Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And then Lois says, "You've got me. Who's got you?"

Look, I need to say upfront that Lex Luthor is a genius. An evil genius, sure, but nobody's perfect.
So when some guy on the Internet says that Christopher Nolan is the wrong guy to revitalize the Superman movie franchise, I say to myself, well, that guy's no Lex Luthor.
When news broke that Nolan had been hired to shepherd the Man of Steel back to glory, I wasn't thrilled, but not because I didn't think he was up to the task. My worry is that the silver screen version of superheroes could become as homogenized as their comic book counterparts.

TANGENT: This condition was institutionalized at DC Comics last week with executive shuffling that names Geoff Johns Chief Creative Officer. As recently as 2004, you could find a wide array of storytelling in the DC Universe. You had the moody police procedural of Gotham Central, the anything-goes super-soap opera of the early run of Superman/Batman, and the fearless cartooning of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man. If you bought an issue of Detective Comics starring Batman and an issue of The Flash, you could count on each comic having its own tones and rhythms. Then, beginning with Identity Crisis and continuing on from Johns's well-intentioned disaster Infinite Crisis to his current thuddingly-dull Blackest Night, the whole line became this dour, depressing series of catchphrasing and limb-rending. END TANGENT

C. Robert Cargill, however, thinks that, much like Lori Lemaris, Nolan is "wrong, wrong, wrong" for Superman. And he was kind enough to break it down to five reasons, all of which are based on the pretty insulting assumption that Nolan only knows how to make one kind of film. As if a Nolan-driven Superman movie will feature Jor-El and Lara taking Kal-El home from the opera when all of a sudden a man comes out of the shadows and blows up Krypton, unwittingly giving birth to Superman's neverending war on opera.

1. According to Cargill, "Superman ISN'T a dark hero." Really? He's the last survivor of his entire species. If the deaths of millions, probably billions, of people and the destruction of an entire planet isn't a dark subject, what is? Batman lost his parents and became a pouty creature of the night. Superman lost his whole freaking planet. Brood on that, Bats.
2. "Superman isn't a detective," says Cargill. No, he's just a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper. Nothing sleuthy going on there, no sir. Especially not from that very un-detective-like Lois Lane, who, as a nervy dame with a nose for news, never finds herself in over her head in situations that might as well be lifted right out of the noir textbook. Nope, nothing like that to see here. And since when is Nolan a detective filmmaker? Batman Begins and The Dark Knight succeed largely as science fiction films dressed up as crime thrillers. Certainly The Prestige is full on sci-fi, and at its heart, so is Memento. The Prestige and Memento are both exactly the kind of stories that used to feature in Superman comics back when Superman was the most popular fictional character on the whole planet. Thanks to his frequent contact with futuristic sorceresses and Red Kryptonite, Superman was always losing his memory or discovering imperfect duplicates of himself.
3. "They're throwing out the current continuity," Cargill mentions. I actually can't find any reference to Nolan in this "reason why Nolan shouldn't oversee the new Superman film", so I'm tempted to overlook it. Also, because it's a stupid reason. Also, because hopefully filmmakers will recognize that they've been telling Superman's origin for the last 10 years or so on Smallville and just tell a good Superman story.
4. "Nolan is great on story, but terrible on staying true to its history," Cargill claims. By now, I'm not sure if Cargill has ever seen a Christopher Nolan film, or any film at all for that matter. Nolan, like Tim Burton before him, excels at creating style and atmosphere, setting an appealing and intriguing tone for his films. The storylines and plots of his films tend to take a backseat to tone and theme. That's not the worst flaw for a filmmaker to have, and it's consistent in his films.
5. "Superman is science fiction," Cargill says. "Nolan is real world." This seems to be the same reason as #2, but what the heck. Cargill's got Nolan here, since Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight were all faithful adaptations of true stories. Cargill notes that Nolan's upcoming film Inception is science fiction, but dismisses it because nobody knows if it will be good or not. Unlike his Superman movie, which Cargill knows will be bad. Cargill also proves that he hasn't seen Superman III in this paragraph, which is too bad, because I think he'd like it.
Stayed tuned for an upcoming post where I'll outline ways that a new Superman movie could be awesome (regardless of who's involved), including my top secret idea for a 30th Century Bromantic Comedy co-starring Lar Gand and Jo Nah.


Anonymous said...

I like this. I agree Superman can and should be dark.
My thoughts on a new Superman movie here http://wp.me/pLchN-1Q

Paul Dechene said...

If Supes is going dark, I'd like to see something that falls between Tarantino's Superman soliloquy in Kill Bill and Chris Ware's God character.

Or, rather, no, I don't think I'd "like" to see that. But I would think it's "interesting."

Anyway, I just finished All Star Superman and thought that version of the character rocked pretty hard. I liked how Morrison was able to retain all the silver age gonzoness and still end up with something pretty serious.

If I had one quibble, it's that I'd really like to punch his Jimmy Olsen in the schnozz.