Way before Marvel decided to make Superhero movies left, right and centre, Warner Bros was making Superman films.
Kicking off the franchise in 1978, Superman starred Christopher Reeve and was a huge commercial and financial success. Reeve was propelled into the stratosphere as a capable and intelligent actor, moving between macho Superman and jittery Clark Kent.
The three films to follow received a mixed reception with Superman II doing well at the box office, but Superman III and Superman IV: Quest For Peace hardly making an impact compared to other blockbusters at the time. This was largely due to an on going feud during the third film between executive producers’ and actors’ creative differences making the films less than consistent. After the films lack of box office success, the fourth film was given a comparatively small budget and although Reeve contributed largely to the story the budget restraints meant the vision was impossible to pull off.
Bryan Singer’s Superman film starring Brandon Routh in 2006 was received by critics and audiences alike with disappointment. The original interest of Clark Kent had gone and been replaced by Hollywood gloss and a confusing and nonsensical narrative. On the other hand, the most recent addition, Man of Steel has been received positively and looks to have assured the franchise will continue with Henry Cavill wearing the tights and Zack Snyder helming the films, which will compete with mega blockbuster competitors.
Throughout the franchise, explosions with fire keep to a pretty consistent level. After the first film’s starting level of 3, films 2-5 include between 8 and 12 fire-explosions each. Man of Steel increases this to 59 as the film boldly positions itself as a major blockbuster film amongst the new crowd of films and franchises. However, this doesn’t even represent the newest outings’ action output as Man of Steel admittedly includes the annihilation of an entire city (with very few fire-explosions to be seen and mostly shattering glass) at the hands of both Superman and General Zod’s scrapping in the street.
The annihilation of the city was all done to save lives with the first and fifth films both representing the most events when ‘Superman does something to save lives.’ This is appropriate as both films are launching (or re-launching) the franchise so need to show Superman’s super-routine. Man of Steel is again a relaunch of the franchise but comes in with almost half of this with a lowly 5 events. Because this is an origin story, he is really starting to find his feet, and because this is more focused on his human journey in the first film, we can let that go. As a side note, he does save and also kill thousands of people in his scrap with General Zod so hero or villain, we’re not entirely sure what Superman is anymore! Superman II moves on to deal with Superman’s interaction with humanity but we think Man of Steel’s sequel will go the opposite way and focus more on a major villain and big action conflicts similar to the approach taken by Star Trek: Into Darkness.
It may come as a surprise to find that the original Superman excluded any ‘freeze breath’ or ‘laser eye’ moments but included the only ever use of X-Ray vision in the franchise until the newest instalment. We’d like to put this down to budgeting costs and fear of cramming in too much too soon on the first Superman but we couldn’t say for sure.
With the franchise now running at full speed with Man of Steel clocking up major box office success (the gross was significantly better than any other Superman film) and a collision course for Batman vs Superman in 2015 we’re excited to see where the franchise goes. Superman is such a brilliant and iconic character so we’re hoping Zack Snyder, David S. Goyer, with a little help from Christopher Nolan, can continue the dark undertones of Man of Steel as a nice break from the more glitzy and comedic Marvel Superhero’s.
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