How Much is a Movie Allowed to Change
aka when did “Canon” become a bad word?
Obviously, I just watched Man of Steel this weekend, along with a ton of other people, but not everyone was happy with the way Superman was represented on screen. Of course with 75 years of different writers, artists, comic books, TV series, and movies there’s bound to be some discrepancies, but when does it become too far removed that it no longer resembles what the original character is supposed to represent? Personally, I’m on the side that is much more forgiving of liberties with the character. In music, I’m a big fan of remixes and mash ups, and in a way I think this translates to some of these characters. I like both the Sam Raimi and Mark Webb Spider-Man movies for different reasons, just how I like both the original Christopher Reeve Superman as well as Dean Cain’s Lois and Clark, Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel, Tom Welling’s Smallville, and several of the various animated incarnations. They are all very different from each other even though they are essentially the same character.
Now, I bring this up for a couple different reasons, and these are spoilers for Man of Steel. First up is the big issue with many fans of Superman: The death of Zod. Some people also include the deaths of all the innocent people that had to have been in all the buildings in Metropolis as well as the deaths of all the other Kryptonians, although the second half is for those who I think weren’t paying close enough attention and/or aren’t familiar enough with Superman lore. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that all the Kryptonians were sent back to the Phantom Zone in exile, not killed in a black hole singularity. The only death in that instance would be the Colonel who likely died in the crash. The civilians killed in the massive destruction in the city of Metropolis, that’s a harder one to ignore, but it’s also one of those things that falls into movie logic. The buildings are destroyed because it looks cool (and it does), you don’t see any of the fallout, and it’s the kind of destruction that’s done in comics and animation all the time and without question.
Before I get to the big question, there’s also the change with Jonathan Kent, who was always the moral center of young Clark Kent. But in this movie, he values Clark’s secrecy over the value of lives, both of young children and even his own life. And finally, when faced with Zod’s resistance and inability to submit he takes a life. This is a major change in the character of Superman, something that’s been at the heart of the character for ages. In the novelization of the comic book arc Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman was faced with a similar situation. She had a villain incapacitated with her lasso, he was mind-controlling Superman and through the Lasso of Truth said that he would never give up his control and so she killed him. Not only that, but she was recorded killing him and the event threw a massive amount of distrust toward her and many superheroes in general. In Man of Steel, there’s a moment of anguish and comfort, but many fans feel that it wasn’t taken seriously enough. I thought the moment was handled well within the context of a movie. I think they would do well to revisit the aftermath of that event in the inevitable sequel, and if it were a television show or comic book arc, the aftermath would be revisited for quite a while. But where, when, and how it happens in this movie worked for me.
How much liberty do you feel is allowed when taking over for an established character? Sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best, like the huge backlash Michael Bay was getting over his proposed changes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as the Keanu Reeves Constantine movie which I understand is almost a complete 180 degree turn from the original Hellblazer comic books. Even something like Jonah Hex, which is essentially a straight up western, when it became a movie there was a big supernatural angle added to it that was never in the comics. At the same time, Spider-Man fans were originally upset over Sam Raimi’s decision to change Parker’s web shooters to a part of his mutation rather than a creation of his own like they were in the comics. I’m sure some fans still are, but I think a large portion of them came to accept the change and I’m sure some even embraced it. Personally, I thought it actually made more sense that way, the same with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. While some people missed the ending with the giant squid, I think that most agree that tying the calamity to Dr. Manhattan was a great choice that actually improved the story rather than detracted from it. What do you think, and can you think of any other examples where a character was changed for the better rather than the worse? Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.