Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Saving Superman

As regular readers may note, I'm not hugely keen on how they seem to be handling Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Its got the look of a disaster. Yes, yes, the film isn't out yet. I'm being a judgemental fanboy. It could be awesome, nobody knows. There are talented people working on it. I will say two things in my defence, however. First off, I don't actually like Superman, so there's no childhood being ruined here. My position is one of detached respect. And secondly, I don't like it when someone is clearly doing it wrong. The sensible response when Man of Steel had a less than stellar reception was to go back to the drawing board, and acknowledge the criticisms. It was not to make a sequel to a quite dour film, and make it darker by putting Batman in it. Nor was drawing inspiration from the “Dark Knight Returns”, or “Death of Superman” plotlines. Nor was allowing this cover for Empire Movie magazine.

Yeah, that's not a pose that inspires hope and awe. Restraining orders? Yes. But not hope and awe. So, in the event that BVS:DOJ fails so hard they have to start again, here's a list of suggestions on how to fix the mess that the cinematic Superman has become.

Go watch some Bruce Timm cartoons
Its well-known at this point that Batman V Superman is a hurried attempt to get a DC cinematic universe up and running in the quickest possible time. Understandable, given Marvel has been so profitable at this, but the folks at Warner Bros. seem to have forgot they already did that on TV. The classic Batman: The Animated Series gave us an entire shared cartoon universe, and eventually the Justice League Unlimited series, arguably the best and most successful comic adaptations until, well, Marvel. That continuity ran for fourteen fricking YEARS! Something about it must have worked. Get yourself a DVD boxset or three, get over any snobbery you may have about cartoons, and take notes.

If you have to be realistic, dump the secret identity
The fact that Clark Kent manages to disguise his role as Superman via glasses is something that's been openly mocked since forever. With the march of technology being what it is, its a fa├žade that would not last 30 seconds, and hasn't been remotely tenable since the home video camera. And lets be honest here, the whole secret-identity-revealed plot point has been done to death. So bypass it completely. Have Supes be based in the Fortress of Solitude, he can still interact with Lois and Jimmy as part of his day job. Make it a commentary on celebrity, his identity revealed before the film even starts. Pop that zit, and deal with the consequences.

Set it in the 30's
Its said that Supes is old fashioned, so play to that strength, and make it a period piece. The secret identity problem largely vanishes, and Superman is just the hero for the Great Depression. Lex Luthor as an evil industrialist in this time makes a crazy amount of sense, too. And speaking of period pieces....

Have him fight racists
Oh, you want Superman to be edgy and dark, do you? You want to match his optimism with dirt? Bring him down to Earth? Well, the radio show version had the titanic balls to take on the Ku Klux Klan in 1946. Seriously, it was almost a journalistic expose, and actually did some good. Be they Nazis, or Donald Trump supporters, squaring off some proper nasties will only reinforce how good Supes is.

Or stop having him fight people
Look, Superman is a physical god, and there's no sensible foe for him to face in a mere punch up. Remember the fight with Zod in Man Of Steel? Did it not get boring? So either go bigger or a lot smaller. Give him a challenge that cannot be resolved by merely punching it. Superman v an earthquake. Superman v an arm-smuggling ring. Superman v famine. Superman v the subtle manipulations of billionaire Lex Luthor. Superman v President Luthor. Not Superman v guy with identical powers again. And if you have to do the alien invasion once more, go full Independence Day.


Seriously folks, can we get over the Superheroes killing people trope please? Especially with blueboy here. Superman has sufficient level of power he does not need to kill anyone, and nor does he have the inclination. That scene with Zod? Should never have happened. DC and Warner Bros: Marvels mocks you on this front. So stop doing it.

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