The first official snap of Amy Adams as Lois Lane in Man of Steel, released this week, might look innocuous enough to the casual viewer. But like most of the hype surrounding Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot so far it seems designed to prepare us for a modern take on the mythos surrounding the world’s most famous superhero. Gone is the knackered old typewriter used by previous big screen incarnations to bash out stories, perhaps with the odd typo or two for good measure: here Ms Lane is seen carrying an iPad, the journalistic weapon of choice for the on-the-go blogger who wants to be able to file copy anytime, anywhere. She may still be working for The Daily Planet, but it looks as if the newspaper has had to move with the times to compete in the 21st century.
There are further signs of a fresh approach everywhere one looks. The tagline for the ad campaign for Richard Donner’s debut Superman film in 1978 ran “you’ll believe a man can fly”, and it seems Snyder and his team have taken that concept to its logical conclusion. Writer David Goyer (who came up with the initial idea for the new take on Supes that helped persuade The Dark Knight‘s Christopher Nolan to come on board as the production’s “godfather”) said this week that Man of Steel would present a vision of Kal-El as we might see him if he really did exist.
“We’re approaching Superman as if it weren’t a comic book movie, as if it were real,” Goyer tells Empire magazine. “I adore the Donner films. Absolutely adore them. It just struck me that there was an idealist quality to them that may or may not work with today’s audience. It just struck me that if Superman really existed in the world, first of all, this story would be a story about first contact.
“He’s an alien,” continues Goyer. “You can easily imagine a scenario in which we’d be doing a film like E.T., as opposed to him running around in tights. If the world found out he existed, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened in human history … It falls into that idea of trying to humanise the inhuman. He’s made out of steel, he’s not made out of flesh, metaphorically speaking. We are portraying him as a man, yet he’s not a man.”
How else then, to modernise Superman, to make him not just a fantastical concept but a leaving, breathing entity? There are signs that Snyder et al have had the guts to take the creative pickaxe to other areas of the mythos surrounding Kryton’s favourite son. Rumour has it that Jimmy Olsen, the red-headed boy photographer of the comics (who survived all the way from the 1940s) has been recast as – shock horror! – a woman for the new film. “Jenny Olsen”, as IMDb lists her, looks as if she’ll be played by actor Rebecca Buller, who can be seen towards the end of the latest trailer sprinting away from a disintegrating building alongside Laurence Fishburne as Perry White (presumably still her boss).
If the departure is confirmed I suspect few will mourn for young Jimmy, who is in many ways the Robin of the Superman series. He was created to give fans a conduit through which to approach Superman, someone much like themselves: yet comic book fans in 2013 don’t all resemble a bow-tie-sporting Richie Cunningham from Happy Days. Likewise, if Superman is supposed to represent modern America, it makes absolute sense that at least some of the cast members for Man of Steel should be black (hence Fishburne’s casting). Snyder and Nolan are ruthlessly excising the hokier elements of Superman, the comfortable supporting furniture of old, in an effort to force us into imagining ourselves confronting the character for the first time.
It’s a brave but risky approach, as Goyer admitted in his Empire interview. “It is obviously a much longer process with a character like Superman. It is much easier to do a realistic take on Batman,” he said. “The challenge was simply: can we figure out a way to make those elements work, quote unquote, in the real world?”
If the Man of Steel really were an alien from another planet, we might wonder for a start why he looked exactly like us. It follows that the fantasy elements of Superman cannot entirely be jettisoned without fatally undermining the character. Nevertheless, this is a mythos that hasn’t really been updated on the big screen since the first Christopher Reeve movie 35 years ago. I think most of us are ready to give Snyder and Nolan the benefit of the doubt here, even if it does mean some minor changes. In the comics, Jimmy Olsen used to contact Supes with a special wristwatch that emits an ultrasonic frequency only he can hear, but presumably an iPhone would serve just as well. Likewise, if the Adams take on Lois Lane loses Margot Kidder’s penchant for terrible poems, I suspect few will be crying into their popcorn.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Seit 1996 bin ich freier Mitarbeiter der Salzgitter-Zeitung, als Experte für das Geschehen im hiesigen Kreisfußball. Daneben sind meine Kolumnen seit 2005 fester Bestandteil im Lokalteil der Salzgitter-Zeitung. Zusammen mit Frau und Tochter sowie zwei gefräßigen wie faulen Stubentigern versuche ich das zu meistern, was das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest an Absurditäten für uns bereithalten.