Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dark and brooding redux

From the Wall Street Journal, on the proposed reboot of the Superman movie franchise:
Like the recent Batman sequel -- which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far -- Mr. Robinov [President of Warner Bros. Pictures] wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.
This is, of course, a stupid idea. And not just because we, as comic fans, know that a string of "dark" superhero movies with "brooding tone" will inevitably lose the plot and fail to realize that what works for Batman won't (and shouldn't) necessarily work for Superman - and so recreate, in movie form, the same mess of ultraviolence-for-its-own-sake crap that comicbook readers had to wade through in the early 90s. (And 'exploring evil sides'? Where, exactly, was that in Christian Bale's Batman? Now they're just making shit up.)

This, after all, is the essence of Superman:


At home on the farm, sending (and receiving) Christmas cards with his parents as snow falls gently outside the window. He's Superman, so he could write them all super-fast and fly them around, but he won't - they are, after all, just like normal folks who do things the normal way. And they share loving glances as Superman drinks something hot to keep warm - even though, of course, he doesn't need to. And while it could be coffee or tea, it's probably hot chocolate. And no Lois to complicate things with the threat of sex or competition for Superman's affection - just the immediate family, a purely nostalgic moment for a simpler time when Superman did things like write Christmas cards and drink hot chocolate to stay warm - even though, of course, he never had to.

We can deconstruct the ways in which this sort of image, and Superman himself, invoke a number of conservative ideologies about family, America and Americans, etc. The point is, though, how do you do a "dark" version of that featuring Superman's "evil side" without blowing the whole thing to hell? Not that it wouldn't be interesting to watch, I guess.

5 comments:

Primate said...

You said it, brother. Of course, I'm still weeping in my beer about how WB ditched Singer and Routh. The kid could've been explained away, ya crazy suits. Comics writers do it alllll the time.

James said...

They should get Tim Burton to direct, and Superman's chest-emblem should be made out of KNIVES?

Honestly, the only thing more shocking than the staggering lack of imagination is that they feel no compunction about it: they're out there, in the press, openly admitting that "hey, this one movie made a bunch of money, so we're gonna contort all our other commodities to be just like it".

And didn't David Goyer's Flash movie get shit-canned not a year ago for being "too dark"? (Not that I'm desperate to see a David Goyer Flash movie, I'm just talking here.)

Primate said...

On the other hand, if the alternative is a Jack Black Green Lantern...

omar karindu said...

[Black screen overlaid with the sounds of a thunderstorm. Fade in on a gloomy balcony overlooking a rather dingy but still retro-futuristic deco sort of city. The backdrop resembles the spires Lang's Metropolis if no one cleaned anything.]

"Metropolis. The Shining City of Tomorrow."

[As the voiceover continues, we see standard silhouette-from-behind of a chuckling fat businessman with gaudy rings and a cigar. Nubile women in scanty clothing are blurrily seen behind him in the penthouse, looking sad and frightened.]

"In Metropolis, the acid rain spills from the top of Lexcorp Tower onto the heads of those below, the underdwellers. Luthor gives our cities to Brainiac's harvests so he can get the technology to build a better cellphone; he dumps nuclear waste in small Kansas towns an then ups the price of bread; the last whistleblower in Luthor Tower ended up as a week's worth of dog food."

"We've sold our souls to a tyrant for some silver. We've abandoned our heroes because we feared an alien more than the shadows of our own souls."

[On the streets below, huddled masses wander through the rain. One or two look up and shriek at looming shadows, but the rest pretend not to care and scurry away.]

"Only a few dedicated journalists fight back. But it's too little, too late. The Planet suffers; its people bleed ink; it's the last bastion of filthy truth in a dying world

[The above is said over rapid shots of: a pile of sopping newspapers with the headline "Alien Repression Act Renewed for Fifth Time;" Eva Mendes as Lois Lane, parading in lingerie in a lush apartment with a tape recorder held in one hand; a red-headed kid in leather wielding a switchblade and a disposable camera, running from thugs; and Perry White as an impossible wrinkled, ridiculously beefy man slamming away at an ancient typewriter which sparks with every tap of the keys, like a word processor from steampunk hell.]

"And now, with Luthor's Bizarro superpolice roaming the skies, and his Parasite leeching the very blood and bones of the poor...

[We follow the gaze of one civilian upwards, and see a smoggy reddish sky filled with silhouettes of ominous floating figures, their only distinguishable featue glowing red eyes. A gnarled inhuman hand justs from an alley and pulls a screaming streetwalker in. Cityscape again, with distant screams, mechanical grinding, and barking dogs are mixed together faintly on the soundtrack as backing noise for the narration.]

"It's time for them all to believe a man can fly."

[Slashes of blood-red begin to emerge against the blackness. A sickeningly bright yellow, stark because CGI has been used to eliminate the shadows and lines of any photographic image, leaving flat bright primary colors.]

"That a man can flies above them, looking down, passing judgment. No mere man. No Boy Scout."

[A flash of the Kent transformation, lots of ultra-fast cuts with swooshes; the sounds of the glasses being removed and the tie being taken off should sound like a sword being unsheathed and a gun being fast-drawn from a holster.]

"I will be that man."

[Flash of red eyes, brief glimpse of a silhouetted caped figure with glowing red eyes and a spitcurl.]

"I will be the Superman."

[People on the street, mostly noirish tough guys and fetishy streetwalkers (some with money in their hands just to drive home the point), gaze upwards in awe and horror. Quick cuts of an X-Ray vision POV shot, all low-res phosphorescent green skeletons; then a massive, swooshing fist; then X-Ray POV again s that we see bones splintering in some unlucky punchee's chest; then a closeup of the lower half of Superman's face, as he blows through pursed lips; then a wide-angle street scene of hundres of casrs and countless bits of trash being blown back as if by the blast wave of an atom bomb.]

"You know what Nietzsche said about the superman? He makes his own morality. And then he makes it the world's."

[Sudden blackness, then painfully bright blood-red. Pull back with a metallic whoosh and the dubbing in of a macho howl of rage and hardly-suppressed homoeroticism. The Superman logo, seeming far more brutal because of the unlined color and the sheer damn starkness of the primary tones, appears.]

"Frank Miller's Superman, coming in Christmas 2012. From an original script by Mark Millar."

neilshyminsky said...

Ha. This is fantastic.

(And right now, I'm sure, someone from Warner Bros. is sitting at a desk and, without an ounce of irony, is saying "It sure is!" and green-lighting the project.)