The fallout over Batman vs Superman Dawn Of Justice continues as a film that was setting sales records opening weekend has now fell behind their main competitors Captain America Civil War in total global box office despite having a two month head start. Executives are being let go and promoted, Ben Affleck & Geoff Johns are now going to be the saviors of the film universe just as current director Zach Snyder was supposed to be after Green Lantern failed to be the studios Iron Man. I have not seen Dawn Of Justice so I have no real insight into what made that particular film not work other then I thought Man of Steel was really stupid and by all indications, Dawn of Justice looked even stupider. Which isn’t to say I don’t want to see another Superman movie, a Superman movie that establishes an expanded DC Universe and as a byproduct an expanded DC Universe in and of itself; I would absolutely love that. I watch every Marvel & X-Men movie in theaters only because a few of those movies have been legitimately great and they rarely are anything less then decent. It takes a lot for me to not want to see a superhero movie in the theaters but Man of Steel was mostly garbage; so much so that having the same creative minds for the next film combined with the feeling that the film was going out of it’s way to pander to viewers like me, I didn’t see Dawn Of Justice. Keep in mind I saw the Deadpool movie, I hate Deadpool and I love both Batman & Superman with every fiber of my being. I am constantly getting into arguments with non comic readers as to why Superman is amazing, I wrote about it a couple time’s here, my favorite comic of all time is a Batman one which in fact, is a story that Dawn of Justice was primarily based on, But by the time of it’s release, I had no desire to see the first major motion picture featuring both Batman & Superman together in addition to Wonder Woman, The Flash or Cyborg; all comic book character’s that I would also love to see in a movie, just not a movie that is probably terrible. What is so frustrating about DC’s failure to create a Superman movie that is borderline decent is that they had two great possible Superman films sitting right in front of them in Max Landis Superman American: Alien & Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Had someone at the studio had the good sense to work with those film makers visions within a Superman film, they could’ve made at least one good Superman film that would’ve established many of the basic expanded universe concepts cinematic ally and a squeal that was not only an amazing movie, but one that could’ve have also established the larger DC Multiverse within the cinematic one.
Max Landis is many things; a misogynist on twitter, a Hollywood legacy kid, a man with awful fashion sense & a film maker with a spotty record. Landis debuted with director Josh Trank on the excellent found footage superhero film Chronicle, a movie that is probably still one of the best superhero origin stories in the genre’s short history in modern cinema. Since then, director Josh Trank failed spectacularly in rebooting the Fantastic Four to the point that he lost a job on a Star Wars film while Max Landis wrote and directed the forgettable American Ultra. Landis also wrote the DC Comics miniseries Superman: American Alien; a sort of anthology style look at the character’s upbringing with several of DC’s best artists that was sometimes excellent. American Alien follows Superman from learning about his powers in childhood to establishing a relationship with Lois Lane as a young man in Metropolis after she discovers his secret identity. Although it would probably work better as a miniseries on HBO, if you cut it down and included all the contents of the first and final issue with some amalgam of the best parts of every thing in between; you’d get a fantastic opening about Superman’s childhood and an amazing conclusion with a final shot that leaves the story open ended in a way that no other superhero movie has done prior, a pretty good modern contextualization of Superman’s origin that fundamentally understands the core of the character while making him feel applicable to our world now and several means by which to establish the larger universe by introducing Superman to Batman, the Green Lantern Corps, Lobo & Deathstroke. Again, a Superman American Alien wouldn’t need all of Landis scripts from the comic book series but there’s a pretty cool film in there that would easily hook in audiences at the movies beginning tells the story of how Clark Kent becomes superman, establishes the character’s expanded cast and DC Univerese at the film makers discretion while having a near perfect final two minutes that I guarantee would assure almost everyone who saw it would come back for more. I don’t know if Max Landis would’ve been the guy to direct the film but he certainly had a version of the script that DC Entertainment could’ve used had anybody at the studio bothered to consider it.
Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker whose work has had a profound influence on not just DC Entertainment but moreover DC as a whole and superhero films in general. His second Batman film changed the genre and was a massive success upon it’s release. During his time working with DC on the films, it seems highly probable that the director was thinking up the concept for his Interstelllar, an amazing hard science fiction film that he created following his final Batman movie. While Interstellar is a great movie in it’s own right, it could easily have been a Superman film with a few tweaks to the script. In the cold opening, it could either start exactly the same or have that be Superman fighting an unknown space villain that kicks his ass before disappearing into the ether. Unlike Interstellar, humanity isn’t on the brink of extinction but the Midwest is getting severe dust clouds which ties back into Superman’s origins (half this movie is set in a cornfield for gods sake). The government call in Superman and tell him that these dust clouds are a byproduct of the earth dying for reasons they don’t totally understand to the point that they will need to explore the option of finding a new home for humanity. Keep the rest of the cast as the Challengers of the Unknown and have the story be exactly the same until they get to the Matt Damon character who in this film has become Braniac as the artificial intelligence that the astronaut relied on took over and is revealed as the source of why the earth is dying because the AI is going back to it’s origin point to try and take over earth. Supe’s kicks his ass but now he and the Challengers are stuck too far away from earth to get home. Supe’s and the McConaughey character go into the black hole which makes that entire part more plausible with Superman there while sending Anne Hathaway’s character to the final planet. Superman and McConaughey do the whole fifth dimension thing that was actually inspired by Grant Morrison’s Animal Man to start with, they land in the future to see that everything worked as planned with the help of beings from the Fifth Dimension (mayhaps these are New Gods) and the two reenter the space time continuum, Superman going back to his home time, McConaughey back to Anne Hathaway’s character on the new colony; the end. An Interstellar version of a Superman film approaches the chief argument against Superman as a character in being too powerful by having him fight against the the physical limits of reality and possibility while also establishing not only an active multiverse that Superman has now traveled through, but helped set up another earth where time could now be potentially moving faster to the point that earth’s future would not only have Superman as a foundation of it’s mythology, but could then use that to establish Shazam, a character who only works in a universe that doesn’t already have Superman to make him redundant. The idea of multidimensional travel now also makes the New Gods a possibility, gives the Green Lantern corps an expanded backdrop while opening up the potential for other cool DC cosmic concepts like The Omega Men or Starfire. Moreover, Interstellar is a better film then any superhero movie so it would automatically be the best superhero film ever made had it included Superman. In fact, I’d argue that it’s cultural relevance would be so strong that the Academy couldn’t ignore a movie that prevalent and of that high quality, which in turn could’ve made the Superman version of Interstellar the closest the superhero genre has ever gotten to winning an Oscar for best picture.
You might be saying right now, yes in theory Interstellar could make a great Superman film with your suggestions BUT, isn’t it better to have Interstellar as a pure representation of filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s vision. My answer would be yes, in a perfect world Interstellar is better as it’s own thing but that’s not the world we live in. In the world we live in, Interstellar was a great movie that was mostly forgotten by the public at large and ignored by the academy despite being superior in every way to to best picture winner Birdman in addition to most of the films it was nominated with. But Interstellar wasn’t made for the academy, nor did it feature a superhero, so nobody talked about it. Because the only movies that get attention now are movies about superhero’s from comic books, whether that be from media about movies or comic books. All the while great films with original ideas like Interstellar or Sicario, Beast of No Nation, Looper, The Place Beyond The Pines, Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year, Margin Call or any number of movies that aren’t related to superhero’s get ignored to inferior pictures about superhero’s or superhero adjacent reboot’s like Robocop or Teenage Mutant Turtles. So if all we are going to talk about is movies about comic books, why not just make any great movie that could be about a comic book character a movie about a comic book character? If we aren’t going to care about good movies in the first place, if all were going to talk about is movies about superhero’s; why not make those the best superhero films as possible? But that’s not what’s happening, instead we get some pretty good movies about superhero’s, some really dumb one’s that audiences have basically rejected wholesale, a bunch of great movies that come and go at the expense of a movie watching populace that only care about films related to comic books and a comic books readership that only cares about the movies. So if that’s case and DC is now underdogs to Marvel in the film industry, just make those superhero movies as best they can be. Don’t make what you think I want, make what will blow me away, take real chances and start with the idea of making a great movie first and foremost while working into the expanded continuity naturally. Because while the first Superman movie is pretty dumb and the second is by all accounts as bad if not worst, DC still made the greatest superhero film of all time in The Dark Knight and had enough of a relationship with film makers Max Landis and Christopher Nolan to have them work on projects with the company. It doesn’t take that much for a studio executive at DC to see how they could’ve used those talents visions to make Superman movies not just something worth watching, but possibly the best superhero’s film ever made while still establishing an expanded universe within the narrative logic of the filmmakers visions. The minimum DC could be doing is trying to make those Superman movies good and there end goal should be to make them the best movies possible, which is what they could’ve done had they utilized the creative resources that were readily available to them. But they didn’t and we are stuck talking about a Superman squeal that is probably terrible but I wouldn’t know because DC tried to make a movie that they thought a viewer like me wanted to see instead of just making a good movie. That’s the world we got.