Warner Bros. has announced that they are going to reboot the Superman film franchise….yet again. So before that whole ball of wax gets underway, let’s take a few moments to point out the obvious to the studio heads, who – let’s face it – aren’t going to listen anyway. Guys, you make too much money to actually think for yourselves, so as a token freebie, here’s what worked about Superman Returns:
The special effects, scoring & sound effects; in fact, all of the technical stuff that is the bread and butter of such big budget genre films was simply fine and needn’t be stressed over….just do more of the same next time. (The sequence where Superman saved the plane was particularly nice.)
The marketing of your competed film was also adequate; you have been doing this for quite awhile after all, so just remember that Superman has a built in comic book audience and the Man of Steel crosses over to the general population pretty well too. It’s a given that Superman is a household name after 70+ years. That’s another no-brainer that you won’t have to stress over.
The casting of Brandon Routh was spot on. His slight resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve was uncanny, and since that version of Superman lingers in audiences minds, why not exploit it? The fact that he was comfortably able to drop into the role and accomplish the thankless task of following Reeve as Superman, and then successfully play both the dichotomy of Superman and Clark Kent makes me think that he deserves another shot at the title. Bring Routh back if at all possible. The same goes for Frank Langella as Perry White and Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen and Eva Marie Saint as Ma Kent, if you want to feature those characters in the reboot. These three actors were all fine choices for their roles and made the best of them. Why fix what isn’t broken? Again, this would also minimize the stress of additional casting, because we have other acting fish to fry.
Some casting didn’t work at all. Kate Bosworth was…absolutely…terribly….miscast as Lois Lane. Didn’t anybody watch the dailies during filming? She is a cute actress and she has been in a few movies, but Lois is a crucial franchise character and Bosworth was too light weight, too ineffectual, and simply unbelievable in the film. James Marsden was actually not bad as Richard White, but the character was absolutely unnecessary. His sole importance was to provide a barrier between Lois and Clark, and 70+ years worth of comic book continuity could easily have provided you with better examples for utilizing that conceit than what was done in Superman Returns with the extraneous character of Richard White. Alos, please drop the Lois was pregnant/Super-baby crap in any additional movies. Nuff said, but hire another casting agent!
Lex Luthor. Superman the Movie. Superman II. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Superman Returns have all used Luthor as the main foil, but Lex Luthor has yet to actually appear on the big screen. Oh, there was Gene Hackman's comedic-romp-for-laughs-version of Luthor in the first three movies that I’ve mentioned, but Kevin Spacey, who certainly had the potential to give us a menacing version of Superman’s arch nemesis, leaned way too close to the Hackman version of Luthor for my tastes and Gene had already given us that one. You guys blew it! Before you have yet another go at Lex, let me throw a few other names at you.
Brainiac. Bizarro. Metallo. The Toyman. The Prankster. Mr. Myxyzptlk. Mongul. Terra-Man. The Kryptonite Man. Titano. Intergang.
All of them are classic Superman foes that you haven’t even given a chance. Hell, even Jack Kirby’s awesomely powerful Darkseid (from the New Gods) has faced off against the Man of Steel in the comics many times and Superman vs. Darkseid would be an awesome movie. There are also some visually interesting threats of more recent vintage like the female Silver Banshee. You know, since Superman was supposedly away for five years – off in space – to visit the remnants of the planet Krypton, maybe showing us that journey would have made a great flick. Superman has visited hundreds of alien planets in the comics over the course of 70+ years, and had subsequent adventures and battles on them. Out of the list of villains that I’ve just mentioned, there are at least a few that he may have encountered on such a trip. This is not a stretch, guys! Stress free is the way to go.
The director was another place where you blew it. Bryan Singer basically took your money and gave you back a love letter to the Richard Donner films, but it was a hit and miss as a new franchise starter. Superman Returns wasn’t a bad movie, but Singer’s X-Men films (hit or miss, again) didn’t at all suggest that he was the guy to revive Superman and guess what – he wasn’t? A different director is the order of the day in any relaunch effort. Trust me!
Now, the last bit of free advice that I want to offer the overpaid Warner Bros studio heads is another example of stress free thinking. When it comes to designing: the characters, the environment, the costuming; and most particularly the storyboarding that all films do in preproduction, just stop it, you goofballs. 70+ years of comic book work by the top artistic talent in the business, on the very character – Superman – that you want to translate to films….yet again….has already been done. You also don't need to hire a script jockey to "create" a story. Same principle, here bozos, that works been done - the whole best in the business thing - applies to 70+ years worth of comic book writers too. Just retain someone who can competently do an adaptation, you know, from the very medium that you want to strip mine. If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!