Movie Picture
This week: That recent Superman stuff
09.26.02

Movie Picture

I feel compelled to add my $.02 to the whole Superman debacle taking place right now. Obviously, the WB has great faith in its script from J. J. Abrams. And, personally, I'm a fan of Abrams' writing. The guy can tell a dynamic, emotional story that jumps off the page. But the problem here is the fact that he screwed around with a legend. He's taken liberties, be it on his own, or from studio pressure, with the mythology surrounding Superman. And folks, whether you want to believe it or not, the Superman story IS mythology. It's gone way past simple pop-iconism. It's not merely a classic comic, or a series of films, cartoons, and television shows. It's mythology, plain and simple. It's American mythology if ever there was any. Lets look for a moment at what has come before this script by J.J. Abrams to be directed by Brett (horrible choice) Ratner.

In June of 1938, Superman first appeared in "Action Comics #1". The worlds first Man of Steel story took off. Superman embodied the American Spirit, the American Dream, and the American Way. He was, right from the beginning, the big boyscout. Superman would always do right, regardless of the situation.

Just 3 short years later, in 1941, the very first Superman cartoons were released. These were done superbly by Dave Fleischer, and most still consider this Superman at his purest. The animation was top-notch, but more importantly, the characters were impeccably displayed.

Then, in 1948, the world was given the first live action Superman film serials starring Kirk Alyn. Again, these stayed true to the character, and for the first time, Superman was brought to life.

From 1951 to 1954, George Reeves donned the blue tights and red cape for the live action Superman television series. For those who are familiar with the show, they hold Reeves as the one true Superman, far surpassing all others. He was handsome, barrel-chested, and true.

Superman had a lull from the limelight for a while after the Reeves series ended. He was resurrected again in cartoon form with the series "Superfriends" that began it's run in 1973. Only now it wasn't just the boyscout that we could behold. Other comic favorites joined the fray, including Wonder-Woman, Flash, and Aquaman. But the series only last a few years, and Superman few away again.

Movie Picture
A few years later, he re-emerged. For my own generation, Superman came to life in 1978 with Richard Donner's take on the character featuring Christopher Reeve. The film portrayed the Man of Steel's origin perfectly, and is a staple in the collection of any film geek. With the dismissal of Donner from Superman 2, the film franchise began a downward spiral. Although Superman 2 worked, it wasn't quite on par with the original. The films that followed got steadily worse, increasing the lame factor at every turn.

After the release of Superman 4, the Man of Steel took another brief hiatus. Then, in 1996, he emerged again, this time portrayed by Dean Cain in the television series "Lois & Clark". Again, his popularity soared, and the series stayed on the air for 4 seasons.

Enter Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, and Nicholas Cage. It was around this time that Kevin Smith penned a script called "Superman Lives" that was to be directed by Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage was set to wear the tights. A myriad of problems plagued the production from the beginning, and after numerous delays, Cage finally pulled out. He'd had enough. Apparently, so did everyone else involved because the project promptly died.

Cut to the present. It appears that Superman is the superhero-dejour once again. With a hit television series on the WB chronicling his teen years, Clark Kent is portrayed by Tom Welling on "Smallville". A Superman cartoon still exists, and personally, I find it to be one of the best portrayals of the character yet. But that's not all… The Cartoon Network has brought back a version of "Superfriends" called "Justice League", which once again teams Superman with other heroes.

Finally, just weeks ago, it was going around that a "Batman Vs. Superman" film was the next thing in line for Supes. Geekdom was in heaven. Finally, the epic battle between the big boyscout and the slightly nuts vigilante was going to make its way to the big screen. Casting rumors were flying around. People we getting excited and upset. Message boards were EXPLODING. But, as with most good ideas in Hollywood, it was not to be. The project was quickly swept under the rug as the "geniuses" at Warner Bros. (note the EXTREME sarcasm) started touting J. J. Abrams' script. And then the "McG is directing" thing was squelch… enter Brett Ratner, the "visionary" (there's that sarcasm again) director behind such classics as Money Talks and Rush Hour 1 and Rush Hour 2. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

When will studios learn that, for a comic book movie to WORK, you need a director with a PASSION for the material. Someone who could name each episode of the George Reeves tv series, and who played the villains. Someone who wouldn't stand for a script that completely changes the characters origin. I mean, honestly, when Supes was sent to Earth, his planet EXPLODED!! That was why he hold Earth so dear… it was all he had, so he swore to protect it! A director with PASSION wouldn't allow a script that makes Lex Luther another super-powered being from Krypton… They're messing with American Mythology here, and it just ain't right.

I'm not the only one raising a stink about this, folks. Check out Moriarty's review of JJ's script over at Aint It Cool. And if that ain't enough for ya, there's a petition online to stop this monstrosity.

All this, folks, and I'm not even that big of a Superman fan… Something happens when you mess with Mythology. And if this garbage is allowed to be made, what's next? Seriously, is nothing sacred?

Talk about Superman in our forums! CLICK HERE

~Kerouac Out!

Brian B.