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Yes, there’s a new Superman movie coming out next June 14th.
Excuse me while I contain my excitement.

It’s no secret that the failure to make a completely decent Superman film has been an ongoing struggle for the last 30-plus years.

The beginning signs of these difficulties began during the filming of Superman: The Movie and Superman II, which were (mostly) shot simultaneously by director Richard Donner. After production was halted in late 1978 to make the first film's December release date, production was halted on Superman II. When filming resumed in 1979, Donner was ousted by the film's producers and Richard Lester finished the film. I’m not going to get into what exactly happened in regards to the controversy that followed, but Wikipedia has two pages discussing the multiple versions of Superman II if you’re interested. There was so much footage shot for this movie that Donner’s restored his original version (combined with some of Lester’s footage) and released it in 2006. When you watch both Superman II’s, they literally seem like two different films.

Then there’s Superman III, which saw Richard Pryor join the franchise to give the film a ‘comical’ feel. Only problem was, the most humorous scenes in the movie weren’t with Pryor. On the other hand, Superman getting absolutely wasted in a bar and shacking up with an attractive blonde was completely sidesplitting.



What's really pathetic about all of this is that it was revealed not too long ago that the original script for the movie included such super villains as Brainiac and Mister Mxyzptlk which Warner Bros. rejected. Serves them right. You couldn’t help but feel that the 'suits' got what they deserved when it was panned by fans and critics alike. Let’s see: Choosing Robert Vaughn and a life-sized computer in the Grand Canyon over some of Superman’s greatest foes. Yeah, I can clearly see why the former won out........

While many believe that the third Superman installment killed the franchise, they’ve clearly never seen Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.  But that’s what happens when Cannon Films slashed the budget and reportedly ran out of money during the making of the movie. Truth be told, you can make better special effects in your basement with a flashlight and fancy computer software. I was nine years old when I saw this movie in 1987, and even I knew this film was seriously bad.  So bad, in fact, that Superman’s silver screen absence lasted almost 20 years until Superman Returns in 2006.

Head and shoulders the best film of the last three Superman movies, ‘Returns’ takes place where Superman II left off. While I wasn’t completely crazy about the storyline and the climax was rather anticlimactic, I thought overall the movie was solid.

However, not solid enough for Warner Bros, who were disappointed with the box office receipts. While Kevin Spacey was a solid Lex Luthor, that makes four of the last five Superman movies in which Superman’s biggest adversary has been the antagonist. While a sequel was planned, director Bryan Singer kept moving on to other projects. Brandon Routh, who looked and sounded like Christopher Reeve, apparently wasn’t charismatic enough to land another shot as the Man of Steel in the new movie. Photo: enblow.com

Overall, it was decided the series would get yet another reboot.

Which brings us to Man of Steel , and I’m cringing already. This is the most pivotal movie in the franchise, and it could very well be another screwup.

For starters, the moment I heard John Williams’ iconic theme will not be used in any capacity really had me bummed. No matter how crappy some of those Superman films were, that music is arguably one of the most powerful movie scores in cinematic history. To this day, i get goosebumps whenever I hear it. People went absolutely crazy in Superman Returns the moment this was played. You would think director Zack Snyder would want to offer some familiarity to a franchises sagging fortunes.

Bad move. Strike one.

Then there’s the movie poster, which has Superman in shackles.

What?! Really?! You can’t put Superman in shackles! Unless they’re made of Kryptonite, there’s no way this happens (and yes, I’m well aware of how geeky that truly sounds).

Maybe I’m being a little judgmental, but nonetheless, strike two.  

And truth be told, the fact that Christopher Nolan is producing this film doesn’t give me any reassurance that it will be decent, either. Did you see The Dark Knight Rises?  Where Batman went from brooding and bad ass to retiring and sipping lattes in France?

Of course, the special effects in the new trailer look fantastic, and it will be interesting to see Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) take on the role of General Zod. Shannon is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. However, he has some tough shoes to fill, as Terence Stamp’s original Zod is one of the most iconic villains in movie history.  

And last but not least, British actor Henry Cavill is the latest to don the red cape as the film’s central character. Not exactly a household name in America, Cavill is carrying the weight of this film on his shoulders.

What makes things even more interesting (or not) is the tone of Man of Steel.  Superman’s boyish charm seems to have been abandoned in favor of much darker overtones. Because that’s just what we need: another reluctant, tortured hero on today’s ever-changing world.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I haven’t seen the film yet. Who knows? It might turn out to be the greatest superhero flick of all-time when all is said and done. What I do know is that I’ve given the Superman franchise plenty of chances to redeem itself, and they haven’t got it completely right for more than a quarter of a century.  

It’s going to be a hard sell, but let’s hope that changes with Man of Steel.

Otherwise, chances are he’ll fly away for a long, long time.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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photo: enblow.com