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  1. #1
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    Default Why has there not been a great live action Superman movie since 1980?

    I think Superman and Superman II are great films that kicked off the superhero movie trend and while they have their flaws and have not aged perfectly, I think they are still great Superman stories and good films that kicked off the big budget super hero movie.

    Superman III and IV are universally seen as terrible. Superman Returns and Man of Steel are somewhat better received, but are still divisive. Superman Returns is one of the most disappointing films I have seen, the plane recuse scene is amazing, but it tries way too hard to be Donner films, Lex is still too campy, with a really stupid plan and Superman is a mopey loser who stalks Lois, its also super boring, with a really dull climax. Man of Steel is better, but Superman is still too mopey, Jonathan Kent became a jerk and the climax makes Superman look callous, fighting Zod in the middle of Metropolis and getting millions of people killed. I still like Man of Steel better, its more exciting, but still had flaws, Man of Steel could have a great intro Superman story with a little more work, with Superman being a rookie who still has stuff to learn, but that's thrown out the window with Batman v. Superman and any sort of progress Superman could have had is washed away.

    Frankly I have liked some of the animated Superman movies better. Superman vs. The Elite was action packed and a good exploration of Superman's moral code, All Star Superman was a little too paired down from the comics, but still good, Superman Doomsday is fun, but a not great film, Superman Unbound is also fun, but not a truly great film.

    Why has there not been a great live action Superman movie since 1980?

  2. #2
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    Superman III has one of the best depictions of Lana, evil Clark and the fight in the junkyard, I think it's an underlooked classic
    Last edited by Miles To Go; 03-11-2018 at 03:18 AM.

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    Ultimate Member Sacred Knight's Avatar
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    I would still personally say that Superman III is pretty damn bad, but, it does boast a few great scenes, the junkyard Clark vs. Dark Superman fight as you already mentioned, and I still think its a cool scene when the super-computer integrates with that female antagonist. Its campy effects today but as a kid I loved it.
    "They can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you. My only son." - Jor-El

    "Now why don't we step up here and everybody get stepped up, and let's get some stepped up personal space up in this place." - Phillip Jacobs

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    Extraordinary Member Last Son of Krypton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sacred Knight View Post
    I would still personally say that Superman III is pretty damn bad, but, it does boast a few great scenes, the junkyard Clark vs. Dark Superman fight as you already mentioned, and I still think its a cool scene when the super-computer integrates with that female antagonist. Its campy effects today but as a kid I loved it.
    I used to find "cool" even the Superman vs Nuclear Man fight from SM IV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sacred Knight View Post
    I still think its a cool scene when the super-computer integrates with that female antagonist.
    Yeah, that scarred me for life when I was a nipper.

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    Extraordinary Member Last Son of Krypton's Avatar
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    @Sacred Knight

    Clear some space in your Inbox, man.
    Last edited by Last Son of Krypton; 03-10-2018 at 02:44 PM.

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    Ultimate Member Sacred Knight's Avatar
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    WHOOPS. It shall be done.
    "They can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you. My only son." - Jor-El

    "Now why don't we step up here and everybody get stepped up, and let's get some stepped up personal space up in this place." - Phillip Jacobs

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Overlord View Post
    I think Superman and Superman II are great films that kicked off the superhero movie trend and while they have their flaws and have not aged perfectly, I think they are still great Superman stories and good films that kicked off the big budget super hero movie.

    Superman III and IV are universally seen as terrible. Superman Returns and Man of Steel are somewhat better received, but are still divisive. Superman Returns is one of the most disappointing films I have seen, the plane recuse scene is amazing, but it tries way too hard to be Donner films, Lex is still too campy, with a really stupid plan and Superman is a mopey loser who stalks Lois, its also super boring, with a really dull climax. Man of Steel is better, but Superman is still too mopey, Jonathan Kent became a jerk and the climax makes Superman look callous, fighting Zod in the middle of Metropolis and getting millions of people killed. I still like Man of Steel better, its more exciting, but still had flaws, Man of Steel could have a great intro Superman story with a little more work, with Superman being a rookie who still has stuff to learn, but that's thrown out the window with Batman v. Superman and any sort of progress Superman could have had is washed away.

    Frankly I have liked some of the animated Superman movies better. Superman vs. The Elite was action packed and a good exploration of Superman's moral code, All Star Superman was a little too paired down from the comics, but still good, Superman Doomsday is fun, but a not great film, Superman Unbound is also fun, but not a truly great film.

    Why has there not been a great live action Superman movie since 1980?
    Threads like this usually turn into arguments about what was or was not a great version of Superman but I think your assessment is reasonable and not trying to provoke people who liked more recent movies.

    I loved Superman (1978) alias Superman the Movie. It had a couple of flaws but nothing that stops it from being one of the all-time great superhero movies.

    I had a few more issues with Superman II although most of them were in the last few minutes (hand crush/ possible killing of helpless opponent; petty revenge on trucker; Amnesia Kiss).

    Superman III. Great Richard Pryor movie and I did like Annette O'Toole's Lana Lang although the relationship was of course doomed to eventually another Amnesia Kiss.

    Attacking Superman IV is just too easy.

    Call me foolish. Call me irresponsible. But I actually liked "Superman Returns". Oh, I'm not saying it was perfect. I may just have a different definition of boring than you do. I liked the dynamics of the situation Superman found himself in and I didn't have any need of some big super powered slugfest. Granted the choice he made that created that situation was ridiculous. Going to the shattered remains of Krypton knowing he would be gone for five years. I mean, he already left Martha Kent for twelve years presumably not knowing where he was. Then if only the first two movies happened, he comes back for a couple of years and then leaves again for five years? Man, call your mother. She's worried sick.

    There were lots I liked about "Man of Steel". That Jonathan Kent "maybe" to me was just a guy caught in the moment saying the wrong thing but, with every fiber of his being, he was driven to protect his son. Keep in mind this is a more realistic setting. We can argue about that all day but it was basically a Post- 9/11 setting where paranoia is rampant, "If one of them did it, they all did it" (which is one of the very essences of bigotry), "All you towelheads get out of MY country" and where immigration isn't exactly the good thing it once was and a lot of people want even children who were born here deported. Not exactly a world that is going to welcome an illegal immigrant who has the powers of a walking Atomic bomb with open arms. So I think Jonathan Kent is justified in his paranoia.

    The only thing that really damaged it for me was the overbearing destruction in the final fights that focused more on the damage and the CGI than on the hero trying to save people (as in the Avengers) and the fact that, inexperienced or not, Superman seemed oblivious to how many people very likely died when he, say, punched a guy into a freighter and it exploded.

    But I think we need to define what we mean by a great Superman movie. I think going highly realistic has proven to be highly divisive. There are as many people who hate MoS as love it and even a lot of people who liked it aren't enthralled with it as they were with StM although I know some people are.

    I think the WB and DC got locked into the fact that the Dark Knight movies worked so well and that dark is in while not considering that this may not work for Superman. Even those who love the movie cannot seriously deny how divisive it has been. It may also be that the creative people that currently were in competition to get to do a Superman movie are people who were raised on a very dark and gritty comic book world. While the current crop of comic readers may love dark and gritty, this may be a default because everyone else who doesn't care as much for it has stopped reading comics so the comic reading crowd may be badly out of sync with what general movie audiences want and expect from superhero movies.

    There's also that it's Superman and probably no super hero is locked into a specific image of what he should be as much as Superman.

    I don't think there's any magical formula. "Superman Returns" failed not because it imitated the Donner/ Reeve movies but because it imitated then badly. It felt weighed down for most people with a mopey, depressing Superman who didn't have the energy and, yes, the fun, of earlier versions though than fun should be tempered with seriousness.

    Plus with every attempt, it gets harder and harder to get audiences to give it another chance. You can only retell Superman's origin so many times or do another Lex Luthor plot so many times. They could take a hint from Marvel. Introduce Luthor and kill him off (not by Superman doing it but kill him off) at the end because it's a movie. It's only going to have three stories or four or five at the most. Change it up. Give people the Superman they expect but don't let everything be what they expect.

    The problem is it starts with the people who have the final say themselves understanding the appeal of Superman enough to put the right people in charge of making the movie and that's a major task right there that I have no solutions to.
    Superman was a beacon to the world.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Overlord View Post

    Why has there not been a great live action Superman movie since 1980?
    For the same reason why Superman comics have often been underwhelming since 1986 or so.

    DC/WB constantly hires people who don't have a good handle on the character. The only difference is, the comics will occasionally still give us great stories like All Star or Birthright.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles To Go View Post
    Superman III has one of the best depictions of Lana, evil Calrk and the fight in the junkyard, I think it's an underlooked classic
    I think there is a difference between a great movie and a bad movie with a few good scenes. Unless a movie is completely without value, like most the Bay Transformers films or Fan4stic (if you think Superman gets it bad in the cinema, look at the Fantastic Four). it will have one or two good scenes. X-Men the Last Stand a had some good ideas and a few good scenes (I still think Golden Gate Bridge scene is pretty cool), Superman Returns had the save the plane scene, Batman v Superman had that cool warehouse fight, but are any of those great movies? No, it takes more then one or two good scenes to make for a great movie. I do not think Superman III or any of the movies I mentioned holds a candle to the truly great comic book movies.

    Here's the thing, Superman and Superman II are great films with a few flaws (campy Lex, the silly time travel stuff, the memory erasing kiss), while Superman III is an overall bad film with a few bright spots.
    Last edited by The Overlord; 03-10-2018 at 08:06 PM.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Overlord View Post
    I think there is a difference between a great movie and a bad movie with a few good scenes. Unless a movie is completely without value, like most the Bay Transformers films or Fan4stic (if you think Superman gets it bad in the cinema, look at the Fantastic Four). it will have one or two good scenes. X-Men the Last Stand a had some good ideas and a few good scenes (I still think Golden Gate Bridge scene is pretty cool), Superman Returns had the save the plane scene, Batman v Superman had that cool warehouse fight, but are any of those great movies? No, it takes more then one or two good scenes to make for a great movie. I do not think Superman III or any of the movies I mentioned holds a candle to the truly great comic book movies.

    Here's the thing, Superman and Superman II are great films with a few flaws (campy Lex, the silly time travel stuff, the memory erasing kiss), while Superman III is an overall bad film with a few bright spots.
    True. I think Superman the Movie is a great move with a couple of flaws.

    Superman II is a great movie that kind of loss it in the last few minutes.

    Superman III is a bad movie with one good subplot.

    Even Superman IV has some good scenes such as Clark at the Kent farm after his foster parents have died but is a horrible movie.

    "Superman Returns" have some good scenes but is overall an average movie and really just rehashes everything from StM in another form.

    "Man of Steel" is a mixture and has some great ideas not executed in a great way but generally only really loses it in the last 45 or 30 minutes and I'm not talking about killing Zod but the total preoccupation with CGI violence (albeit I'll admit if they hadn't done that, people would be crying that it was booooring like SR was 'cause it didn't have a big super fight).
    Superman was a beacon to the world.

  12. #12
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    The involvement of the wrong businesspeople and poor creative vision, which will cripple any creative endeavor. Consider:

    • Without Richard Donner, the Salkinds made the far lesser version of Superman II, the disjointed Superman III, the Supergirl movie, and the Superboy TV show. When they sold the movie rights, Cannon Films gave us Superman IV.
    • Jon Peters, he of the legendary "An Evening with Kevin Smith" tale, was the producer for the failed Superman Lives project and Superman Returns. He got an executive producer credit on Man of Steel, though he did nothing and Christopher Nolan banned him from the set.
    • When Superman Returns was made, it had nothing new to offer (other than the magnificent plane rescue sequence).
    • Once Warner Bros. took a more direct role, it was to start the Snyderverse, and based on certain elements of Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy.
    • On TV, you also had Lois and Clark, which was hit or miss (and really would work better in today's world of season-long story arcs), and Smallville, which played fast and loose with many aspects of canon and hyped up certain things so that it worked as a teen drama. The episodic nature of both made it difficult to really express a vision for the character, though Smallville was able to accomplish this in some respects.


    The last time a live-action version had a clear vision for a true version of Superman was when Donner was making Superman II.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    True. I think Superman the Movie is a great move with a couple of flaws.

    Superman II is a great movie that kind of loss it in the last few minutes.

    Superman III is a bad movie with one good subplot.

    Even Superman IV has some good scenes such as Clark at the Kent farm after his foster parents have died but is a horrible movie.

    "Superman Returns" have some good scenes but is overall an average movie and really just rehashes everything from StM in another form.

    "Man of Steel" is a mixture and has some great ideas not executed in a great way but generally only really loses it in the last 45 or 30 minutes and I'm not talking about killing Zod but the total preoccupation with CGI violence (albeit I'll admit if they hadn't done that, people would be crying that it was booooring like SR was 'cause it didn't have a big super fight).
    I could live with Superman killing Zod, other heroes have killed the villains at the end of the film and it did not bother me. The CGI destruction and Superman doing nothing to save people, really bugged me though. That's the sticking point, Superman should save people, he should have tried to lure Zod out of the city or been saving people while fighting Zod, the destruction during that fight made Superman seem callous. Its a good fight and after how boring Superman Returns is, I like liked that it was there, but it should have been handled better. Really the big problem with Man of Steel is it had Batman v Superman as a follow up. With a little tightening up, Man of Steel could have been a great story about a rookie Superman who learns to become a better hero, Batman v Superman throws all of that out, makes Superman more mopey and distant and makes Man of Steel seem pointless, it feels like he learned nothing from his experiences in that film.


    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    Threads like this usually turn into arguments about what was or was not a great version of Superman but I think your assessment is reasonable and not trying to provoke people who liked more recent movies.

    I loved Superman (1978) alias Superman the Movie. It had a couple of flaws but nothing that stops it from being one of the all-time great superhero movies.

    I had a few more issues with Superman II although most of them were in the last few minutes (hand crush/ possible killing of helpless opponent; petty revenge on trucker; Amnesia Kiss).

    Superman III. Great Richard Pryor movie and I did like Annette O'Toole's Lana Lang although the relationship was of course doomed to eventually another Amnesia Kiss.

    Attacking Superman IV is just too easy.

    Call me foolish. Call me irresponsible. But I actually liked "Superman Returns". Oh, I'm not saying it was perfect. I may just have a different definition of boring than you do. I liked the dynamics of the situation Superman found himself in and I didn't have any need of some big super powered slugfest. Granted the choice he made that created that situation was ridiculous. Going to the shattered remains of Krypton knowing he would be gone for five years. I mean, he already left Martha Kent for twelve years presumably not knowing where he was. Then if only the first two movies happened, he comes back for a couple of years and then leaves again for five years? Man, call your mother. She's worried sick.

    There were lots I liked about "Man of Steel". That Jonathan Kent "maybe" to me was just a guy caught in the moment saying the wrong thing but, with every fiber of his being, he was driven to protect his son. Keep in mind this is a more realistic setting. We can argue about that all day but it was basically a Post- 9/11 setting where paranoia is rampant, "If one of them did it, they all did it" (which is one of the very essences of bigotry), "All you towelheads get out of MY country" and where immigration isn't exactly the good thing it once was and a lot of people want even children who were born here deported. Not exactly a world that is going to welcome an illegal immigrant who has the powers of a walking Atomic bomb with open arms. So I think Jonathan Kent is justified in his paranoia.

    The only thing that really damaged it for me was the overbearing destruction in the final fights that focused more on the damage and the CGI than on the hero trying to save people (as in the Avengers) and the fact that, inexperienced or not, Superman seemed oblivious to how many people very likely died when he, say, punched a guy into a freighter and it exploded.

    But I think we need to define what we mean by a great Superman movie. I think going highly realistic has proven to be highly divisive. There are as many people who hate MoS as love it and even a lot of people who liked it aren't enthralled with it as they were with StM although I know some people are.

    I think the WB and DC got locked into the fact that the Dark Knight movies worked so well and that dark is in while not considering that this may not work for Superman. Even those who love the movie cannot seriously deny how divisive it has been. It may also be that the creative people that currently were in competition to get to do a Superman movie are people who were raised on a very dark and gritty comic book world. While the current crop of comic readers may love dark and gritty, this may be a default because everyone else who doesn't care as much for it has stopped reading comics so the comic reading crowd may be badly out of sync with what general movie audiences want and expect from superhero movies.

    There's also that it's Superman and probably no super hero is locked into a specific image of what he should be as much as Superman.

    I don't think there's any magical formula. "Superman Returns" failed not because it imitated the Donner/ Reeve movies but because it imitated then badly. It felt weighed down for most people with a mopey, depressing Superman who didn't have the energy and, yes, the fun, of earlier versions though than fun should be tempered with seriousness.

    Plus with every attempt, it gets harder and harder to get audiences to give it another chance. You can only retell Superman's origin so many times or do another Lex Luthor plot so many times. They could take a hint from Marvel. Introduce Luthor and kill him off (not by Superman doing it but kill him off) at the end because it's a movie. It's only going to have three stories or four or five at the most. Change it up. Give people the Superman they expect but don't let everything be what they expect.

    The problem is it starts with the people who have the final say themselves understanding the appeal of Superman enough to put the right people in charge of making the movie and that's a major task right there that I have no solutions to.
    Well the Wonder Woman movie was pretty successful and that movie was ultimately hopeful and optimistic despite being set in WWI.

    Here's what I would suggest, you can make the world around Superman darker, but Superman himself should always remain the same, make post 9/11 paranoia something he triumphs over, rather then something that defeats him, over and over again.

    That's what they did Wonder Woman and Captain America, optimistic characters in darker settings who refuse to give in and fight for what they believe, their beliefs are challenged, but not defeated.

    Though there is also the Thor Ragnarok route, where certain elements stay serious (nothing really funny about Hela), but a lot more comedy and wackiness is introduced. At this point I think you could get away with having Mr. Mxy be a annoying secondary villain who ultimately becomes a comedic foil for Superman. With that route it really depends on the execution, comedy is certainly subjective, but Superman would be the ultimate straight man.

    I would say the setting should be modern (the fact there was no minority characters in Superman Returns is jarring, IMO) but maybe have retro elements in there as well.

    Though I will say I want a better version of Lex on screen, because I am sick of the campy idiot we constantly see in the movies pretending to be Lex. I would make Lex far more serious, make him far more competent

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Soubhagya's Avatar
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    Because making a great film is difficult.

    You can find people say Man of Steel and/or BvS are great films. They aren't wrong. Personal tastes aside, a film is considered as great when 'most' people consider it as great. There are people who don't like Dark Knight too. But its status as one of the greatest superhero films is cemented.

    Personally, i think both Man of Steel and Superman Returns are good films.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Overlord View Post
    Why has there not been a great live action Superman movie since 1980?
    Hmmm. Well I definitely feel III and Man of Steel are the two best films so... you tell me? Lol.

    III starts off with a unique, cleverly executed Rube Goldberg hijinks scene that sets the tone for the movie. It also manages to make Clark a decent character without sacrificing the humorous irony of the biggest dork being the planet busting Superman. Features a legendary comedian in a period when he was red hot. Pamela Stephenson and Annette O'Toole were pitch perfect in casting and made for amusing opposite numbers as supporting characters. The Webster/Gus stuff was hokey... but very much in line with the comics. I dare someone to say the super computer was goofier than Superman's Radio Shack adventure. Basically, I agree with the Comics Alliance review from years ago:

    Matt: This is the best Superman movie. Come at us, bros!
    Chris: It's like I said: I can see why people would like Superman or Superman II, even if I don't, but I don't understand how anyone could love Superman and not love this movie.
    David: Unless you have a serious stick in your ass about Superman having to always be maudlin and melancholy -- in other words, if you're joyless -- I can't get it either. It seems way more self-evidently... well, together, than the first two.
    Matt: If people want their movies to not be fun, that's on them.
    Chris: I think there are definitely parts that you could react to with "Oh well that's just ridiculous," but it holds together very well, and it shows exactly what's great about the character. Superman's power in this movie is that he does the right thing, and that he can inspire others to do the right thing too. It's great.
    Matt: Gus probably should have gone to jail, though.
    Chris: So yeah, we loved Superman III.
    Man of Steel gets plenty of coverage in regular discussions. We know who many people suggest could fix these movies and how, but I do also have to ask why people believe these obvious changes never took place. Besides "DC/Warner wants it to fail," because that's obviously not true.

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