MovieBob - Intermission
Advice From a Fanboy: Superman Edition

Bob Chipman | 8 Oct 2010 12:00
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So by now we've all heard that there's going to be a new Superman movie, yes?

Well, if you hadn't, yeah, there's going to be a new Superman movie, produced by Christopher Nolan and directed by Zack Snyder. If nothing else, the inevitable tagline touting "From the people who brought you The Dark Knight and Watchmen" is about the best possible pedigree a superhero movie can have these days.

Superman may well be the most enduring of all superheroes, the most popular comic book hero ever and the most famous fictional character on the planet, but in Hollywood history he has a more dubious place: one of the most frequently-flubbed creative properties ever. For every movie, radio serial, TV show or cartoon about him that has gotten made, it seems like the wreckage of at least two or three more is strewn about the entertainment landscape.

Heck, the Man of Steel is so infamously difficult to mold into a movie that writer Jake Rossen was able to fill an entire book, Superman vs. Hollywood, with tales of doomed, collapsed and compromised Superman projects. (That book, by the way, is fantastic and a must read for anyone who wants to understand how and why comic/sci fi/fantasy adaptations go so wrong so often.)

In any case, I thought this was as good a time as any to revisit the Advice From a Fanboy conceit, wherein I offer wholly- unsolicited, in all likelihood entirely useless, advice to major filmmakers about dealing with the fandom community. And so, without further introductory blather, I humbly present:

MovieBob's Only Somewhat Unserious Advice to Warner Bros, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder on Superman Fanboy Management!

Zod Is in the Details

As discussed previously, modern superhero fandom is infused heavily by rampant insecurity - i.e., fans feeling secretly guilty about taking unserious things so seriously. As such, you'll often hear pronouncements from fandom along the lines of "It's all about the themes and the spirit of the character - they just have to get that right." This is, of course, a very nice-sounding line of almost total nonsense.

The thing is, the "themes and spirit" of characters like Superman can (and have) changed from era to era - if not from issue to issue, even. As such, ask a dozen deeper-thinking fans what they think the theme of Superman is, and you're going to get a dozen different answers. "He's a metaphor for the pre-WWII Jewish-American Immigrant experience!" "He's a Neitzschean paradigm!" "He's the ideal of American Exceptionalism!" "He's Moses!" "He's Christ!" And they'll all be right. In any case, you shouldn't pay much heed to it. Remember, Bryan Singer made his Superman Returns all about theme and spirit (Returns is basically a visual essay on Superman as post-religious Christ figure) and the fandom largely rejected it.

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