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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Why Superman Returns Will Suck

...in my opinion, of course!

Here's just my prediction. No, I have not read the script. I did read an article in scr(i)pt magazine about the writing of it, and I also spoke briefly with a friend who has seen some of it. But there are not really too many spoilers in here, since I don't know that much about it. (Still, if you're the type of person who likes to know nothing at all about a film before you watch it, skip this post, for now.) Additionally, that means I could be totally wrong. But this is just my feeling/prediction.

Still, I feel like it is going to suck, and I have no significant desire to see it. Why?

Let's start with the point that rather than a reinvention of the Superman movie, or a "reboot" as was Batman Begins for that franchise, this one is a just a rehashing with a bit of tweaking here and there. The plotline (from the little I understand of it) is basically just a redo of the plot in 1978's Superman: The Movie. And instead of making major changes in thought to reinvent the franchise for today's audience, the writers made only little changes. For example, instead of seeing bullets bounce off of Superman's chest, they now bounce off his eye. Instead of saving an airplane, he now has to save an airplane and the space shuttle at the same time. Or something like that. Big deal!

Okay, I guess the subplot/character changes of having Lois now a single mother, with a new man in her life adds a bit to the whole thing, but is that really enough?

Now, I know that there is an argument that there was really no need to "reboot" Superman the way there was that need with Batman. The Superman franchise had not been as sillified (for lack of a better word, at least that I can think of right now) in the same way that Batman was by a film like Batman & Robin. (I won't even link to it, since it was that horrible.) Well, I still think Superman needed a significant reinvention, and here's why:

When the initial Superman movies came out, they were really the only kids on the block. There were not any other significant superhero movies out there, so the competition was less. Now, however, we have three vibrant superhero franchises in X-Men, Spiderman, and the reborn Batman, along with a host of other lesser but still intriguing other superheros. While many would say the first two franchises are essentially ending, thus suggesting the timing is right to launch Superman again, the fact remains that each of those franchises contain much more interesting characters than does Superman. I know I'm going to piss many of you off with this, but in comparison to the characters and issues in those other franchises, Superman is just boring. When he had less competition, no problem, but now he needs a true reinvention to stand up against those others.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it. Though I know I've probably ruffled some feathers here. Here's my prediction:

Big, but still disappointing (in terms of studio hopes) opening weekend, then a sizable drop-off after that, once word of mouth spreads. Come on, how many people do you know who are truly psyched to see this film? I mean itching, can't wait to see it, edge of their seats kind of excitement? Not too many, and certainly not enough to give the film the opening the studio wants.

Will it become profitable? With ancillaries including foreign and DVD, little doubt of that. But I still think it will be much less successful than the studio will hope for, and that it will be a movie I will have no desire to see.

And while I'm making predictions, I may as well throw out my other no-brainer, less controversial prediction. THIS will be the number one movie of the summer.

Thank you.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

The plot, without spoiling it too much, picks up where Superman II left off (not really a redo of the first Donner Superman). Asking the basic question what would happen to Earth if Superman hadn't been around for several years. And, rightfully, ignoring the utterly crappy Superman III and IV installments. So it needed a reboot as much if not more than Batman.

In terms of box office, I don't know. I'm psyched to see it, as both a Superman fan and one who wants to see Singer's take on the franchise. I think it will easily do no worse than Batman Begin's $48 million opening weekend and $72 million five-day gross. Having the July 4th week, essentially, could pay off big for Warners.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Chris -- I should have clarified. I didn't mean that the story picks up from Superman I, just that Luther's evil plot is basically a rehashing of his plot in the 1st film.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Emily Blake said...

I totally agree about the nature of Superman. He's so perfect. I like my heroes with plenty of flaws and Superman just doesn't have them. The article in Creative Screenwriting, though, made this movie actually sound kind of good. Still, I'm more psyched to see Jack Sparrow bust on some snakes.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Dave Olden said...

I'm all for variety of opinion, Joel, so no worries there. :)

emily:

In the Superman Returns trailer, Lois says, "I don't need a savior," and she's speaking, from what I understand, for most of the citizens Supes has turned his back on. Jumping in to help when your help isn't wanted, is a flaw.

Also in the trailer: When Clark is told Lois is a mom now, he absently cracks a picture-frame.. a hint of jealousy. Character flaw.

I'm pumped for this. And for Pirates, too. Room for all of 'em.

DaveO

2:20 AM  
Blogger Robert Hogan said...

I have to agree with you Joel. While I would really like this to me a good movie I have a feeling it's going to be just like the original Superman movie with more eye-candy moments. From the trailers I've seen it appears that Kevin Spacey is even trying to deliver his performance just like Gene Hackmen.

On the other hand, this is Bryan Singer we're talking about. He's the guy who made the first two X-Men movies (and everything else he's been involved with) so great becuase of his ability to really create character depth on screen (something that was missing from the last X-Men installment).

I have a lot of hope that Singer is going to pull out a great film, of course as a filmmaker myself I'm interested to see what $250 million gets a you these days.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Ralphie said...

I have been psyched for this movie for a while. But I guy I know who's seen it (maybe the same guy, Joel?) says if you liked the first two Reeve movies, you'll like this one.

I just saw Superman II the other night for the first time since I was a kid... and it's terrible. Just absolutely awful.

So I'm a little hesitant to shell out $15 for the IMAX 3D version. But I probably will anyway.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

Well, you don't sound like much of a Superman fan to begin with, Joel! That's okay, but is there really ANY Superman film that's going to float your boat? You say he needs reinvention, but you don't say how.

For myself, I'm oddly on the fence about this one. The previews don't fill me with enthusiasm, but they don't turn me off, either. I did get a lump in my throat watching the plane going down...and I think if Superman works at all he works as wish fulfillment. Who among us, especially in this day and age, has not wished for the power to fly into the heavens and pluck a troubled plane from the sky?

9:12 AM  
Blogger stu willis said...

I'm a little biased as I spent a good year of my life working on Superman Returns and have seen a good 90 minutes of the film (but not a finished version).

As a film, the imagery is just spectacular. Thats what $250million buys you. Amazing production design, pervasive and integrated visual effects, and lots and lots of scale.

Superman as a character has never interested me. The Reeves/Superman duality is just not that interesting. There have been so many more interesting riffs on Superman which explore the fascism inherit in Superman (cmon the very name echoes Nietzsches Ubermensch) e.g. Red Son, JMS' Supreme Power, the Watchmen etc.

Rather than explore those elements of Superman, Singer has opted to make him emotionally vulnerable and expore him as a Christ-like figure who returns to an agnostic world.

It kinda works. Its just still not that interesting because there isnt an inherit depth to the Superman Mythos c.f. The X-Men (which is all about the interesting).

10:28 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Stu -- sounds like some good inaight there. Thanks. What did you do on the film?

David -- a fair criticism, but in actuality I am a fan of Superman, just not a super-fan (pun intended). What I mean is, I was never that into superhero comics in general, but of all the superheros out there, I never liked X-Men comics, and Superman has always had a place in my heart. There is a reason I own a Superman necktie, and not one from any other superhero character (though I don't really wear ties frequently anyway). There's also a reason that when I bought a few art posters and had them framed for my apartment a few years back, one of the two was a Warhol depiction of Superman. In brief, I appreciate and respect the iconography and boldness of what Superman stands for.

So how do I think that Superman could have been more interesting a character? A good starting point would be to check out Kingdom Come, my favorite take on the mythos (and though it did steal some bits from Watchmen, I still love it for both its story and its visuals). He is just a more interesting character there than in many of the other incarnations. I don't mean that this movie should have done that storyline, but aspects of that characterization worked well.

What else? Luthor's fiendish plot could have been more inventive. As I understand things, it is very similar to his plot in the first Superman film, as I mentioned. Thus, I feel the plot is "recycled." Similarly, tweaking some of the setpiece sequences to add a vaguely new feel to the familiar is much less interesting and inventive than finding new things for Superman to do. Yes, I recognize it is cool seeing him fly into the air and save a plane, especially when the effects are better. But wouldn't it be even cooler to take the better effects and use them to have Superman do something we've never seen him do before?

So would I not have been happy with any Superman film? I don't think that's an accurate statement. Would a better version of a Superman film have been my favorite superhero movie ever? I doubt it. But I can tell you that I'd have been much more excited to see it. And I wouldn't have been saying that I think it was going to suck!

7:46 AM  
Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

Fair enough, FJ. I don't think it's unreasonable to want something fresh. I, for one, will be happy to never see another elevated train sequence after Invincibles, Spidey 2 and Batman Begins. I liked them all, but that train has reached the end of the line for me.

So, are you waiting for the DVD on this one, or will I see in line at IMAX?

8:24 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Most likely will wait, unless word of mouth is great.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous USTommyMC said...

I just saw an advance screening of Superman Returns and it is an awesome movie. The plot really leaves nothing left to be desired. The movie answers alot of questions and also opens up a bunch of other ones.

I'm not attacking your opinions or anything but give this movie a chance. All Superman fans should see this movie. This movies leaves the franchise wide open for possible sequels. You'll never believe what happens somewhere in the middle and at the very end of the movie.

For those waiting for word of mouth, the words of my mouth might not mean much but I would recommend going to see this movie if you care anything for this franchise. Stu Willis' comment is right on point too.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I think it'll be good, ANYTHING beats Quest 4 Peace, that last Superman horror. That epic battle with Blonde Man on the moon? Christ Almighty.

It better open huge for its own sake, I do think Pirates will be THE movie to beat. Superdude should hit 300 million though, but Pirates will go 350+.

6:46 AM  

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