
Mind you, I’d pay non-matinee prices for a proper Superman vs Braniac vs Metallo brawl with lots of destructoporn if it looked like it had half a brain.
I’d also be happy if they went a bit Morrison and reduced the origin story to eight words over a montage and started with Clark Kent walking into the Daily Planet at the start of just another day. I doubt they’ll go that way, as producers and screenwriters and directors love to do “their” take on the origin, but at this point, the audience that’s going to see Superman knows the broad strokes by heart, if not through the comics or the movies, then through Smallville. Spending time on an actual Superman story versus remaking the first (fantastic) hour of Donner’s movie means that the screenplay gets a chance to hook the audience properly and, hopefully, touch on some of the themes I mentioned. (I liked the flashbacks to Kansas in Superman Returns a lot, is what I’m trying to say, and think that’s all the viewers need at this point.)
Finally, I’d really, really appreciate it if they’d cut back the Christ Metaphor stuff a bit. We get it. Also, I always thought the Moses angle worked a bit better.