Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Tempestuous Superman

I'm really proud of that title.
It seems strange that, for a figure so recognizable, so popular, so quintessentially American as Superman, his film franchise has one of the spottiest histories of any superhero. Sure, there was the greatness of Richard Donner's Superman and Superman II, both of which made Christopher Reeve a household name and the standard for Superman's portrayal. These, of course, came after the George Reeves TV series during the 1960s. But they were followed by the abysmal Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which were to Superman what the Joel Schumacher sequels were to Batman. It seemed that Superman was done for on screen.
But the 2000s brought a revival of Superman. First there was Smallville, a TV series on The WB (later the CW), that showed Clark Kent's teenage years as he grappled with his destiny as the Man of Steel. Then, as Christopher Nolan brought Batman back from the dead to create arguably two of the best superhero films yet (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), so Superman saw his big-screen return, courtesy of Bryan Singer. Superman Returns, however, failed to catch on, and once again the hero was in trouble.
Now, I think Superman Returns is really underrated. Sure, many critics bemoaned the Superman-as-Christ allegory, but I think it was a theme worthy of exploration. The film had some rather exciting action, and if the film wasn't as dark as Batman Begins, well, do we really want a dark Superman? Brandon Routh did a great job with the role, and I think Singer crafted a great film in the process. It was an interesting experiment.
Well, as we all know by now, Warner Brothers has decided its time to reboot Superman, this time going ahead and hiring Christopher Nolan as "mentor" to the project, with Batman Begins screenwriter David S. Goyer writing the script. Now its been announced that none other than Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) will be directing the film (and not Darren Aronofsky, as everyone was so sure of).
Now, I like Snyder as a visual director. Regardless of the strengths of his stories (there are few), he certainly knows how to put a compelling image on the screen. Which is why I'm not completely wary of this film yet. I think that if Nolan and Goyer restrain him from getting too caught up in his own head with his ideas, then this could prove to be a technically great movie. Of course, at this point it really depends on the cast, particularly whoever lands the role of Superman (if its an Abercrombie model in his first feature, I will lose all faith in mankind).
Speaking of visual directors, the first trailer for Juile Taymor's The Tempest is now online (hence the other part of my title). The film has received decidedly mixed reactions at both the Venice and New York Film Festivals, but I have to be honest, the trailer has me more than just a little excited (I'm a sucker for a well-made trailer, forgive me). The cast is pretty fantastic (though Russell Brand looks like he could get annoying fast), and its a film adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most tragically underused plays.
What I'm really excited about in regards to this film is Julie Taymor. A veteran of both stage and screen, she's another one of the best visual directors working today. Just think of what she's created: on stage, she's responsible for The Lion King (enough said). On screen, she's directed Titus (another adaptation of a more obscure Shakespeare) and Frida. She also directed the vastly underrated Across the Universe; the best way to view that film is to think of it less as a narrative film with three acts and more as a musical-motion collage of Beatles history. And based on the trailer, The Tempest looks to continue that visual inventiveness. I'm looking forward to it.
What do you think about these? Good ideas? Bad? Comment below.
PS Since we're talking about visual directors, Peter Jackson is apparently confirmed to direct the two Hobbit movies that will likely never happen anyway. Good for him.

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