“Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” is the title of Lois Lane’s Pulitzer Prize winning editorial in the new film, Superman Returns. It is now also the focus of my writing. I do not mean to imply that the would does not need this particular movie, nor do I intend to review it, for I have not even viewed the movie myself yet. Instead, I argue that there is no need for another Superman movie at this time.
Superman, the 1978 movie, is still fresh in our minds and has aged graciously. The special effects are a bit outdated, but the content, plot and characters plays just as well today as in the late ’70s. Superman II has also aged well in the same categories, and Superman III, while of much lower quality in almost all aspects is still good for a laugh, often in scenes that had no intention of being humorous. Superman IV, like Rocky V, Aliens IV or Batman Forever and Batman and Robin should never have been made and do not exist in my mind at all. However, releasing another Superman movie will not cancel out the previous poor attempts. Nuclear Man still exists somewhere on a rarely rented VHS cassette. Superman Returns does not erase those movies from the history of Hollywood. There is no need to restart the franchise right in the middle of the previous series.
I will not question the casting of Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth or Kevin Spacey, for any casting would fall short of Christopher Reeves, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and a living Marlon Brando. There are rumors that Nicolas Cage was considered for the role of Superman, but that would not matter one bit to my argument, regardless of how his personality may have improved the film. Christopher Reeves is Superman, he was literally born to play the role, as his father stared in the same role in the ’50s television series. Routh, Cage, any actor would pale in comparison. Likewise, Margot Kidder is Lois Lane. Gene Hackman may not be the definitive Lex Luther, but his portrayal was dead on for what that movie required, a lighter version of the criminal mastermind.
Actually, now I will question the casting. Both Routh and Bosworth are far too young to play Superman and Lois Lane five years later. Bosworth was 22 at filming, while Routh was 26, placing the actors at 17 and 21 years of age, respectively, during the events of Superman II, which this movie supposedly succeeds.
Considering the age of the actors, perhaps it would have been wise to start at the beginning, especially considering the success of Batman Begins, which took just that route with the Batman franchise. The hypothetical Superman Begins could have dealt with at a young Clark Kent as he comes to terms with his role and responsibilities as Superman.
Wait… We already have just that in the television series, Smallville, which does a superb job at showing Clark Kent begin to discover and utilize his powers and grow into the man who would become Superman.
Using Batman Begins as a blueprint yet again, perhaps there is need for a Superman story that focuses more on Clark Kent and his life and motives, just as Batman Begins focused more on the motives and life of Bruce Wayne than any previous Batman movie.
Wait once more… We already have that as well in the television series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman of 1993 to 1997, staring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Despite the level of corniness involved, this version of Superman actually did a good job of focusing on Clark Kent and his life, rather than on Superman and the villain of the day. This series also presents the best Perry White with Lane Smith’s portrayal and two good versions of Jimmy Olsen in both Michael Landes and Justin Whalin, who were both able to bring depth to the role, that is lacking in most other versions.
We already have a well cast blockbuster of the traditional Superman tale, in the 1978 Superman, which also contains many of the definitive actors to portray the main roles. We have a good television series dealing with a young Clark Kent and Superman’s beginnings and another underrated series focusing on Clark Kent and his daily life as a mild mannered reporter. There are also multiple cartoon series involving Superman in various forms. The world truly does not need another Superman.
Or do we? Instead of attempting to revive this franchise, perhaps Warner Brothers and DC Comics need to kill it. Perhaps the Superman movie that the world needs is not Superman Returns but instead The Death of Superman, a much darker and epic tale. The world does not need Superman, so maybe we should kill him.