Destroy All Monsters: Retire Superman

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@tederick)
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Destroy All Monsters: Retire Superman

While the internet is tearing itself apart in its efforts to empirically determine whether Man of Steel "sucks" or "is awesome" - because such things are now apparently possible, given Superman Returns' near-unilateral, and intellectually disturbing, dismissal - I'd like to pause to make a gentler request: may we please retire Superman?

I understand why Man of Steel - and for that matter, Star Trek Into Darkness - is the way it is. I understand the market reality of Hollywood in the summer of 2013, and the theatrical exhibition industry for movies generally, and what is different about North America now versus 1938 (when Superman first appeared in Action Comics), or 1966 (when Star Trek first took to the air), or 1978 for that matter (when Superman made the leap to the big screen and created, for all intents and purposes, the Comic Book Movie).

It's only that both of the new films, Steel and Darkness (and if your titles can be thus reduced, I'd argue we've located at least part of the problem), make me wonder: when the spirit of the thing is no longer in evidence, do we need the thing any more at all? Or put another way: if you have to rewire something so completely to make it work for a modern audience, does the modern audience want it in the first place?

[Note: spoilers for Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness follow.]

Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel are blunt, violent movies. They are blunt, violent movies because the people who made them presumed, probably correctly, that the (young, male) audience would enjoy seeing, respectively, spacefaring spectacle and earthbound superfights created at a level of Hollywood finesse unparalleled in the whole history of movies. They are effective as such.

Now let me ask you a question: At any point in your life until now, would you have described either Star Trek or the Superman franchise as "blunt" or "violent?"

Our popular entertainments mirror the times that we're in, and perhaps we're in blunt and violent times. I'd like to think there's at least a possibility that the ghost of Gene Roddenberry would have no problem with Abrams, Lindelof et. al.'s post-9/11 manhandling of the Star Trek mythos. Roddenberry did, at least in part, design that mythos to respond directly to the contemporary world. Whatever else it does clumsily, Star Trek Into Darkness responds to its contemporary world, both in theme and in tone: it is a story about the time that we're in (inasmuch as this is possible in a largely brainless action movie), and it is also a movie very much for the time that we're in.

But Superman? When and how did Superman get so completely and cataclysmically scrubbed of his innate, seemingly inherent, sense of wonder? The man can fly. How can Man of Steel be two hours and twenty-three minutes long and contain not even a single moment of elevation?

Ironically, Man of Steel takes as a beacon concept the potential for Superman to be a heroic role model for the human race - and then makes an almost comically poor effort of demonstrating why any human being would aspire to be Superman at all, after the dead bodies are totted up and planetary annihilation has been scarcely, and expensively, averted. (Some have pointed out the cross-wired logic of the film's final sequence, where Pa Kent watches young Clark caper around the yard dressed in a Superman cape - behaviour we can all remember from childhood, because of course Superman existed in our childhoods. Superman does not exist in Clark's childhood, though - and whereas the final scenes of Captain America: The First Avenger demonstrated categorically that Cap's innate goodness had begun to rub off on the aspiring youths of Brooklyn and beyond, Man of Steel's endgame is the self-reflexive conceptual circle-jerk of having Superman, essentially, aspire to become himself!)

By design, Man of Steel's Superman is devoid of the sunny optimism and near-goofy ease of manner that has defined the character for 75 years. Christopher Nolan, David Goyer and Zack Snyder have retrofitted him with a piercingly original origin story that works conceptually but wholly erases the saga's sense of fun, replacing it with systemic paranoia, personal confusion, and a pervasive unease about, oddly, heroism itself.

It's a fair play, but isn't entertaining, and neither is the movie; and while Man of Steel might induce extremely violent children to wear red capes while extremely violently punching other, less-violent children, I doubt it will make them consider whether they'd run into a burning building to save a person's life.

In Star Trek Into Darkness, the notion that Starfleet is trekking across the galaxy on an altruistic mission to scientifically expand human knowledge is nowhere in evidence. The real villain of the piece is not Khan so much as the idea that, following the destruction of Vulcan (which the creators of the film have referred to as the Federation's 9/11-level event), Starfleet would tilt towards covert militarization. That's a cynical idea, not unearned in our real-world political landscape, but a distinctly odd fit with the ceaseless optimism that forms the core purpose of Star Trek. Not just the theme, and not just the point, mind you: the purpose. Star Trek was designed to advocate for that optimism. If you remove it, how is it Star Trek?

And since Star Trek Into Darkness brings 9/11 into the conversation by way of a freaking title card dedication in the end credits (!!!), let's come right to it: there have been few things more disturbing at the multiplexes this summer than the astonishingly cavalier treatment of 9/11-style imagery in Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel. (That we exist in a time where whole categories of blockbuster images can be described as "9/11-style" is a terror unto itself. See Transformers: Dark of the Moon for the nadir of American thoughtlessness.)

In Star Trek ID, Khan crashes a starship into the middle of San Francisco; in Man of Steel, Superman and Zod, almost singlehandedly, level Metropolis. Skyscrapers crumble to the ground in sickening CGI recapitulations of mass urban destruction with which we are all too familiar.

It isn't the destruction, itself, that I find repugnant. The Avengers saw quite a lot of downtown New York destroyed last summer. In that film, though, we repeatedly see the destruction through the eyes of the civilians. We repeatedly see the heroes trying to protect the civilians. We see one of the principal characters literally sacrifice his life to prevent the middle of a major American metropolis from being leveled with people inside it.

In both Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel, though, the heroes never seem aware of the collateral damage of their adventures at all. At the very end of the final fight in Man of Steel, Superman finally notices a small family of terrified humans, and it snaps him out of his destructive reverie long enough to finally, y'know, save a life or three. Up till then, though -- I mean, really, can we speculate? How many human beings would reasonably have died in the last 45 minutes of Man of Steel, given the Central Park-sized ring of flattened buildings in which Clark and Lois share their first smooch? How many Federation citizens are killed offscreen in Star Trek Into Darkness so that Mr. Spock and Khan can engage in a fistfight on a garbage truck?

Star Trek Into Darkness' cold cynicism extends beyond its war sequences; the careless sight gag of Kirk waking up in the midst of a threesome with two alien babes, and the potty-eyed underwear scene for Alice Eve, evince a surprisingly snarky treatment of female sexual partners and females generally. The new franchise's only adult relationship, between Spock and Uhura, is curtailed into a needless subplot that is awkwardly resolved by the end of the film's first act.

There used to be an element of courtly romance about the Superman/Lois relationship, too; a romantic comedy bumbling and fumbling that bespoke chaste sexual tension. (This is why, in its day, the kryptonite condom joke was actually funny.) Superman's very '40s-Hollywood portrayal of workplace romances reached its zenith in Superman: The Movie's musical-esque flying sequence, and was later refracted brilliantly as a broken, 21st-century tone poem of adults moving on with their lives in Superman Returns; but no such conceptual reorganization is evident in Man of Steel, which couldn't apparently give less of a fuck about its mythology's central romance.

Perhaps we've simply moved beyond the sort of fairy tale romance that the Lois/Clark/Superman triangle represents - so much so that Man of Steel cleverly does away with the whole pretense of Lois' inability to recognize the Man of Steel through Clark's glasses once and for all. But if we're beyond that sort of fairy tale romance, I'd argue we're beyond Superman.

See, Superman is romantic. It's inherently romantic, and idealistic, and intentionally uplifting, something that Man of Steel pays lip-service to but never actively demonstrates. Superman is also, I suspect, fundamentally of its time. The character was created in 1938, expanded through the '40s, '50s, and '60s, and finally came into its own in the '70s with the launch of the motion picture. Superman: The Movie was Superman at apogee, a perfect combination of the goofy cartoonishness we associated with comic books before Frank Miller and Alan Moore took over, and the transformative potential of special effects cinema to bring us all up into the clouds with him.

I suspect, though, that Superman 1 is a right place/right time scenario, as are many genre-defining films. Since then - and I mean literally since that first movie - the efforts by all and sundry to continue to make Superman movies that are dramatically viable have all been somehow problematic. Some of the results work better than others, but each new entry is met with a cross-cultural paraphrase of Lois' article from Superman Returns: "Why does the world need Superman?"

And here's the thing: it doesn't, just like the world doesn't need John Carter or (spoiler warning!) the Lone Ranger. Just like it doesn't need Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise any more, maybe. They were characters of their time, built and designed for their time, and efforts to resurrect them, zombie-like, from the dust of the popular consciousness only belies how insistently - how wonderfully, transformatively, necessarily - we continue to stir the soup of pop art after every major ingredient is tossed in.

It's okay: sometimes, we move on. Superman was wonderful, and wonderful for a long time, and across multiple genres. It's fitting that the character who kicked off comic book superheroes themselves would go on to kick off big Hollywood comic book superhero movies, too. But why, forty years later, do we need to keep trying to bring him back? He had his time. Superman's work here is done.

Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture.

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Around the Internet

GodsAreMonstersJune 19, 2013 11:14 AM

Not having read the spoilers section as I haven't seen Man of Steel yet I would like to address your opening premise:

"when the spirit of the thing is no longer in evidence, do we need the thing any more at all? Or put another way: if you have to rewire something so completely to make it work for a modern audience, does the modern audience want it in the first place?"

I'd say given both movies sheer popularity and the fact that they have been able to elicit such strong responses both positive and negative is a yes. People don't turn out in droves to see things then argue about them when there is no passion about the property. Or that property lacks cultural relevance. Which means you answered your own question in your opening. Somewhere right before you bring up Superman Returns in a non-sequitur. Or to think of it another way. The idea that a mythology only retains it relevance during the era of its creation is patently false. It may evolve to suit the ideals of the time but does not imply irrelevance it implies how important it is to the people who continue to want it in their lives. So whether you see the "spirit" of that thing still in it is irrelevant. Cleary others do.

It is also my hope that your comment about properties whose names can be reduced in some way was you being glib and not a genuine rumination as that would be a unilateral condemnation of any multi-word/multi-syllable title/name and that would be just stupid.

Michael LangJune 19, 2013 11:25 AM

Obviously written by a moron who has never made a movie. Sad.

AmlethJune 19, 2013 11:28 AM

I seriously don't understand where all this fuzz about the new Superman is coming. It's just another summer blockbuster!

People is complaining that it's not the true Superman, but that doesn't exist: the original movies are too different from the comic book, so they didn't show the original Superman either. In the books, the character has been touched and rewritten so many times that the only original Superman is the one from 1933... and if the movie is true to that, it would be so cheesy that noone would like it (it would look too much like Shumacher's Batman).

If what you mean is that Man of Steel should be like the 80's movies, thinks twice about that. They did that a few years ago: It's called Superman Returns. Similar plot, similar actor (they did all they could to make Brandon Routh look like Christopher Reeve). And the best you can get from that is a "meh".

Personally, I don't mind the character having a little more depth than before. About the rest, it's just another popcorn movie: watch it, enjoy it and forget it.

matthewfabbJune 19, 2013 11:49 AM

Has Matt Brown seen the animated movie "Superman vs. The Elite" or the comic it is based off of called "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way"?

If not, you should check them out as it's a story that specifically on the flip side of Man of Steel, asking if Superman fits in this post-911 world. It introduces some new heroes called The Elite, who are a take off of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar's The Authority. However, in the end they could be any modern hero who rather than capturing the villain, kill them. They argue that these villains stay in jail temporary until they figure a way to break out and wreak havoc on society again killing more people. That killing them is the only way to break the cycle and put an end to their path of destruction.

These new heroes that the public seem to love, argue that they are the way of the future and Superman is a relic of a bygone era that is no longer needed, similar to your article here. Beyond Superman, the story asks interesting questions about America's place in the world and it's own moral code.

This animated movie was released last summer and could have easily been the reboot. It would have been both blockbuster but something that made you think at the same time.

I don't think Man of Steel was the only way to go for DC & Warner Brothers but was them reacting against the success of Nolan's Batman movies. With hundreds and millions of dollars on the line they are very conservative with their approach, but that doesn't mean that is the only approach to have taken.

Star Trek is an entirely different beast. As they are basically rewriting history of sci-fi stories from the 1960's. They have done something to allow them to hit the reset button a bit, but the take is still that this is the same characters and storylines. Whether this is the right way to go is a bit of a bigger question. That said, I don't think the latest movie had to be a big dumb action movie to play up to modern audiences. Once again, just because that was some what successful doesn't mean that is the only way to go.

Peter FernandesJune 19, 2013 11:59 AM

You should do your homework before writing these articles. Superman was always a very aggressive and violent hero since his inception in 1938. The original GA Superman (1938-1950) written by the original creators (Shuster and Siegel) was bold and aggressive. He threw bad guys from the windows, broke their jaws, intimidated the shit out of them. He blasted their planes, destroyed countless nazi tanks. In one issue he punched a robber to death. Snyder and Goyer merely respected the cannon from the last 75 years. Superman has got such a rich history. In 90's he killed a monster Doomsday to protect the citizens of metropolis. He also killed kryptonian villains. So, he was always evolving and changing with times. Ongoing fictional heroes in pop culture always evolve and adapt with changing times. Man of Steel is a fantastic re-telling of this icon. It's a good movie, and I am watching it again tonight.

Peter FernandesJune 19, 2013 12:15 PM

There are so many interpretations and versions of Superman out there. Some are very violent, some are too sci-fi, and some are light. There is no one definitive Superman. MAN OF STEEL is the best Superman movie because it succeeded in explaining the why of Superman.

Peter FernandesJune 19, 2013 12:17 PM

You should do your homework before writing these articles. Superman was always a very aggressive and violent hero since his inception in 1938. The original GA Superman (1938-1950) written by the original creators (Shuster and Siegel) was bold and aggressive. He threw bad guys from the windows, broke their jaws, intimidated the shit out of them. He blasted their planes, destroyed countless nazi tanks. In one issue he punched a robber to death. Snyder and Goyer merely respected the cannon from the last 75 years. Superman has got such a rich history. In 90's he killed a monster Doomsday to protect the citizens of metropolis. He also killed kryptonian villains. So, he was always a bold hero evolving and changing with times. Ongoing fictional heroes in pop culture always evolve and adapt with changing times. Man of Steel is a fantastic re-telling of this icon. It's a good movie, and I am watching it again tonight.

Mad_Dog_YayanJune 19, 2013 12:18 PM

"By design, Man of Steel's Superman is devoid of the sunny optimism and near-goofy ease of manner that has defined the character for 75 years"

Uh huh, have even bothered reading some of the story arc of superman in the 90's, the 00's and the new tens? There are dark arc of Superman that is darker than this movie. Just so you know Superman did killed Zod in Superman Vol. 2 #22 (the end of the Supergirl Saga). I'm kinda tired of this trying to be this "vanguard of a franchise" thing. Who the fuck are you to tell people what they want?

Simon de BruynJune 19, 2013 12:24 PM

Well, I agree.

reaganiskingJune 19, 2013 1:28 PM

I thought this article was great, and I'm a fan of Supes.


I liked MoS. I DIDN'T like...1: The way Pa Kent died. I call bullshit. No way would Clark let him go like that. A wave of Pa's hand, as if to say "Don't"?? 2: Why did Zod request Lois be taken up to the spaceship? 3: The kiss. 4: The stupid comment by the female soldier at the end, "I think he's hot". STUPID. 5: Metropolis is leveled and afterwards it's business as usual at the Daily Planet??

These faults I blame on director and writer. Henry is super.

I read somewhere that Snyder wanted to put all of his eggs into this basket. He needs to learn a thing or two about pacing.

Matt BrownJune 19, 2013 1:35 PM

Well, I hope the remainder of the article bears out for you! :)

Matt BrownJune 19, 2013 1:35 PM

Thanks guest.

Matt BrownJune 19, 2013 1:36 PM

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll give those a try.

Matt BrownJune 19, 2013 1:37 PM

I'm definintely not saying that Man of Steel should be like the '80s movies. I'm asking, if the character needs to be retrofitted to this degree, might his relevance simply have passed?

And I don't agree with the "just another summer blockbuster" angle - or more to the point, if that's the way you feel about summer blockbusters, you're reading the wrong column. I believe pop culture and pop art can be taken just as seriously as anything else, and that they do have messages and meanings that impact their audiences. If you don't, awesome, but you won't find a lot to read about here.

J HurtadoJune 19, 2013 1:45 PM

Didn't read the column because I haven't seen the movie, but this is the most bullshit frequent comment on every movie geek message board/comment section. Twat.

walterJune 19, 2013 2:59 PM

Superman Sucked. I don't care how he acted. Hell, After Earth was a better film.

walterJune 19, 2013 2:59 PM

Superman Sucked. I don't care how he acted. Hell, After Earth was a better film.

MartenJune 19, 2013 4:48 PM

Yes.....because only those who make films are allowed to critique or have opinions about them. What a poser....

dore15June 19, 2013 5:37 PM

I don't know if you've had time to see the Justice League cartoon series, but I think it did a great job of showing the more Golden Age (or is that a Silver Age?) version of Superman. Even as an adult, I find a certain charm in that version of the character, that in some ways reminds me of Christopher Reeves Superman.

Matthew HolmesJune 19, 2013 6:32 PM

What's all this 'need' stuff. Hollywood makes these because they want to make tons of money and a return on the rights they probably paid a lot of money for. THAT'S why these films are made. And if you think Superman Returns was a good film.... sigh, well - you're article lost me there.

Matt BrownJune 19, 2013 6:38 PM

Sounds interesting, I'll check that out. Thanks!

WatashiJune 19, 2013 8:30 PM

Hollywood is trying hard to get the meta-message through: "It is OK to spy our own citizens and blow-up others citizens".

Pa Kent Says MaybeJune 19, 2013 8:42 PM

The question is posed wrong...Do we need Superman? Star Trek? Yes, we need Star Trek and Superman, but we need them as they were originally intended --- as sparks of wonder and optimism: joy and imagination.

The concepts don't need updating for a (mythical, anyway) Modern Audience. The Modern Audience needs fixing. Cynical, petulant, brooding, whiners. Spoiled, over-indulged brats who have gotten into daddy's toy-box and broken all the cool stuff in there.

Yeah, more than ever, we need fantasy that encourages the better parts of our natures, instead of patronizing our dull, compromised status quo. Blockbusterized to the point of stupidity.

The traditional, true, optimistic, and heroic Superman is the hero we need. The Modern Audience deserves the poke in the eye that Team Noloyer has given them.

darrenjhJune 19, 2013 10:49 PM

great article. i think comic hero movies have transformed from the main theme, 'with great power comes great responsibility' to just a battle between the superheroes (the US) and the axis of evil (everyone else, terrorists) in this supposed post 9/11 battle of civilisations. Great drama cannot result from watching the latter type of movies. It's just mind numbing repetition of the same crap.

davebaxterJune 19, 2013 11:21 PM

Actually, no, GodsAreMonsters. The popularity of any particular piece of recent entertainment has no bearing on the culture's need for the spirit of the original IP/creation.

We can call anything "Superman" or "Star Trek", using the brand to attract an audience. Lip service can be paid to the brand, naming characters with the names we expect (Kirk, Spock, Kent, Lois, etc). But if the content of the piece is altered to the point where this could be ANY group of people in a spaceship in a future where space travel is the norm, or ANY powered individual with "super" powers and abilities beyond mankind, then the question is still relevant: is this "Superman" and "Star Trek" in name only? And if so, is it because we no longer have any need for the originals, but only refuse to retire the iconic names, titles, and brands?

Most audience members never needed to think through the "spirit" or purpose of these concepts in the first place, though the spirit/purpose can nevertheless affect anyone and everyone without us all being intellectually engaged in the material. This means when a spirit is altered, it can do so without many noticing, or caring even if they do. But regardless, the material can be said to have been altered significantly and is thus no longer the original. This means it no longer affects us in the same way, or exists for the same purposes as the original. If this is so, then the original can be argued to be "no longer valid" or "needed", because we're no longer consuming the original, we're consuming the new, which departs enough from the originals for "new" to mean significantly more than just "the latest".

The popularity of the new MOS and STID films only means that these new, altered versions are confirmed as popular. And it means the brand/title of the originals is still resonant. The question that this article is asking, however, is if the CONTENT of the original creations has any further value to us. And if not, is it entirely acceptable to refuse to retire he brand while hawking it to be something it never has been, or was meant to be, because we know that will sell better?

davebaxterJune 19, 2013 11:31 PM

Nobody has told anybody "what they want". The argument is whether we can - or how often or to what extent we can - alter an original concept and still fairly, and honestly, claim that it's the original, only, you know, different. A name is a name. Sometimes it fits, many times it doesn't, the question is where the line should be drawn. If you put him in the suit, is it fair to always call that "Superman" with a straight face?

Also, Superman killed Doomsday and Zod in the comics with extreme reluctance (the entire Doomday fight was a long appeal from Superman for Doomsday to please stop, before extreme measures were called for). He even cried when he killed Zod, because he knew it was a line that he could never cross back from. A certain innocence that was lost. And immediately after, did not follow a significantly more vicious Superman. He rarely ever killed, even after.

Superman has rarely been "dark" in the comics, and when he was, it was significant. And it didn't last. "Fun" usually was editorially mandated to return to the comics after short bursts of "controversial" darkness, which were also editorially mandated :P

davebaxterJune 19, 2013 11:47 PM

As Mathewfabb mentions about "What's so Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" above, the "spirit"/purpose of Superman has always been, since his incipience, to reflect the ideal (or myth) of American morality, and then put that up against the rest of the world, including the rest of America. In the 1930's, Superman did reflect this ideal he-man morality, punch 'em in the jaw and end the menace. Also wartime morality: death was natural and acceptable if in defense of the "innocent". Usually, in these early comics, Superman would confront "cowards" who couldn't bring themselves to stand up and do what needed to be done.

The point though is that Superman must remain the IDEAL of the times, in opposition to the reality of the times, not a reflection of the times himself. If Superman becomes a reflection of the times, then yes, that's an extreme alteration of the original concept and usage of the character.

stellarJune 20, 2013 12:38 AM

To an extent, yes, superman should adapt for the times. A superman of the 1930's should not be the superman of today. And yes, superman does use violent tactics when fighting enemies and even killed doomsday. Which for the record, i think would be a far better storyline for a movie and metaphor for 9/11 on a brief sidenote. But essentially overall, superman is alien boy scout with infinite hope, courage, and optimism. He's a naive, kansas-farmboy native who essentially believes in the good of people and of the potential for humanity. And for those who want to get technical about research, the whole killing general zod and his buddies was erased continuity as a result of the infinite crisis storyline. But to get to my point, superman should never be a brooding, christopher nolan-style batman. Never, ever. Even in the comic books in team up's together, they were the odd couple with superman's sunny optimism and batman's brooding, cynicism. And the only reason superman killed doomsday was because doomsday killed him first and when he came back, that was the only option left! Also, a HUGE part of the superman element that made it fun, was the romantic sub-plot with lois lane, which was non-existent in this movie. If you have to take this romance subplot out, that's like peter parker with no mary jane! And if you have superman kill, with doomsday story an exception, then you might as well call the movie "super-punisher." But overall, superman films will still get made despite because him being more exciting as an idea than for exciting storylines.

feloniousmaxJune 20, 2013 12:42 AM

These are our myths, seeing how long lasting other's myths are...The Olympians, Asgardians, Nipponese Amans, Hindu lokas, all of the angels and saints, Dorothy, Tinman, Arthur, Beowulf, Sherlock, Romeo & Juliet...these are the stories we tell again and again, remakes and reboots are just our technological take on the "oral tradition".

Kevin Tiberius RockheadJune 20, 2013 9:18 PM

Let me put it this way - so far, this summer, out of all the blockbusters I've seen (Iron Man 3, Star Trek, Man of Steel and Great Gatsby), the only movie that I found myself truly loving has been Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. Whedon's version, apart from updating the setting and the clothes is extremely faithful to Shakespeare's original play (I will even cause some controversy here and go as far as to say it is better than Branagh's 1993 version).
I agree with this article when it says that if something has to be massively rewritten in order to appeal to a modern audience is it still worth it. Superman is a massive cultural icon; instantly recognisable around the world. Why does he need to be updated? There are, in fact, some very compelling graphic novels that explore Superman's position in the future, where the world has become more violent and hard and yet he has stayed the same; is he still relevant or is he too old fashioned? should he retire or change with the times? Maybe these are questions that Man of Steel should have tried to explore when making the movie more "realistic".
Shakespeare wrote his plays over 400 years ago and yet are stilled inspiring generations of people today. Nobody feels the need to update his words, scenarios or characters to make them more appealing to a modern audience. And when you look at all the time and money that were spent on those four movies I mentioned, and then look at Whedon's Much Ado (made in 12 days at his house with essentially a group of mates), it does make you question the audacity some filmmakers have to demand a huge budget. I have said it for years, a big budget is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a movie as it makes filmmakers lazy. Filmmakers are supposed to be story tellers; big budgets typically make them forget about the story and focus too much on the "look". With Much Ado, I was completely drawn into the movie because it was well written, acted and directed - I cared about these characters and loved following what was happening to them.
I loved Superman when I was growing up; I loved the comics, I loved the George Reeves tv show. I loved the Christopher Reeve movies (except number 4 which was, if we're all honest, really crap). I still read comics and am proud of my geeky status. However, I stopped reading Superman comics after his resurrection from death in the 90s. Not because of the story telling, but because you always knew how every scenario would turn out. He's so powerful and so much the world's biggest boy scout that there was very little to drive the imagination. He's not really that complex. All the best superheros have some sought of foible, personality trait, characteristic or something that combined with their heroics in the suit makes them great to follow. Superman is just too damn perfect and while it's great to have him save the day, who wants to keep reading or watching that all the time. There's a great parody of this on youtube in the "how it should have ended" series that sums up my point perfectly (the ones with Batman and Superman in the cafe).
Sorry for the essay! LOL. off to bed now.

PhubarrhJune 20, 2013 9:59 PM

Kirk leaping into the breach in the first movie to act as executioner in the seconds before the villain was ripped asunder by his own machinations, pretty much killed the franchise for me. But hey, we're living in a culture where half the population cheers on torture as a military policy, so who am I to complain?

Matthew LaneJune 21, 2013 3:41 AM

"It's okay: sometimes, we move on. Superman was wonderful, and wonderful for a long time, and across multiple genres. It's fitting that the character who kicked off comic book superheroes themselves would go on to kick off big Hollywood comic book superhero movies, too. But why, forty years later, do we need to keep trying to bring him back? He had his time. Superman's work here is done."

I honestly don't think it is... His work is not yet done... but his work needs to involve a creative team that actually understands the character.

Because dumbing him down to a super powered version of a late 1980's action hero, just didn't work. Not did turning him into a mid 90's emo kid... An combining those two has been a complete travesty.

Matthew LaneJune 21, 2013 3:42 AM

Or pretty much any of the DC/WB animated movies.

Matthew LaneJune 21, 2013 3:48 AM

Its called Justice League Unlimited.

You could also try some of the DC/WB animated movies, specifically:
- Superman versus the Elite
- Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- Superman/Batman Apocalypse
- All Star Superman

Matthew LaneJune 21, 2013 3:51 AM

"MAN OF STEEL is the best Superman movie "

Best is not the same thing as good. If given the choice, i'm sure you'd rather be punched in the face then stabbed in the stomach.... But thats not the same thing as saying you enjoy being punched in the face.

Man of Steel, is a complete basterdisation of everything Superman is.

Matt BrownJune 21, 2013 8:15 AM

Cheers for that. I've watched about half of the WB animated movies, and I'm a big fan of All Star Superman in both animated and comic versions.

Theo BlackJune 21, 2013 4:12 PM

I totally agree. The article seemed to be written with the pretense that superman as a character stopped evolving after the 1970s, when in actuality the conversation around his image has been just vibrant within the comic and graphic novel writing/reading community since his synthesis.

Theo BlackJune 21, 2013 4:14 PM

I think the critique that superman wasn't shown saving enough lives is kinda silly when he saved the whole world from destruction.

Mad_Dog_YayanJuly 4, 2013 11:39 AM

And this one didn't have a breakdown after he killed Zod? Also, there's nothing to stop the makers to create a "lighter" second film isn't there? In fact, with Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel there can be a second movie where a more experienced Superman who doesn't want to kill because of his previous experience. This will actually make why Superman has no killing policy more impactful.

carolJuly 23, 2013 11:51 AM

Yes the modern audience like my friends and I, who are not comic fans but loves the recent series of comic hero movies, had waited for a version of Superman like MoS and absolutely love it. The movie is not perfect but still enjoyable. It is rated PG 13, and like Batman Begins, it is not really meant for young children, not that they cannnot watch it if their parents are fine with it. As adults my friends and I do not take the so called 'violence' seriously. Its just summer popcorn fun. So lets not get too over intellectual about it. Looking forward to the sequel. Really excited to see what they are going to do with Batman and Superman together.

Mr. CavinAugust 8, 2013 3:30 AM

Hear hear. There's never anything wrong with thinking about things.

Son of PrometheusAugust 23, 2013 3:58 PM

@Matt Brown "Why does the world need Superman? Here's the thing: it doesn't!"

Hmm...You say some interesting things in this article, but let me leave you with this: "This looks like a job for Superman!" Those 19 elite firefighters killed in that blaze in Arizona. The poor souls who jumped to thier death rather than be burned alive or die of smoke inhalation in the Two Towers attack of 9/11. Might disagree with you about the world not needing Superman (if he were real of course) as long as thier a scenarios and crisis which our species is yet to be technologically capable of handling ourselves. That catch phrase still has gravitas: This looks like a job for Superman :)

DreadfulKataSeptember 4, 2013 7:13 PM

But Superman doesn't exist, and he wasn't there to catch the people jumping from the WTC or the Arizona firefighters. Of course, if Superman were real and performed these sorts of feats it would be madness to argue he was anything but a good thing.

Since we understand he doesn't exist, the debate is more about whether we, culturally, still need the Superman story. It's often said that superheros are the modern equivalents of legendary heroes like Beowulf or CĂș Chulainn. The question is whether we have now moved on from Superman having cultural significance in the same way we once moved on from Beowulf. It doesn't mean those stories aren't interesting and diverting, but do they matter to us as a people any more?

Superman represents, or represented, truth, justice and the American way at a time these were far less challenged as notions, particularly the third one.

There may be mileage in Superman as icon yet: for comparison I think Marvel has done a great job of remaking Captain America as relevant. He's self-questioning, open minded, forged in the unquestioning patriotism of the 40s and the confidence and optimism of the 50s, but with enough integrity to be able to change to fit the new world he finds himself in without losing his soul. It's a representation of America that isn't hokey or outdated or aggravating, but very positive. Perhaps there's hope for DC's all-American hero as well.