Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Superbat

Nikki Finke broke the story yesterday, and already it's worked its way around the web, that director Christopher Nolan, already holding the keys to the big screen Batcave, has been approached by Warner Bros. to put his stamp on a(nother) planned revival of the Superman movie series.  With a third Batman also in the planning, this would give Nolan oversight over the two biggest staples in the DC Comics lineup.  Now he just needs Wonder Woman for the sweep.

I'm guessing that one factor in trying to get this fast-tracked is that the already-messy legal situation surrounding Superman gets even messier in three short years when the heirs to creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster reclaim the character's copyright.  Another factor is no doubt the hope that Nolan's vision and earned fanboy cred (though he probably wouldn't direct) can do for the flailing Man of Steel what Bryan Singer's well-intentioned but ultimately flawed Superman Returns should've done four years ago.

Had things gone to plan back then, Singer would be onto his second sequel already.  Clearly that didn't work out, so from a business standpoint this move makes all the sense in the world.  It was Nolan's vision for Batman Begins that brought that franchise back from the edge of extinction (thank you very much, Joel Schumacher), and it was his stewardship of The Dark Knight that made it, until a few weeks ago, the second highest grossing movie of all time (thank you very much, James Cameron).

The one concern I have in all this is what Nolan's (and the studio's) approach would be.  Superman isn't Batman, and Metropolis isn't Gotham City, so it's not a given that success with one would translate to success with the other (as Tim Burton learned the hard way on his abortive Superman Lives project in '98).  What director Richard Donner got so right with 1978's Superman was the worldview it presented.  It was bright, it was sunny, it was optimistic, yet it never strayed from Donner's credo for absolute verisimilitude.

I don't have any doubts on Nolan's ability to deliver on that last one, but I also don't see much evidence in his filmography of the first three.  Still, given the many catastrophic turns the movie Superman nearly took during the torturous span from Superman IV in 1987 to Returns in '06 (the aforementioned Burton flick for one, Nicolas Cage as Superman for another), the character is probably better off under Nolan's supervision than just about anyone else who comes to mind.

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