It's been a painful week for Superman fans. First they got a reminder of what went wrong the last time someone tried to bring their favorite hero to the big screen when director Bryan Singer tried to explain why Superman Returns didn't work.
Then they were also treated to a preview of coming attractions when director Zack Snyder—now busy working on the next cinematic incarnation of the character—premiered his new masterpiece, Sucker Punch. Hasn't the Man of Steel suffered enough?
Why hasn't there been a good Superman theatrical film since 1980? Just how hard can it be to make a good Superman film? All you need is to make him the perfect hero (without making him too self-righteous), find a powerful enough enemy for him to fight (but nothing too otherworldly), make the audience take the story seriously (and also keep a healthy amount of humor and self-awareness) ... OK, so maybe it's harder than it looks.
Is Snyder the right man for the job? Even if his Superman film won't turn out to be another Sucker Punch, do we really need another Watchmen film, this time starring Superman?
The next time someone in the studios decides he wants to make a Superman film, here's a list of guys who, in our opinion, could do a much better job.
In the past decade, Verbinski established himself as Hollywood's leading man in the business of slick, entertaining films—from the effective chills of The Ring through the fun adventures of Pirates of the Caribbean to the many laughs of Rango. Verbinski is a professional director who can handle spectacular action as well as character-driven drama, and one who doesn't let his ego get in the way of the story he has to tell—in many ways, the Richard Donner of today—and exactly what a Superman film needs to become a first-rate popcorn flick.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a box-office bomb, so it's perfectly understandable why no studio would trust director Kerry Conran with a nine-figure budget, let alone have him handle a franchise like Superman. But his beautiful directorial debut, a loving salute to old-style genre cinema, proved why he's the right guy for a Superman film.
Like Snyder, he has a fetish for geek visuals, but he goes for a softer approach when presenting them on the screen—painting them with gentle brushstrokes instead of hammering them on the audience's heads. The homage to the Fleischer Brothers' Superman animated shorts from the 1940s at the beginning of Sky Captain was practically an "I want to do Superman!" cry, aimed at anyone who holds the rights.
Choosing a comedy director to make a Superman film may seem like a controversial move, but much of the charm of the Superman and Superman II films came from their humor and their lighter moments. Dean Parisot has won a Hugo award for his 1999 film Galaxy Quest, a brilliant comedy that managed to both laugh at the Star Trek fandom phenomenon and at the same time treat it with great love and sympathy—exactly the right balance needed for someone who sets out to direct a Superman film set in our current cynical world.
The many laughs Galaxy Quest provided somewhat obscured the fact that in making that film Parisot also demonstrated a talent for action. Sadly, his next directorial efforts were limited to television (let's just forget about Fun With Dick and Jane). A Superman film can make both him and the character big business in cinemas again.
The man who is arguably the greatest director in American animation has decided, for some odd reason, to do a live-action film—and for some even odder reason, this film turned out to be Mission: Impossible IV. If he insists on sticking to live action beyond that, he would at the very least be a perfect fit for a Superman film: after all, he gave us one of the greatest superhero films of all time (The Incredibles), and in his debut feature, The Iron Giant—a masterpiece in its own right—he demonstrated a great love for the character.