You know, I was sitting around with my friends the other day and we’re all movie fans, so eventually the topic of conversation migrated toward the pictures. To a person, we all agreed that now, 2013, was the time for a dark, joyless Superman movie. Yep, we were of one mind that, thanks to the success of the recent Christopher Nolan Batman films, that the next Superman, hopefully with Nolan’s creative vision, should have a similar tone, knowing as we all did, how Batman and Superman are basically the same character.
We don’t want any of that colorful campy garbage, we all agreed, speaking for most moviegoers. Give us a realistic Superman because we want realism from our movies about space aliens who are essentially gods among humans.
“Everything realistic except the space aliens should speak English,” one of us said. “Of course,” said someone else, “and they should mark time using Earth days and years and refer to things like ‘phantom zones’ with a straight face but other than that, realism all the way.”
Then the discussion moved to whether Superman, traditionally the champion of the oppressed and a virtuous allegory for children, should truly save the day in the end. Overrated, we decided in unison. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I said, channeling the thoughts of the others at the table and filmgoers everywhere, “if the movie (which, if I have my say, will be drab and bleak throughout befitting this most simple of superheroes) ended with a climactic battle that strains the definition of tedious in which untold thousands of people are senselessly killed?” We all enthusiastically agreed that the finale should see Superman emerging from the single largest loss of life in human existence. Yes, we all echoed, Superman movies should exploit 9/11 imagery to provoke our collective terrorism anxieties.
“Who wants a calming, reassuring benevolent feeling when watching a Superman movie?” someone asked. “Not I!” we all chirped in response. “Only gloomy, foreboding Supermans for us!”
“There should definitely be a scene in which Superman sinks in an ocean of human skulls!” the cleverest of us shouted. “Quite right,” someone else added. “And it wouldn’t bother me if Superman was used as a Jesus parable.” “Why would it,” it was smartly asked. “Who is Jesus if not a space alien with super powers like x-ray vision?”
“You know,” it was proposed. “Perhaps we were too hasty in having Superman, an indestructible being of unlimited power, fail to save the lives of a large percentage of Earth’s population.” “Explain yourself,” we demanded. “I’m assuming that this climactic battle, the one that will be of an exhaustingly laborious length and will be an assault on the eyes and ears, should take place in Superman’s home of Metropolis?” “Of course—where else could it be held to maximize the body count of the innocent?” “Well, and I’m just thinking out loud here, previous Superman movies have had these battles out in space somewhere, or on the moon. Yes, the special effects were a little cheap and the effect was a little corny, but, I don’t know, it was sort of fun, like good, albeit quaint, entertainment. I mean, after all, we’re talking about space aliens here.”
“Get out!” we shouted at the former friend. “You get out of here right now! Millions of people have to die because it makes it dark, and superhero movies are dark now. It exposes Superman’s humanity, even though he’s a space alien and doesn’t have any. Besides, the millions of people will be anonymous anyway.”
“Exactly,” someone added. “And forget about the idea of Superman being a mild-mannered newspaper reporter using his secret powers for good.” “How gauche!” “Now, he’ll be a brooding drifter, who reluctantly accepts the responsibility of his abilities.”
“Should he be exhilarated when he learns he can fly?” it was proposed.
“No! He should at all times act as if he’s biting into a lemon!”
One of us stood up, “What about Lois Lane?”
We all grumbled at the unfortunate but inevitable loveliness that a woman might infuse into the movie we were dreaming of being devoid of such things. But we acquiesced that, as a hat tip to the stodgy traditionalist, Lane should probably be present.
“But only as a device to inconvenience Superman into saving her when he could be saving someone else,” said someone. “She should be given the illusion of doing something but in reality should be completely inconsequential to the plot. I want at least three scenes in which the audience will be asking ‘Wait, what is she doing there?’”
“The whole point,” a voice rang out, “is to find out who Superman really is, you know, like, who he really is.” “Obviously,” it was seconded. “Except, in this ideal version we’re dreaming up, we won’t really find out because the character should be empty and poorly drawn.”
“Shouldn’t he be a bit of an asshole?” someone cried out with fervor.
“He should definitely be a bit of an asshole.”
We began to discuss the origin of Superman, how he was sent to Earth as a baby to escape the peril of his home planet. He should be told that he is coming to Earth to save us, we said, as if connected by a shared synapse. Yes, that will make good material for the trailer.
“Much of the movie should be at the service of the trailer,” said the wisest member of our group. “The movie itself will be like a director’s cut of the trailer.”
“He was sent here to save us, furthering our Jesus parable,” someone said to great applause, “and then when another alien comes to destroy him and us in the finale, he will save us.”
“Except for the millions he doesn’t save.”
“You guys,” we heard it said. “I hate to bring this up, but it seems to me that if Superman was sent here to save us, then the villain came here to destroy us because of the fact that Superman was here, doesn’t that make Superman the ultimate reason we were in danger in the first place?”
I have to admit, this did give us pause for a second, but then we thought about how wonderful our somber, killjoy Superman would be compared to the bright and tongue-in-cheek iterations of the archaic past and our spirits were buoyant once more, buoyant in a way that not even a single frame of the movie we were envisioning would be.
“Obviously,” started someone. “The filmmaker has a right to deviate from the traditional style and expectations of a particular story.” “Of course.” “But outside of completely missing the correct tone for a character like Superman, and even what makes him appealing in the first place, shouldn’t the movie also be uninteresting, bromidic, poorly told and dismal?”
“Absolutely. I would make sure that Superman, the most remarkable person in the universe, goes through the entire movie without saying one remarkable thing or having someone else say one memorable thing about him,” it was said.
“These movies should be nothing but routine exposition delivered by fine but wasted actors,” it was further said. “Intercut between the exposition should be numbing and pointless action.”
We discussed the movie for some time then broke apart, full of vim because we knew, as filmgoers, we spoke for movie lovers everywhere, and this is exactly the type of movie that people the world over, children especially, wanted.