Programming note: I figured out how to add footnotes via WordPress. Apologies for stealing Bill Simmons‘ schtick in advance.
With a new Superman film opening this weekend, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about the previous films and just why I’m excited for a new/old twist on a familiar character.
Before we get to Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill, however, there’s something that needs to be made absolutely clear.
I liked Superman Returns.
(Yeah, I’m that guy.)
The Richard Donner Superman remains my favorite superhero film. Christopher Reeve was Superman to me. I had a Supes bookbag in kindergarten1, there were the Superfriends and a copy of the Superman IV novelization2. When college came around, a chance walk through the campus radio station when John Williams’ score was on the air (this was the cue) flipped a switch and all of those childhood memories came back. The score was reissued in 2000 and duly pre-ordered, while the only thing stopping a DVD purchase in the spring of 2001 was the lack of a player.
So when Bryan Singer promised to return to the Donnerverse in 2006 coming off of X2 3, excitement built up to a fever pitch. Kevin Spacey as Lex! An unknown as Supes! He was gonna use the Williams theme!
Hell, watching the opening sequence while on the clock at Regal Henrietta was a thrill unto itself.4 I saw the film four times in IMAX that summer – the last time after Labor Day, where the poor manager opened up the theater for myself and two people. When the terrific Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set was released in November of ’06, that was bought right away. No crossing fingers for a birthday and holiday surprise for me.
And yet… I haven’t seen Returns all the way through again. The Donner Cut of Superman II? Check. The voluminous extras? You bet. Even, mercifully, Superman IV? Yep. (I drew the line at Superman III. Once was enough there.)
Oh, there’s skipping around, of course. The opening. The plane landing sequence… and that’s about it, really.
Ironically, it feels like the element that I looked forward to the most is the real problem, made obvious by seven years of hindsight. By tying the film directly to a series that petered out in 1987, Singer tried to have his homage and eat it, too. Brandon Routh did a fine job as Superman… but was more or less aping what had gone before. Same thing with Spacey. Once the excitement of the theatrical run passed, all Returns did was make me want to pop in my Donner Cut discs again.
If nothing else, the Snyder/Christopher Nolan/Cavill version of the character is going to be markedly different from Reeve and Routh. That’s not a bad thing, so long as my discs are around in case the film is a disappointment.
Here are a few more reasons I’m looking forward to Man of Steel.
Amy Adams. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is the real weak link of the Returns casting. She’s too fresh-faced to be bought as the veteran reporter with a weakness for Smallville residents. So they hired the obvious choice – someone known for being feisty, older than your lead and with clear acting chops. Works for me.
Hans Zimmer’s score. I can take or leave Zimmer’s work, so when he was announced as the composer, there was a fair bit of grumbling. Despite his ambivalence in taking the job, the trailer music has been nothing short of outstanding. John Williams’ place in Superman history is secure, but hopefully Zimmer’s spin is worthy.
The fresh angle. Granted, I spend too much time on the internet reading film message boards as it is, and people are truly fatigued about Nolan’s Batman trilogy. They’d rather have something bright and fun like The Avengers, instead of Christian Bale’s Cookie Monster impression for two hours. At least – on paper, anyway – this is new spin on old material. Two days before release, I’m okay with that.
Speaking for myself, I’m intrigued at how this is going to turn out. Warners is already moving ahead with both a sequel and a Justice League film, so underperforming like Green Lantern did two years ago would sink those plans. They need new franchises badly, and finally developing other DC Comics characters would be a much needed revenue stream. (Plus, a Flash movie in my lifetime would be nice.)
I’m planning on seeing MoS Friday afternoon, and a review will follow this weekend.
See you at the movies, and remember, we’re all on the same team.
1. Mom still has it. Really.
2. I still have it, beaten and torn as only a true pack rat can treat his stuff.
3. Singer wanted to film Returns and then X3, but Fox turned him down, going with Brett Ratner instead as they wanted to beat Returns to theatres. Wonder if the Fox brass regretted the decision, considering how well a Singer-directed X3 would have been received. (At least $300 million in the US, I figure.)
4. Seriously, I was damn near incoherent with excitement. The only comparison I can make is a Star Wars fan on opening night of Phantom Menace in May of 1999.