First Look: Henry Cavill as Superman in “Man of Steel”

Written by Film

Jeff Giles: Ladies and gentlemen, your new Superman.

Dw. Dunphy: He’s all dark and stuff.

Chris Holmes: Looks more like Bizarro to me.

Ted Asregadoo: It’s like the they combined the Captain America and Batman/The Dark Knight costumes.

Matt Springer: He’s not MY superman, Giles!

Seriously, not high expectations here. Goyer and Nolan have earned serious cred/kwan with me, but Zach Snyder is ewwww.

Jeff: Remember all the fanboy rage after your Sucker Punch editorial, Matt? You must feel pretty vindicated now.

Matt: I always feel vindicated. It’s how I survive on the Internet.

Scott Malchus: I’m with Matt. Chris Reeves is still my Superman.

Jack Feerick: Dude, what does that even mean? Should they dig up Reeve and stuff his corpse into the fucking suit?

Or are you saying that the 70s movies were such overwhelming cinematic achievements that no further films are needed, that there is nothing left to say about the property? Because with that, my friend, I will disagree both respectfully and vehemently.

Superman II isn’t a bad little popcorn flick, but it’s not Casablanca by a long shot. It’s not a film for the ages. Hell, it’s not even a Superman movie for the ages. It’s very much of its time, and in the wake of so many people doing so many interesting things with Superman in the comics over the last 30 years, it’s asinine to suggest that the Donner movies are some kind of a definitive statement on the character.

Scott: I was voicing my opinion about the actor portraying Superman. Christopher Reeves did a remarkable job of capturing the duality of Superman’s personality. Every Superman since then, whether it was Dean Cain, Tim Daly or Brandon Routh didn’t quite match what Reeves did in that first movie. Maybe Henry Cavill will pull it off. That would be awesome.

Chris: Can we at least all agree that the Brandon Routh Supes was a fucking bore?

Jeff: Seconded.

Jack: Routh wasn’t bad. It’s the movie around him that was a fucking bore, mostly because it couldn’t pull its head out of Dick Donner’s ass.

Chris: Yes, that’s more what I meant. Kevin Spacey was the only half-interesting part of the film.

Dan Wiencek: I have had this theory that an actor could either make a great Superman or a great Clark Kent, but never both: the demands of the two roles (for they really are two roles) are too wide for one actor to bridge. But as I was writing up some thoughts on it just now, I don’t think I quite got it right. I think it’s more a matter of an actor (and writer and producer) having to make a choice: who is the “real” character, and who is the disguise?

Reeve was a great Superman, but his Clark Kent was a bumbling über-dweeb, actually more “cartoony” than his Superman. It didn’t hurt the movie because we, the audience, were in on the joke, that the guy who looks like a six-foot-two Tim Kazurinsky is really Superman, but that’s just it — he was really Superman. Likewise, Dean Cain was a better Clark Kent than he was a Superman, because that’s what the show was about — Clark Kent was a hero who happened to wear a costume now and then.

Chris: Same thing with Batman. I think Keaton and Bale (and Burton/Nolan) had the best balance between the hero and the man.

Ted: Does anyone know if there’s any footage of Nicolas Cage as Superman floating around the Internets?

Matt: There’s a photo in here.

Dunphy: I liked Superman because it was the “fun” superhero flick. Batman was the “dark” story. Now everyone’s pissy.

David Medsker: Staind/Linkin Park callback: care about my PAAAAAAIIIIIN.

Chris: One of the biggest challenges around giving live-action Superman any gravitas is that the dude wears red underwear over his pants. Not much you can do with that, short of altering an iconic costume in a major way.

Jeff: I feel like Superman is probably a fundamentally flawed cinematic protagonist in the post-irony era. I just don’t know how you can build an entertaining movie around him anymore.

But on the other hand, I enjoyed Joe Johnston’s take on Captain America, and I wouldn’t have believed it going in. Anything is possible, I suppose, although I think putting this in Snyder’s hands is a really bad idea.

Chris: I haven’t seen the Cap movie, but remember reading a lot of good Avengers storylines in the ’80s and ’90s that addressed his growing unease with the new way of combating villainy and whatnot. He was totally aware of being a relic, but still did the best he could with it.

Dan Wiencek: I think it’s a shame that the market won’t support — or so everybody seems to have decided, at least — a full-scale, theatrical animated superhero movie. If nothing else, it makes the casting issue much easier: you just draw him however you want him to look like, and cast the voice accordingly. (Or just have Billy West do them all.)

Scott: The public supported The Incredibles.

Dan: I would call The Incredibles a family comedy about superheros, just as Ratatouille was a family comedy about rats, and not a “rat movie.” It would be difficult to make a family comedy from any existing superhero franchise while still remaining true to what makes it great, assuming it is.

Scott: I don’t know, Dan — by your definition, you could call Spider-Man a coming of age adventure about a super hero or Batman a dark thriller about a super hero.

Chris: The Incredibles had the advantage of starting fresh, with no limitations or expectations about characterization or plot. Any director taking an established franchise in a strange direction risks incurring the wrath of the fanboys, and that can sink a movie by opening weekend.

Dan: I think of “superhero” movies as being action-adventure films starring costumed super-powered persons. I can of course appreciate that that is a more literal and limiting definition. Certainly there are variations of tone and story within that structure: you can have a superhero movie with elements of a coming-of-age story, or psychological thriller or quest narrative or whatever. But I wouldn’t consider, say, Unbreakable (which, to be fair, I hated) to be a superhero movie, nor really The Incredibles — at least not enough to conclude from its success that the public has an appetite for animated superhero movies.

Chris: Well. I, for one, would love an animated Spider-Man reboot.

Jack: Getting back to Dunphy’s point about everyone being pissy: innovation engenders imitation. It’s when that imitation is applied indiscriminately that problems arise.

With Batman, a dark approach makes sense; here’s a guy who does what he does because he is driven by horrific childhood trauma to impose order upon a chaotic universe.

Superman, though, is basically just a nice guy who does what he does because he can. He’s your buddy who volunteers to help you move because he has a pickup truck and he knows you don’t. And Green Lantern is a happy-go-lucky guy who stumbles upon a magic ring that grants wishes. It makes no sense to try to force either of those properties into the brooding Batman mode; but DC seems to have this idea that its superhero movies have to be serious, and it’s made them a crashing bore.

The Marvel movies have been more successful, to my mind, because they’ve given their heroes different motivations. Spider-Man does what he does out of guilt, Iron Man for the thrill of discovery, Captain America out of a sense of duty to his fellow man, Thor for the kick of busting heads. No one-size-fits-all approach here.

Chris: I think the DC movies, Batman aside, are basically trying to ape the feel of successful Marvel franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men, forgetting the fact that what made the Marvel characters popular in the first place was their angst. They came along in the ’60s, when angst was abound.

Jack: Jeff, have you read Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman? There’s plenty of life in that old horse yet, even with Bizarro, the bottle city of Kandor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Krypto the Super-Dog, and ultrasonic signal watches. By making Superman a genuine and sympathetic presence at the eye of a storm of wackiness and irony, he becomes simultaneously more human and more nobly godlike.

An odd comparison, maybe, but: they’ve managed something similar in the last few seasons of Doctor Who — you can empathize with and relate to the Doctor, to an extent, but he remains a figure of awe and wonder. It’s all about the framing, about the people and situations with which he is surrounded.

That’s why I reckon the most important casting in a Superman movie isn’t who’s going to play Superman, but who’s going to play Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

Jeff: Oh, I loved All-Star Superman, and I think you’re absolutely right about why it’s so great. But how do you take that spirit and bring it to the big screen? I don’t see it happening — not in a live-action project, anyway.

Matt: I’m with Jack, except the part about stuffing Christopher Reeve’s corpse into a Superman costume.

I think where Warner Bros has always gotten it wrong in the modern era is that they assume that what makes a movie like Dark Knight popular is its tone (dark, grim, gritty) where it’s really matching the tone to the character.

I love the first two Donner films, but we have yet to see anybody even try to execute on a great Superman concept in the digital age. Not that I’m a huge fan of CG everything, but come on — you could show Superman doing EVERYTHING he does in the comics without an FX team breaking a sweat.

Another problem is the “why” of the superhero — even in Green Lantern, as I understand it, the Warners/DC “brain trust” had to make the damn thing about daddy issues. Why can’t Green Lantern be a superhero because it’s cool to have a ring that does anything you can imagine? Why can’t Superman be a superhero because he’s called to do the right thing and use his amazing powers for good? With someone like Zod in the mix, that’s a pretty easy dichotomy to set up — Zod uses those same powers for evil. Luthor uses his intellect for evil, where Superman would assume the only way to use such ability is to help others. It has to be true to each character, not to whatever the last successful superhero movie was.

Kelly Stitzel: The only reason I want to see this movie is Michael Shannon as General Zod.

That is all I have to contribute to the conversation.

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