With the unbridled success of the Spider-Man and X-Men movies, and the good buzz surrounding Christopher Nolan's gritty reinvention of the Batman franchise, superhero movies are all the rage right now. So it's no wonder that the forces in Hollywood are talking about trying to revive the Superman franchise. Several years ago, comic book fan Kevin Smith tried to kick this off by writing a spec script, but if the version I downloaded off the Internet is anywhere near the final draft, what I read was an embarrassing failure.

More recently, control of the new franchise-in-waiting has been bouncing from directors like Tim Burton, Brett Ratner, and now to Bryan Singer, who has passed on Jim "Jesus" Caviezel and that Smallville guy to go with a relative unknown as Superman. A quintessentially American superhero, the biggest problem with Superman as a character is that he's boring. As an invincible do-gooder, his biggest conflict is that he's an ultra-powerful alien in love with a human being, which leads him to live in a sort of superhero closet. I suppose, as a gay metaphor, I can understand why Singer would want to do it. But really, the only way for this mutant WMD to have any relevance would be as a metaphor for America the Superpower and the unintentional damage idealistic unilateral impulses can lead to. Instead of following up on the simplistic Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Singer's film should take its cue from a more socially relevant work like 1977's Abar: The First Black Superman (playing late night on Friday and Saturday at the Grand Illusion).

Okay, so the original story may be a little different, but the movie sounds like it's worth a look. You see, when racist suburban whites kill the daughter of a brilliant black scientist, he convinces Abar, the leader of a biker gang, to drink a super-serum that gives him psychic abilities. These powers include causing hookers to attack their pimps, corrupt cops to fight one another, graffiti artists to erase their work, and snakes and rats to attack the racist whites. I'm not saying the new Superman should mimic this storyline, that movie reflects the time it was made (just a year before the Donner picture), but that the new version needs to reflect today.

Meanwhile, you should join the Northwest Film Forum in welcoming a host of Slovenians for State of the Art: The New Slovene Avant-Garde. In conjunction with the screening of features and shorts, the cultural exchange begins on Thursday, November 18, when filmmaking couple Maja Weiss and Peter Braatz talk about film production and their experiences working with people like David Lynch and Wim Wenders. On Saturday and Sunday, screenwriter Miha Mazzini will give tips to a handful of local writers. Filmmakers will want to head over to Consolidated Works on Monday, November 22, for a Legal and Insurance Clinic, where you can learn whether or not DC Comics might sue you for your indie Superman movie.


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