And I have to give mad props to Randy. He sent me an article on this topic, and I poo-poo'd the whole thing, believing that this was yet another rumor come to the surface. But, Leaguers, this looks pretty solid, as far as these things go. So give it up for Randy, who often sends stuff my way, and I all too often shrug it off.
So, it appears WB is probably scrapping any "continuity" established by "Superman Returns" and moving forward with an all-new Superman movie next year.
Here's the Wall Street Journal article.
It'll help if you read the whole thing to get some context. It's short, and well be here when you get back.
Here are the paragraphs that have comic nerds all up in a lather:
Like the recent Batman sequel -- which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far -- Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.
The studio is set to announce its plans for future DC movies in the next month. For now, though, it is focused on releasing four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, a new film reintroducing Superman, and two movies focusing on other DC Comics characters. Movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development.
I think its necessary here to take a step back and point out a few things:
-the writing was on the wall for Singer's ousting pretty much after opening night when I noted the cinema I went to had reduced the number of screens from 2 to 1 for "Superman Returns"
-WB has been publicly soliciting Superman scripts for what seems like 2 or 3 months. And privately before that. That's not Hollywood speak for "Singer's our guy!"
-reporters seem to take misinterpreting comics and comic movie information as a point of pride. I'd be pretty suspicious of anything said at all in this article.
-for example, I sincerely doubt WB intends for Superman to become evil, but I imagine they have plans for darker bad guys for the Man of Steel (ie: Doomsday)
-Mr. Robinov's beliefs regarding what he thinks will work as it stands today could change with the wind tomorrow. This capriciousness is the hallmark of the studio exec.
-I think what Robinov might have meant, rather than suggesting DC's heroes will be eeee-vil, is that we've made that 1986 change in comic movies. The studios, like the comic companies, are shedding the idea that comics are kid's stuff. They now know how dark they can go and still sell toys.
Basically, I follow enough information regarding super heroes and movies, and film development in general (thanks, RTF degree! Seriously, we studied this @#$%.) that I know an article like this means almost next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Everything could change tomorrow. As I often say, "don't believe a word of it until you read the reports that they're actually rolling film."
If every report I read in the run up to Superman Returns were true, there would be four different Superman movies, two of which would star Ashton Kutcher, floating around. You learn to take this with a grain of salt.
So long, Superman Returns
"Superman Returns" didn't take off with fans. Mostly because it wasn't an action movie (Superman punches nobody), and because of the introduction of the out-of-continuity love child of Lois and Superman.
Comic fans have been up in arms about the kid since the movie came out, declaring Superman a "deadbeat dad", which sounds great in a comment section, but is entirely inaccurate if you actually watch the movie. The movie is, after all, all about Superman's legacy from father to son, and moving on beyond the world you embraced to embrace the future ahead of you through your child (no, seriously).
I loved the way they displayed Superman's powers, and believed the movie was absolutely gorgeous and rich, the way a Superman movie should be. The whole thing looked and felt like a fairy tale, in a way movies have forgotten how to look since the 1980's. And Brandon Routh was as perfect a guy in the role as I could have hoped for.
But I also don't know where they could go with Jason Lane. Many folks online were of the "they should kill him off" camp, which... seriously? Kill a child (even a fictional child)? That's kind of messed up. Not to mention woefully uncreative.
Maybe it was just a good end-capper on the Reeves movies, which always deserved better than Superman 3 and (certainly) 4.
I'm comfortable with a re-boot of the movie franchise at this point. But only under the right circumstances. It's promising that they're interested in taking their cues from "Dark Knight", so at least we don't need to worry about McG casting Ashton Kutcher as Superman and having him enegage in extreme sports or some such...
But I'd also point out, the "common wisdom" that marvel did the right thing by re-booting "The Hulk"? Ang Lee's 2003 "Hulk" grossed $132 million domestic. Ed Norton's 2008 "Incredible Hulk" grossed $134 million domestic. Add in 5 years of inflation, and a "re-boot" doesn't necessarily mean anything as far as success.
So we're going to have to wait and see what shakes out.
My Advice to WB
Re-do the origin.
Your gut is telling you "hey, that Death of Superman thing sold like CRAZY in 1992! People love that stuff!" Yes, Superman dying is "dark". But...
Don't do it.
A) They've announced, like, four different takes on "Death of Superman", and released it as an animated movie at least once. Everyone knows he doesn't die (really), so its sort of anti-climatic. You aren't going to do the "Reign of the Supermen", which was sort of the point of Death of Superman... so don't do it.
B) Also, "Death of Superman" was supposed to have impact because Superman was established in the DCU for years before he croaked. If that's part of your "all new Superman", you're essentially putting a guy out there, and then he gets killed. Which, you know, doesn't look real good. Its a lot different from the guy who always wins finally losing, which was also the point.
C) "The Death of Superman" was a narrative mess, and isn't much fun to read as a collection. It involves the 1990's sprawling cast of super-characters, Lex's brain living in a 20-something Lex Luthor cloned body, an interdimensional protoplassmic Supergirl, a giant frog Lois uses for transportation, Green Lanterns, and at least one incident of grave robbing.
D) I think when even the mighty Bruce Timm tried to do it, the movie wasn't that great.
Use modern technology. Don't feel beholden to the Donner movies, and re-tell the origin so the kids have an all-new Superman for their generation.
1) Part of the magic of Superman is that he carves out who he is. There is no pre-destination, prophesies or "chosen ones" in Superman. That fundamentally goes against the grain of Superman as a character. He's about CHOICE to be heroic. Pre-destination stories are about people bumbling into greatness and resisting their heroic calling. Which is great, but its not Superman. Part of the magic was not that Jor-El specifically shot a rocket at Jonathan and Martha Kent, knowing exactly how they'd raise a child... It was that Jor-El has to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. And the luck of the draw that ordinary, salt-of-the-earth folks would be able to instill in Superman the right moral compass. Once you add to that, you're taking away from the story.
2) Krypton has to be gone. That's the point. No evil armies of Krypton.
3) I only want Lex if he has access to huge robots, a power suit, or a wide array of lasers. That said, gimme Lex.
4) You know who is really scary? Far scarier than thoughtless, inarticulate Doomsday? Brainiac.
5) You're going to want to give Superman his evil, opposite number with an evil Kryptonian. We've all seen Zod. Save it for a sequel or something.
6) Superman has a supporting cast. They've been well defined over 70 years. Use them.
2008 is the new 1986
I do think Robinov's comments give a glimpse of what's going on and point to a comment I made when I saw Dark Knight the first time. (oh, hell... I can't find when or where I said it. It might have been in conversation with Steven and Lauren).
But I believe the success of Dark Knight in 2008 is going to be seen in much the same way as "Dark Knight Returns" was seen in the mid-80's, as well as "Watchmen". Non-comic readers will not ever know the cultural shift in comics that occurred thanks, in part, to those two works. Like some classic albums (maybe "Revolver", I dunno...) nothing was ever really the same after that within comics as those albums fundamentally changed pop music. In fact, it was that transition of DKR and Watchmen that I think led directly to comics' shift from kid's entertainment to an older audience for tights-wearing vigilantes.
With DKR and Watchmen, superheroes were, to some extent, seen for the fascists Wertham had always accused them of being. The image that had begun to chip away in the 70's of heroes with hands on fists saving the day with a wink was stomped into the dirt. In many ways, I grew up in a comics world where I had to go back to try and even find the kinds of comics my parents and guidance counselor assumed I was reading (I did make the mistake of handing my dad "The Killing Joke" summer of '89). To some extent, Marvel's "Civil War" event could have gone a lot further toward exploring Wertham's assertions, but instead chose to be a story about how Iron Man is a jerk and Cap makes sentimental decisions.
As rich as I think the Spidey movies have been, and as impressed as I was with Iron Man, Dark Knight was a different kind of movie. And what studios need to realize, that the comic companies took entirely too long to realize (and it almost destroyed the industry in the process) is that Dark Knight is lightning in a bottle. With his proclamation, its as if (but not quite) Robinov were to declare he's going to slate two gangster pictures a year on the assumption that they'll be as good as "Godfather I & II".
The fallout of Watchmen wasn't that every comic became an introspection of the super-soul and the industry itself matured over night. It was that comic writers felt that they should create flawed, tortured characters who occasionally had sex. The comics were being produced by often lesser writers, who saw the sturm und drang of Dark Knight Returns, but missed what it was that made the series work, all while being entirely true to the Batman's roots.
By the mid-90's I wasn't really reading superhero comics because many of the titles had devolved into a glossy, messy warground in which superheroes, in order to be "darker, grittier, more extreme" were becoming increasingly more lethal and a lot more likely to pull the trigger.
And that's part of the problem with declaring that you're going to make your superheroes themselves "darker". At some point, you're missing the fundamental core of the characters that make them the good guys and separates them from the bad guys, and now you're just talking two guys in tights beating the holy hell out of each other (which is part of why I flinched any time I heard mention of the proposed "Superman vs. Batman" movie. What's the point?).
Maybe this is a natural curve that the movies will have to go through.
A note regarding what happened with super-hero comics...
It's dishonest to try to pretend that all comics move in one colossal shift, as if its a coordinated affair. There are always lots of missteps. But a movement in any direction tends to leave a lot of splinters around that tenaciously hang on. Characters and concepts I have no use for (ex: Marvel's Cable) survive and prosper.
DC's limited series "Kingdom Come" was like a wake-up call to the DCU. Slowly but surely, much of the DCU gave up on "extreme" in favor of "iconic". "Kingdom Come" seemed to boil the heroes down to their essence and ask aloud what Superman, Batman and the rest of the JLA were doing about the state of the industry. And they answered loudly.
According to Valerie at Occasional Superheroine, who once worked as an Assistant Editor at DC, Didio was still learning the lessons of the 90's, and moved in exactly the wrong direction for a spell, when she attended a retreat sometime around 2003, I'd guess. (I like Val's blog, but I think she overestimates the change this particular retreat had on DC, as they were in the post "Kingdom Come" shift away from ridiculous 90's characters like the Dr. Fate spin-off, Fate.)
I don't know how that would work with comic movies, or if any of this would come to pass. But I do know that there's some history here, and movie audiences and movie creators probably aren't all that different from those of comics.