How to make a Superman movie

Date: January 1999

With recent news on movement on the up-coming Superman movie, I felt it time I had my say on the supposed direction this film is taking.

What do we know about this movie?

Much to many people's dismay, Nicolas Cage is (and has been for quite some time) attached as the actor to play the title role. Don't get me wrong, Nicolas is a great actor... he's just not Superman. [NOTE: Since writing this article Nicolas Cage has since moved on and will NOT be involved with a new Superman movie].

Say what you will about Producer Jon Peters... I personally don't know too much about him to comment. So I won't... Rumoured Director for this film Oliver Stone, has a fairly good reputation... but whoever is responsible for the following piece of news should have their head examined...

What am I talking about? Well, along with Hollywood Reporter's news about Oliver Stone's interest in Directing the Superman film, they also reported that the movie would have a more "Matrix" type look to it, and that Superman would appear minus the tights... let me repeat that again... MINUS THE TIGHTS!

Hopefully this is a false rumour.

If not... then God help us!!!

When are "the powers that be" going to learn? Surely the people involved in making this film must do some research... Will somebody at DC Comics please talk to these guys and tell them the lessons learnt from Superman Blue.

The only good part of this rumour is the Matrix connection... the technology used in the Matrix to create those jumping/flying scenes would make for an awesome Superman movie... but that's as far as the connection should go. No leather, no trench coats, no apocoliptic dark ambience.

The winning formula:

  1. You don't mess with the Superman costume. Superman is more than just a superhero... he's a worldwide icon. The blue tights, the red cape, the famous red and yellow "S" logo on his chest. These are non-negotiable. Minor alterations are acceptable, as seen in the Superman Animated series, which used a darker blue, no "S" on the cape, black shorts with a red highlight... but still kept the overall appearance of the well-known costume.

    Sure we fanatical Superman fans may have a more emotional stake in the making of this film then the average movie goer... however the average movie goer knows who Superman is. They've watched him either through the George Reeves TV series, the various cartoons (be it the SuperFriends, Superboy, recent Animated Series, etc...) and many from the Christopher Reeve films. Everyone knows what Superman is supposed to look like. You might get away with changing costume designs for the X-Men to a certain degree, but NOT with Superman.

  2. The storyline needs to be Super! If you're going to do a movie for a character as big as Superman, then you need a story befitting his status. I don't mind the rumour that the script (written by Bill Wisher) is loosely based on the "Death of Superman" storyline from the comics. This was indeed a big event. But this needs to be more than just a "fight to the death". We need to get emotionally involved. We need to feel some deep connection with the Man of Steel. We need to be awe inspired by his deeds, his self-sacrificing nature, his goodness. We need to feel proud of him. That way the loss at his "death" will be gut-wrenching, devastating... and his ultimate return up-lifting, a moment that will make you and everyone else in the audience at the cinema clap and cheer when he arrives on the scene to save the day. Bringing a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye... and a grin on your face that extends from ear to ear.

    Whether the script is written or not, I'm sure it will go through editing and re-editing before filming begins. Bill Wisher and team should seriously look at a couple of comic books for inspiration and direction on what makes a great Superman story. Specifically, I'd direct them to grab a copy of "Superman: Peace on Earth", "Kingdom Come", "Superman For All Seasons" and some of Mark Millar's work on Superman Adventures, like issue 36 (where Superman, busy as he was saving planes, rescuing people, etc... still found time to locate a little boy's lost dog). These stories are what Superman is all about.

  3. Casting is very important! As I said earlier, Nicolas Cage is a great actor... I just can't see myself believing he's Superman. For that matter, I don't think I'd like to see an actor I was familiar with as Superman. Which is what I think made Christopher Reeve's performance so believable. We hadn't seen him before... he was simply Superman. So even if another well known actor was chosen, such as Ben Afflek or David James Elliott, I still think we would have trouble believing them in the roll. Personally, I think an unknown, yet talented actor needs to be found for the roll of Clark Kent/Superman. Sure, get big name actors for the other supporting roles. For example, someone like Kevin Spacey playing the part of Lex Luthor would be great for the movie.

  4. Soundtrack... a hard act to follow. All I know is that they're going to have a huge job trying to top John Williams' classic musical score. I'm almost inclined to advise they don't even try... Get John Williams back on board to adapt his original score for the new film. But I guess it makes more sense to come up with something new... I'm just glad it's not my job. :)

  5. Super Special Effects. As mentioned above, the report that the film will be "Matrix"-like is a great thing when talking about Special Effects. Word of warning... don't make the movie because of the Special FX, make the Special FX fit the movie. Too many movies these days are created because they can be, with little thought into whether they should be. Yes, please have us believe all over again that a "man can fly"... but I'd gladly sacrifice 10 minutes of CGI fight scenes for 10 minutes of character development/interaction.

I'm sure there are many other things that could be said, and many other Superman Fans have done so). But before I go I thought I'd leave you with this quote printed in the booklet that comes with the new Re-Mastered Superman: The Movie Soundtrack, as I think it says it all, and shows the wisdom we hope all involved in making this new Superman film can take to heart and learn from....

"From the outset, we were determined to stay true to the spirit of Superman. We wanted this movie to have more color, style, action, and spectacular visuals than any film of its kind ever made before. But there would be no tampering with the legend."
Ilya Salkind
Executive Producer of "Superman: The Movie".