Superman is probably the most famous superhero of all time. Despite his popularity, however, his forays onto the silver screen have been decidedly anti-cinematic and often straight-up terrible. The question is, if the character is so popular and beloved, why don't Superman's movies work? The answer is more complicated than you might imagine, and only mostly Zack Snyder's fault.
Most people think it's because he has a bland personality, but there have been plenty of stories that have proven otherwise. His wealth of empathy, compassion, and kindness actually give him a unique perspective that is sorely lacking in today's age of gritty superheroes.
If that's the case, then, why are so many filmmakers struggling to capitalize on the Big Blue Boy Scout? It's worth noting that Richard Donner did a superb job adapting the character with Superman: The Movie - a film that wasn't afraid to be optimistic during the cynical 1970s. Granted, there have been some cool moments in modern Superman films, but it's all just so grim and depressing. If Hollywood has any hope of keeping the character alive for another generation, they need to tap into that optimism and exploit its sunny disposition. Otherwise, they'll continually be unable to translate the success of the comics to the screen.
Even if they do that, though, there are still plenty of reasons you can't make good Superman films.
No One Knows How To Use Jimmy OlsenPhoto: Warner Brothers
For decades, Jimmy Olsen was known as Superman's best friend. Together, they had tons of misadventures that led to more than a few awkward comic book covers. But when it comes to the films... Jimmy is nowhere to be seen. Sometimes he's in the background of the Daily Planet, but he never has anything to contribute to the story.
He's one of the most humanizing elements of Superman's mythos, but he pretty much only exists in the movies to be rescued and/or made fun of. The problem is so bad that Zack Snyder killed him in the opening moments of Batman v Superman because he couldn't figure out how to use him in the films. He didn't even bother to mention his name in the script.Agree or disagree?
Lois Is Always In TroublePhoto: Warner Brothers
It's something of a cliché that male superheroes are always rescuing their non-powered girlfriends. Unfortunately, Superman is no exception. In a vast majority of the Superman films, the third act has involved Lois in peril with Superman as her only hope of survival. It's always boring, and at this point it feels vaguely archaic.
It actually makes Superman Returns, despite all its flaws, look pretty original. Lois and her family are actually the ones who save Superman at the end, which allows him in turn to save the world. Still, it's hard to craft a story and make it interesting when the audience inevitably knows how it's going to end.Agree or disagree?
Filmmakers Never Find Ways To Use All His PowersPhoto: Warner Brothers
Superman has some of the most diverse powers of any superhero. Basically, he's that garbage kid on the playground who claimed his superpower is "all the powers." In fact, the films have even made up additional strange abilities for the Man of Steel when they thought it would be cool (planet-reversing time travel, for instance).
But overall, most of the movies that depict Superman really don't find situations where he can use his powers in new and interesting ways. Sure the strength, flying, and laser eyes get a ton of the attention... but when's the last time he used his freezing breath? How often do you see him using his super-speed to vibrate through solid objects, or his super intelligence to manipulate his way out of a tricky situation? It's like the writers have an endlessly massive tool box but refuse to use anything except the hammer.Agree or disagree?
Kryptonite Is The Only Way To Create A Fair Fight. It's Also BoringPhoto: Warner Brothers
Perhaps the most massive problem that comes from Superman's overwhelming power is his inability to have a fair fight. Pretty much anyone who isn't a deity doesn't stand a chance against the Man of Steel. Thus, Kryptonite was invented. The irradiated chunks of his home planet are the only way to keep Superman in check (short of a red star). The problem is that it keeps showing up over and over again Superman stories.
It's become a crutch for lazy writers to humanize an inherently inhuman character. And here's the thing: when you take away Superman's powers, you're no longer telling a Superman story. Now you're just talking about some dude named Clark, and no one signed up for that when they went to go see a movie about a space god.Agree or disagree?