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  1. #1
    Legendary Member daBronzeBomma's Avatar
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    Default Why does Clark have more success on the small screen instead of the big screen?

    Superman is, by far, the most successful superhero on live-action television ever.

    Since the medium has been around, Clark has already had 4 TV shows centered on him, with a 5th one on the way:


    THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN ran from 1951 thru 1957 for a total of 6 seasons and 104 episodes.

    SUPERBOY ran from 1988 thru 1992 for 4 seasons and 100 episodes.

    LOIS & CLARK ran from 1993 thru 1997 for 4 seasons and 87 episodes.

    SMALLVILLE ran from 2001 thru 2011 for 10 seasons and 217 episodes.

    SUPERMAN & LOIS will run from 2020 onwards.


    And that's not yet counting his spinoff TV sagas like SUPERGIRL and KRYPTON.

    So ... isn't this a bit odd?

    Clark is arguably the most powerful of all superheroes. You'd think he'd be a natural for the big screen and find consistent success there, only he hasn't. Whereas, he seems much more comfortable on the small screen that quite frankly rarely has the budget to let him cut loose.

    Why does Clark consistently work better on tv than film?

  2. #2
    Savior of the Universe Flash Gordon's Avatar
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    It's because he gets flicks like SUPERMAN RETURNS and BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. That's not even mentioning JUSTICE LEAGUE, which is hardly a "movie". Those aren't going to make anyone interested in the character.

    SMALLVILLE, for instance, had it's flaws but also had purpose and interest in exploring the character and his world. All of those shows, really.

    People always harken to the '78 flick as the be all end all, but really the reason it has lasting power is because it was a fully formed aesthetic. It had vision. When was the last time Superman had a real visionary take on him? MAN OF STEEL was different, sure- but was never followed up on in any way that mattered. It also ended without real resolution and that resolution never came in another feature. So ultimately it was just "stuff happened on screen for a while".
    Last edited by Flash Gordon; 11-18-2019 at 05:32 AM.
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  3. #3
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daBronzeBomma View Post
    Why does Clark consistently work better on tv than film?
    I think a lot of it has to do with nuance. If they screw something up on a TV show, they have 12-ish or more episodes to learn and do better. It has time (hopefully) to "find it's legs" and figure out what works. If the team is smart, they'll learn and lean into what works.

    But with movies? It's like having a pilot episode that just has a massive budget. And the next movie is just episode two. Not nearly the same amount of screen time to correct what's wrong, and since these things take so long to make, that restricts the prep time - so they're hit two different ways.

    Add in WB's almost instinctive idiocy when it comes to Superman, and movies become a match made in hell. lol So it's to the point where I'd rather see a tv series than a movie - with perhaps the exception of making a movie using a TV cast. Not that a movie can't work, but Superman is a particular enough property that it's a lot harder to make work without a team who has a good understanding of the character.
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  4. #4
    Incredible Member Blue22's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daBronzeBomma View Post
    .
    Why does Clark consistently work better on tv than film?
    Because the best they can do with him seems to be Man of Steel. You'd think with a bar that low, making good Superman movies after it would be a piece of cake. But no. They got worse and worse until his very best appearance in the DCEU was a faceless cameo in Shazam.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Hey! Atleast superman gets tv shows. Most guys that old i gotten into are pretty irrelevant except for tintin, captain america. I could also count batman. but i am not that interested in the character .i mean from comics side ofcourse
    Last edited by manwhohaseverything; 11-18-2019 at 06:52 AM.

  6. #6
    Mighty Member Yoda's Avatar
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    I think Superman works better in the serialized format because it allows for more character work, which allows for people to get more into Clark's head and character in a way that is harder (but not impossible) to do in movies and thus makes it that much harder to make a compelling story. I think the ability to course correct or adapt to play to different strengths and audience reaction gives television a far larger margin of error than a movie in that sense. Smallville adapted over the course of it's 10 seasons to the point where the closing seasons may as well have been a completely different show. Even shows like Titans have evolved in the course of two seasons into something that is very different from it's pilot.

    All of the best drama and storytelling in the last 15 years has been on television. You get one or two solid movies that make a cultural impact a year - if that. It's harder to hit that narrative gold in movie. Think that's true for Superman as well.
    Last edited by Yoda; 11-18-2019 at 07:18 AM.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    I think Superman works better in the serialized format because it allows for more character work, which allows for people to get more into Clark's head and character in a way that is harder (but not impossible) to do in movies and thus makes it that much harder to make a compelling story. I think the ability to course correct or adapt to play to different strengths and audience reaction gives television a far larger margin of error than a movie in that sense. Smallville adapted over the course of it's 10 seasons to the point where the closing seasons may as well have been a completely different show. Even shows like Titans have evolved in the course of two seasons into something that is very different from it's pilot.

    All of the best drama and storytelling in the last 15 years has been on television. You get one or two solid movies that make a cultural impact a year - if that. It's harder to hit that narrative gold in movie. Think that's true for Superman as well.
    That's not true. Superman should be interesting without explanation. That's when we truly hit the jackpot. Until, then the character is going to struggle. One of the main problems the character has is that he is seen and written as modern superhero like everyone else. For me, Morrision gets it. The character should be treated like his predecessors in pulp fiction. I think brad bird is the only guy in Hollywood today that gets superman and can present him in a modernized way for mass audience.
    Last edited by manwhohaseverything; 11-18-2019 at 07:33 AM.

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    In this particular case, I would argue it's because of bad management at WB. They COULD make good movies, they just have stupid people in charge of the movie division. "Hey, let's take the same dark tone we did with Batman and apply it to Superman!" Gee, can't imagine why that was so divisive. With TV shows, you have people outside the immediate studio you have to answer to. Like the network. With movies, there's no real accountability to anyone outside the studio until the movies hit the screen. If you take a Superman show to a network, it's outside eyes getting a look at it and maybe giving you a little bit more of an objective view. It's easy to think something is brilliant when you're the one making it.

    I think it's also that the Donner movies got it right the first time and everyone since has been trying to re-invent the wheel. Everyone wants their own "take" on the character. "How can we improve him?" Well, in a lot of ways you can't. So you get things like Smallville that ask "what was Superman like in high school?" or Lois and Clark which asks "what if it was a rom-com only with Superman characters?" Variations on a theme. Batman is kind of hard to do because he costs money. You have to pay for props and vehicles and weapons and basically have Bruce Wayne's actual budget. Whereas with Superman, you pay for a costume and a halfway decent CGI division and you're good to go. He's cheaper to do.
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  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Superman has had more consistent success on TV than movies. The Donner Superman movie was a big success. The sequel wasn't all that bad. So Superman does have success in movies it's just not on a consistent basis.


    I think fundamentally, the TV series because of smaller budgets have had more freedom to do takes on Superman that update and modify his stories while keeping the core stable.

    People also talk about how TV shows allow more room for characterization and to be frank I think the problem with the live action Superman is that whether it's Donner, or Bryan Singer, or Snyder, there seems to be a reluctance to treat Superman as a character in a story. They always treat Superman as some cultural icon and treasure, or quasi-religious guy. I am not saying Superman is all of these things, but I think to be any of that meaningfully he needs to be a character, a guy with an internal life and sense of self.

    I don't think it's because of any limitations of the medium. Other heroes whether it's Thor or Batman or Spider-Man or Wonder Woman have been treated as characters in the movies. I think film-makers need to try and make Superman and Clark Kent relatable and compelling. Superman can be a little flawed, i.e. maybe too naive, and emotional, so he can be approached as a character you can relate to.

  10. #10
    Mighty Member Yoda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manwhohaseverything View Post
    That's not true. Superman should be interesting without explanation. That's when we truly hit the jackpot. Until, then the character is going to struggle. One of the main problems the character has is that he is seen and written as modern superhero like everyone else. For me, Morrision gets it. The character should be treated like his predecessors in pulp fiction. I think brad bird is the only guy in Hollywood today that gets superman and can present him in a modernized way for mass audience.
    Because Brad Bird knows how to tell a story and build character arcs. I said it was harder, not impossible, to tell the type of story he needs. Brad Bird can do that type of character work in a movie. Iron Giant alone has more.narrative and character development than half the superhero movies combined.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member DochaDocha's Avatar
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    I'd call TV Superman since L&C only mildly successful, like Man of Steel. L&C was a bit of a hit originally, but the ratings (and writing) took a nosedive midway through. Smallville ran 10 seasons on WB/CW, but that makes it something akin to the big fish in a small pond. The last time I'd say Superman made a huge splash would be the Donner movies.

    Wasn't around for the B&W shows, so can't comment.

  12. #12
    Astonishing Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    IN animation you had Bruce Timm's Superman the Animated Series which was a great show but seems to not get as much press as BTAS.

    There hasn't been a Superman cartoon since then, I mean think about that since the '90s, there's not been a single Superman cartoon.

  13. #13
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    I have to third the notion that Superman's design is that of a serial character. I guess you can call it complexity but I think you just need a deep, involved story to show enough of him.
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  14. #14
    Astonishing Member manwhohaseverything's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    Because Brad Bird knows how to tell a story and build character arcs. I said it was harder, not impossible, to tell the type of story he needs. Brad Bird can do that type of character work in a movie. Iron Giant alone has more.narrative and character development than half the superhero movies combined.
    It's only hard because of the mindset and perception ,though. Nothing else. If people can make characters like samurai jack who is similar to clark in many ways.they are both pleasant individuals with great power who help people with it. beating bad guys in the process . They both can jump high too, lol! .Then i don't think its that hard. But nobody goes for that with superman.Nobody thinks of superman when doing such things. They generally just jump to batman. For instance, batman of shanghai.

  15. #15
    Savior of the Universe Flash Gordon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    I think a lot of it has to do with nuance. If they screw something up on a TV show, they have 12-ish or more episodes to learn and do better. It has time (hopefully) to "find it's legs" and figure out what works. If the team is smart, they'll learn and lean into what works.

    But with movies? It's like having a pilot episode that just has a massive budget. And the next movie is just episode two. Not nearly the same amount of screen time to correct what's wrong, and since these things take so long to make, that restricts the prep time - so they're hit two different ways.

    Add in WB's almost instinctive idiocy when it comes to Superman, and movies become a match made in hell. lol So it's to the point where I'd rather see a tv series than a movie - with perhaps the exception of making a movie using a TV cast. Not that a movie can't work, but Superman is a particular enough property that it's a lot harder to make work without a team who has a good understanding of the character.
    I think herein lies a bit of the problem, too. The insistence that a movie must be serialized and that it must lead to an expansive series of films. Superman may work best as a serialized character, but on paper something like The Rocketeer should also be serialized and that film is a very contained.

    If we look at the most successful superhero joints, they're flicks with a vision. A true aesthetic. Logan, The Dark Knight, Joker, Superman '77, Batman '89. Aquaman had this too. The big Marvel movies may be loud and homogeneous but they have a distinct style to them that floats across.

    Superman needs that. He needs something personal with room to breathe. It doesn't need to be dark and introspective, and it doesn't need to be overly silly. It just needs to be something.
    Last edited by Flash Gordon; 11-18-2019 at 08:37 AM.
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