Y’all know I’m a fan of “Superman Returns”; I’ve mentioned it that many times of the site, and listed why I think it deserves more cred many-a-time, so I don’t think I need to get out the webbly loudspeaker again. But I’m also aware that the film didn’t have it’s fans… doesn’t have it’s fans… and that director Bryan Singer was near thrown in comic book movie jail for not giving audiences the “Superman” movie most of them wanted.
So what “Superman” movie did they want? Well, in an interview with ComicBookMovie, Singer offers up an answer.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Were you surprised by people’s reaction to the film?
BRYAN SINGER: It’s hard for me to assess it. My gut response is, “It didn’t do THAT bad.” You know, summer’s a tricky time – I know it’s hard to blame the time, but there’s a bit of an expectation for a summer movie. I think that Superman Returns was a bit nostalgic and romantic, and I don’t think that was what people were expecting, especially in the summer. What I had noticed is that there weren’t a lot of women lining up to see a comic book movie, but they were going to line up to see The Devil Wears Prada, which may have been something I wanted to address. But when you’re making a movie, you’re not thinking about that stuff, you’re thinking, “Wow, I want to make a romantic movie that harkens back to the Richard Donner movie that I loved so much.” And that’s what I did…
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: But focusing on the romantic side of things, especially in a superhero movie, is NOT what people would have expected from you.
BRYAN SINGER: Right, because I was known for the X-Men Pictures, which had been more realistic and edgier. That I think was a big piece of what it was. Plus you had that complicated relationship between the Richard White character and Lois Lane that might have thrown people off. Quentin Tarantino and I had a big conversation about it — he has a fascination with this film and he wrote this whole essay about it, but the Lois Lane part of it has always been a stickler with him. This is me extrapolating, but the relationship in the Donner film was so black and white and here it was complex. Adding to that, of course, was the child that was involved. Again, I really do think I was making the film for that Devil Wears Prada audience of women who wouldn’t normally come to a superhero film.
That’s a tricky thing when you’ve built an audience that likes your comic book films and you deliver a certain tone, and then you bring this completely different tone to them…. You know, I haven’t really talked about this in depth, so I’m just thinking about this off the fly. It’s hard, because I’m proud of it for what it is. I mean, there are a bunch of movies I’ve made where I’m, like, “Yuck, that was weak” or “That could’ve been better,” and I can see why. But with Superman Returns…. If I could go back, I would have tightened the first act. Maybe open with the plane or something.
QUESTION: Truthfully, as much as I love Superman: The Movie, it felt like maybe you were paying too much of an homage to it and Richard Donner.
BRYAN SINGER: Oh, absolutely. What’s interesting is that people know I’m a big Trekkie, and they’re always saying, “Why don’t you do a Star Trek?” and I say, “You know, I think I’m TOO big a fan of Star Trek. You’d feel like you were watching Wrath of Khan again.” So with Superman, again, it was romantic and nostalgic and NOT a high octane summer movie like Transformers or something like that. I think people would’ve wanted that from me, knowing what I did with the X-Men, where I shed all the comic-ness and tried to make it real. Here, though, I embraced the comic-ness and made this alternate, bucolic Metropolis. Then there was the music and the whole thing. But I am very much in love with the Donner picture, and for me the journey was exciting because I got the chance to reprise those images and explore it. When you’re fascinated by something and you love it, part of making the movie is trying to please everyone and make a successful movie, but part of it is an experimental kind of thing.
Interestingly enough, Singer says that if he had a chance to do another “Superman” movie it wouldn’t be a sequel to his 2006 film but “…a reboot. I would go back and redo the original, but I only thought of that recently. It would be a much less romantic, more balls-to-the-wall action movie. It would be a very different pace than Superman Returns, which I can say at this point because I have distance from it now.”