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Launching a Superhero Genre Wasn’t His Intention, Says 'Superman' Director Donner (1 Viewer)

BillyGil

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BURBANK, Calif. — Director Richard Donner admits he had a unique opportunity with Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, being the first director to complete a film he left during production, with nearly all of his footage already in the can.

“I’d just forgotten it,” said Donner, 81. “It was over and done with.”


Nearly 30 years after footage for the film was shot — and Donner was replaced by Richard Lester to finish production — Warner Home Video released Donner’s version of the film, to the delight of Superman fans.


June 7 Warner will do it again, this time with the release of Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1978-2006) on Blu-ray Disc.


Read more at http://www.homemediamagazine.com/warner/launching-a-superhero-genre-wasn-t-his-intention-says-superman-director-donner-24114?utm_source=agentdvd&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=agentmonthly_06_03_2011&utm_content=launching-a-superhero-genre-wasn-t-his-intention-says-superman-director-donner-24114
 

Ruz-El

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He's really taking credit with launching the super hero genre with those two movies? Huh...
 

Will Krupp

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Originally Posted by Russell G

He's really taking credit with launching the super hero genre with those two movies? Huh...


I think he's entitled to that credit. Before 1978's SUPERMAN, super heroes were relegated to TV series, low budget serials, or campy theatrical movies like 1966's BATMAN. The 1978 Donner movie opened the door to the big budget, "serious" superhero franchise we have come to take for granted. I can still clearly remember what a BIG deal it was that this was such a new, sophisticated take on the mythology of SUPERMAN at the time. Again, I think that credit is completely warranted. If he had fucked it up, there wouldn't have been a III or IV or (most likely) a greenlight on Tim Burton's BATMAN.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I agree with Will. 1978's "Superman" really was a huge achievement in the genre, as it made superhero movies acceptable for "name" actors and "event" movies, not just crap for the kiddies.


Granted, the first two Superman movies didn't do much to start a trend since there wouldn't be another real superhero hit until 1989. "Batman" had more of an impact on the genre in terms of direct influence, I think. "Superman" sowed the seeds - like I said, it made it okay for superhero movies to be seen as "A" films - but it didn't bring about a series of successful successors.


Heck, I can't even recall any other big-time comic book movies from the late 70s or early 80s. There must be some, but I can't think of them.


On the other hand, "Batman" set off a clear string of comic book successors. Other than Bats, only TMNT did well, though, which is why the genre faded again after a few years.


I think "X-Men" was the first salvo in the renewed, modern popularity of superhero movies, but "Spider-Man" was the biggest influence. Without the huge success of "Spider-Man", the genre might've faded again, but it made such insane money that it launched a whole lot movie comic book movies.


Unlike the 70s and 80s, enough of these succeeded to keep the genre popular - which is where it remains nine years after "Spidey".


So I think Sam Raimi deserves more credit for the current string of hit comic book movies, but without Donner, it's possible - probable? - none of the genre's later success ever would've happened...
 

Josh Steinberg

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I agree with Will and Colin - Richard Donner did what had been unthinkable at the time. He really made you believe a man could fly. He took the project seriously, and portrayed a vision of Superman that was noble and pure, that dared to take itself and its subject matter seriously. From everything that's been said over the years of how the original writers and producers on the project wanted the film to be, it seems that they would have been content with a high camp factor and decent special effects. Richard Donner wanted to make a Superman movie that was as real and believable as could be - and I think that's why it holds up so well after all these years. It's an expression of pure joy, and he made it soar.


I don't think Raimi's Spider-Man movies are nearly as good as the general consensus is (to be fair, I don't think the Spider-Man character is as compelling as most people do either), but they definitely owe a debt of gratitude to what Donner did. And whether it was Spider-Man or X-Men and X2 or Spider-Man that made it OK to make superhero movies again (and the success of Batman Begins not long after that), I don't think any of those movies would have been what they were had it not been for Donner's Superman. That's not to say that his film necessarily had a direct influence on those later films; but his films did make it believable to both studio people and audiences that one could do a superhero film with that level of class and sophistication, in terms of both story, style, and production values.
 

Colin Jacobson

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Originally Posted by Josh Steinberg


Spidey and Batman are essentially tied as my fave superheros. Kinda interesting if you see that they're really similar in a lot of ways: both were "created" due to the murders of loved ones. The difference is that Bats took his anger out on the world while Spidey's a lot more motivated by guilt and anger at himself.


"Dark Knight" is currently my favorite superhero film, but "Spidey" was really the first that I felt got it right. I hated the way Raimi altered Spidey's origin, but loved everything else about it. I thought Raimi truly captured the spirit of the comics, and I loved the ambivalent ending. Spidey's not a character who ever "wins", and Raimi got that right - each of his three films ends with a note of melancholy or foreboding, and I adore that.


"Spidey 2" is probably a better film than the first one, but I still love the latter more. I just couldn't get over how "right" it felt...
 

Sam Favate

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I think as the superhero movie genre goes, there are three films that are really important: First is Superman (1978), which is a great film and which showed that treating the source material with respect could make for a successful movie. The second is Batman (1989), which showed that a darker, more mature atmosphere for these films could make them even more successful, and they got more respect for getting rid of the campy constraints of the past. The third is Spider-Man (2002), which combined the respect for source material and the darker tone, and was massively successful on its opening weekend, to the tune of $115 million, which showed that these films could be hugely profitable very quickly, and which set off the current craze of superhero films which has lasted 10 years or so.
 

Matt Hough

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I think Batman Begins also deserves a long, low bow of respect for proving that superhero franchises could be relaunched with great success without having to wait decades to do so. After the disappointing box-office returns and overwhelmingly negative critical reaction to Batman & Robin, the franchise seemed to be deader than dead. Batmaqn Begins jump started a new way of thinking about franchise properties.


Now, with new X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman, and supposedly Daredevil (among others), giving new birth to old favorites is a very viable option for studios.
 

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While I enjoyed Batman Begins, I hate that it gave Hollywood the idea that everything must be constantly "rebooted" every few years. Do we really need to see the origins of Superman and Spiderman yet again?
 

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While I think everyone has valid points about which films have allowed the genre to endure and reach new heights, Donner's insinuation is still valid IMHO. Batman didn't get on the radar at WB until after Superman hit, even if it did still take a decade for it to be in theaters. The current boom started with X-Men and Spider-Man, both of which (especially Spider-Man) owe a big thanks to Donner for showing them to tell an effective origin story and start your franchise. If you want to give credit to Batman Begins for kicking things into overdrive, I think Nolan himself even said that was the Batman version of the first Superman.


The only reason I can think of for why it ultimately took so long for Superman's impact to be realized is that its primary influence was on modern filmmakers who were children when it was released. I'm not saying all of these other movies are rip-offs in any way. I think some of them are fantastic and great films in their own right. They're just made in a mold that Donner established.
 

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I think that the greatest reason for the dominance of the super hero genre in the last 10 years is the development of computer animation. Most superheros really could not be realistically presented on screen without it.
 

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Originally Posted by JoeDoakes

I think that the greatest reason for the dominance of the super hero genre in the last 10 years is the development of computer animation. Most superheros really could not be realistically presented on screen without it.

I agree completely with what Joe said.


Regardless of the success or failure of earlier attempts, someone would have continued taking shots at the superhero concepts. It was only with the improvements to CGI that it all really took off.
 

robbbb1138

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Originally Posted by smithb



I agree completely with what Joe said.


Regardless of the success or failure of earlier attempts, someone would have continued taking shots at the superhero concepts. It was only with the improvements to CGI that it all really took off.

That's definitely a major factor (especially in terms of how ambitious they've become), but I think that a ton of these projects were in pre-production in the 90s but never happened because of the approach. It wasn't until Singer and Raimi tried to mimic Donner's Superman instead of Burton's Batman that things were greenlit.
 

smithb

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Originally Posted by robbbb1138

That's definitely a major factor (especially in terms of how ambitious they've become), but I think that a ton of these projects were in pre-production in the 90s but never happened because of the approach. It wasn't until Singer and Raimi tried to mimic Donner's Superman instead of Burton's Batman that things were greenlit.

I don't think X-Men and Spiderman had anything to do with mimicing Superman over Batman. Batman has pretty much always been dark while Superman has always been "apple pie". IMO, the later superhero releases were just trying to stay true to form to the characters involved. Some find the Fantastic Four movies cheesy but in a sense the comics dealt with their family squabbles. The success of the earlier TV shows and movies (superman, hulk, wonder woman, etc) were based on what could be done in a way viewers could accept without feeling it was too corny. Early attempts at a spiderman and even a Thor and daredevil (I believe) failed because no could accept how the powers were presented (they weren't credible). Yet in animation they were all doing well for many years. Even if Donner didn't get his way and the original Superman was a flop, I still think we would have superhero movies today just because technologically it is feasible in a way it never was before. All it would have taken is one success and as we all know hollywood is bandwagon driven so the rest would follow.


I'm not saying previous successes didn't have an impact. They may have helped in greenligting projects sooner. But I just think it was the technological advances in CGI that has had the biggest impact on the explosion of movies about superheroes we have today and it would have happened eventually regardless of the older Superman or Batman movies.
 

Aaron Silverman

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Originally Posted by Worth

While I enjoyed Batman Begins, I hate that it gave Hollywood the idea that everything must be constantly "rebooted" every few years. Do we really need to see the origins of Superman and Spiderman yet again?

I think Hollywood got that idea all on its own. Of course, Batman Begins may have had some influence on that because it was so good. Then again, its non-reboot sequel was even better!


There is probably a lot of merit to the idea that today's filmmakers were influenced as kids by Donner's Superman. Those movies (the first two, at least) were huge.
 

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I have to agree with the others about superman. superman is the father to all of the comic book movies that we have been seeing in the last 30 years or so. superman was a big success back in 1978. it was number 1 for many weeks before. at a time when movies had a chance to breath in the theatre. it opened the doors for batman 89 and of course in 2000 with xmen, spidey and many others. donner is right.


Jacob
 

Chuck Anstey

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Originally Posted by TheBat

I have to agree with the others about superman. superman is the father to all of the comic book movies that we have been seeing in the last 30 years or so. superman was a big success back in 1978. it was number 1 for many weeks before. at a time when movies had a chance to breath in the theatre. it opened the doors for batman 89 and of course in 2000 with xmen, spidey and many others. donner is right. [Bolded]


Jacob

I have to disagree that Superman 1978 had much of anything to do with those movies listed. Comic book movies are always retried every 10 years or so regardless of the past. Now maybe Superman allowed Swamp Thing to get made but I think it is taking way too much credit to say it started anything. If you say 11 years as a reasonable gap to have influence then you could say that Batman: The Movie started it all as that was just 12 years before Superman.


During the '70s and '80s, comic books were on TV. Even after Batman 1989 most new live-action comic book heroes went to TV. I have to agree with others that believe we have a glut of superhero movies because of advancements in CGI to make it possible for much less money or much more believable for the same money.
 

MattAlbie60

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Yeah, but to be fair, countless filmmakers have said that their superhero movies were directly inspired by the verisimilitude that Donner showed with SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. Bryan Singer said it about X-MEN and Christopher Nolan said the same thing about BATMAN BEGINS.


Those movies existed on TV specifically because that's where they belonged. Donner helped to show that you can make a series SUPERMAN movie that actually needs to be done as a movie and not on television.


And prior to Burton's BATMAN '89, Tom Mankiewicz was hired to write it (they eventually ended up going another way) specifically because of what he was able to do with SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.


Like it or not, Donner and SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE deserve a lot of credit.
 

Chuck Anstey

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Originally Posted by MattAlbie60

Yeah, but to be fair, countless filmmakers have said that their superhero movies were directly inspired by the verisimilitude that Donner showed with SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. Bryan Singer said it about X-MEN and Christopher Nolan said the same thing about BATMAN BEGINS.


Those movies existed on TV specifically because that's where they belonged. Donner helped to show that you can make a series SUPERMAN movie that actually needs to be done as a movie and not on television.
Being inspired by or trying to write something as good as a previous movie is not the same thing as the existence of that previous movie allowing a new movie to be made. I don't doubt that most writers / directors aspired to make a movie as popular or as well received as Superman but that does not mean if it wasn't for Superman The Movie none of these other movies would ever have been made. They just might have been a little or a lot worse.
 

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