Every year, we get ebbs and flows of information about what’s happening with producing a Superman movie, who rumored to be in the cast, and whatnot—just today I say that Billy Zane is rumored to be playing Lex Luthor.
For some reason, it tends to be different iterations of the same stuff. It’s like there’s an equation that the people who work on these things accept as the only way to translate the Man of Steel to the silver screen. Almost all of them are things of which I’m tired and just don’t want to see any more. To wit:
• Superman’s origin: We know it already. We get it. IT’S THE MOST FAMOUS ORIGIN STORY ON THE PLANET—except for maybe The Nativity. We DON’T. Need to SEE IT. AGAIN. At best, it should be covered quickly in a credits sequence, a la Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk (which I liked, actually). Say what you will about that movie, but that was one thing it got right.
• Krypton: …And Kryptonians and Kryptonite. Like the origin story, this is all played out. Look there’s more to be done with the character than to have him constantly looking backwards to the past. Just about everything that seems to get proposed with this character on film has to do with Krypton. There are other, non-Kryptonian villains who can give him a run for his money, and there are other ways to physically challenge him. Brainiac (the non-Kryptonian version)? The Parasite? Doomsday? Intergang? Hell, even the Toyman and Mister Mxyzptlk would different—maybe even cool if given the right coat of paint. Which leads me to…
• Villains who are versions of Superman himself: I guess this includes my rant above about Kryptonians, but it’s certainly not limited to it. In Superman: The Movie, the hero struggled with Luthor. Fine, fine—it was the first major production featuring the character, so they can be forgiven for recounting his origin and including his most famous enemy (even a watered-down version of him). They got so much more right than wrong. But in Superman II, The Man of Tomorrow fought three Kryptonians with similar powers; in Superman III, he split into good and evil counterparts, who then fought each other; in Superman IV, he fought Nuclear Man—a guy with a cape and roughly analogous powers. Sensing a pattern? Three out of the last five movies, folks. Again, there are other villains. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be powerful, but do they have to be just like Superman?
• Lex Luthor: Even more prevalent than Superman-like villains, he has been in four of the last five Superman movies, plus every TV show based on the character. There are other villains, guys—a lot of them! Luthor should be the special one, the one man Superman can’t totally beat. He’s the one you use sparingly. Oh, and when you do use him, lose the obsession with real-estate, okay?
• Christ allegory: Yes, yes, I get the similarity—Jor-El sends his only son from the heavens to Earth, where he is raised in humble surroundings, and grows up to be a beacon for Truth and Justice and an example to humanity. But you know what? Jesus didn’t have a secret-identity, super-strength, or frigging heat-vision. I don’t want a peaceful, aloof, and remote Superman. I want a man of the people who has a crush on a girl he works with, and who is sometimes called upon to lift and punch big, heavy things. And giant robots. And monsters.
• A Superman who can do anything he wants as soon at it occurs to him: A hero without limits, without struggle, is not a hero at all. This is a simple, basic rule to follow, and since Superman is supposed to be the greatest hero of them all, he shouldn’t be exempt. He shouldn’t be able to lift anything he wants, or fly as fast as he wants. He shouldn’t be creating new powers to fit the situation, a la Superman IV’s wall-rebuilding vision or Superman II’s inexplicable cellophane S-insignia-orang (or whatever the hell that was). He shouldn’t be able to just ignore power-sapping Kryptonite when it’s story-convenient, as Superman Returns. And as much as I love Superman: The Movie, he shouldn’t be able to open the can of worms that turning back time to get what you want has to be. If you go back and look at those great old Fleischer Superman cartoon shorts, you can see Superman struggle when he lifts something heavy or rips open a steel door. Superman is still mortal, and subject to nature, even when he’s much more able to defy it than the rest of us.
I’m sure there are more, but those are my biggies. I still hold out hope that new DC film mogul Christopher Nolan, who took Batman so seriously and give him a... a heft he’s never had on film before, will look inside the character more than others who have stewarded him. Were there things I wish he hadn't done with Batman? Sure. Were there things I wish he had done? Of course. But one can't argue with the overall. And maybe like Superman himself, I’m an optimist.