Sunday, August 18, 2013

Best Adaptations of Superman

15. Look Up in the Sky!  The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
May be odd to include a documentary on this list, but it is a very good one.  It not only captures the history of Superman, but also his sentimentality and cultural impact.  It was essentially released as a marketing tool for Superman Returns.  But the interviews with creators such as Richard Donner and fans like Mark Hamill are emotional and sincere enough to make it entertaining and meaningful.  Definitely worth a watch.

14. All-Star Superman (2011)
A lot of the entries of this list are part of the DC Original Animated Movies line of direct-to-video movies, that can mostly be found on Netflix.  I was not a huge fan of Superman: Doomsday and have not seen Superman: Unbound.  This adaptation of the well-recieved Grant Morrison run is very beautiful.  It is a loving, almost epic look at the Man of Steel.  I have never been too fascinated by the concept of Superman's death, but this tells that story well.  Great interpretation of Luthor and one of the best portrayals of the relationship with Lois Lane.

Also I swear that a few years prior I suggested on a forum that James Denton should voice Superman (fitting since his Desperate Housewives co-stars Kyle MacLachlan, Dana Delany, Teri Hatcher, Mike Farrell, Lesley Ann Warren, John Newton, John Schneider and others have all appeared on the show.  I am probably the only person who is a fan of both Superman and Desperate Housewives).

13. Krypto the Superdog (39 episodes, 2005-2006)
Superman only had one cameo, but Krypto is definitely a Superman supporting character from the comics (mainly from the Silver Age).  Krypto is a fun little series for young audiences.  Superhero fans often think that all cartoons and movies should be for them.  But there is a fantasy behind superheroes that speaks to kids and this is a fun little cartoon that is very accessible.

12. Superman Returns (2006)
Definitely has its flaws, but it was an admirable attempt.  I would say that this is one of the most beautiful looking Superman movies, the cinematography is stunning and a lot of the images are just gorgeous to look at (i.e. Superman listening to the voices in space).  This was a great homage that just did not quite hit is mark as a blockbuster, but still worth a watch.

11. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Superman is a strong enough character to stand out in ensembles such as Crisis on Two Earths and Justice League: Doom.  This story chronicles a transition of the superheroes from a World War II/Golden Age mentality to a Cold War/Silver Age one.  Superman is very much the anchor who tries to help out his friends that are not as well received by the government and public.  Some fascinating real world parallels, such as why Superman is more accepted than an alien like Martian Manhunter.

10. Superman II (1980)
In some ways this is superior to the original, giving Superman a physical threat (and a great one, played memorably and magnificently by the great Terence Stamp).  However this is where the live-action movies got less sincere and more outlandish.  Thankfully there is The Richard Donner Cut, an edit of the movie showing what the original director had intended.

9. Adventures of Superman (104 episodes, 1952-1958)
This one has never reran too much, it is much more of a legend to me as I have seen very little of it.  But from what I have seen, heard from fans who grew up with it and read of its influence it is definitely one of the most important Superman adaptations.  This was the most popular portrayal of the character until the late seventies and George Reeves helped to define the character to a mainstream audience.

8. Man of Steel (2013)
People are really split on this.  Some of the audience thinks that it is an untouchable masterpiece and others absolutely loathe it.  I am honestly somewhere in between.  I don't agree with all of the filmmakers' choices but it did enough right by me.  It is difficult to find a new take on Superman that makes sense.  This was at least heading in the right direction with the amount of action and the emotional beats.  The cast was perfect with Kevin Costner making a strong impact, Amy Adams as one of the best versions of Lois Lane and Henry Cavill being extremely charming.  The highlight of the movie for me was the tornado scene where Jonathan Kent almost had me tearing up.

7. Superman/Shazam! the Return of Black Adam (2010)
In the comics Superman has been a good way to ground and raise the popularity of lesser known heroes.  Captain Marvel has been out of the public's eye for a long time (since he competed with Superman comics in the Golden Age).  This movie really makes you wish that DC used the character more as he really has a great story.  Pairing him with Superman makes sense, Superman is such an idealistic character that he works well with an innocent kid.  This is a great short subject.

6. Smallville (218 episodes, 2001-2011)
The show certainly lasted longer than it should have, but it still is an interesting take on the Man of Tomorrow.  It makes great use of Clark Kent's supporting cast in ways few other adaptations do and the writers found creative ways to tell a superhero story on a television budget.  It added the new character of Chloe Sullivan to the Superman mythos, played by the lovable Alison Mack.  Other stand-outs in the cast were John Schneider as an honorable Pa Kent and Michael Rosenbaum who I named as one of the best villain performances of all time.

5. Superman vs. the Elite (2012)
My second favorite of what I have seen of the DC Original Animated Movies.  Based on Joe Kelly's almost classic story What's Wrong with Truth, Justice and the American Way?  The movie takes a  look at the qualities of Superman that many movies, comics and TV series try to change.  It shows the difficulty of operating under idealism in a harsh world.

4. Superman (1978)
The movie that created the superhero movie genre and still holds up as a classic.  Richard Donner found the right balance between drama and fantasy and the special effects were great.  Of course the two best things about this movie is John Williams' score (which is what I hear when I think of heroism) and Christopher Reeve's performance.  Just absolutely iconic and rightfully loved.

3. Superman (17 Shorts, 1941-1943)
Some of the best animated shorts of the Golden Age of Animation and the legendary Fleischer studios are these shorts.  Much of what people think of when they think of Superman come from these.  They are well animated and still hold up as great action shorts.  A clear inspiration on many action cartoons and proof that animation can be used for more than just comedy.

2. Superman: The Animated Series (54 episodes, 1996-2000)
This series never gets its due.  It embraces the fantastic and colorful nature of Superman and hits all of the right notes.  The adventures are varied and highlights include Lobo, Darkseid, Brainiac and the hilarious Mr. Mxyztplk.  This is also the best telling of Superman's origin.  A lot of people hate this because it is not like Batman, but it shouldn't be nor is it even trying to be.  It understands what makes Superman works and is a lot of fun.

1. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (91 episodes, 2000-2006)
My most popular blogpost is actually my list of ten best episodes of Justice League.  In the list a lot of the episodes I name focus on Superman.  Having Superman exist in a larger world of heroes raises a lot of fascinating dilemmas and this series really delves into it.  Superman's struggles with power, vengeance, morality, etc.  This is a fully developed character that continues the story arc from Superman: The Animated Series.  Highlights for the character include Twilight, A Better World, Hereafter, For the Man Who Has Everything, Clash, Doomsday Sanction, the entire Cadmus arc and the series finale.  This is all on Netflix and I highly recommend it, this is the best way to portray Superman.

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