Let the Heroes Rest

Well, they’re making a new round of Superman movies. This news comes right after the announcement that Hollywood will also be rebooting the Spiderman franchise.

When I was a columnist for the Daily Northwestern, I wrote that I thought Hollywood should make fewer sequels and more movies with original plots and characters. I used the latest Terminator movie as an example of an uninspired sequel that strays from the vision of the original.

The new Superman and Spiderman movies are an even greater offense to our film tradition. At least the new Terminator broke new ground within the franchise. Like it or not (I did not), the new Terminator movie explored a different aspect of the Terminator universe than its predecessors. In the first three movies, we only saw Terminators sent back in time to kill humans who would end up playing a role in the future war. We never saw much of the war itself until the latest movie.

The new Star Wars and Indiana Jones films also get passes. The Star Wars prequels showed us an era of the Star Wars universe that we hadn’t seen before. “The Crystal Skull” gave us a different Indiana Jones – growing old,  even ready to settle down with a wife. And heck, at least they were made by the same talent that made the originals.

There’s no new perspective to shed on the Superman and Spiderman stories. Both franchises have been done recently. The Spiderman franchise was rebooted in 2002. I remember the excitement around it very well. There were sequels in 2004 and 2007 – less than three years ago. The series’ stars, Tobey Macguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco, are still young. The Spiderman story has already been told for our times.

Same with Superman. “Superman Returns” came out in 2006, not that long ago.

Maybe someone can revisit these franchises in a few decades, when special effects have improved, memories of the last movies have faded, and our society has changed a little bit. I didn’t mind the current Batman series, which began in 2005, even though the previous one only ended in 1997. Special effects technology progressed dramatically between “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Begins”, but more importantly, we changed. September 11th made us more paranoid and self-doubting, and as a result the new Batman movies are darker than the old ones. Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 “Batman” was obnoxious; he liked to spray paint on classic works of art. Heath Ledger’s 2008 Joker was evil and perverted, taking delight in disfiguring and murdering people. He took advantage of our society’s weaknesses to confront us with difficult moral choices.

We haven’t undergone any changes since 2007 significant enough to justify rebooting these two franchises. Leave them alone for a while. When the current Spidermans look as dated as the 1960s Batmans, then you can reboot. (OK, maybe you don’t have to wait that long.)

The sad thing is that these pointless movies occupy lots of valuable talent. Christopher Nolan, who directed “The Dark Knight” and the innovative “Memento”, shouldn’t waste his time acting as a “mentor” for the new Superman. He should be making another “Memento”.

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