Superman Returns: Return Harder

superman six

Greetings, all. I recently sat down with infrequent poster “Doominator” to talk about some news on a potential relaunch of the failed Superman franchise. Here’s how it went. Enjoy:

Doom DeLuise: In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov announced that the studio is going to be reintroducing the Superman franchise, in the same way that Marvel Comics has recently rebooted the Incredible Hulk and has a reboot of the Punisher slated for release later this year. The idea, according to Robinov, is to work off the success of Warner’s Batman relaunch by making the Superman character darker. What’s your reaction to this news?

Doominator: Since when do you read the Wall Street Journal?

Doom DeLuise: I was using it as a blanket in an alleyway the other night, and I happened to notice a headline that caught my attention.

Doominator: Alright. Well, my initial reaction is “Just how are they going to relaunch it?” Can you make Superman “dark” without making it not Superman?

Plus, what are they going to do for a villain? Lex Luthor or General Zod? If it’s Nuclear Superman, I think I’ll just stick with Internet porn.

Doom DeLuise: Well, they could also go with Metallo or Doomsday or Darkseid, I suppose. I think the main question shouldn’t be, “How can they make Superman dark,” but instead should be, “Why even bother making Superman dark?” I mean, what does “dark” really mean? Superman Returns had plenty of brooding and dark elements. Wasn’t that enough?

Doominator: I get this image of Jimmy Olsen getting into trouble with loan sharks and Lois doing coke.

Doom DeLuise: Requiem for a Superman?

Doominator: Only if Aronofsky is directing. It’ll be like the Batman script where Batman lived in a mechanics garage.

But we can look at those villains.

Darkseid would get too far into ridiculous cosmic elements. Sure, Superman can go into space, but is the movie going public ready for the New Gods? I’m usually not ready for them, at least when sober.

Doom DeLuise: Well, now that’s an interesting point. I think the key mistake Warner Bros. is making in comparing the new Batman franchise with whatever dream they’re trying to come up with for Superman is that Batman’s newfound success isn’t necessarily stemming from the fact that it’s darker than the earlier movies in the series, but perhaps the movie-going public identifies with it more because it has such a firm grip on reality.

Doominator: Yes.

But in this case, we’re dealing with an alien in his blanky who flies into space.

Doom DeLuise: So there’s no real point in trying to have a villain that’s grounded in reality, since the hero is so patently absurd.

Doominator: Metallo could present that image of “realistic” by being a robot, but he couldn’t propel the movie.

I imagine that if they tried to introduce Metallo as “realistic,” they’d probably have a mastermind behind him, which will lead us to Lex Luthor. And at this point, I think Lex Luthor is sick of Lex Luthor.

Doom DeLuise: I think most people who watch movies are pretty sick of Superman. Is there really that much public support of rebooting his failed franchise? If Bryan Singer can’t do it, who can? Is it worth it to try to find out?

Look at the Hulk reboot. This new movie cost more than the last by about fifteen million dollars, and it’s only out-grossed the 2003 version by about four million.

Doominator: That’s an even better point. Nobody gives a shit about Superman. Hey, it’s a guy who can do anything unless you throw green rocks at him!

Doom DeLuise: Or change the color of the sun!

Doominator: I imagine this will lead us to Doomsday. Which will lead us to the Death of Superman. Which will lead us into pretending to care about a sequel with his return.

Doom DeLuise: Well, let me ask you this. If Superman warrants a reboot (which I don’t think he does), what other failed comic movie franchises would you like to see rebooted that currently have no plans to be?

Doominator: Howard the Duck is too obvious an answer.

Doom DeLuise: Jim Doom would kill us if we didn’t mention Daredevil.

Doominator: That’s because he has a Daredevil costume ready for the auditions. It even looks like a blind guy made it!

Here’s a thought. Are they going to use this movie as a springboard? The Incredible Hulk was made in part not to have a sequel, but to lead into the upcoming Avengers movie. Is the Justice League on the horizon?

Doom DeLuise: I think they’d like it to be, but at this point, they’re just scrambling to match Marvel’s schedule. They put the JLA movie that they had in production on hiatus during the writer’s strike and are now focused solely on single character movies. And they want all of them to be as dark as the Dark Knight. Call me crazy, but didn’t Iron Man show that nobody cares about the tone of a superhero movie so long as it’s an entertaining movie?

Doominator: Indeed. It also managed to ground itself in realism, something that’s going to be hard when all of your rogue’s gallery is ridiculous. Mr. Mxyzptlk? That’d be like Chris Nolan introducing Bat-Mite.

Doom DeLuise: I think that DC/WB’s main problem here is that the Dark Knight had two really great things going for it: It was dark, and it was realistic. They completely glossed over the fact that the movie-going public wants realistic scenarios for their superheroes and have just latched onto making everything darker. That’s dumb.

Nobody wants to see a brooding Plastic Man or a mopey Green Arrow.

Doominator: Or Wonder Woman who is dealing with post-partum depression.

Doom DeLuise: I admire the fact that DC rebooted Batman, because his franchise had lost its way and drifted from what makes the character great. But, in some cases, when you release a movie that doesn’t latch on, you just can’t blame the actors or writers or directors. You might just have to blame the characters. Superman, on his own, without other heroes around, kind of stinks. The Hulk is the same way. Some of these characters just aren’t as great as their creators think they are, and they should just be left out to pasture.

Doominator: I would argue that there are ways to make the Hulk interesting. The 12-year-old in me who watched reruns of the Bill Bixby show on the Sci-Fi channel agrees. But it’s true. Superman flies, and he’s everything people supposedly want to be, and that makes him boring. Making him dark isn’t going to make him interesting. Making Batman dark worked because Batman IS dark. He’s not about the Batmobile or the gadgets. The core of Batman is the fact that he’s drawn himself into a world of darkness.

So, the only two paths of darkness I see for Superman are showing the problems he can’t solve, i.e., poverty and war, or killing him.

Doom DeLuise: Or just making him cry a lot.

Doominator: Like Spider-Man!