James Gunn must usher in nothing less than the second coming of Superman on the big screen | Films

youThe old DC adage (with apologies to Voltaire) always said that if Superman didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. Perhaps those religious images go some way to explaining why, despite countless reboots over the years, and even though the character had been around for four decades by the time he actually made it to the big screen, it’s Richard Donner’s 1978 take, starring by the quietly majestic Christopher Reeve, who remains the definitive iteration. For comic book fans, that version of the man of steel really ranked right up there with Jesus, and frankly, there has never been a second coming.

No one could then accuse James Gunn of not being up for a challenge, following the news this week that the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker will direct Superman: Legacy, from his own script. Not content with jumping in to take over Warner Bros.’ tottering DC Extended Universe, a movie megasaga that has seen more ups and downs than Batman’s run-ins with the Joker, DC’s newly installed leader will now take over what is billed as an era-defining reboot for the last son of Krypton.

Gunn will attempt to solve a problem that has plagued filmmakers for over 40 years: how to bring Kal-El right to the big screen. Since Donner delivered the near-flawless Superman, there hasn’t been a single theatrically released film on the DC mainstay that hasn’t at least divided critics and, in many cases, sent them running for the theater doors.

It’s a perplexing situation, because Reeve’s godlike superhero was perfect from the moment we met him, back when there was no playbook for comic book movies and Donner had to create one. And Reeve, dignified, graceful and lavishly statuesque but with remarkable humility for a superhuman with the power to turn back time and fly to other planets, induced an almost neo-religious level of awe in audiences.

How it went so wrong in the intervening decades is perplexing when it was all there from day one. But the film’s rights owners and producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, clearly felt they knew more than their own director, and decided to oust Donner in favor of the much less visionary Richard Lester for 1980’s Superman II. his moments, including Terence Stamp’s thrillingly icy performance as the Kryptonian super-sociopath General Zod, but Lester’s determination to unleash his trademark cheesy comedy marked what truly was the beginning of the end for Reeve’s Superman.

Additional episodes Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace followed in 1983 and 1987 respectively, but by this time there was nothing left of Shakespeare’s soaring, warm, fabulously epic fantasy fantasy from the short-lived Donner era. (Richard Donner’s cut, released in 2006, gives us a glimpse of what might have been if the filmmaker hadn’t been fired after shooting about three-quarters of Superman II, but to me it always felt a bit offhand. from a limited edition). , images decades old.)

Too much homage… the trailer for Superman Returns

The rest is a continuing story of mediocrity and underachievement. Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) paid too much homage to the Donner era, and Brandon Routh failed to recapture Reeve’s quiet charisma. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, with Henry Cavill now ensconced in the suit, had a lot of style but too little substance and too many explosions. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) was more of a marketing exercise than a movie, while Justice League (2017) always felt like Batfleck’s movie rather than Cavill’s, both in the original cinema and in the movies. iterations of the Snyder Cut (although at least the latest version didn’t). He suffers so horribly from the door of the mustache).

Superman: Legacy, which is supposed to focus on a younger version of the superhero while he’s still a rookie reporter at the Daily Planet, is expected in 2025. Gunn said this week that he’s finally decided to sign on as director (having already written the script). ) after discovering “a way that felt uniquely funny and emotional that gave Superman the dignity he deserved”, suggesting that the new film will focus on Kal-El’s dual heritage as the son of aristocratic Kryptonian parents. and Kansas farmers. Added Gunn: “Just because he writes something doesn’t mean I feel it in my bones, visually and emotionally, enough to spend over two years directing it, especially if it’s not something of this magnitude. But bottom line, I love this script and I’m incredibly excited to start this journey.”

His challenge, then, is to bring back the Superman we once knew and loved without offering a pale imitation of Donner’s film. This should be a joyously epic, life-affirming experience that makes everyone forget that any of the sardonic, jokey, wonderfully throwaway Marvel movies ever existed. It needs to define a whole new era for the superhero genre. A veritable second coming for the man of steel on the big screen, nearly half a century after he first wowed audiences. So, there’s no pressure then.

Leave a Comment