Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Superman Movie I Want To See

Since delving back into comic books, I've noticed that graphic novels give me much more of a thrill than most movies based on them. Because comics are a serial medium with long story arcs, film is probably inherently ill-suited for translations, as opposed to television. (Having seen Jessica Jones and Flash, I think TV's great potential for comics adaptations is unassailable.)

Graphic novels also seem to better capture the human element of the characters than movie adaptations. The problem with seeing so many CGI cities getting shattered is that it's just pure spectacle. (Plus Godzilla movies sixty years ago did that schtick better!) We don't care much about the people involved, and in recent films, the heroes really don't seem to either.

I recently re-watched the 1978 Superman, and while it has its flaws, I was struck by how the disaster stuff was secondary to Superman's personal anguish when Lois dies. (Is his turning the earth around a little ridiculous? Yes, but pretty cool.) The scenes with him as Clark were also a master class in subtle, character-driven comedy by Christopher Reeve. It got me thinking about how a new Superman film could really grab the audience's emotions by going in a different direction.

In my ideal Superman film, the main plot point is that the Daily Planet, like other newspapers, is experiencing massive layoffs, and that Superman is trying to save Jimmy, Lois, and Clark's jobs. He's worried that Lois might move from Metropolis to take a job in Central City, or perhaps that he'll be out of work. Remember, Superman is not Batman. He does not have a family fortune to fall back on. It would be interesting to see a man (I'm not calling him an alien for these purposes) who can fly and stop bullets but who can't save his job. Worse than kryptonite is the nagging feeling of failure and insecurity. In our current world, where so many of us struggle to support ourselves and our families no matter how excellent we are, I feel that message would resonate brighter than a million CGI explosions.

We could see Jimmy Olson turned into a free lancer (as photographers are everywhere in the publishing world) scrounging for work and having to move into Clark's apartment. We could see Superman take on political corruption, as opposed to sci-fi baddies, in order to give Clark sensational stories to pitch to online magazines. We could see Lois forced to relocate to a much less desirable location in order to maintain her career, and the heartache and longing it instills in Clark Kent/Superman. Perhaps even Superman will reveal his true identity to her out of desperation. As someone forced for a time into a long distance relationship by trying to maintain an academic career, I know how helpless these situations feel. Basically, we could see the realities of economic life in America, especially in professions like journalism, reflected on film, which is so rare. It just might take the normally escapist superhero genre to do it.

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