Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Superman: More Powerful than a Loco Movie?

Last week's pictorial revelation of a Tim Burton-directed Nic Cage Superman had fans hypothetically reminiscing about the horrors of what could've been, and perhaps further musing that Bryan Singer's Superman-as-deadbeat-dad maybe wasn't such a bad idea after all. However, this image remains a cautionary tale of what yet may come, as our beloved comic book icons are forever susceptible to any Hollywood producer's or director's drive to make their mark on characters and mythologies with such universal appeal. So, why shouldn't a humble blogger like me do just the same? The following is my list of recommendations/expectations for the next Superman movie, in the hopes of remaining faithful to the character while making Big Blue appealing to mainstream and hardcore fanboy audiences alike.

1. No more Lex Luthor! This is my first and most emphatic plea. Lex Luthor is an excellent archnemeis, but like Coldplay overexposure has dulled his wit and softened his ruthlessness. Further, excluding Superman's fight with General Zod, mainstream movie-going audiences have yet to see the Man of Steel achieve his full potential as the most powerful human being on Earth. So what if a bullet bounces off of his eyeball? Let's see him take a whooping, so we know that when he delivers one in kind it actually hurts. This was why the advent Doomsday was an effectively marketing ploy and could be an adequate choice for an antagonist on film. However, might I sugges . . .

2. Go Bizarro! First of all, Bizarro has become a household term, even if most folks don't know he's a twisted Superman doppelganger. Further, doppelgangers are all the rage in comic book movies lately. Spider-man's Venom, Iron Man's Iron Monger, Hulk's Abomination . . . all arguably dark reflections of their respective heroic foes. Bizarro would match Superman's strength, but he could also provide the strange psychological edge that comes from fighting oneself, or who "I could've been!" Plus, the studio could pay just one actor to play both roles, with a little CGI assist. You're welcome, Hollywood.

3. Subplots involving the supporting cast. One of the reasons I like the Daredevil director's cut so much more than the theatrical release is the Foggy Nelson subplot, as he battles the Kingpin in court while Matt Murdock gets down and dirty in the streets. Foggy becomes a character of true dimension and conviction when he isn't just the bumbling, shallow sidekick or comedic foil -- which is exactly what Jimmy Olsen and Perry White have suffered from since even the 1950s, in the original black and white Superman television show. Perry, the gruff newspaper editor, and Jimmy, the gee-willikers pal, have become so much more in their native comics, and writers can easily develop a plot that involves their investigative prowess . . . perhaps why S.T.A.R. Labs would create a Bizarro, or something? Alas, this is just a recommended list, not fan fiction, so I'll move on.

4. Lois Lane. Superman loves her madly, and always will. We get it. It isn't even story-worthy anymore, hardly even a romantic subplot. If Lois and Clark can't be married on film by now, or at least partners via her knowledge of his double life, give Supes someone else to ogle. I don't mean Lana Lang, either, because we've seen that in Superman III and Smallville. Come to think of it, Maxima, the warrior woman that stalks and lovingly fights Superman, would be a great villain, as her crazy affection might challenge Lois to become more than the damsel, or even more than just a hard-headed journalist, the 21st century woman. In those efforts, she's always worked against Superman by giving him more to worry about -- who knows how appealing she might be as a legitimate, at least equally motivated ally?

5. The moral dilemma. Obviously, a morally righteous character like Superman must experience the gray area of the law from time to time, but seeing him operate as a vigilante is still controversial enough for mainstream audiences to enjoy. The animated series episodes in which he's brainwashed by Darkseid, and consequentially wanted by the military, are extremely compelling, or even now in the comics as the world lobbies against him. What if an innocent attempt to helps overseas troops go awry, and the government bans his flagrant do-gooding? How cool would an undercover Superman be, on film? Seeing a subversive Clark Kent makes that alias more than the corn-fed, bumbling Kansas boy he's always been . . .

. . . which may be our hero's biggest weakness. Superman is always best as Superman because that's how we've always seen him. A little stretching of the creative muscles can offer a different Superman story that still operates within hardcore fans' expectations. After all, it's only 90 minutes, compared to decades' worth of comic book literature. Hey, but you know what they say about the pictures. They're worth a thousand words.