Who Should Write Superman? Part 10
September 8, 2007
After succumbing to my inner Timberlake and bringing back word blogging in my last post, Dash was hit with a wave of Nostalgia not seen since 100 Years of Solitude (or was that insomnia?) and felt the sudden urge to embrace all that was-yet-is-no-more at Yesterday’s Salad. Normally I would have tried to channel Bruce Robbins/Mark Bittman and cast these feelings aside, turning instead to temporizing, but the bow of Superman Returns on HBO (and its 9000 airings in the subsequent week) have proved to be too strong. Not even the eye dropping, jaw popping photos of the new Airbus A380 could keep me from blogging that true miracle of flying, the true transit of tomorrow, the Man of Steel (Besides, I’m really more a Boeing 787 man).
Your correspondent at work/Lo, the myriad rewards of reading the dictionary!
Rewatching part of Synger’s Superman left me with the same feelings of emptiness I had when I first saw the film. Where was the intellect, where was the emotion? Like all recent Hollywood action movies Superman Returns, was FX shot after FX shot with a bit of Parker Posey thrown in for credibility (that this is also the formula for Yesterday’s Salad’s most popular posts should come as no surprise). An action heavy Superman is really only half as successful on the comic book page as it is on film, where the explosions are really able to be portrayed as the awesome spectacles they are. What the franchise–in either comic or movie form–needs is a more cerebral take on Superman, a Superman that titillates the mind as well as the primal urge for violence.
I submit that Whit Stillman Should write Superman.
At first glance, the writer-director of such films as Metropolitan and Barcelona would appear to be ill-suited for a job writing an American legend like Superman, but if there’s one thing the stylish Stillman can never be accused of its being ill-suited, so in that vein I will now offer 4 reasons why Stillman should be given his chance to tell his Superman story.
1) Literate language. Loquaciousness highlights Stillman’s work, an element long neglected by Superman scribes. Superman writers tend to forget that Clark Kent (SPOILER ALERT: Superman) is a newspaper reporter, as adept at extemporaneous speech as the next person. Not even Lois Lane is given the gift of gab in the Superman comics. The Daily Planet may not be all the news that’s fit to print, but I reckon it’s a top-ten newspaper, surely on par with the Gotham Gazette. It’s newsroom should be buzzing with the type of pretentious (not a bad thing) speech that so filled Metropolitan. Clark Kent may act like a country bumpkin, but at heart he’s an urbane character, in many ways similar to the protagonist in Metropolitan, living a life he only partly belongs in. Speech is Stillman’s gift, and a Stillman Superman would be clever and funny in a not-unbelievable manner.
2) Grandiosity. Stillman sets his movies amidst the backdrop of larger than life situations. Whether it be the end of the Disco era in the aptly named Last Days of Disco, the decline of the WASP era in Metropolitan, or the end of the cold war in Barcelona, Stillman has a flair for placing his characters at moments when tensions are heightened and values shift. This monumentality (faux or justified) is the perfect backdrop for a Superman story, a character that in more than one way seems to be the “Catcher in the Rye” of comic book archetypes (assist U-High ninth grade english), always trying to hold on to the moral values of the situation. By its very nature, a Stillman story is one where something is threatened and new realities will have to be experienced and realized. Change is perhaps the perfect villain for Superman.
3) Americanism. Although HB&T may claim that the only thing scarier than a dragon is an American, at heart Superman is the ultimate boy scout, the ultimate champion of American rights and identity. Americanism/Anti-Americanism is a major theme in Stillman’s second film Barcelona: politics is both the defining element of the movie, and a red herring, standing in the way of our true appreciation of the characters’ emotional development. Stillman’s grace also enables the Americanism to come off naturally; characters’ statements never seem forced or stilted. It’s the type of approach necessary in a Superman story, an approach that plays in favourably with the character’s traits without seeming overly preachy.
4) Casting. True this reason only applies in a Superman movie, but it’s important to mention nonetheless. Can you imagine Chris Eigeman as Superman, or Taylor Nichols as Lex Luthor? What about Kate Beckinsale as Lois Lane? The star power alone of such a movie justifies a 200 million dollar budget.
In short, a Stillman Superman would be the perfect blend of nostalgia, earnestness, humour and irony. A story worth telling.