201002091510Batman savior Christopher Nolan is aboard to rescue the foundering Superman movie franchise, Nikki Finke and Michael Fleming report. Nolan, who is still working on the story for BATMAN 3 with his brother, Jonathan Nolan, and David Goyer, won’t direct the new SUPERMAN 3.0, but will instead have a hands-on role in making sure that Superman doesn’t do weird things like become a deadbeat stalker dad. Or in the words of a quoted insider:

“We know what we don’t want to do. But we don’t know what we want to do. We learned a lot from the last movie, and we want to get it right this time.”


Indeed.

According to the piece, the move is part of the entire DC Entertainment rebranding, with Diane Nelson tasked to guide the Superman brand across all platforms. But there is also a ticking time bomb that not even Superman’s super speed can deal with: the question over who is going to own Superman:

Attorney Marc Toberoff, who keeps suing Warner Bros on behalf of creative rightsholders, warns that, in 2013, the Jerome Siegel heirs along with the estate of co-creator Joe Shuster will own the entire original copyright to Superman — “and neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros will be able to exploit any new Superman works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters”. He’s also pointed out that, if Warner Bros does not start production on a new Superman sequel or reboot by 2011, the Siegels could sue to recover their damages on the grounds that the deal should have contained a clause in which the rights returned to the owners after a given time if no film was in development. The heirs of Siegel have already been awarded half the copyright for Superman. And in 2013 the heirs of co-creator Joe Shuster get the remaining half. After that, neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros will be able to use Superman without a financial agreement with the heirs. There are also stipulations on what parts of the origins story can be used in future Superman movies and which require re-negotiations with the creators’ heirs or estates.


Superman has had lots of fits and starts on the big screen, as the story retells, with many scripts and directors attached over the years. While the idea of a 100% heroic do-gooder saw the Man of Steel through his early movie serials and radio dramas, and even the Christopher Reeve years, an “edgier” take is planned this time, in line with studio head Jeff Robinov’s goals — but not TOO edgy, since Superman’s odder behavior in SUPERMAN RETURNS didn’t go over well with audiences either. It’s a delicate line to walk, but Nolan would seem to be as capable a hand as any to take on the task.

1 COMMENT

  1. “We know what we don’t want to do. But we don’t know what we want to do.”

    Great pull quote, Heidi. This seems to be the prevailing reality behind the Superman character in many media, and, perhaps, an underlying truism to a lot of let’s-make-a-movie-based-on-a-comic projects as well…

  2. Superman Returns already is the edgiest superhero comics movie ever made. Why? Not because of blood or gore, but because the writers actually put the character in a forward-moving narrative rather than keep him in the same old recycled serial loop that all of these heroes have been in for decades. You can’t kill him because no one would believe it. So he has a kid(!) and Lois — LOIS! — doesn’t want him back! WHAT TH-?!?! That is absolute sacrilege to the Superman character and why I continue to love the movie. They actually gave a Superman story some tension and anxiety — not easy to do.

    I would argue that the paying audience doesn’t want dark or edgy, they want familiarity: Batman vs. The Joker and we know who wins.

    I think you can get away with it with Batman with bells and whistles and a stellar performance breathing new life into the story — but I don’t think you can get away with that on Superman. If you don’t have a very strong human story, he becomes a cartoon really quickly.

    just my two cents

    and I also want to see Barman 3. Like now.

  3. Hold up. So there’s all this anxiety over the Siegels and the Schusters and whether or not they’ll let a Superman movie get made? Why doesn’t Warner just get it and treat them like Warner would treat J.K. Rowling, make a nice contract everyone can agree to and just exclusively license the character? Make some nice legal wording to say that DC/Warner has exclusive dibs on the character and take it form there. I’m sure there’s more legal mumbo jumbo that is involved, but this hand-wringing’s not doing anyone any good. I’m sure it’s about money and how DC/Warner won’t be getting as big a cut of the profits, bus this is just ridiculous.

    Oh. And Warner might want to include Kevin Smith, Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison in any chats on what to doin Supers 3.0. I’m just saying…

  4. Yes, the deadbeat dad Superman was weird, but I also find it weird that the heirs can sue WB/DC for NOT making a movie too! O.o

    And @ Sphinx, making a contract with the singular holder of a property v. making some longstanding agreement with a bunch of random heirs of a (disbuted) property is a LOT more difficult than you believe it to be! And that’s before money is even involved! ;)

  5. I would suggest that the villain be Lex Luthor and that it be about him pulling some sort of real estate scam. Maybe on the moon? I don’t think that’s been done before.

  6. If the people are having that much trouble making a Superman movie that will interest adults, yet is faithful to the Superman concept, they should wonder whether another movie is worth doing. The Superman archetype is probably as simple an archetype as there is in the superhero universe. The number of stories that can be written about him without contradicting the archetypal qualities is probably in the low single digits.

    SRS

  7. I agree with Brad. I loved “Superman Returns.” I’ve seen it more times than I’ve seen “The Dark Knight” and “Batman Begins” combined (and I really liked those films). It wasn’t a perfect film (I think they should have had a clean break from the Christopher Reeve films as opposed to hedging their bets about whether or not this was a new continuity or part of the old continuity), but that’s a very minor quibble. I found the story and the characters engaging. And like Brad, I felt there was genuine narrative suspense. I liked the fact that they went out on the edge with the character and made certain aspects of his personality unlikable. Who wants a perfect, god-like character? That strikes me as incredibly boring (one of the reasons that “All-Star Superman” bored me to tears).

    That said, as disappointed as I am that Bryan Singer likely won’t be allowed to pursue his vision of the character even further, I am intrigued about the idea of Christopher Nolan taking over and trying something even more different.

    And for what it’s worth, the best Superman story is still “It’s Superman!”, the prose novel by Tom DeHaven from a few years ago. Terrific story.

  8. @Peter
    A lot of people with taste liked SUPERMAN RETURNS. According to Metacritic, it was more critically acclaimed than ALL the X-MEN films, as well as BATMAN BEGINS.

  9. Three.
    Three people who liked Superman Returns and one who hated The Dark Knight and Batman Begins,…who is also, not happy about the prospect of Christopher Nolan getting the opportunity to screw up another of his favorite comic book heroes.

  10. Point well taken, KM and Steven Taylor.

    I’ll fess up to liking the Batman and X-Men movies more. Supes is probably my favorite DC character, and even the first two Christopher Reeves movies have some rough spots IMO.

    Just tough to please when it comes to Superman.

  11. The best superhero movie I have seen is “Krrish”, from Bollywood.

    For Superman, make it epic. Alien invaders. Inspiration to the masses. Ramp up the Messiah theme. And have Bruce Timm direct a Beppo cartoon short to precede the movie.

  12. I’d love to see a GOOD Superman movie. Try that.

    I enjoyed the Christopher Reeve films, but we need a top-notch SUPERMAN script. Let’s move beyond Lois Lane, and let’s see a villain other than Lex Luthor.

    If Warner is having so much difficulty finding a decent script, then perhaps they should just turn the scripting chores over to John Byrne or Louis Simonson. They had no trouble writing exciting Superman stories for several years.

  13. Now that an official decision has finally been made about a new Superman film, maybe Warner Home Video will finally issue the expanded Superman Returns which was first announced for 2007. Although the dvd has some very minor deleted scenes, a year after Superman Returns was released there was going to be a dvd with about 20 minutes more, including Superman visiting the remains of Krypton from the beginning of the film which had originally been finished but cut due to time contraints. This expanded dvd was canceled after Brian Singer decided to include the footage in his planned sequel, but that’s all dust now, but the footage still exists, waiting to be exploited in an expanded dvd. Superman Returns wasn’t great but has its moments. I just wish it hadn’t peeked early with the airplane rescue because it set us up to expect the rest of the film to be just as good, and it wasn’t. And using the old 1978 version of Lex Luthor still running bizarre real estate scams was boring. Imagine if Superman had returned to Earth after 5 years only to find that Lex Luthor was one of the most powerful industrialists in the world. Superman the Animated Series had a much more interesting version of Luthor than the throwback in the film.

  14. the Siegels and the Schusters are finally getting all right?

    that’s amazing!
    i’ll believe it when i see it, but that is super cool.

  15. I just find it pathetic that the heirs of creators get to sue to reclaim any rights. They didn’t do anything but happen to be related to the guy(s) who did.

    If the heirs want money, let them create something. In the meantime, it was DC Comics that shepherded Superman to the mega character he is today.

    Stupid, pathetic greed from people who should have no right to claim anything.

  16. @Jeff
    The flipside of your statement is of course that it’s pathetic that the current management of DC Entertainment gets to control Superman… you know, considering not a single one of them had anything whatsoever to do with making Superman a “mega character” either. Everyone who did is either retired or dead.

  17. Superman the Animated Series had a much more interesting version of Luthor than the throwback in the film.

    Luthor was my favorite character in that show. He was really interesting and believable, and whoever provided his voice did a GREAT job.

  18. The voice of Lex Luthor was done by Clancy Brown… best known to fandom as the Kurgan in the original Highlander film. And yeah, he did a great Lex.

  19. The best Superman movie is, and will always be, Superman 2. General Zod almost conquered planet Houston and gave Australia to Lex Luthor. How can you top that?