Superman: The Christopher Nolan Effect

I know I spent last week’s post ranting about The Dark Knight Rises, but there’s a lot of shit going on surrounding the humble superhero film, so I thought I’d take a second to discuss the upcoming Man of Steel. They released a poster at Comic Con (which I didn’t bother to discuss in my Comic Con-related post) which looks like this:

Dark, broody poster. Slight frown wrinkling his oh-so-chiselled superhuman features. Beacon of hope shining across his glorious ‘S’ logo. Now take a look at this teaser trailer that came out the other day:

Woah, you guys! Does anyone else smell a rebranding? Like, I know that Superman has always been ‘the man of steel’ but usually we get a little more than just his tagline for a title. And what about that trailer? He’s got a beard and a dog. He seems like he’s doing hard labour on some tiny fishing boat somewhere. He’s hitch-hiking, for Pete’s sake! It looks positively…gritty. Superman isn’t gritty…he’s Superman! I have developed a name for this new-found phenomenon, bear with me. I’m calling it “The Christopher Nolan Effect.”

You’ve probably already guessed where this is going, but allow me to elaborate. Cast your minds back to all of the cinematic and television incarnations of the Batman that you can remember. I’m willing to bet that the first two that you think of are probably Adam West’s Batman from the TV series and Michael Keaton’s version from the Tim Burton movies. Both of those are equally valid, but they’re pretty camp and that’s what everyone remembers.

His Bat-mask literally has angry eyebrows painted on it.

Everyone thought Burton’s revamp was pretty gloomy (read as: walked, talked and rained like a Burton movie) but then you sort of remember that the Joker had a dance number to a Prince track, and no matter how creepy Jack Nicholson is there’s no moving past that.

Then, along comes Christopher Nolan and makes Batman genuinely dark again in a way that reflects some of the brilliant writing that’s appeared in the comic books in recent times. It’s the goddamn Batman with a full range of human flaws. Unsurprisingly, due to the monumental success of Nolan’s bat-films, Hollywood and DC are now trying to replicate this with Superman.

Problem with Superman is, it’s surprisingly hard to make him a fully-fledged emotional character because he’s perfect. He’s super-strong, he can fly, he has a sense of justice unfettered by the more terrible end of the spectrum of human feeling and he is like, really chiselled and handsome and shit. When they were writing the comics it got to a point for the authors where they had to stop and go, “Oh crap… We’ve created someone who is indestructible and MY GOD is that boring. There is NOTHING we can do with him. We should probably invent a weakness or something, yeah? We’ll call it uuuuh…kryptonite?”

So, existing is never really going to be all that much of a struggle for Superman. But, using faulty Hollywood logic, the fact that the Batman films were successful because of a flawed and ultimately human superhero, means that we should then repeat that formula for everything that follows it. That, ladies, gentlemen and other variations thereof, is what I have dubbed ‘The Christopher Nolan Effect.’

This is, of course, pure speculation. I’m probably being a bit mean. I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan. Man of Steel could be totally unique and surprising. I’d be willing to put money on the fact that it isn’t though. If the teaser is anything to go by, it has a grand vision of bringing humanity into the Superman character/being very similar to Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

The Man of Steel release date has been pushed way, way back to June of next year so until then, enjoy all the promotional material they’re going to attempt to excite you with and I will go back to waiting for them to make another X-Men movie or some shit.

Also, if you’re Superman super-fan and you haven’t seen the video below, you should definitely check it out. It’s by Max Landis, the writer of Chronicle (which is worth a watch) and it is a rather humorous re-telling of The Death of Superman. I laughed so hard I cried a bit.


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