..And other subtexts that simply did not work for reinventing The Man of Steel on Film..
OF COURSE SUPERMAN HAS AIDS! HE NEEDS HIS FELLOW TEAM-MATES ON THE JUSTICE LEAGUE TO HELP HIM OUT SOMETIMES. THEY AID HIM! And he cannot work out without help, off-screen. Why? What did you think I meant?
Oh, THAT. Come on. Why would anyone try and blend such a serious, devastating real world tragedy to comic book movie / escapism? Well..whilst it might sound CRAZY and OUT THERE and yes a BIT of a click-baity headline..truth is? Once upon a time..it was posed as a possible subtext in a Superman movie. The Man of Steel vs a very real world threat.
1987: SUPERMAN VS NUKES. AND..AIDS?!
SUPERMAN 4: THE QUEST FOR PEACE is a curiosity. In its way, a truly noble effort and intention. You take the character into a modern world and have him face his limitations through the challenges of new problems. The late, great Christopher Reeve ‘got’ the potential in that premise. Your hero MUST be tested in a manner that demystifies and dismantles their power, before rebuilding it in an uplifting fashion.
The best of all worlds, giving both escapist adventure and a relevant, poignant, even satirical take on real life concerns of the day. A brave and logical extension, which would have returned the franchise to the earnest ambition of Richard Donner’s first two films in the series, without losing entirely, the camp fun of the underrated third episode. You want SOME ‘day in the life’ aspects to the hero, whilst also justifying the existence of a film through some radical ideas for reinvention.
James Bond has the same challenge and especially in today’s market whereby every movie series must have ‘personal’ stakes rather than ‘mission of the week’. And it is interesting that a veteran Bond writer advised Reeve AGAINST having Superman deal with ANY real world issues. Tom Mankiewicz hinted that, should Reeve write Clark Kent / Superman as facing nuclear weapons, the questions would continue coming and coming until the entire fictional universe collapsed under its own limitations. Why can’t he cure cancer, poverty, hunger? And so on. It’s a provocative point.
Reeve bravely chose to go ahead and get the movie made, anyway. And it would have been great, but for budget cuts, last minute, that reduced the enterprise to a camp, cheap embarrassment of missed opportunity.Most bizarrely, an entire sub-culture seemed to think that the hero’s battle with the villainous ‘Nuclear Man’ was somehow a metaphor for gay sex and the emergence of AIDS.
Co-writer on the film, Mark Rosenthal, has often been asked whether there was an intentional subtext behind depicting Superman suffering debilitating illness after being scratched on the neck (and bleeding) in battle with Nuclear-Man. He denies it was planned but allows people to read that into the film.
AIDS was as current an issue as nuclear disarmament back then and one could, conceivably, read a kind of homo-erotic visual motif in the clash of two bulked up blokes, one of whom is blonde and oiled up (Nuclear Man: played by Mark Pillow), it seems? And the fight is all set up by Lex Luthor, who, (whilst played by macho Gene Hackman), inexplicably seems to enjoy a LOT of camp dressing up and making rather bitchy digs at Superman’s time being up. So yes. At a push? One could read so much more into the movie than is actually THERE. Except: it really isn’t.
SUPERMAN DID NOT HAVE AIDS. And neither, it seems, could he rid the world of nukes. The film flopped and the hero was off cinema screens for another 20 years. But there were numerous attempts at resurrection during that wilderness period..
TRIVIA / SMALL WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS: Jon Cryer played Lex Luthor’s nephew, Lenny and will now play Lex himself for CW’s SUPERGIRL.
TO BE CONTINUED..
NEXT TIME: 1992-2006: SUPERMAN FACES DEATH..AND A FATE WORSE THAN THAT..MARRIAGE AND YEARS IN THE CINEMA WILDERNESS…