Hello again my geeky friends. This weekend is a banner week for all of geekdom. It features the return of the first and greatest Super Hero of all time to the silver screen in the mega budgeted reboot MAN OF STEEL.
MAN OF STEEL (PG-13 152 MINUTES)
I have known for several Months that this weekend belonged to Superman. In Hollywood terms, this film is a giant beast that everyone and every film got out of the way of. Since Warner Brothers announced this weekend as their release date, the film has had it all to itself. The only other major release, …This is the End (R 107 MINUTES) actually moved up its release to WED, June 12th to get as much traction as possible before Superman took flight.
In 1978, Director Richard Donner pulled off something of a miracle when he made the world believe “A man can fly” with the first real deal super hero film ever made. Superman: The Movie still stands up today. It does have its cheesy moments and the comedy of Lex Luthor and his bumbling sidekick Otis does grate the nerves in this modern world, where we have the high-flying exploits of The Avengers and the down and dirty theatrics of The Dark Knight, but when you think back at the state of cinematic super heroes in the late 70’s you realize how amazing the first film really was.
By now, all the trouble and strife that Donner dealt with while making the first film is the stuff of film legend. The fact that the Producers waited until the first film came out and was a success to fire Donner from the film and replace him with Richard Lester, who came in and shot a quarter of a film and pieced it together with what Donner had already shot for a sequel has been the stuff of gossip and debate almost since the sequel, Superman II hit screens in 1981.
A few years back, Warner Bros. stepped up and did the right thing and released Superman II : The Donner cut which showed a more complete version of what the director had set out to do when he undertook the almost superhuman feat of bringing the big blue boy scout to the screen.
In 2006, Director Bryan Singer did what in the business is called a “Soft Reboot” and released Superman Returns. The problem was that he stayed too true to Donner’s original film and what had felt so fresh in 1978 now felt strangely dated and corny.
For what it was, it actually wasn’t bad. I re-watched it a couple of nights back and I had forgotten how good Brandon Routh was in it. He was given an almost thankless task though. He was asked to imitate Christopher Reeves who should have won an Oscar for his brilliant portrayal in the first film. If you have the dvd or bluray of the original film, put it on and tune everything out but him. Watch the subtle shifts and vocal tones he uses for Clark Kent and then watch when he takes off the glasses and becomes Superman. It is amazing to watch.
No, for reasons both easy to understand and hard to pin down, the time for that particular version of Superman had come and gone. While I feel that both Singer and Routh got too much blame for the failure of that film to connect with audiences, there is no getting around the fact that the world as a whole and geekdom in particular had moved on to darker and grittier pastures.
The Joker had it right when he looked over that table and told Batman “You’ve changed things” in the stunning The Dark Knight.
It seemed that the time was right for a bold re-imagining of the Superman story. Something that felt a little more in tune with the mood of the world in the second decade of the new century. It surprised a lot of people when Warner Brothers handed the task to director Zack Snyder in early 2011. The announcement came a few weeks before the directors film Sucker Punch came out and was met with both critical scorn and venom and commercial disinterest. For a few weeks, the web was aflutter with talk that the studio would take the film away from Snyder after the stunning failure of his passion project.
This was not the case and while I was one of the few people (seriously, there are only like 173 of us) who actually liked Sucker Punch, I did hope that someone besides Snyder was handling writing duties on the rebirth of Superman.
After the success of the new Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) it surprised exactly no one that the powers that be went to writer/director Christopher Nolan to guide the new film towards greatness. Nolan and Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer wrote a script treatment that Goyer turned into a shooting script and the film went before cameras with Nolan as producer in August of 2011.
For awhile there was nothing known about this new film. The casting of Henry Cavill as the new Man of Steel was met with general approval, even though there were the usual mutterings of sacrilege when they saw the changes made to the suit. The film continued its shoot through the end of 2011 and into the first months of 2012 with not much being seen or known about the storyline. Everyone seemed to approve of the casting of Michael Shannon as General Zod and it was refreshing to see that Snyder wasn’t treating the films villain as if it were a state secret. (I am looking at you, JJ Abrams)
There were the usual mutterings and hand wringing when the studio announced in mid 2012 that the film was being pushed back from its Christmas 2012 release date to Summer 2013. The film is a mess, it doesn’t work, they are going to take it away from Snyder and give it to Nolan to finish. All of these things were untrue, but it turns out that nerds are as gossipy as a bunch of old ladies in a sowing circle.
The studio said that they were moving the film to give the filmmakers more time to finish the effects, tweak the running time and of course, to post convert to 3D. I do not know this to be true, but my gut feeling is that they also wanted to give it some distance from The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers.
Then last Fall, the first trailer hit. It was moody and evocative. It felt majestic. With the scenes of grass blowing in the wind and a little Clark Kent running with his cape flowing, it felt like maybe the studio had lied and the film had actually been directed by Terrence Malick. One thing for sure, it felt as if this Superman was its own thing, owing nothing to Donner’s film.
This Winter the first full length trailer hit and it was amazing and epic in scope. Yes the suit had changed, but the changes felt organic and not forced. If there was a single moment that sold me, it was Superman kneeling with his fist against the ground and the ground and ice beginning to shake. You could feel the power in him about to be unleashed. When he blasted up through the clouds on what I am assuming is his first flight, I was sold. You could feel Nolan in the way the film felt grounded and real and Snyder in the visual style of the film. What I had hoped for when this was announced seemed to be a reality: The best of both filmmakers fused to make something new.
I have seen about 15 minutes of the last act of the film (Don’t ask, I won’t tell) and I was floored with the sheer scope of what I was seeing. For the first time you can see and feel in a visceral way what it would feel like to see these god like people clash in battle in the middle of a city. Based on what I saw, it should have been called “Man of Steel: Clash of the Titans”.
I have typed almost 1400 words (twice…my computer ate the first draft of this) telling you what you already know: The new Superman film opens in less than 18 hours. You already know if you’re going to see it or not. For me, my ticket was bought the moment I saw the first trailer. I will close this novel length ramble with this:
Superman has always stood for what was best in us all. Truth and Justice and all that. He always fought for the little guy, he never lies and he gave us an ideal to strive towards.
In the original 1977 teaser trailer for the first film, the tag line said “You’ll believe a man can fly”
I’m ready to believe again.
Opens Tonight at 12:01 am in 2D, RealD 3D, Digital 3D and Imax 3D