Look up in the air. Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s just the mounting pressure for Warner Bros. to pull off the seemingly impossible — resurrecting Superman from the catacombs of the super hero graveyard.
Given the success of super hero movies over the past ten years, it’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a good Superman movie since — yikes — “Superman II” in 1980. Despite Richard Pryor’s presence, “Superman III” (1983) is subpar and “Superman IV: the Quest for Peace” (1987) is just flat awful.
Super-Sized Swings and Misses
In the 1990’s, Warner Bros. tried to reboot the franchise and a number of really bad ideas were attempted but never realized. At one point, Tim Burton was going to direct from a Kevin Smith script with Nicolas Cage playing Kal-El, as scary as that may sound. J.J. Abrams was given a shot at writing a script later on, but nothing ever came out of it.
Finally, WB managed to lure Bryan Singer away from Fox long enough for him to make “Superman Returns” (1996) starring Brandon Routh. It was a sequel pretending that “Superman III and IV” never happened — wouldn’t that be nice? — but came off more as a boring love letter to the movies we all grew up to love. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well with fans.
Despite the fact that both Routh and Singer were signed for multiple movies, Warner Bros. decided not to go forward with another Superman movie. With Christoper Nolan’s “Dark Knight” universe going strong, they tried to branch out in the DC Comics family and came up with “Green Lantern” starring Ryan Reynolds in 2011. It didn’t work out too well either, getting slammed by both critics and fans.
The Nolan Influence
Then, something happened. During the hiatus between “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”, director Christopher Nolan had a conversation with screenwriter David Goyer that changed everything. Goyer had an idea to reinvent Superman for a modern world. Nolan took the idea to Warner Bros., who convinced him to oversee the project as producer and what is now “Man of Steel” was born.
Nolan brought in visionary director Zack Snyder to helm the reboot of one of the most popular super heroes in the world. Snyder already had some super hero street cred, having directed the R-rated graphic novel based “Watchmen”. His style and ability to handle action seemed like the perfect fit.
With a new face in place — Henry Cavill won the role as the orphan son of Krypton — the whole idea was to make him a super hero today’s generation could relate to, which meant a darker, grittier and more grounded in reality approach.
One question remained. Would it be enough to keep up with the Jonses, in this case Marvel Cinematic Universe? Marvel has been winning audiences over with a series of movies featuring the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk, that led up to the release of “Marvel’s the Avengers” last summer. It became the third highest grossing movie of all-time and clearly established themselves ahead of DC in the super hero movie game.
Establishing a new age Superman would be difficult. Everyone knows the story of Kal-El and how he was sent to Earth by his Kryptonian parents, raised as Clark Kent by Jonathan and Martha Kent in the great state of Kansas before learning of his true alien lineage, getting a job as a mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, where he meets and falls in love with Lois Lane, meanwhile using his spare time saves the world as Superman.
And all he needs to hide his secret identity is a pair of glass. Now, that’s a super power.
Final Destination: Assembling The Justice League
Of course, Warner Bros. hopes Snyder, Nolan, and Cavill will win audiences over, paving the way for a “Justice League” movie, which would also include Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, and of course Batman, or some combination of the aforementioned.
With Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy ending that storyline, and apparently ending Christian Bale’s time in the cape and cowl, it seems to be up to Superman to help establish the thread that will lead to that magical team up opportunity.
“Man of Steel” soars into theatres on June 14 and boasts an outstanding cast that includes Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe, Michael Kelly, Harry Lennix, and Richard Schiff.
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