Dear Mr. Singer,
We just weren’t ready, sir. We hadn’t lived long enough. Fallen in love hard enough. Read enough. We weren’t emotionally equipped enough to handle the story you had to tell. We had dumbed ourselves from years of action films, and bad Star Wars films that we forgot that it was Superman’s story, not ours. Please forgive us for our ignorance, we were simply not ready.
When I was 17 I finally sat down to see this apparent classic called Casablanca. I bought it through Columbia movie club and when it arrived I eagerly planned a night around watching the film often considered the greatest film ever made. When it was over I was sick to my stomach at how bored I had been, and how much I did not like the film. At work the next day I mentioned my dissatisfaction to a coworker whom I respected immensely. After my tirade she asked on simple question, “Have you ever been in love?” The true answer was, no. Years later after some heart breaks I watched it again, and understood it; how beautiful and wonderful the film was. I knew then, that I was just not ready on first viewing.
You told us, Mr. Singer, that the film was to be a direct sequel to Superman II. You told us it was a continuation of the story that you saw growing in the Donner films. The same films that the studio was not emotionally ready for so they took control of the sequel from him. The story that is about a man who is indestructible, who is immune to everything… everything except the base human function, love. His love for Lois, for Ma and Pa Kent, and most important, his love for us.
In the scene (and I am sorry to bore you with what you already know) where Superman takes Lois above the city, adobe the earth, and asks her what she hears, and she says, “Nothing.” and Superman says, “I hear everything.” How could he not feel for us. Our sorrow, or heart aches, our suffering. He is one man who chooses to help, to give up his own needs to be there, not only for Metropolis but the world. How deep the sadness he feels must be all encompassing, must break his heart everyday when he cant help all the voices crying out.
Superman Returns is not an action film in the traditional sense, it is a tumultuous drama filled with emotional scars and sacrifice that might not reach the levels of Eugene O’Neill, but the internal struggles that Lois (Does she leave a good relationship to be with the man she loves completely) and Clark/Superman (Does he reveal the secret that he knows Lois’ child is his, all the while working to come to terms with his own place in the spinning of the world), as well as Lois fiancé (A good man who sees Lois’ connection to Superman, and loves her and her child, but is conflicted on whether the strength of his love is secure enough to let her go).
His one true love Lois, he can never tell he loves her for her own protection, he cannot come home from work, kick off his shoes, and hold her while he talks about the hurting that he cannot quell. For all the strength, and heat vision, and flying, he can’t have the one thing that might calm his melancholy. An only child, desperately in need of someone to understand him, and yet, even if he was able to have some semblance of life, would it even help?
Mr. Singer, we fell for Nolan’s Batman because it was flashy. There was some depth there, but only just the right amount that our little brain’s could handle at the time. We are different now, we have learned more about character, and story- the seduction of those films has worn off now and we are here to tell you…. we are ready.
Ready, to hear what else you have in story for Superman. How will Clark win the hand of Lois? Will he even try? What will happen when Superman’s child grows up and needs someone to help him understand his powers? Will Superman be there for him? Will Lois let him? Will Superman want to encourage Jason into the lonely life that Superman is living? What else is there for Luther? Is he really just greedy, or does he have a larger agenda that grew out of some emotional past he wants never to think about?
If the world needs Superman, and Superman needs love, then will he finally break- is he allowed to break? If Luther was out of the picture would Superman give up his powers, again, to live a life with Lois and Jason, or did his lessons in Superman II change him irrevocably.
Mr. Singer, we are ready. People can change, they can grow, and we have. As Martha Graham said, “No artist is ahead of his time. He is the time. It is just that others are behind the time.” And we were so desperately behind the times.
The greatest Superman story never could be about Lex, or Braniac, or any other member of the motley crew of bad guys; it has to be his emotional connection to Earth or those he allows to be close to. We see now that the TV series (Lois and Clark), and Donner’s films, and Superman Returns are the only Superman stories to be told because they are about relationships. About a man who is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, yet stands at the back of the room hoping that someone will take him by the hand and love him completely. Not love his accomplishments, but love him for being him: An lonely orphaned boy hiding in plain sight.