Saturday, May 28, 2011

Of Super Suits

It's been a few weeks now since Smallville reached its conclusion and Clark Kent finally, at long last, accepted his destined role as a man-in-tights. Was the finale perfect? No, but it had enough emotional payoff moments to make it worthwhile, and I thought it was a mostly-satisfactory close to a show that had been hit-and-miss throughout its run anyway. Some of the other reactions I've seen, however, have ranged from mild annoyance to outright apoplexy.

Much of that fan anger seems to stem from how the show's creatives (including star Tom Welling, who I'm sure played a part) approached the episode's final moments, including their decision to play coy on including a clear, full-on shot of Clark fully suited up in all his Superman glory. As I mentioned in a comment over at HuffPo, where my review also appeared, I really didn't have a problem with it (this could be considered spoiler-stuff, so I've put it after the jump. Caveat clicker!):
I recognize the complaint about not seeing Welling full-on, full-suit, but that was one thing I didn't have a problem with. To me, the goal of Smallville was never about seeing Clark AS Superman so much as it was seeing Clark BECOME Superman, and we got that.
I re-watched the final moments of the finale last night, and I appreciate­d what they were doing. After Clark pushes Apokolips into space, we get a close-up of his face, then the wide shot pans around, and juuuust when we'd get that full "glory" shot of him, it cuts to the comic page.

In my view, this was no accident. It says that the moment Clark becomes Superman, he becomes that larger than life figure from our collective imaginations. The myth. We don't NEED to see Welling in the uniform to have that cemented, and if anything, it might have undercut that.
It seems that my position is a minority one though, as quite a few people felt that after ten years of uninterrupted teasing, they deserved a bit more of a payoff than a teeny-tiny CG Superman, and close-ups of Welling with a CG cape fluttering behind him. I can't say I necessarily disagree with that, but the show was what it was for a decade, so why expect the finale to be any different? Anyway, producers Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders have addressed the Great Costume Controversy head-on via this interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and it seems like I was on-point with my take. Say they:
“What we wanted to do all along was show hints at where he was going because that is a whole different story that is yet to be told,” Peterson told THR. “It felt like it gave just enough without starting to tell a whole different story that is left for all the other media." 
Peterson, who penned Part 2 of the finale with Souders, noted that the series has always been about Clark becoming the hero from the famed mythos and that the adventures of Superman were stories that have been -- and will continue to be told -- via other avenues, including Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Man of Steel, set for next year. “[Showing Tom in the full suit] to me is just not super relevant and not what we were trying to do,” he said.
So there. Nyah.

Anyway, moving onto a Super suit of a slightly different stripe: for going on fifteen years now, the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (both of whom passed away in the '90s) have had a legal action pending against current Warner Bros. and DC Comics to reclaim the Man of Steel's intellectual property rights. This is based on a particular peculiarity of copyright law that allows the creators of a work to retake their interest after a certain number of years elapsed.

I value your patronage, so I'm not even going to attempt to sum up the twists-and-turns this litigation has taken over its lifetime, but the short version is that WB/DC stand to lose at least part of their stake in Superman come 2013 (which also explains the mad rush to get that Nolan-Snyder movie out before then). Given the amount of moolah at stake, it's no shock that all sides are fighting tooth-and-nail to hold onto their piece of the pie, and this story at Variety explains just how that pie may get sliced up, and into how many pieces.


J.R. LeMar said...

Again, I'll say that, as someone who quit watching the show years ago, I can understand why those who stuck with it for the full 10 years felt cheated by the ending. If the show had ended, as originally planned, after 4 or 5 years, then it would have been perfect to end without a full shot of the Welling in the suit.

If the final episode was Clark graduating High School, and then flying off to Metropolis, I think everyone would have been satisfied. Everyone would know that he's going to become Superman later after he gets there, so they could leave it to our imaginations.

But it's the fact that they dragged it on for so long, continuing the show well past the time when he should have already become Superman, taking on so many of the trappings including living in Metropolis, working @ the Daily Planet and dating Lois Lane, that made people more and more anxious to actually see it, if only for a minute. That's what I've seen over and over from fans across the net, they just one @ least one single shot of Welling in the suit. I think if, for example, there had been a black & white picture of Welling as Superman on the cover of the Daily Planet, it would have satisfied most fans.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

The whole issue with the suit seemed kind of weird. At the end of the last season didn't Martha Kent give Clark the famous suit in a box? Is there an in-story reason for why he didn't use it for a year? How did it get saved in the Fotress for Jor-El to regift?

Also confusing was why he could suddenly fly again (and why he couldn't right before). Didn't he have some deep epiphany after the last time that Brainiac 5 went to the present.

DJCoach said...

I only watched a episode of Smallville here and there but I never liked what I saw. But I did tune in to see the finale because I wanted to see Tom finally put on the Superman outfit.

While I understand the point you & the producers hold I just can't agree with it on any level. Mainly, because at the moment Clark finally embraces/is ready for his destiny he becomes Superman. All of the teasing and run of the show has led to the moment where he IS Superman. At the very end Clark is Superman and the fans of the show (me not included) who stuck with it, kept it on the air much longer than it should've earned the right to see their hero in his full glory.

To say that not seeing him in his full attire is not what the show is all about is a slap in the face to all of Smallville's fans. Because wasn't it about how Clark Kent becomes Superman? In the very end he is Superman.