Reading the reviews for Man Of Steel and discussing the coming new movie with friends, I've been running into a repeated question, almost a complaint - why do movie makers feel a need to "reboot" an existing superhero franchise with a new origin story?
While there's an argument to be made that telling another origin story may not be a creatively rich idea, in some ways the Superman franchise is a perfect illustration of how a reboot ain't necessarily a bad idea - as well as an illustration of how picking up an existing franchise years later might not work as well as some people think.
Haven't yet seen Man of Steel - I'm writing this the Thursday night before it opens - but I'm hoping for the best. Looks like it's going to be pretty good - we'll see. It's definitely a reboot, a retelling of the origin tale. Which makes sense in this case. And maybe in most cases when some years have gone by since the last movie(s). But how many years? Hard to say.
A friend on Twitter said that as someone possessing limited knowledge of comic characters, she prefers origin stories, makes it easier to connect with characters and plot. But I do think some time has to go by - the recent Spider-Man reboot struck many as coming way too soon, for example. Not sure how long, but five years? Way too soon. The James Bond movies should have served as their example - change actors, move on.
How about twenty-six years? Or even nineteen? Those are probably allowable spans of time for a reboot. But Bryan Singer wasn't interested in going that route when he was handed the Superman franchise seven years ago. Flush off his success with the X-Men, Singer decided his Superman movie would pick up where Richard Donner's had left off.
Superman Returns was a cinematic love letter to Donner and Christopher Reeve's movie Superman, picking up right after events in Superman II - originally released in 1980 - and pointedly ignoring the third and fourth movies with Reeve. Singer had basically decided against a reboot, and instead made a movie that would fit with the earlier ones. But the unintended side effect was that Singer created a film that felt dated on opening day. The seventies' sensibilities that informed Reeve's Superman and which were recreated in Singer's homage didn't connect with the younger movie-going public.
It didn't work. Superman Returns did okay at the box office, but any sheen it possessed has been tarnished by passing time. Released just seven years ago, its dated quality makes it feel like it's been much longer since we've seen a Superman film. And despite Superman Returns being made in 2006, it feels like we haven't yet seen a movie Superman for the 21st century.
One of the complaints folks had with Superman Returns was that there wasn't any real fighting - "No punching!" was the gripe. By the looks of it's trailers and previews, Zack Snyder listened to those grumblings. Appears there will be punching in Man of Steel. That wasn't a problem for me, but all the same, I am looking forward to seeing what Snyder, adviser Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer have cooked up for ol' Superman!