Published at: Sept. 19, 2008, 4:25 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here.
Okay. Let’s get something straight regarding the occasional BUZZKILL column here on the site. I’ve got nothing against a good rumor. My problem is with bad rumors. I’ve been sifting through them for 12 years online, and I’ve got a decent average. Not perfect. But decent. Either you buy that by now or you don’t.
And I’ve certainly pissed some people off over the years with opinions I’ve offered up. And that’s cool. There’s no way to begin to deny that. I think when you write opinion, you risk that every single time. Even when I like things, I manage to piss people off sometimes. Timing can be crucial.
Let me say this: I’ve got some regrets regarding SUPERMAN.
I’ve spoken to JJ Abrams one time since I sort of torpedoed him. He was really genial when we spoke on the phone, and it was a fairly casual conversation overall. We talked more about STAR TREK than anything, but in a general off-the-record sort of way. I think it was still early days for them, and we were starting to bust the story a bit. I would imagine the SUPERMAN incident crossed his mind, and he decided to call me and see if he could talk about his goals with the film before I ended up reading anything this time.
It takes a real solid person to make a call like that and to be as comfortable as he was. And after seeing SUPERMAN RETURNS, frankly... I’m not sure that it was a better decision to shoot that than to have stuck with Abrams and whoever ended up directing it since McG couldn’t fly. And it’s been nagging at me, especially as they start to talk about making their choices for the new film.
Because... trust me... there WILL be a new film.
I’ve spoken with McG a few times, too, and I always half-believe he’s about three seconds from punching me. I’m also convinced that’s because he really is constantly about three seconds from punching me. It certainly makes for an interesting day on set.
But truth is, I never bagged him once on SUPERMAN. Everything I talked about was regarding the rejiggered details of the mythos, the idea of rigging it the way they were. It changed the fundamentals. That was the thing that made me uncomfortable as a fan of the iconography of SUPERMAN. There are details that make him who he is. Everything else is sort of Elseworlds one-shot “what if his spaceship landed in the ocean, and the baby Superman drowned?” radical what if stuff. And that’s fine. I love some of those books dearly. It’s cool to play with it, bend it, twist it. But the original... that’s always in place. The traditional. That’s really what endures with some characters, and with Superman in particular.
People want Superman. They do. They’ll go. If you show them a trailer that is a promise. And if you just meet that promise. Make it fun. Make it H U G E. Make it fun. Make it smart. Make it fun. Make it about something real and honest that uses the icon right, without irony. And make it fun. That’s what we’ve always been promised, and really... no film does it yet. Not really. I like stuff about the first three films. I like a few things about Singer’s film, but have some real major problems with it. I’m partial to the Fleischer cartoons more than anything. SUPERMAN III is a freakshow if it’s 3:30 AM and you’ve got the munchies. But is there a SUPERMAN film or TV show, even among the animated ones, that gets it all 100% yet?
Warner Bros, like I said... I feel bad about even the possibility that any part of my article or the press you guys got afterwards about it or any fallout from it led to you guys redeveloping the property. I feel bad because, like I said... comparing what you made versus what you could have made, I’m not sure I was right. I think the controversy might have been outweighed by the “holy shit” of it. And maybe that would have been fun. Not really SUPERMAN, but fun.
When I wrote what I wrote, I certainly knew that it would cause a reaction of some sort in the fan community. It was absolutely a test shot across the bow. Because it was a reinvention of the wheel. And maybe that reinvention would have been really groovy to watch. I’ll bet those fights would have been madness. Chaos. Total GODZILLA-scale destruction.
Which, to be fair, is what I would have liked a little more of (or even any of) in Singer’s film. Just a little fucking rock and roll, right?
I have heard the rumblings of Mark Millar out there sniffing around it, and I would imagine Legendary has heard about 3000000000 pitches on the property at this point from writers in that rarified paygrade, the A-list all-star usual suspects. And I would imagine they’re going to make a decision soon. And whatever that person is doing, I would imagine we’re going to hear that word again, that buzzword of the day.
The hell of it is... Warner Bros. owns the right property. Tom DeHaven’s novel is a thing of burnished beauty, smart and richly imagined and profound. It is classic Superman in every way, but it manages to make it all feel real, immediate, brand new. I reviewed it here, but I can’t find the review in our archives. But it’s theirs. They published it. And the last thing you could call it would be a reimagining.
It is, instead, what happens when you crush coal for 50 years, telling the same story 10,000 different ways. Eventually, you will produce a diamond. The story told right. The version that works best.
And while I’m apologizing for things I’ve said in print, or at least invoking my right to update my opinion after further life experience, can I suggest a director/writer choice? I gain nothing from this except the possibility that if you’re truly open to anything regarding getting the character right, and learning the RIGHT lessons from THE DARK KNIGHT, then bear with me.
I know someone who needs to have a “fuck you” sized hit, guaranteeing him another 20 years of total freedom. I think you’d be doing the world of film a service, and you’d be getting the single most beautiful SUPERMAN film ever made. I don’t think it’s debatable. And if you’ve read this source material, you’d know how dead on they are.
There’s a detour through a Southern landscape deep in O BROTHER country, there’s a New York that feels like it shares the same snowfall as THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, and there’s a precision of language that is as carefully calibrated as the screenplays these guys write together. I’ve said some pretty harsh words regarding them when I didn’t like the films they were making, at one point suggesting they consider a few years off of filmmaking altogether. But that’s the disappointment of an ardent fan, knowing that behind the scenes they were struggling to find a home for the work they really wanted to be doing.
Let’s be clear. I don’t think they should ever have to struggle to do anything. I think they are a natural resource, and they should be followed around by a team of people with checkbooks. I had it all wrong before. The answer isn’t them giving up because they couldn’t make a few films they wanted to. The answer is that they should make one film that is already plugged into the national zeitgeist, and they should make it the biggest goddamn piece of candy they can. Because there are very few filmmakers who work at the same level of visual invention as Joel and Ethan Coen.
The Coen Brothers. IT’S SUPERMAN. 2010.
Now we’ve made amends. Go make a billion dollars. And then let the Coens make a film a year until they die. Or, if you insist on “not listening to the lunatic fanboy” and “making a professional decision” and “earning your paychecks,” then so be it. It’s just that with people getting crazy over the idea that you can make a potential Oscar nominee that’s the second biggest film of all time, and it’s a superhero movie, there are choices being made... on all sorts of properties...
And we’ve seen this before, haven’t we? For each good one, there will be some really-not-good ones, and it’s a crap shoot. On this one particular property, I have no idea what the studio is thinking right now. I don’t have an inside scoop.
I’m not sure when they’re going to announce what they’re doing, or if they’re even moving forward aggressively. Maybe they’re doing nothing. I don’t really know.
But it’s a chance. You pulled the trigger. You cleared out that giant development anchor that was weighing the first one down. You spent $200-howmuch? million once everything was said and done. And... it was what it was.
Don’t chase anybody else’s movie. Don’t model it after any other hit. It’s Superman. IT’S SUPERMAN, indeed.