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McG to direct first Superman movie in 15 years.
February 17, 2002 11:01 AM   Subscribe

McG to direct first Superman movie in 15 years. The now-discarded Tim Burton/Kevin Smith collaboration made more sense to me...seems that a less confident, more troubled Kal-el, living in a darker world, would take off the campy edge Superman stories often have, and draw modern audiences (especially today's teens). But surely McG (Charlie's Angels) and writer J.J. Abrams (Alias and Felicity) will bring us a smugly self-actualized Superman in a postmodern world full of kaleidoscopic action scenes. And that will never work as anything more than eye candy...will it?
posted by bingo (45 comments total)

 
I'm not sure if this would work or not. Burton's reimagining of Batman had the context of The Dark Knight Returns which seemed to open the door to deep psychological explorations of the character. I haven't seen this kind of door opened for Superman, at least not in any favorable sort of way since in DKR and the recent Dark Knight 2, Supes is cast as the tool of an oppressive government.

From the Miller perspective, Superman as a metaphor for truth, justice and the american way is hopelessly lost in the true social complexity of the world and becomes the thing he hates. I'd welcome that kind of exploration, but I doubt it would fly as a hollywood movie.
posted by holycola at 11:16 AM on February 17, 2002


Burton makes a better stylist than storyteller, so I'm glad to see him off the Superman project. I don't think McG is going to be much of an improvement, save that the movie might actually get made. The only thing that really excites me about the prospect of a new Superman movie is the potential for some great special effects.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:23 AM on February 17, 2002


I bet owillis will point out the Superman character growth better, but in the meanwhile, I think if you look at Superman from the movies and compare it to Superman from WB's animated cartoons, you'll notice he is less campier. Superman from Justice League is a more mature version of the previous animated series. The first episode kinda borrowed bits from the fourth movie (Superman disarms the world), and it was nice to see him admit he was wrong in thinking he could protect the world alone.
posted by riffola at 11:27 AM on February 17, 2002


Tools of an oppressive government don't sell a lot of Happy Meals(tm), I'm guessing.

I wonder what McG will make of Superman. Charlie's Angels was fun, he was perfect for that, but I've been hoping for a little deeper treatment of the Superman character, something like the WB animated series, and I don't think McG is up to it. I think make something just as cheesy and one-dimensional as the earlier Superman films with Chris Reeves.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:28 AM on February 17, 2002


Wasn't there supposed to be a World's Finest movie? I think it was called Batman & Superman. It borrowed bits from Mask Of The Phantasm and World's Finest.

Hover your mouse over this line to read the rough plot..

Which actually may be the same movie as Batman: Year One (also touched in Mask Of The Phantasm). What about Keanu Reeve as Batman Beyond? Haven't heard anything about it since Jack Lemmon passed away.
posted by riffola at 11:34 AM on February 17, 2002


I have to agree with holycola; the Big Blue Boy Scout just doesn't lend himself to Batman-like portrayals of an angst-ridden, crazed vigilante. I think that Burton's take on him would've failed utterly.

Miller is the only one who even got close to reinventing the Superman character and that was really more of playing off of a natural extension of his standard character than actually adding anything new to his persona.

If McG really wants to improve on the earlier Superman franchise, then he should dump the unbearably awkward geekiness of Clark Kent and mitigate the goody two-shoes campiness of his alter-ego with a bit of realistic behavior.

...and oh yeah, bring back ZOD!!!!
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:34 AM on February 17, 2002


KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2002


the Big Blue Boy Scout just doesn't lend himself to Batman-like portrayals of an angst-ridden, crazed vigilante. I think that Burton's take on him would've failed utterly.

That's just because it hasn't been attempted by the right people yet. With Burton's dark vision and knack for the visual and Kevin Smith's humor, compassion and gut level knowledge of what the films audience(ie-comix geex) wants. It would have been spectacular. Instead we'll get some sub-Bruckheimer cliche festival. If Smith and Burton had been in charge, we might have gotten Johnny Depp as the Man of Steel and Jason Lee as Lex Luthor, perhaps...that woulda been neat :)
posted by jonmc at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2002


A friend and I were talking about this the other day. Maybe we stole it from someplace else, but it's interesting nonetheless: Bruce Wayne is Batman's disguise. Superman is Clark Kent's disguise (which the movies didn't seem to get at all, but the cartoon certainly did). Superman takes a vacation, a break, a nap: people die. He's far more effectual as Superman than as Clark Kent. On the other hand, Billionaire Bruce Wayne can do so much more good for the world with his money than with his fists, but he is driven to vigilante acts by all sorts of psychological problems. So, Superman is a sacrifice Clark Kent makes because of responsibility, or altruism.

What the hell am I babbling about?

Right. There COULD be a movie about Superman that is dark, and angst-ridden that is faithful to the character, but it isn't necessary. I hope they do something comics haven't done in years: make a good Superman story.

My one bit of advice would be to skip his birth, exodus to Earth. Illiterate African Bushmen, living in villages with no electricity know how Superman came to Earth. It's just unnecessary. In normal movies, characters are introduced through their actions. In comic movies, through boring backstory and flashbacks. Which is funny, cause most comic characters are defined by their powers.

Ok, I've just turned this into Aint It Cool News. Sorry for being such a geek.
posted by Doug at 12:39 PM on February 17, 2002


Smith and Burton had been in charge, we might have gotten Johnny Depp as the Man of Steel and Jason Lee as Lex Luthor, perhaps...that woulda been neat :)

Actually, Nicolas Cage was attached as Superman, and I think before it fell apart, the most popular rumor was that Jack Nicholson would be Luthor.
posted by bingo at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2002


I bet owillis will point out the Superman character growth better

Hi, I'm owillis. Mefi's Resident Superman Expert. Siddown, let's talk. :)

Superman was a campy SOB up until '86 when John Byrne's Man of Steel came out - this weakened his powers and made Krypton a more sterile, complex place.

Superman is not as dark as Batman, but he's not exactly the big blue boy scout either. While he had a good upbringing on earth, he lives with the very real legacy of being the sole survivor of an entire planet - and not matter how much he loves Ma + Pa Kent, his real parents died.

Miller is the only one who even got close to reinventing the Superman

Argh. Dark Knight is great. As a Batman story. Miller's Superman is completely all wrong. Clark Kent is occasionally Superman, not vice-versa. Superman at his heart is this goofy kid from Kansas who stumbled into these powers, not just a calculated construct.

Superman is Clark Kent's disguise

Very true, and I actually think Christopher Reeve did the best job of this. If you look at the job he did in distinguishing between Superman and Clark, it was much better than Dean Cain did in Lois & Clark or George Reeves in the '50s series. Both of their Clarks were way to smart and self assured. Christopher Reeve's Clark was a bumbler who nobody would think was Superman (yes, I know its the worst disguise ever).


They could tell his backstory through flashback, but it needs to be told in a new movie - because most of the movie going public still thinks in terms of the Marlon Brando as Kal-El Krypton from Superman I & II.

I haven't seen Charlie's Angels but anyone that calls himself McG worries me. Even after X-Men was a well done comic adaptation, I just think they'll screw up Superman. At this point I'm willing to just live with the original movie - because Hollywood will never get it that right again.

Johnny Depp as the Man of Steel and Jason Lee as Lex Luthor

You and me, outside after class - bucko.
posted by owillis at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2002


Marlon Brando as Jor-El

that is
posted by owillis at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2002


I don't think it's fair to make judgments about a director's range based on the one major motion picture he's ever helmed. We can't say that he's a great (or good, or mediocre, or bad) director based on Charlie's Angels, and we also can't say that any movie he directs will look and feel like Charlie's Angels. Not enough evidence, is what I'm getting at.

And also, I will have to disagree with owillis on this one. I do not make a claim for his throne as the resident Superman expert, but I do think that from what I've read, even Byrne's version was not terribly good at making Kal-El a dark, tragic figure. It just doesn't fly. Miller's version in The Dark Knight Returns and the presently ongoing The Dark Knight Strikes Again is, to me, a better way to do it. Superman is all right, but the world is all wrong, and he is ineffectual and out of place.. the tragedy being how a guy who can fly and crumple tanks in his hands is becoming the most mundane and old-fashioned figure in a world that grows more and more fucked up despite, or perhaps because of, all his efforts to the contrary.

So if they wanted to do a "dark" Superman movie, my guess is that the only way they could do it is after Miller's interpretation (I haven't read the Burton/Smith take). That's a big if, though.. Who wants to see a morally ambiguous story about Superman these days?
posted by Hildago at 1:38 PM on February 17, 2002


Want a dark Superman movie without making him angsty?
Two words : gay overtones.

Riots in what Owills calls the fly-over states. Riots like you wouldn't believe.

Also, stuff Superman, Superman's for girls.
When they gonna make the Black Vulcan movie?
Damn, yo!
posted by dong_resin at 1:57 PM on February 17, 2002


Bruce Wayne is Batman's disguise. Superman is Clark Kent's disguise

BEGIN GEEK MODE
I would take issue with that statement. I'd suggest that Batman is Bruce Wayne's disguise, and that Clark Kent and Superman are both disguises of Kal-El.
/END GEEK MODE

An approach I would love to see (and owillis has touched on this briefly) is Superman as an alien, the last of his people, struggling to find his place in human society. A more interesting motivation for Clark Kent to become Superman than merely being a do-gooder Boy Scout is his desire as an adopted child (of the Kents and of humanity) to do just about anything to fit in.

Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing some goofy stuff like the Mort Weisinger era Jimmy Olsen/Lois Lane stories, either.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:03 PM on February 17, 2002


You and me, outside after class - bucko.

*turns ballcap around backwards, doubles up fists*

Oh, yeah...you and who's army?!

I was kidding about the casting, although Jason Lee should be in there somwhere if Kevin Smith is involved. Maybe he could be Jimmy Olsen?
posted by jonmc at 2:10 PM on February 17, 2002


This is all you need to read:
The Superman project is part of a larger corporate stragegy at Warner Bros. to develop franchise films.... the studio is developing two different Batman projects, a Catwoman movie and a Wonder Woman feature.

There's no interest in making a good film here. These films will exist to sell mechandise. They're two-hour toy commercials. Talking about whether or not the characters will be treated well is beyond foolishness. If current studio pop-analysis says dark sells, then you'll get a dark Superman. If camp or light or boy scout is doing well, that's what you'll get. You don't open a McDonalds in your town and just decide to make it a candle-lit dinig hall - that's not how a franchise works. Read that word again: FRANCHISE. There is no promise of character or quality in that word. Asses in seats, toys on shelves and t-shirts in Target. That's what these films have to offer.
posted by videodrome at 2:14 PM on February 17, 2002


If Smith and Burton had been in charge, we might have gotten Johnny Depp as the Man of Steel and Jason Lee as Lex Luthor, perhaps

Actually, the last casting call for the Burton/Smith version had Nicolas Cage as Supes, Kevin Spacey as Brainiac, and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olson

...that woulda been neat :)

Tschaa...as IF!
posted by MrBaliHai at 2:35 PM on February 17, 2002


There's no interest in making a good film here. These films will exist to sell mechandise. They're two-hour toy commercials.

Well, DUH. Why do you think they got McG to direct it? His track record? One piece of fluff and T&A.

Warner Bros. owns a legendary property (two, if you count Batman). Warner Bros. wants to make lots and lots of money off of said property. Ergo, Warner Bros. will do anything and everything to put a vertical line through that S on his chest and bleed that Kryptonian summabitch dry.

What they're doing is no worse than the comic book guys killing Superman, then ressurecting him, then completely changing him into some sort of electric guy, then splitting him into two, etc. They're just looking for a way to bleed the property. And McG's probably the best guy to do it.
posted by solistrato at 3:10 PM on February 17, 2002


Bruce Wayne is Batman's disguise. Superman is Clark Kent's disguise
I agree, because Superman refers to himself in his mind as Clark, whereas Bruce Wayne refers to himself in his mind as Batman.
posted by riffola at 3:26 PM on February 17, 2002


bruce willis for super man!
posted by timbro at 3:53 PM on February 17, 2002


They're just looking for a way to bleed the property.

Yep. I'm hoping for a gay superman myself, but with a twist: Clark is straight. Oh, the hilarious hijinks they would get into!

Seriously, I've seen the last half of Charlie's Angels and I hope this dies in preproduction.
posted by skallas at 4:00 PM on February 17, 2002


Skallas, the Straight Clark/Gay Superman idea is hilarious.

If I'm not mistaken, Charlies Angels was McG's first movie. He wasn't some auteur with complete control over the production. He was a stooge of the studio. Even if it was the directing that bothered you about that movie (and not the mind numbingly stupid script), you probably can't blame him for all of it. Either way, I'd be much more worried about the screenwriter than the Director.

videodrome, I don't agree that because it's a franchise there's no motivation to make a good film. Look at Batman and Robin. It nearly killed the Batman franchise. The more successful the films are, the more lucritive the franchise will be. Nobody wants to intentionally bleed a franchise dry. It just doesn't make sense.
posted by Doug at 5:04 PM on February 17, 2002


Here's some classic Kevin Smith dirt on the old Burton/Cage flick that never got made.
posted by alan at 5:10 PM on February 17, 2002


Edmond Chang on the WB's "Smallville," Oct. 26, 2001:

Being my queer studies self, I am fascinated by the relationship the show has already set up between Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. I wonder if there has been any work done on homosocial relationships across protagonist-antagonist (hero/nemesis) pairings rather than the traditional buddy pairings. Clark saves Lex from drowning in the first episode. And what better way to start off a queer subtext than with a kiss (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). They have a lot of "looks" -- those smoldering "Who are you? I want to understand you" looks. In fact, Lex says, "We have a future, Clark. And I don't want anything to stand in the way of friendship." Of course, we know this to be irony since the two will become bitter enemies. Should I even start with Lex (Michael Rosenbaum)? It's totally all right for him to be coded queer because he's the villain -- following the tradition of Samson and Delilah, what does losing all of your hair mean? It's still tantalizing to me. Plus, Clark (Tom Welling) is the perfect example of the hypermasculine man (he is super after all) who is feminized just enough (the moppy haircut, the very large eyes, the gawkishness, and the sentimental pining over an unattainable girl) so he isn't all muscle and testosterone. Though, I'm not sure if I were a student at Smallville High that I would believe Clark to be a freshman. He's pretty healthy for a fifteen year old. Then again he is from Krypton. ...
posted by allaboutgeorge at 5:45 PM on February 17, 2002


I doubt we'll see any great art in the upcoming superman movie... Turning the superhero genre into something spectacular is a feat that I've only seen achieved by two, Alan Moore and Frank Miller. (on those grounds, I'm greatly looking forward to Batman: Year One.) Indeed, even Neil gaiman and Dave McKean found the superhero genre to be too constricting, with McKean saying that his work on Arkham Asylum was some of his worst ever.

I think that Superhero land is generally seen in the industry as a place where new and upcoming artists and writers can spend some time to build up a reputation and readership. Maybe in times to come, we'll see this as a spawning ground for new directors as well. Or maybe the traditional action flick already holds that position.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:48 PM on February 17, 2002


Skallas, the Straight Clark/Gay Superman idea is hilarious.

If I'm not mistaken, Charlies Angels was McG's first movie.


I'm far from an expect on McG, but I do know that he's primarily a music video director and historically those guys don't translate well into film. Maybe its the whole story telling thing. How much control he had really doesn't matter, he put his name to it. The director isn't exactly an Alan Smithee.

Really, I dunno. At this point any opinion is lots of speculation and in a way he might be the right guy for this. Superman has always been a two-dimensional character, like the angels. Toss in some Matrix style "bullet-time" and you might have a blockbuster on your hands, like Charlie's Angels was.
posted by skallas at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2002


David Fincher started out doing music videos and has managed to mature into a pretty decent director. I mean, really, most of the guys who do music videos (and most of the guys who do commercials) have been to film school just like Real Directors. It's just that nobody wants to give the helm of a multi-million-dollar picture to some guy just out of film school, so these guys take what they can get, try to build a reputation, and if they're lucky, get noticed.
posted by kindall at 6:41 PM on February 17, 2002


If the movie doesn't have the original Zod, it shouldn't even be made.

YOU WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!!!!!!!!!
posted by kingmissile at 7:02 PM on February 17, 2002


"What wonder if Superman drifted gradually into schizophrenia? Torn between his human and kryptonian identities, he chose to be both, keeping his split personalities rigidly separate. A psychotic desperation is evident in his defense of his "secret identity."

But Superman's sex problems are strictly physiological, and quite real."
posted by darukaru at 8:53 PM on February 17, 2002


David Fincher started out doing music videos and has managed to mature into a pretty decent director.

Not to mention that Spike Jonze started out doing videos and Nike commercials and wound up directing Being John Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich.
posted by geneablogy at 9:21 PM on February 17, 2002


An alternative interpretation I would like would take Supes as the personification of America. Nothing new there, of course -- it's been the case ever since Siegel and Shuster made him up at the height of the depression. Today, arguably, America is ever more the world's supermanpower, and though we see ourselves as doing good, others resent our power, or outright hate us for it -- even while acting outwardly as our friends. That aspect of things hasn't been explored adequately, I would say. Superman saves a dam, and gets roasted for supporting the corporate power structure in Central America. He rescues a boat from foundering, and gets criticized by the coast guard for making them irrelevant and less willing to risk their own lives. He diverts a river to save an agricultural community from drought, and finds himself in a brouhaha over a dying species of fish and clear-cutting practices. His powers become a curse as much as a boon, for he must always be ready in all emergencies, yet when he does take action, unexpected results lead to criticism and resentment. He appears on MTV, and a young Palestinian girl asks not what she and her people can do to solve their problems, but what Superman can do for them. Superman finds himself alone in an infantilized, dependent world, and doesn't know how he got there.
posted by dhartung at 11:45 PM on February 17, 2002


"Supes as the personification of America"

"Clark Kent is occasionally Superman, not vice-versa. Superman at his heart is this goofy kid from Kansas who stumbled into these powers, not just a calculated construct."

Very telling...
posted by DaRiLo at 1:17 AM on February 18, 2002


dhartung: The idea you're expressing has actually been an ongoing sub-theme of the current Superman series. He has to constantly juggle between his ability as the most powerful being on earth, versus allowing humans to make their own mistakes. It's a sort of ad-hoc policy, because while it's clear that the latest incarnation of Braniac bent on world domination is "a job for Superman" - the question of whether it is Superman's place to be "on the side of America" in an armed conflict is a whole other ball of wax. He also has to fight against the perception (but reality) that he fights "for America". The reality is that he is based out of North America, and that's where he grew up - but the expectation of much of the world is that he's Superman 24/7 so why isn't he stopping crime around the globe? (which is why he dropped the "and the American Way" from the "I fight for truth, justice" credo)

It's an intriguing question. Because if say 9.11 happened in the world of comics, no doubt Superman would be working to excavate ground zero - but it's a bit of a question if he would be looking for Bin Laden. I suppose if you classified him as a criminal he would, but then the whole idea of destroying Al Qaeda? Who knows.

And yes, when he disposes of supervillain weaponry he does have to find an environmentally safe way to dispose of it, as "throwing it into the ocean" doesn't cut the mustard anymore. Thankfully, the sun usually makes a great trashcan.
posted by owillis at 2:53 AM on February 18, 2002


Yeah, I thought of Jonze after I posted that bit about Fincher. I am not entirely sure what I thought of Being John Malkovich, but he does show great promise.
posted by kindall at 3:13 AM on February 18, 2002


personally I'm kinda sick of superhero flicks. it's been done way too many times (badly). if we stick with the theme of comic book adaptation, though, I'd like to see more mature titles get used. hitman, preacher, and sandman are several that are long overdue.
posted by crustbuster at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2002


I mean, really, most of the guys who do music videos (and most of the guys who do commercials) have been to film school just like Real Directors.

Hahahahahaha.

Very few 'real' directors have been to film school. Most directors spend years working in television or film, coming up through the ranks, learning how to use the technology at hand to tell a story. Videos and commercials are one way to do this. The people who come through film school and are good didn't get that way from going to school - they managed to use what film school gave them to enhance talent they already had. Fincher and Jonze have always been good, but even Fincher started out as an effects cameraman - he worked on Jedi and other FX pictures before getting a job directing music videos.

And I think its funny that so many people don't get the fact that comics make pretty poor films. There seems to be an assumption like, 'comics are just like film storyboards' which is simply not true. They bear basic similarities but that's it. The only film I can think of that represents a good comic-to-film transfer is Ghost World - hardly the type of comic or film people are talking about here.
posted by videodrome at 7:38 AM on February 18, 2002


If they're not going to make a "Truth, Justice, & The American Way" Superman, then they ought to create a *new* superhero. One of the best things about Supes is his pro-American idealism. Clark Kent is an American, after all, and works for a capitalist newspaper and embodies American principles of self-reliance, curiousity (reporter), etc.
posted by davidmsc at 10:32 AM on February 18, 2002


One of the best things about Supes is his pro-American idealism.

Oh, puh-leeze Dave. Superman is not the poster boy for The Great Capitalist State. If you read the comics, Superman is more along the lines of a New Democrat (social intervention promoting self-reliance) than anything. If you want a pure capitalist who's only driving factor is self, I give you... Lex Luthor. Not exactly the ideal.
posted by owillis at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2002


owillis, actually those last comments are very interesting in light of what they're doing with the Clark/Lex friendship on Smallville.
posted by bingo at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2002


Uh-uh, Oliver! Lex Luthor's motivation is SELF at the EXPENSE of others! Great commie pic you linked, tho...
posted by davidmsc at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2002


David, Lex Luthor is clearly a capitalist. I don't think Superman necessarily advocates any economic philosophy, but I personally haven't read of him charging for services. He just helps people, you know, according to their need. Muhahaha.

Anyone interested in Superman's origin, when he didn't fight aliens and monsters so much as corrupt businessmen, and crooked politicians, should read this.
posted by Doug at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2002


No - Lex Luthor is clearly a CRIMINAL who advances his criminal agenda via "legitimate" businesses.
posted by davidmsc at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2002


Lex Luthor's motivation is SELF at the EXPENSE of others!

The very model of a pure capitalist or objectivist, no? He's just more up front about squashing the little guy. If you want a real capitalist hero, check out this new group called The Power Company. They rent themselves out to the highest bidder (usually corporations).
posted by owillis at 6:07 PM on February 18, 2002


No - Lex Luthor is clearly a CRIMINAL who advances his criminal agenda via "legitimate" businesses.

I believe he's the President now, although since I restrict myself to Batman books, I'm not sure quite how he got there.
posted by snarkout at 9:13 PM on February 24, 2002


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