Dear Bryan Singer,
Did you enjoy your trip to 1978? I hope so because I’ll never see 1978. I was born 4 years after that, actually, and can’t re-live that kind of nostalgia. Did you know that in the late 80’s, DC went through Crisis on Infinite Earths and John Byrne re-imagined Superman in ways that still stick today? Did you know that there have been other Superman shows since Donner’s films? Superman has been through two Crises, a death, marriage, three live action series, and two animated series (as well as being part of two ensemble animated series) since those movies you seem to enjoy so much? In fact, one of those live action shows just finished up its fifth season and will return for a sixth in the fall. Just thought you’d like to know in case you feel like acknowledging Superman fans under 30 for your next movie.
Fuck off, fanboy.
I haven’t been the hugest Superman fan. Sure, I’ve been watching the shows and the cartoons (Lois and Clark, Smallville, and all the DCAU stuff), but I didn’t start seriously collecting Superman comics until recently. Although I’ve been collecting JLA for almost a decade, and Superman’s been a consistent part of that.
There are lots of things I think about when I think Superman. Krypton exploding, growing up in Smallville. Metropolis, The Fortress of Solutide, Daily Planet, Kryptonite, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk, The JLA, lots of things. I’ve seen so many different interpretations, and the bottom line always is that Superman stands for hope and peace. He’s not dark and vigilant like Batman, he’s not an everyman hero like Spider-Man, but he’s an icon. He represents the best of us. He represents tomorrow. He represents yesterday.
Each person puts their own personal spin on Superman. Timm showed what happens when the weight of the world is on his shoulder. Millar and Gough see a confused and isolated teenager. What does Singer see that he didn’t copy from Donner?
I never saw Clark Kent as mild-mannered. Well, I mean, I SAW that, but it’s not how I picture him. Clark Kent is a competent reporter and a good husband. He’s down to Earth, but he doesn’t intentionally act overly meek. He hasn’t in the comics in a long while. Lois Lane knows that he’s Superman. They’re married, and he doesn’t have to pretend around her anymore. This wasn’t Donner’s Clark Kent, and it’s not Singer’s. I feel like Singer just told Routh to watch what Christopher Reeve did and imitate it. I loved the Superman, it’s the Clark I wasn’t sold on (because it’s not the Clark Kent I would’ve chosen to see in a movie).
Lex Luthor was different too. He harkened back to Hackman. This interpretation I liked. It wasn’t a calculating rich businessman like the DCAU Luthor, but he was smart, he had a scheme, and he had ambition. All traits I like to see in Luthor.
Lois was the worst offender. Fake Bosquick wasn’t much like Margot Kidder’s. I love Terri Hatcher’s Lois Lane, she’s my favorite live action version. And the DCAU Lois voiced by Dana Delaney is awesome. I have a certain fondness for Erica Durance too. These women show the fire and assertiveness that Lois should have. What did we get in Superman Returns? A Lois that was silenced by a scientist. A Lois that can’t hail a cab. A Lois that faints. A Lois who shrinks back when a goon threatens her. A Lois in a prolonged engagement with a son.
Ah yes, Superkid (or BSOS, Bastard Son of Superman, as the internet’s calling him). I liked how I was surprised, but the more I thought about it, the more his existence bothered me. I thought it was done well and I liked the kid, but I don’t like the fact that he existed. It wasn’t that long ago (last October, I want to say) that I was upset on Smallville when Clark had sex with Lana. Some of this is my prudish nature coming in (because I sorta expect Superman to have traditional values, but that’s just me forcing my beliefs on him), but also because he continues to lie to her. With Lois, it was different in Superman II (which my memory is a bit foggy on), but here come my “traditional values” again. Superman has a son out of wedlock and doesn’t know about it. Come on, if MY MOM warns me about getting women pregnant, you’d think Martha Kent would. He didn’t even know, he didn’t even ask, and he didn’t stick around to find out. And for that he missed the first five years of his son’s life and now is forced to watch Cyclops take the role of father. I expect more from Superman.
Then there’s the fact that Jason’s powers manifests and he TAKES A HUMAN BEING’S LIFE. Great Rao, is THIS Superman’s legacy? I hate seeing people die in superhero movies, this isn’t James Bond. The more power you possess, the more you need limits. Isn’t that what season two of Justice League Unlimited was all about? This shouldn’t be in a superhero movie let alone a SUPERMAN movie. What, was this kid created by Frank Miller (a la The Dark Knight Strikes Back)?! Remember how in Kingdom Come when Superman and Wonder Woman had a baby and Batman was the godfather? THAT’S the kind of kid who gives you hope for the future. A kid who has killed and is raised by mortal parents? Look, Superman’s speech to him at the end was nice, but actions speak louder than words.
I’m petty, all right? I go to Batman Begins and Superman Returns and they’re not even pronouncing the villains names the same way I do. I wasn’t expecting Oa in the beginning credits or Aquaman to pop out of the water and go “Your trash is in my ocean”, but what nods do we get to the fans? Recycled music and lines from the Donner movies (which I liked, I’m just saying it’s not terribly original), actors from OLD Superman shows, and a tribute to Action Comics #1. I was born in 1982!!!
Seriously, if they showed someone watching a clip from Desperate Housewives, I would’ve been more satisfied as a fan than seeing the original Jimmy Olsen as a bartender. Did you know that Danny Dark (the Superfriends voice of Superman) died the same year as Christopher Reeve? I’m not complaining about the Christopher Reeve tribute at the end, he was a great man who worked hard for his cause (I wore my Christopher Reeve Foundation dog tag to the movie), but no mention of Danny Dark? Superman The Movie and Superman II really are the be all and end all of everything that is Superman, aren’t they, Mr. Singer? Al and Miles worship the movies too, but even Smallville's jam-packed with original stuff and tributes to other sources (like Lois calling Clark "Smallville").
Okay, getting off my high horse. I did appreciate the movie for what it was. I loved the special effects, and I loved how it wasn’t dumbed down by boom boom boom plot point action action like X-Men The Last Stand was. As a fan of the works of Bruce Timm, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, and Kurt Busiek, though? I was disappointed. Three stars.