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Feature: Superman Returns
From Superman IV through battles with producers, polar bears and giant spiders to Bryan Singerís 2006 epic. Follow the story that finally led to the day when Superman ReturnsÖ
So, looking back over 100 years of cinema itís difficult to find a film that has managed to destroy a movie franchise quite as effectively as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Director Richard Donnerís 1978 original Superman: The Movie, was a huge box office hit and brought the Man of Steel to life with an epic story of such grandeur that it is considered to this day to be the high watermark of superhero movie-making.
Superman II, which followed two years later, was a worthy successor, although slightly marred by the in-fighting that saw Donner replaced by Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers) mid-shoot. While Lesterís finished film was less grand in scope than the original, it had enough out-and-out action to satisfy both die-hard Superman fans and the general movie-going public.
Unfortunately, the rot started to set in with Superman III. Co-starring the late Richard Pryor and directed by Lester, this third instalment seemed like little more than a vehicle for the then hugely popular comedian. With the mythic elements that made the first two films such a success sidelined, Superman III suffered at the box office and was savaged by critics.
Its successor, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, was directed by Sidney J Furie (The Ipcress File) on a budget so limited that the project was doomed to disaster from day one. With effects far inferior to the original film, Milton Keynes doubling up for New York and a risible nuclear disarmament story foisted on the project by lead Christopher Reeve, Superman IV died a lonely death at the box office. Although there was talk of making a Superman V at the time, neither the cast and crew or the cinema-going public really had the stomach for it.
Supermanís movie career was well and truly over for the time being, the Last Son of Krypton going out with a sad whimper rather than a bang. However, like many a failed movie star, he soon began turning up on the small screen. The Superboy TV show, a kind of low-rent precursor to Smallville, followed the adventures of a young Clark Kentís university years. At least, it did until Warner Bros filed a lawsuit against original Superman film producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind over their involvement in the show, claiming that only they had the right to use the characters.
With Superboy yanked from the schedules after its fourth season, Warner Bros went about creating its own Superman TV show. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman starred Desperate Housewivesís Teri Hatcher and B-movie star Dean Cain in the title roles and became a worldwide hit, making stars of the two leads. Although it was cancelled after its fourth season, Lois & Clark let Warner Bros know that the Superman property still had wings, so to speak. While the show was at the height of its popularity the studio brought in producer Jon Peters, who had previously worked on Tim Burtonís Batman and Batman Returns to oversee a fifth Superman feature film.
Warner Bros wanted this new movie to be based on The Death of Superman, a best-selling DC Comics story that had recently caused a worldwide media stir. Published in 1993, the epic tale sees Superman go mano a mano with an unstoppable killing machine named Doomsday in the streets of Metropolis. When the two are seemingly killed in the battle, the world mourns, before four individuals emerge claiming to be the new Superman. Fortunately, all is not as it seems and the real Superman returns to deal with the impostors.
by Chris Prince
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Image © Visual Imagination Limited, Superman Returns © Warner Bros/DC Comics
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