Re: Bryan Singer: Why 'Superman Returns' Didn't Work
My personal reasons and understanding for not thinking that Superman Returns worked:
1. The overall storyline was more indie-romedy than summer blockbuster. People expect popcorn movies at that time, not ones which make you reach for the tissues, sigh, or hold your date in your arms.
2. The setting, and the blandness of how Metropolis was shown without colour and without life. It was too unemotional, and at no point was there any scene which showed that the city had actually "moved on" from Superman - something which should have been highlighted, considering that was what Bryan Singer was going for.
3. The fact that Superman was less "super" and more below-average in terms of morality; showing him to be a deadbeat dad... not a good idea. People don't even want to see him being a father, and a deadbeat deserter? No way. Women see Superman as the ultimate embodiment of what a man should be, and men aspire to be like him... not Singer's Superman, though.
4. There was no excitement or wow factor to attract audiences for a second-viewing, as the action was minimal, the drama was soap opera-ish, and there was a lack of comedic sharpness.
5. The villains were too campy... and the decision to have Kevin Spacey do an impression of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, an interpretation of the character which had been dead for the last 30 years, was a supremely poor decision. The animated series, the first season of Lois and Clark, and recently Smallville have had sinister Luthors who the current generation relate to, and accept as the character's true calling.
6. Casting an unknown, and a relative-unknown to star as Clark Kent and Lois Lane. It did not help to fill the seats. Big names attract big money, well usually at least. If not, it has to be a great movie, with a great script. Three out of three wrong for SR.
7. A spunkless, and pre-occupied mother Lois Lane, who fans could not relate to. Most want to see the back-and-forths between Lois and Clark. Lois trying to outdo him and pip him to stories. Some inter-office competition; instances when they surprise each other.
8. People had more sympathy about James Marsden's character than Superman, because of the keyhole peeping, eavesdropping and other unethical stuff The Boyscout was doing to another man's fiancee.
9. The Jesus analogies and the religious overkill. Please, Superman is not a Christian hero, neither is a Jewish hero, nor a Muslim hero, nor a Buddhist... you get the idea. Why typecast him? Non-religious people, and those of us not of the Christian faith found it to be unnecessary, and somewhat alienated. He is supposed to be a hero of the world, irrespective of religion. Why use him as a tool to further religious beliefs?
10. And finally, the decision to stay within the Donnerverse and to be all nostalgic about it. There is a reason why Superman III and IV were less successful than the rest. By the end of Superman II, people wanted to see a different take on the character. That is why a very below-par Lois & Clark got so much attention in 1993.
Batman's reinvention in 1989 was a catalyst for the Superhero genre to be taken seriously in Hollywood. Essentially, to me, Batman 1989 was a step away from the 1966 Adam West Batman. Batman Begins (2005) was a move in the opposite direction from 1997's Batman and Robin.
Superman Returns should have gotten as far away from Donner as possible. It should have given us a Superman of the 2000s. Superman IV had done the franchise a huge amount of damage. It should have reinvented the character, rather than just the suit and the \S/.
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