Why Christopher Nolan & Superman Are Not A Marriage Made In Heaven

One of the biggest bits of news doing the rounds this week is Deadline Hollywood's report that Warner Bros have asked Christopher Nolan to perform a mentoring role on the new Superman reboot, apparently titled The Man Of Steel. Rather than rejoicing in the streets at the inclusion of the uber-talented director who rescued the Batman franchise shouldn't we be asking; is he really needed?

But first, a little history. If anyone was in any doubt about Batman Begins being a bona-fide game changer when it came out back in 2005 then shame on you; five years later the influence of Nolan's first caped-crusader starring epic is clear and the watchword for his revolution has been 'dark'. Both Begins and its successor, the all-conquering The Dark Knight, took the Batman source material much closer to Frank Miller's noir-like incarnation of the superhero, something which the original Batman had only hinted at and Joel Schumacher's efforts could only dream of.

The influence of that decision can be seen everywhere from the willingness of the same studio to stick to Watchmen's similarly dark roots to, again, Warner's brave decisions on the tone and style of the later Harry Potter's. It was clear: after Begins, 'dark' was in fashion.

But, recently, things have started to move from dark to, well... drab. Miller's own The Spirit was a critical and box office disaster, British production Dorian Gray a similarly afflicted tale of a superhuman protagonist with a dark secret. Granted sure, both examples came from already 'dark' stock but both also failed to display the lightness of touch or, to be frank, quality and skill, of Nolan's efforts.

As we move into a new decade the current watchword, and one that Nolan again finds himself at the forefront of is 'reboot'. Recently we've watched Star Trek make a successful comeback in a new guise, seen Spiderman announced for similar treatment, and now await the caped crusader's own, and second, reboot.

It's no secret that certain people weren't happy with Bryan Singer's Superman Returns when it emerged in 2006 but really, was it that bad that it needs a second re-imagining already? At the time, the UK's top film magazine Empire gave the film the coveted five-star treatment calling it, 'the finest popular entertainment since the Rings trilogy closed'. At the box office too it didn't exactly tank, taking $391 million and making a reported $100 plus million profit.

Don't get me wrong I'm not against Nolan's involvement, I just don't want to sit down to watch Batman Begins Mark 2: The Boy In Red And Blue. If studios keep forcing franchises into 'reboots' then we're never going to get into the meaty developments later source material allows, at least not without allowing a first hour origin story or first half-hour orientation course to get us used to the new actors, now apparently acceptable in their familiar costumes.

The decision too wades into the originality debate; is Hollywood that bereft of talent that it has to go back to a successful genre director to ensure the next megabucks film works? Jesus, if we're using that argument now then cast Bale as Clark and Holmes as Lois, only... just make sure to have her change half-way through in an metamorphosis-like plot development that sees her re-incarnated as Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The difference between Superman and Batman to me has always been that one is America's Hero and the other is The Dark Knight; one is meant to feature in big, uplifting, epics that hint at Hollywood's golden age and leave you wanting more sugar-coated popcorn, the other is meant to pull himself up from the gutter, taking you along for the ride. If Hollywood has what I can only describe as some 'real balls' then it wouldn't need to go back to Nolan because at the point he and his vision were signed on for Begins he was a risk and the positive results and implications of that decision haven't quite stopped appearing.


  1. This reboot craze has to stop!! Two years from now, we are going to get flooded with rebooted movies, most of them for no good reason.

    I wasn't a huge fan of Superman Returns but it was very well received critically and at the box office. It might just be a matter of time before Nolan goes from "shepherd" to director.

  2. I'm a huge fan of Superman...and I cannot tell you how tired I am of his origin story.

    It feels like between the Richard Donner original, the half-assery that was "Returns", and the neverending Smallville on TV...Hollywood has no clue what to do with the guy!

    One thing I think might work to the project's advantage - if it actually gets going mind you - will be Nolan's talent for mining the lexicon for the best stories.

    Part of what made BEGINS & KNIGHT work so well was the way Nolan fused a handful of exisiting narratives together.

    Perhaps if Nolan gets whatever writer/director WB hires to dig a little deeper, Supes can square off with a more interesting villain...and not just try to outwit Lex for the zillionth time.

    But given how very close WB is to losing the Superman , this might all be for naught anyhow.

    (Sorry for the rant)

  3. You know the reboots are getting ridiculous, no series really needs a reboot they just need to get the next film right. We don't get a reboot in our own lives, I can't call a do over in my life, I have to reap the consequences of my decisions and then learn from those. Superman doesn't need to reboot it needs to learn from it's mistakes and get it right, if they drop the stupid kid from the last film I'd be happy, because other than that I liked Superman Returns.

  4. Some really good points being made.

    @Castor - In all honesty I think it's only a matter of time before people become more annoyed with reboots and remakes then they do with never-ending sequels. With their faint feeling of positive nostalgia, glossed over typically with explosions and mega-bucks actors, I think people are starting to feel like they are being openly conned by them.

    I not too sure Nolan will ever make it to being Superman Director though. He would be too much in danger of being pidgeon-holed as a comic adapter and it's something he's tried to avoid by taking a break in between each Batman.

    @The Mad Hatter - Despite my misgivings there are definitely postives to Nolan's involvement and you've hit on one of them. I don't know how real fans of Superman would react to this but... in Batman he substantially changed and modified the origin story to make it fit for purpose - maybe Superman would benefit from something similar?

    @TheAnswerMVP2001 - I know exactly what you mean, unfortunately... Hollywood never plays by the rules we all have to live by! It would be nice, like you say, if it just learned from its mistakes, scripted the next one and got on with it.