By The Reverend
Jul 29, 2003 - 13:33
This article is the first of what will become a regular column by writer Rev. O.J. Flow. In this article, Rev. O.J. Flow analyses the pitfalls around the production of the next Superman movie. It is an authorized republication from a message board posting. The Comic Book Bin hopes you enjoy it as much as we did.
Rev. O.J. Flow
Okay, so anyone who follows comic book movies may have heard the other day that yet another director assigned to the Superman project has bitten the dust. For reasons understood, as well as ones we may never know, Brett Ratner has decided to move on to loftier pursuits like Rush Hour 3. This project's been a preproduction disaster in one way or another since 1997, and there is absolutely no reason to believe we'll see the Man of Steel on the big screen before 2005 (prove me wrong, Warner Bros.). I've followed this very closely since I can easily say the the first Superman movie is my all-time favorite flick. Right now I'd like to offer some suggestions that could make this endeavor go a bit more smoothly, as well as reap more success. Responses are a given so I'm curious to see where others stand.
1) Get rid of Jon Peters. I haven't had a good feeling about his input from Day One, and recent word of nasty shouting matches with Ratner only justified my fears that he is not on the same page as contemporary filmmakers. And looking at his track record since Batman Returns in 1992, his most respectable production was Ali from last year, a movie that had several other producers involved. He caught lightning in a bottle with the first two Batman films before showing uncharacteristic clairvoyance for jumping ship when Joel Schumacher became the franchise director/executioner. I know of two separate production teams that are far more qualified to build the new Superman franchise right now, and I will elaborate with my next suggestion.
2) Use the Smallville series as the launching pad for a new movie. I am one Superman fan who right now believes that a new movie that retells the Superman origin could do the hit WB show more harm than good. Smallville has been getting better with every episode, and it has been said network’s biggest hit despite getting a fraction of the hype Buffy the Vampire Slayer got in its WB days (quick aside, notice how Buffy dropped in viewers when it switched networks? Definitely helped Smallville in the long run). With Superman being the brand name that it is, they could surpass any success X-Files enjoyed when the took their show to the big screen. I loved that movie, don’t get me wrong, but I believe the producers of Smallville could easily create a hit based on the Superman world they’ve already created. Plus the current show is already getting the back story out of the way, so a new Superman movie could just get right into the action and not waste time telling the tragic story of Krypton , something that was already nailed the first time by Marlon Brando (as Jor-El) and company. Yeah, let’s blow $10 million or so on some big-name actor for maybe 15 minutes of screen time when Brando already made history with his performance back in 1978. And I find it funny that Ratner lost his job failing to find the perfect Superman when Tollin-Robbins Productions and Millar/Gough Ink have a stallion in Tom Welling. Welling’s going to be 26 years old in April, making him the perfect age for what Warner Bros. wants. And I hate to pigeonhole Welling into this character for the next few years, but a steady gig’s a steady gig. If Christopher Reeve felt that playing Superman ruined his career, I don’t think he would’ve offered his support to Smallville, even though I know his fee was a donation to his foundation. Smallville has only a couple more years to go, I believe (you didn’t think they could do a story about Clark Kent’s high school life for several more years, did you?) before they’ll somehow explain how Lex Luthor makes an enemy in Kal-El, and how Clark embraces the blue tights & red cape. Best case scenario would have the eventual finale of Smallville create an appropriate lead-in to the next chapter of Clark Kent’s life, best served on the silver screen. In Tollin/Robbins and Millar/Gough, you have producers that have proven in the last two years that they care about these characters and this story (something Peters has yet to do), and you got talent involved that, like Spider-Man could be inexpensive for least the first film, then pay them more as success, and sequels, present themselves. Speaking of sequels...
3) What in God’s name is $200 million going toward??? Recent reports have the production of a new Superman movie costing north of $200 million. To quote my good friend Homer Simpson, "Sweet, merciful crap!" I don’t know about you, but when I hear that type of figure, I’m thinking that more than one movie should be getting worked on, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And when I continued to hear comments from Ratner about the role of Superman & Co. being a ten-year commitment, I’m thinking that very little was learned from anyone there about how good an idea it was for New Line to do the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one fell swoop. Not to say Peter Jackson had an easy time on these films, I always hear stories to the contrary, but apparently if you do things right it’ll only take five or six years to put some amazing, Oscar-caliber stories together. And reading of a figure like $200 million also sends me a signal that they’re going with a story that's a whole lot of flash and style, and history has dictated in the last twenty years or so that the first thing to go is usually substance. Going back to my points in #2, using "Team Smallville" for the franchise could really cut out the need for a lot of Kryptonian flashbacks and such, something I am guessing is accounting for a decent chunk of the massive price tag on this project. Plus I believe that there's plenty of Superman stories from the last twenty years that don’t require a $200 million (hurts every time I type that) budget, so I wonder what exactly Superman J.J. Abrams came up with that called for that sort of budget. John Byrne's Man of Steel, and Superman For All Seasons are a couple of great stories that if used as the basis for a new movie could keep the budget relatively respectable. At least cheaper than that dreaded 2-0-0.
4) Focus on other franchises while Smallville runs its course on TV. Word is that a new Batman movie is closer to production than you might think, while one for Wonder Woman isn't. Meanwhile apparently New Line has something in mind for Captain Marvel. But we never hear a peep about the Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman, even though they all have heroes and villains that could make for franchises that could last for decades. Every character I mentioned is a household name in some manner or another, yet I continue to read what Marvel has lined up for just about every character they got short of Quasar (though, unbelievably, I haven't seen anything planned for Captain America, and that’s the one I want to see the most). You read how Marvel’s got a Namor movie in development, but people would get to talking if Warner Bros. produced on an Aquaman movie. And speaking of Green Lantern, a lady friend of mine told me the other day that she works at a popular Chicago-area tourist attraction, Navy Pier, and that she’s heard from a lot of African-american children who visit there who say their favorite superhero is Green Lantern. She asked me about that, and I told her it had to be John Stewart’s presence in the Justice League cartoon series. Last I heard, African-american people go to the movies if there’s something good to see (Barbershop, anyone?), and now we have a character making a good name for himself and the possibilities there are endless. I'd be pleased as punch to wait longer for a good Superman movie if it meant other DC characters were getting attention. Warner Bros. needs to stop putting all of their eggs in one basket with Superman and Batman as if DC Comics never came up with anything else.
[NOTE: There was a great column in www.kryptonsite.com recently that hit on a lot of the Smallville ideas, so I do want to give some credit to them for addressing this earlier]
So I’ll leave it at that for now, and perhaps some other folks’ suggestions will stir up some things I forgot to bring up right now. Believe it or not, I do have a life, but I’m thinking about this sh## all the time. Thanks for your time, and God bless the Planet Earth!