Hollywood Gothique
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Can Superman Still Fly?

The Los Angeles Times has a nice piece about the new Superman film, SUPERMAN RETURNS, including interviews with director Bryan Singer and actors Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor) and Brandon Routh (Superman).

The basic substance of the piece is that Singer is not a comics book fan (despite having directed two X-MEN movies), but he is a big fan of the 1978 Richard Donnor-directed SUPERMAN starring Christopher Reeve, and Singer wants his movie to be a sort of tribute to that film, right down to recreating the look of some of the sets.

Unfortunately, the article tries to generate a little heat by pretending there is some question about whether the old-fashioned comic book hero will fly with contemporary audiences more used to the darker tone of recent comic book-inspired movies. Anyone with any brains knows this is a complete non-issue. Similar concerns were voiced about James Bond before Pierce Brosnan broght the character back to the screen in 1995’s GOLDENEYE — sure, times had changed since his last appearance, but what makes a classic character a classic is that it lives on despite chanigng times.

In the case of Superman, nothing has happened in the years since the Man of Steel’s last big-screen appearance (1987’s disappointing SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE) to make the character any less appealing to fans. Sure, some superhero movies have tried to adopt a supposedly more adult, angst-ridden approach, but it’s not as if a darker tone is necessary for success. After all, look at the two SPIDER-MAN films — which are basically brightly lit, fun-filled thrill rides, featuring a character who was always more or less the Marvel Comics equivalent to Superman (who was the big star at DC).

The only angst in the SPIDER-MAN films is related to how being a super-hero interferes with Peter Parker’s personal life, specifically his love life; in SPIDER-MAN 2, he even gives up his powers in order to try to get together with the girl. Last year, FANTASTIC FOUR used a similar plot device last year.

You don’t need a very long memory — just a DVD player and a copy of the second Superman film — to know that this is essentially the plot of SUPERMAN II. So, if anything, it seems that the comic book franchise has not advanced all that far or changed all that much. The current crop of characters are doing many of the same things that Superman did back in the 1980s, so it’s hardly likely that the Man of Stell will seem out of date when he hits screens this summer, on June 30.