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  1. #1
    Extraordinary Member Lightning Rider's Avatar
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    Default How could a Superman movie with no villain/antagonist work?

    Leaving reboots and current DCEU continuity aside, do you think a movie that focuses on Superman as a character study with no antagonist could work well with audiences? I don't mean an edgy deconstruction, but a movie that delves into Superman and the many ways he affects those around him. Neither am I suggesting a movie devoid of action of course, but a movie without a conventional villain. No fist-fighting robots or aliens or monsters.

    The reason I bring this up is because, when I think about what big screen representations of Superman lack (or small screen, or most print for that matter), it's the more subtle aspects of the character. You can definitely have a movie with a villain that includes lots of small novel moments that reinforce the magic of superman, but I thought it would be interesting to contemplate one where Superman doesn't punch anyone. He might struggle against natural disasters, moral dillemas, scientific problems, but not a true antagonist. Maybe there's a world-ending supernova on the horizon, or a disaster that unleashes the zoo in the fortress of solitude, or a kid who asks him to cure cancer, or all 3. Could a movie like this work? (Obviously anything done "well enough" could work, but do you think it's realistically feasible? And if so, how?)

    The one thing that prevents me from thinking it could work is Superman Returns. Although Lex is the villain, Superman spends much of the movie struggling against non-personified obstacles, and it felt a bit flat as a result. But part of me feels like there's an idea here. I think it might rest on making much of the movie from his perspective, which is an idea I've toyed with for a bit.

  2. #2
    Mighty Member Adekis's Avatar
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    I've said before that I think a Superman movie where the closest things to a "villain" are generalized corruption and maybe even just modernity, could be really interesting. On the other hand, movies are made to be sold to a really broad and general audience, to condense the purest form of a character's adventures to the biggest number of people ever. Maybe a story like that would do better as a graphic novel than as a movie - especially as Batman v Superman flirted with "Superman vs the World," and while sure, I kinda thought those were the best parts, it's not like audiences in general loved them. Probably a big, fun slugfest would do better. Emphasis on fun.

    But you know. That doesn't mean your idea isn't a good one in the abstract. I just don't know how it'd work as a movie.
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  3. #3
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    I think his first four years or so, before the Snake, at the very least suggest that you don't need a villian in mind. I know everyone wants Brainiac and I love him... but the superhero movie motions to me are pretty boring and as weird as it may sound, I don't want more than the Prankster. He's also not a slouch for a non violent approach... I don't even remember any during StM but it's been a while.

    I'm less into dwelling on who he's supposed to be though, and would say my preferred way of spending about two hours would largely involve approaching him as a tall tale of a detective.
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  4. #4
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    Yeah, sure, why not? I mean, Superman: The Movie is basically just that.

    I think there's a strong chance for something akin to All Star Superman issue 10 to work splendidly on the big screen. Just a day-in-the-life movie staring Superman. You could even take a bit more from All Star an have the film use the rising and setting sun thematically through our solar hero's journey through his day. The film would act as a thesis Superman and the perfect jumping on point for a new set of films if they like.

    I'd say go for a Reservoir Dogs style structure where not everything is in chronological order for our hero's day. This would also allow the filmmaker to rewind time an add new layers or aspects to a previous moment in the day we weren't aware of before (you know, like maybe Lois factored into a scene in a way we weren't originally aware of).

    But, since this or any new film should act as a thesis, he should still be allowed to be a bit impressive and punch something with an equivalent to a face just a bit even though it's not the 'big bad'.
    Last edited by Superlad93; 12-11-2019 at 10:57 PM.
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  5. #5
    Astonishing Member DochaDocha's Avatar
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    I would watch a Superman movie with no real villain/antagonist, but since one of the biggest gripes I constantly read about Superman Returns is that he threw no punches and that "the movie's biggest villain is an island/continent," I'm afraid it wouldn't go well. If they could get away with it, it would have to be one helluva personal story. Maybe the issue needs to be something a little more intriguing to the audiences than a treacherous landmass.

    EDIT: I did like the All-Star Superman movie ending in which he got the biggest scumbag in the world Lex Luthor to see the error in his ways. Assuming you're not going for a grand villain like Luthor, maybe just to get a smaller-time criminal to want to be a good guy would be good enough, like Bibbo.
    Last edited by DochaDocha; 12-12-2019 at 12:32 AM.

  6. #6
    Incredible Member tbaron's Avatar
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    I think in todays culture and the taste of the casual movie fan you need a villain. The Marvel movies really set people up to want a popcorn action beat em up ride. I think that is the Reeves Superman were released today it would bomb.
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  7. #7
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    You could but you could do that with a lot of heroes. Like a Batman movie centered around a strong mystery and great deductive reasoning while showing cutting age forensic and investigative skills that actually show Bruce as the worlds greatest detective would be great.

    If you are doing a story where Superman is dealing with more esoteric problems that require other skills in his tool set then that's great and I'd love to see it. If your reasoning is merely that fighting people is too violent or something for Superman then you're wrong and probably need to have him fight someone all the more until people realize that is simply a poor stance to have on the character.
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  8. #8
    Astonishing Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Something like that would honestly probably work better as an episode of that Strange Adventures anthology they’re working on. Nowadays people demand lots of spectacle and action with their movies, and I just don’t think a movie without Superman fighting would work.

  9. #9
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Too much fighting, not enough fighting. Well after $800 million of movies you hope the porridge is just right on the action temperature.

    Quote Originally Posted by The World View Post
    You could but you could do that with a lot of heroes. Like a Batman movie centered around a strong mystery and great deductive reasoning while showing cutting age forensic and investigative skills that actually show Bruce as the worlds greatest detective would be great.

    If you are doing a story where Superman is dealing with more esoteric problems that require other skills in his tool set then that's great and I'd love to see it. If your reasoning is merely that fighting people is too violent or something for Superman then you're wrong and probably need to have him fight someone all the more until people realize that is simply a poor stance to have on the character.
    Yeah I think the biggest fundamental lost is that Superman is pretty much a handyman for problems of all shapes and sizes. I'd include as much action to play into the aspect of "problem solver" as relevant and I'm not concerned about entering Batman territory because it's not like he's any sort of detective in any of these movies himself.
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  10. #10
    Fantastic Member magha_regulus's Avatar
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    I say take a page from dr. Who and star trek and have some really trippy sci fi space anomalies, bizarro world on a collision course with earth; orphaned and hungry baby sun eater, an invasion of microscopic people who's home world was destroyed but have the effect of an incurable disease on the people of earth. That sort of thing. Sci fi ethical issues with no easy answers where superman does what's best for everyone involved.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member phantom1592's Avatar
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    yeah... both 'the movie' and 'returns' could be seen as movies without villains... or edited to remove Lex without a major issue and that is one of the biggest complaints about those shows.

    Personally I'll be happy if we can get a movie where Superman doesn't 'die' or get critically injured.... My personal dream for a 'villain' would be Mxyptlyk. Some good old fashioned mischief and mayhem... but without the real threat of city destroying angst and destruction.

  12. #12
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning Rider View Post
    Leaving reboots and current DCEU continuity aside, do you think a movie that focuses on Superman as a character study with no antagonist could work well with audiences? I don't mean an edgy deconstruction, but a movie that delves into Superman and the many ways he affects those around him. Neither am I suggesting a movie devoid of action of course, but a movie without a conventional villain. No fist-fighting robots or aliens or monsters.

    The reason I bring this up is because, when I think about what big screen representations of Superman lack (or small screen, or most print for that matter), it's the more subtle aspects of the character. You can definitely have a movie with a villain that includes lots of small novel moments that reinforce the magic of superman, but I thought it would be interesting to contemplate one where Superman doesn't punch anyone. He might struggle against natural disasters, moral dillemas, scientific problems, but not a true antagonist. Maybe there's a world-ending supernova on the horizon, or a disaster that unleashes the zoo in the fortress of solitude, or a kid who asks him to cure cancer, or all 3. Could a movie like this work? (Obviously anything done "well enough" could work, but do you think it's realistically feasible? And if so, how?)

    The one thing that prevents me from thinking it could work is Superman Returns. Although Lex is the villain, Superman spends much of the movie struggling against non-personified obstacles, and it felt a bit flat as a result. But part of me feels like there's an idea here. I think it might rest on making much of the movie from his perspective, which is an idea I've toyed with for a bit.
    I honestly don't think the problem is *really* a lack of someone to punch. I think the real problem is that (in the case of SR), as grandiose as the threat is, most of what he does is lifting and heat visioning. It's technically "action," but it's still fairly sedentary.

    To show what I mean, contrast that with how Superman fights the giant death ray's effects in Fleischer's "The Mad Scientist". Does Superman hit anybody? Not really. Does he absolutely hit something? Yes - over and over again.

    The difference is the kinetic nature of it all. Superman could fight a natural disaster and it could be amazing. For it's time, S:tM certainly was. But now, something that he's directly going after in the disaster is necessary - punching boulders to make a wall, fusing ground together, all of that and more should be done and be as hard-hitting as possible.

    For contrast, I love the idea of a B plot similar to "Superman #64" to show the human side along with the amazingly powerful one.


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  13. #13
    I'm at least a C-Lister! exile001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    For contrast, I love the idea of a B plot similar to "Superman #64" to show the human side along with the amazingly powerful one.
    I completely misread that as "a B-movie plot similar to Superman 64", the legendarily bad N64 video game, and burst out laughing.
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  14. #14
    Savior of the Universe Flash Gordon's Avatar
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    I'd love to see Superman film with no villian, but instead just general corruption. Superman going up against sex perverts and billionaire slim bags. Natural disasters. Corporations just looting and pillaging society.

    Fellas like Lex Luthor and Bruno Mannheim can be in the film but as supporting cast, essentially.

    Superman vs the Mole Men is likely the best film depiction of the character and he comes to the aid of the Mole Men ultimately. The movie is more about xenophobia and racism.
    Last edited by Flash Gordon; 12-13-2019 at 01:03 PM.
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  15. #15
    (formerly "Superman") JAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by exile001 View Post
    I completely misread that as "a B-movie plot similar to Superman 64", the legendarily bad N64 video game, and burst out laughing.
    LOL!!! That's awesome.

    I honestly can never see "Superman 64" typed out and not think of one of the reviews that came out at the time, saying the graphics were so bad that Superman looked like, and I quote:

    "A flying log in panties".
    And now it's in your head. You're welcome. lol!
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