How to Reboot the Superman Movies
A few ideas on how to fix the mess of the Superman franchise.
Deadline broke the news that author Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing a Superman reboot feature for Warner Bros and DC, and J.J. Abrams is producing. I am understandably curious if Henry Cavill is wanting another shot at wearing the suit and cape.
In any event, the public has not really had the perfect Superman movie, and that’s a shame. Superman the Movie is pretty good until the whole flying against the Earth’s spin really fast lets you go back in time plot point, which is hot garbage. Superman II was pretty amazing at the time for its superhero battle, but it looks quaint by today’s standards. The rest of the Christopher Reeves movies are forgettable. Superman Returns wants to be good so, so bad, and it isn’t at all. Brandon Routh actually looks good in the suit, but the screenplay is weak as it tries too hard to be a “sort-of” sequel to the Reeves movie with stunt casting with Marlon Brando. Plus, some of the other casting choices are questionable (Kate Bosworth? Really?). Lastly, we have the third attempt with Man of Steel, a film I actively loathed in the theater. I’ve never, ever been angry during a movie, but with this movie, I was. I yelled at the screen. That’s never happened to me before.
Look, it’s actually quite easy to write a good Superman movie, and I have a few ideas on how to fix the mess of the Superman franchise. While I’m sure Coates does not need my advice, here are a few things I’d like him to consider, so his version doesn’t fail at the box office. A Superman movie should never, ever fail.
Read All-Star Superman and Superman For All Seasons
While it would be best if this script had a modern take on Superman, but modern does not mean dark. Batman is dark. Superman is anything but dark. The two best takes on Superman and his supporting characters are Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Jeph Loeb’s Superman For All Seasons. Both have the exact right tone with all the characters and are filled with fodder for the reboot movie. Nolan’s Batman movies mined the best of Batman mythology to find the right kind of characters and characterizations needed. Do the same thing with Superman.
Remember the Core
Superman is the one iconic hero probably close to everyone on the planet knows. His character is solidified in moviegoers’ minds as someone who is a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man. He fights for truth, justice, and the American way. That’s Superman. That’s the character. He isn’t a boy scout or a goody-two-shoes. However, he isn’t dark or super-mysterious either. He is a midwestern boy with midwestern values. He is polite and a little vanilla. However, when he gets angry, it means something.
No Origin Story
All-Star Superman told the origin of Superman in four panels on one page with eight words: “Doomed planet, Desperate scientists, Last hope, Kindly couple.” The audience doesn’t need to know anything else. They already know everything they need before coming into the theater. The origin of Superman can be told in the pre-credit sequence as if it’s recapping a prior movie. It instantly propels the movie into what the audience really wants: action.
Superman Does Super Things
Please give us an over-the-top action movie first, and then drop in the Superman mythos. Give us something only Superman could do. If Superman’s around, the whole plot of Armageddon is over in ten minutes. Giant robots attacking the city? Superman melts them with his heat vision and throws them into the sun. With Superman, you have to think big. Bank robbers and kittens caught in trees? That’s too small. Phantom Zone villains with powers and abilities on par with Superman’s? Seen it before, but always a good plan. Alien dictators with Death Star-like weapons and billions of shock troops? Now, you’re talking.
Follow Marvel’s Lead
You have to get the right actors in the roles, the right costuming, set design, script, and director. Superman Returns and Man of Steel failed miserably all across the board for the most part. Most importantly, find the writer who understands the character. I think Coates is one of the best choices. Next, find the director who understands and loves the material. Find the actors who embody the roles. The Marvel movies found all or most of the right ingredients, tweaked when it needed tweaking, and let the creative people who love the source material create the movie. It’s a plan for long-term success. Steal it.
I’m sure I’ll see all these pieces fit together sooner rather than later. I hope.