By Shane M. Dallmann
Hey, I’ve got a question… when will it be okay to make Superman fun again?
I completely understand the post-modern approach that acknowledges the very world (or, specifically, the very America) in which we live. And of course you can make Batman as dark as you’d like. You can’t make him too dark. He comes from a dark place (and besides, you can’t take Adam West away from us should we desire, in his own words, our “Uncle Batman”). I look at the contemporary Marvel movies and see how humor and exhilaration still manage to prevail even in stories that acknowledge the present-day darkness.
I’ve seen Larry Cohen’s GOD TOLD ME TO. That was his take on the Superman story. If Superman came to Earth and was exposed to religion, he’d seize on the Christ story and naturally assume that he, as he resembled mortal man but had far greater powers, was the new Christ. So we’ve seen that one a long time ago, and posing Superman in the cruciform isn’t anything new.
I’ve seen low-budget films such as SUPERGUY that seriously attempt to address the issue of just how we’d treat a super-being such as Kal-El were he to actually materialize in our midst.
And yes, of course, I’ve both read and seen WATCHMEN… the ne plus ultra of cynically realistic “superhero” sagas.
In short, I’ve seen every possible variant of the question “What if Superman were REAL and showed up TODAY?”
So is it absolutely, positively, irrevocably NECESSARY to apply the treatment to Superman himself? Does he HAVE to be angst-ridden and tormented? Does he HAVE to wear a dark, ugly “super” suit? Must he howl in torment and endure bullying in both youth and adulthood?
Do you HAVE to blatantly swipe from SPIDER-MAN and flash back to a pissy Clark Kent lashing out at his adoptive Earth father (yep, Kevin Costner) and scolding him with “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!” mere minutes before… oh, hell, you KNOW what’s going to happen next!
Sheesh… and I thought that SUPERMAN RETURNS was the one to leach the fun out of Superman. I knew I was in trouble from the VERY FIRST SCENE of MAN OF STEEL with the dark palette and gray computer simulations, and that was before we got to the GLADIATOR/300 battles with Russell Crowe as Jor-El.
The plot is full of mega-ships and detailed science talk. I could translate, but I scarcely need to. Way too many vehicles, computers and cellular implants getting in the way of what should have simply been a rousing superhero vs. supervillain battle.
I did somewhat like the three-way battle in Smallville that mirrored a big-city sequence in the far-superior SUPERMAN II. For the record, it was 7-11 for the win, IHOP for place and Sears for show. Oh, sorry… I was merely talking about the rampant product placement. The big-city battle was noticeably better, and I DID actually enjoy the “Lexcorp” logo cameo.
Nothing wrong with the cast (but oh, lord, did Laurence Fishburne let himself go). But I draw the line here. Superman is NOT… repeat, NOT… the Dark Knight. We HAVE a Dark Knight. His name is Batman.
Please… PLEASE… let Superman be FUN again? I didn’t enjoy MAN OF STEEL at ALL.