Movies & TV / Columns

Is Superman a Difficult Character to Adapt?

December 17, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Man of Steel

Only in Hollywood. Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo talked about the challenges to bringing Superman to the big screen.

The comments are interesting when you look at the past Superman movies and the changing culture of superhero films in Hollywood.

“The more powerful a character is, the more difficult to deal with that character on a narrative level,” Anthony said to Business Insider. “As storytellers, and the way we explore characters, we always look for vulnerabilities in characters because that’s where characters become interesting. They’re superficially interesting in their strength, but they get much more depth when you find where they don’t have that kind of strength. In general, the more powerful a character is, the more tricky that is.”

Joe named Superman as an example and how difficult it is to create challenges for that character. “He’s a very difficult character,” Joe said. “You have to find an emotional flaw or weakness in the character in order to make them vulnerable.”

I’m having a little trouble seeing where they are coming from since Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 on April 18, 1938. Since that time he has been published consistently, including a number of classic storylines, many involving emotional flaws and weakness, that are ripe for movie interpretations.

Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel, fell victim to the same mindset. One of the big problems for many with his movie was Superman’s decision to kill Zod. Snyder said it was necessary for the character’s development. By killing the supervillain, he would take on a “no kill” policy going forward.

“I guess for me—and in the original version of the script he just got zapped into the Phantom Zone—David and I had long talks about it and Chris and I talked long about it and it was like, ‘I really think we should kill Zod and I really think Superman should kill him,'” Snyder said to Empire. “And the why of it was, for me, that if it’s truly an origin story, his aversion to killing is unexplained. It’s just in his DNA. I felt like we needed him to do something, just like him putting on the glasses or going to the Daily Planet or any of the other things that you’re sort of seeing for the first time that you realize will then become his thing.

“I felt like, if we can find a way of making it impossible for him—like Kobayashi Maru, totally no way out—I felt like that could also make you go, ‘Okay, this is the why of him not killing ever again, right?’ He’s basically obliterated his entire people and his culture and he is responsible for it and he’s just like, ‘How could I kill ever again?'”

I can see what he is trying to say but there were a number of other ways for Superman to develop without going that route.

When it comes down to it, all one has to do is look back to the first Superman with Christopher Reeves. Take the heart of that movie, inject modern technology, don’t over-complicate things, and you’re going to have a solid Superman movie.

Is a Superman really as difficult as some want you to believe?