With Zack Snyder's 'Superman' reboot dominating the headlines lately (hurray for casting news!), it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at Bryan Singer's 2006 attempt to relaunch the franchise: 'Superman Returns,' which is exactly what the filmmaker did during a recent interview with website Voices From Krypton.
The director was unusually candid in discussing his 2006 rebooting of the franchise, which earned $200 million at the box office but still didn't recoup its production budget. Singer talks at length about what his vision was for the film, how that may not have jibed with what comic fans were expecting and why being too much of a fan of a specific property can make you less qualified to adapt it. Hit the jump for some of the highlights.
The most interesting element of the entire chat is Singer's discussion about how he was attempting to lure women into seeing a comic book movie. "What I had noticed is that there weren't a lot of women lining up to see a comic book movie, but they were going to line up to see 'The Devil Wears Prada,' which may have been something I wanted to address." It seems odd to think of a superhero movie aping something like 'The Devil Wears Prada,' but in retrospect, 'Superman Returns' does have a very female-friendly vibe and this explains why romance plays such a big part in what many expected to be a full-on action flick.
The bigger influence on Singer was his love of Richard Donner's original 'Superman,' something that colors 'Superman Returns' in a very distinct way. Donner's film never shied away from the romantic tension, and Singer admits to loving that nostalgic vibe so much that it played a major part in his own updating. "When you're making a movie you're thinking, 'Wow, I want to make a romantic movie that harkens back to the Richard Donner movie that I loved so much.' And that's what I did."
The problem seems to be that it wasn't what viewers expected. Audiences went in expecting Singer to do for Krypton's favorite son what he'd done for the X-Men. The film was never marketed as a nostalgic and romantic homage to Donner's film so women didn't flock to see it. Meanwhile, men who did were greeted with a superhero movie relatively light on superheroics.
Singer acknowledges the problems of the film, but remains proud of it -- although he does say he might make some changes if he had it all to do over again.
That's a tricky thing when you've built an audience that likes your comic book films and you deliver a certain tone, and then you bring this completely different tone to them.... It's hard, because I'm proud of it for what it is. I mean, there are a bunch of movies I've made where I'm, like, "Yuck, that was weak," or "That could've been better," and I can see why. But with 'Superman Returns' ... If I could go back, I would have tightened the first act. Maybe open with the plane or something.
When asked if he thinks he maybe paid too much homage to Donner's 'Superman: The Movie,' Singer agrees. The director uses the example of 'Star Trek,' saying he's too big a Trekkie to make a film in that universe because it would invariably just be a remake of 'The Wrath of Khan.' It's a danger all artists face; there's a fine line between paying homage to your inspirations and simply copying their style. It does often feel as though 'Superman Returns' spends more time trying to be like Donner's film than it does forging its own identity.
Still, Singer's film deserves at least some credit for trying to do something beyond offering up the standard comic book movie fare. It wasn't a success, but filmmaking, like all art, is about taking risks. Occasionally the gambles don't pay off, but a good artist learns from them and moves forward. Singer seems to have taken these lessons to heart.
For more of the interview, be sure to head on over to Voices From Krypton.