Why Did ‘The Force Awakens’ Succeed While ‘Superman Returns’ Failed?

The studio mission for two beloved (and lucrative) franchises was identical:

  • remind fans what they loved about the original movies while letting them forget the “uncool” films;
  • reboot the series for new fans while touching on nostalgia for old fans;
  • make the series relevant enough for today’s values to launch a new film franchise.

So why did this happen? Everything Bryan Singer failed to achieve with Superman Returns looked almost easy as J.J. Abrams exceeded expectations with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

MovieCryptSupermanReturnsTheForceAwakensLex Luthor threatens director Singer with kryptonite while R2 argues dialogue with director Abrams.

Was it a bigger, more rabid fan base? You can shoot that down a few ways. Superman has been around for over seventy-five years and has been reinvented in numerous ways; Star Wars has been around about half that time. That said, however, you don’t see a 501st Legion of Superman fans showing up at convention parades. If anything, Abrams (as a fan himself) was under far more pressure than Singer to relaunch a Star Wars film franchise in theaters and live up to expectations, so much so that he passed on the first offer to direct because he reportedly wanted to see it more than make it. Singer, as evidenced by his X-Men success, has an eye for detail and a passion for superhero stories; after the Brett Ratner derailing debacle X-Men 3: The Last Yawn Whatever, Singer essentially fixed everything with Days of Future Past, and he did it in style.

Was it a focus on more maternal, emotional, and arguably female-empowering material? Singer has reportedly gone to bat for Superman Returns hinting it was a film more for women than men, that maybe it was a mistake to have gone in that direction. Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, Abrams has not only made his new lead actor a woman but empowered her and cast nearly 50%/50% in gender equality; Princess Leia can still remember when it was just her and another slave girl in a room full of salivating males and a giant lascivious space slug.

MickeyAndSlavePrincessesOkay, NOW can we retire the metal slave bikini?

Is Abrams just better than Singer? Ouch. To be fair, DC comics owner Warner Bros. isn’t quite the powerhouse Disney has become, so the Galactic Rodent wasn’t about to let George Lucas’s golden goose go by the wayside. Singer never had that kind of support from Time Warner; it was more like everyone in the board room held their breath rather than champion their new Superman entry. Before the ink was dry, Disney announced its complete acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its intention to bottle the Force into energy drinks if it had to. While stepping into the same movie-making machine that empowered Joss Whedon to make Marvel’s The Avengers and finally prove to the world what his fans already knew, J.J. already had the chops and nothing to prove to anyone but himself; he genuinely seemed humbled by the experience in interviews and poured himself into the work.

Same mission; different results. In the end, the only thing for certain is that The Force Awakens felt more like the Star Wars fans fell in love with than Superman Returns felt like the Man of Steel they wanted and expected. While DC and Warner Bros. continues their attempt to copy Marvel’s success in building toward a Justice League movie, fans are already counting the days down until the Abrams-produced Episode VIII is unleashed while Singer’s X-Men: Age of Apocalypse looms on the horizon. While Star Wars continues peddling its Light and Dark Side ways, maybe it’s the idea of Superman that’s run its course; you don’t see Luke Skywalker wearing his underwear over his pants, do you?

Review: ‘Inside Out’ (psych 101 infotainment)

Your emotions…hilariously personified.

After Joy (Amy Poehler) appears in the mind of a newborn named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), it isn’t long before another emotion appears: Sadness (Phyllis Smith). As little Riley grows up, more emotions appear: Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). The emotions guide Riley’s personality one memory at a time as she grows up, including a few special core memories that create “islands” of key personality traits. While Fear, Disgust, and Anger all challenge Joy from time to time, Sadness seems to infect everything she touches, even memories made by other emotions. At a critical time in Riley’s life enduring a move from her childhood midwestern home to a coastal city, Sadness begins to assert herself. When Joy attempts to stop her, they are both ejected from central control along with all of Riley’s core memories…leaving Fear, Disgust, and Anger in charge. What could go wrong?

From the people who made you cry when you watched Pixar’s Up…well, they’re going to make you cry again – TWICE. Writers have known about those little voices for a while now, but for the rest of the population, this may be a bit of a revelation. The voice cast is pitch perfect, especially Lewis Black as Anger…although it could possibly been better if comedian Sam Kinison was still alive. There have been similar ideas before – anyone remember Chris Rock voicing Osmosis Jones? – but instead of germ warfare, this is all about feelings, and Disney/Pixar has no qualms about manipulating yours.
Continue reading

Panels for May 22-25, 2015 #Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas

Kevin A. Ranson – Creator, Writer, Critic

SpookyAuthorImageMay 22-25, 2015: Writer guest (confirmed) at Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas and representing MovieCrypt.com. He’ll be on the following panels if you’re in any way entertained by who he is and are so inclined to attend:

  • Friday, May 22 at 11:30AM – The Storytelling of Star Wars (Panel, PG, 1 hour) Panel Rm 03 – 350B
  • Saturday, May 23 at 2:30PM – No-Holds-Barred Critique Workshop (Workshop, PG-13, 3 hours) Panel Rm 21 – 352A
  • Monday, May 25 at 1:00PM – Must-Watch TV: The Best of Fantasy and Horror on Television (Panel, PG-13, 1 hour) Panel Rm 05 – 350C

LichheadTransparent

Twas The Thriller Before A Christmas Carol

Grim D. Reaper combines a classic Christmas poem, Michael Jackson, and Charles Dickens into more proof that he can’t sing. Happy holidays and enjoy!

Death Wishes You a Safe and Happy New Year – Or Else.

Arrive alive. I deserve a night off too, dammit.

Grim D. Reaper: Rue Morgue Magazine Cover Model!

Here’s a shot from my Rue Morgue magazine photo shoot.
You mortals have no idea how much I starve myself to meet your expectations.

RueMorgueGrimCover500w

Crypt Revamp Completed; Prepare for a Film Review Onslought!

I spent the weekend having my minions update the Crypt, getting everything ship-shape for some serious content addition.

Someone (not mentioning any names) is a bit behind and needs to kick their rear ends into high gear.

Once all this is complete and caught up, I’ll be moving most updates to strictly weekends. That means you can stop by all week (and I’ll still be snarking… er, commenting on Facebook and Twitter) but the bulk of the content will be Saturdays and Sundays. Before I can get to that point, however, I need to get caught up, and there’s a whole lot coming your way!

And yes, some nifty new videos as well.