An Editorial by Gene Turnbow  
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Superman’s New Look Part of a ‘Package’ Deal

Movie makers keep tinkering with the iconic hero.  This time we're getting 'Package Man'.

Movie makers keep tinkering with the iconic hero. This time we’re getting ‘Package Man’.

By now you’ve probably seen the image to the left – it’s the suit from the upcoming Superman reboot, “Man of Steel”, as presented in a licensing showcase in Las Vegas, along with a few other costumes from the movie.  They’re clearly trying to get the most they can from the product licensing the film will generate.  What this picture makes clear, though, is that “Man of Steel” may not refer to his invulnerability or super-strength.  Yeah.  Check the crotch.  Assuming it’s the suit and not the mannequin, it looks very much like the suit has a package built in. As if it wasn’t already enough that they radically changed the suit to start with in an effort to be cool.

Joel Schumacher’s Batman films Batman Forever and Batman And Robin are not known for their quality – instead, the legacy of these films seems to be the nipples on Batman’s and Robin’s suits.  On the DVD commentary, Schumacher claimed they were inspired by statues of the Greek gods. It’s more likely that the art director stuck them on trying to make his mark on the film and Schumacher just didn’t notice them until it was too late to do anything about them.  We think the same happened with the new suit used in Man of Steel. At least we hope that’s what happened.  Basically it looks like they’re just not paying attention.

There’s something that the creators of these films don’t seem to understand – what we want to see as movie-goers and fans is a faithful creation of our heroes.  We like the heroes because the people who created them in the first place got them right.  Filmmakers who come late to the party and think they know the characters better than the fans who have grown up with them and have read every page for twenty years are not getting the point of what makes these films tentpole draws.  We don’t come to see the films because of the strange little quirks in the designs or the rewrites of the character’s thematic story lines that get tossed in.  We come to see the films in spite of those changes, because we know that we don’t generally get a vote and we’re hoping the people who know more about film making than they do about comics aren’t going to trash it too badly.  Unfortunately sometimes we’re disappointed, as in the Wonder Woman TV series that thankfully never made it to the screen, or the Green Lantern movie which some say probably shouldn’t have.

A further problem with Man of Steel is that it was rushed into production.  They actually started shooting before the script was even finished, and because of the legal battles over the rights to the film being fought in a knock-down, drag-out three-way between Time Warner/DC, the estates of Siegel and Schuster, the actual original creators of Superman and the ethically challenged legal representative of the Siegel and Schuster heirs who is apparently trying to pry Superman away from both of them in a dazzling demonstration of conflict of interest.

So while all this is going on, and seemingly spinning out of control with no clear guiding hand, the Justice League movie is supposedly in the works now.  DC had to go in this direction, because they have shareholders to appease.  But if you look at the foundations, here, they’re hoping that The Dark Knight Rises will give them a strong enough foundation to go ahead with it.  A writer has been chosen to write the screenplay – but he’s known for having written Gangsta Squad, which wasn’t exactly a critical or commercial success. There are supposedly Flash and Wonder Woman movies in the works now too, but there’s very little word on what form these would take, or even if these productions are any more than Hollywood party talk.

The Man of Steel may turn out okay.  They might pull it off – but they’ve given it built-in hurdles and fan base biases against tinkering with the canonical Superman to overcome, and it’s not exactly moving in a strong wolfpack of similar films to bring it all into sharp focus in 2015 for a culmination like the proposed JLA movie.  Dark Knight Rises will probably do great – but unlike Marvel Studio’s series of carefully thought out films that resonate with the fans, the Warner Bros. movies are a mismatched grab bag with widely varying quality and effectiveness.  And, the more a superhero film deviates from what people love most about its main character, the less likely it is to be well received by an otherwise devoted audience who wants nothing more than to see their beloved hero brought vividly to life.

At this point there’s no clear vision of where they’re going with all this, and it shows.  A lot.  Cross your fingers and hope that Man of Steel, the third cinematic reboot of the world’s favorite and most enduring superhero, manages to answer the call.  If this Superman movie doesn’t do well, chances are pretty good the Justice League movie is toast.

As one fan put it, wouldn’t it be nice if the buzz about the Superman movie was about the script?

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