With the announcement of a Superman reboot film being helmed by Christopher Nolan, many fans are wondering: just what type of makeover is the Man of Steel going to get? Will this new overhaul go the same route as say, the Dark Knight?
As many of you know, the Superman franchise has been trying to push forward with whatever super-strength it has left. Throughout the years it seems to have faced one disappointment after another, unable to maintain even the most loyal fans beneath its grip. The Christopher Reeve films, in retrospect, seemed suitable for their time. But even then many fans were questionable about the true intentions of the character. We were introduced to some of the most ridiculous elements of the character in those films. For instance I'm sure you all remember the finale of Superman where he flies around the globe at super-speed in order to reverse time and save the damsel (no longer) in distress. And Superman II gave us the awkward telekinetic powers of raising objects (and people) with the Kryptonian mind. Things got ever worse in Superman III when a synthetic Kryptonite (which should have been simply red Kryptonite) manufactured by Richard Prior's "genius" character Gus Gorman rendered Superman apathetic and eventually split him into two entities at the closing of the film. The fourth film, in which Christopher Reeve was involved in creatively, poised him against a genetic splicing of Superman and Lex Luthor dubbed simply Nuclear Man.
Many fans had already given up hope for the character by the third film thus spelling certain doom for the franchise owned by Warner Bros. However, in the mid 90's the Superman character regained strength with audiences when he began appearing on primetime television in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The series was, for the most part, spot-on with it's depiction of the character and enticed viewers with a "sexier" portrayal of the Clark Kent character, as well as his relationship with a particularly stunning Lois Lane.
Superman was given another shot at the silver screen in 2006 with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Since then it has been a very mixed world of Superman fans as a percentage exists that actually liked the film and a studio (Warner Bros.) that believes it was an utter failure and "didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned". Frankly, I would have to agree with Warner Bros. Bryan Singer was after more of a nostalgic view of Superman, positioning the character in a film intended to be a direct sequel to Richard Donner's Superman and Richard Lester's Superman II. This would mean that he proposed for the third and fourth films to be omitted as if they never existed in the first place.
I thought that was strange in itself, and then I saw the film. The effects were up to par and I recall the audience in the theatre applauding as Superman successfully placed a rescued airplane into the center of a baseball stadium. With the spectators in the stadium and in the theatre cheering in unison I thought: "It can't get any better than this." And it didn't. I watched painstakingly as the action-absent film rolled on. I could sense the tension and uneasiness in the theatre as more plot points were introduced: Superman has a bastard son, Lex Luthor is again on a mission to exploit the value of land, the cliché love triangle (although this time it wasn't between Lois, Superman and Clark, it was Lois, Superman and...Cyclops?).
I remember leaving the theatre wishing this film never happened. And it seems now that wish is being granted (sort of). With the reboot being placed in the hands of Christopher Nolan and Co. who single handedly saved the Batman franchise by going "darker", I begin to think now: Is Superman due for the same treatment? I think back to the comments Warner Bros. President of Production Jeff Robinov made of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns and how "it didn't quite work well as a film in the way we wanted it to". I realize now that going "darker" in terms of Christopher Nolan's approach could mean so many things for the character. Whether it is good or bad is yet to be determined.
At first it seems that these films should be kept simple at best. Superman is a complex character in his own right, but dark? I'm not so sure. To reintroduce the character would be to absolve Superman of all the intricate plot-lines that have seemed to hinder him in past films especially those pertaining to the relationship with Lois. It's quite a simple formula: Lois is infatuated by Superman yet takes a liking to Clark Kent's quirkiness and his mild-mannered appearance. Therein lies the true love triangle, the one that has been prominent in the comics for decades.
Another aspect is the villain. Lex Luthor works as the antagonist and I could agree that making him the darker aspect of a new film would work wonders for the franchise. One of the key elements that allowed the Dark Knight to prevail was Heath Ledgers performance as the Joker. Luthor barely had any screen time alongside the Man of Steel in Returns and perhaps that factor needs to be expanded upon. Another villain that may certainly due some good (err bad) is Braniac and there have been rumors nonetheless that he will make an appearance in the reboot. Braniac is a dark character, one that is mentally menacing and technologically terrorizing. Technology could be described as one of the darker elements of humanity, and especially when threatened could make for a perfect yang to Superman's yin.
However with all this being said, I can only see a "darkness" for Superman's character arising from the sole fact that he is an outcast. Technically he is an alien from another planet and since the reboot would start off as an origin story, think of the general reaction he would get from Earth's population upon learning of his arrival. I could see Nolan taking the route of positioning Superman in a way where he is not at first accepted for who (or what) he is and would therefore have to prove himself to the world that he is worthy of being their protector. This would following closely to the trend developing in the Dark Knight, since as of now Bruce Wayne is the scapegoat for awful crimes that were committed and being "hunted down".
Is this a worrisome aspect of how Superman should (and eventually will) be portrayed? How dark can they really go with this character? What other elements of Superman's persona will be changed? I'm sure more will be revealed as this film continues its development. Until then let me know what you guys think...
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