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Do We Really Need an Origin Series About Krypton?

Posted on the 09 December 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

“Look, up in the sky! It’s another comic book show.”

That was the first line of the Hollywood Reporter’s article covering the news that the SyFy Network is currently in talks with Man of Steel screenwriter and Constantine co-creator David S. Goyer on a Superman origin series set on Krypton and focusing on Superman’s grandpa. It’s hard not to be snarky about these kinds of things anymore. There are just so many freakin’ comic book shows either currently on the air, set to premiere sometime relatively soon, or thought to be in development with good chances of making it to air. However, not all comic book shows are built the same. The Walking Dead is clearly very different than Arrow which is itself also very different than Agents of SHIELD which is itself a totally different beast than Gotham, and so on and so on. So, the potential emergence of yet another comic book show is not necessarily cause for immediate disdain. However, the idea of doing an origin series about the planet Krypton? The AV Club put it best in their headline: “Syfy’s Krypton will finally reveal what happened to Superman’s home planet.”

Exactly. Why the heck do an origin series about a planet and people whose fate is already pre-determined? The answer is mostly because a lot of people really, really loved watching Russell Crowe ride on the back of a freakin’ glorified dragon as Superman’s dad Jor-El in the extra long prologue on Krypton at the beginning of Man of Steel. As a result, while promoting Man of Steel Crowe was frequently asked if he’d be interested to maybe come back for a prequel focusing on Jor-El and Krypton, and he always came off as being especially enthusiastic about the idea, instructing fans on Twitter to contact Warner Bros. to let them know how much they wanted to see a Jor-El prequel. As recently as last November, Zack Snyder was quoted as saying that Crowe was ready to a prequel right away.

Maybe he’ll still get his wish someday because this potential TV show doesn’t take that idea off the table; it just rolls it back even further to focus on Jor-El’s own father, a character whose comic book history is apparently exclusive to a very brief run in the 1980s, created at the time by John Byrne and Mike Mignola. They named him Seyg-El, an homage to Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, but since none of it is considered canon anymore SyFy is free to do whatever the heck it wants with the character. I imagine Krypton will probably give him a new name, with Deadline stating the series will focus on Superman’s grandfather as he “brings hope and equality” to his planet. In addition to Goyer, Once Upon a Time’s Ian Goldberg is attached as co-creator.

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The Superman origin story, with its obvious parallels to the biblical figure of Moses, is well-known, i.e., the last son of a dying planet is sent to Earth via a space ship by his doomed birthparents. Outside of the comics, the definitive tellings of this origin have been in the Richard Donner Superman (which mostly had Marlon Brando standing around, looking vaguely sad, collecting a ginormous paycheck), the three-part pilot for Superman: The Animated Series (1996-200), and Man of Steel. The Animated Series devoted its first half hour to establishing Jor-El as a noble, self-sacrificing hero who discovered Krypton was a dying planet but had his warnings go ignored by the Kryptonian government due to the treachery of the artificial intelligence known as Braniac. By Part 2 of the pilot, though, Krypton was gone, and baby Kal-El was on Earth where he’d soon be renamed Clark Kent. Man of Steel’s David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder looked at this as something which had never before been used for its full action-packed potential in live action before. So, they made Crowe’s Jor-El a man of action who flies a freakin’ dragon creature and falls carelessly from high distances like an action star who knows they’ll somehow make it out okay.  He stares down an advancing general, Zod (Michael Shannon), leading a planet-wide rebellion, to whom he speechifies about principles and lapsed ethics before laying the smack down.

In a post-Guardians of the Galaxy world, it’s perhaps easier to understand why so many people were enamored with this part of Man of Steel: It was something new. It wasn’t the same old version of the origin we’d seen, and it had outerspace, sci-fi craziness up the whazoo in a market which is short on that kind of thing. It’s an undeniably crucial sequence to the film, plot-wise, with important characters and concepts introduced.  Plus, later in the film Kal-El is forced to choose between his adopted brethren (humans) or those of his race by birth (Kryptonians), and it helps at that point to have seen a little bit of Krypton. Emphasis on the little bit, though, as for me this sequence seriously overstays it welcome.

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Let me put it this way: You know who are always better heard about but rarely ever seen? Pompous, all-knowing aliens with goofy costumes. In Doctor Who, it’s the Time Lords; in Superman, it turns out it’s the Kryptonians. The idea of Superman being the last of his own kind is incredibly captivating, but the specific reasons that Superman’s people perished are simply not as important as the fact that they perished. Nolan and Goyer admirably looked at this as an untapped resource for dramatic potential, and for some it was so sci-fi crazy they could have stayed on the planet the entire film. Me? I literally almost fell asleep during it when I first saw Man of Steel at a midnight screening.

So, obviously, I am not particularly crazy about the idea for an entire TV show about Krypton. However, this is what you end up doing when you are trying to exploit every possible angle on a well-known property. You know how the longer the slasher film franchises (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street) of the 1980s went on the more likely it became that eventually they’d have to do one movie which tried to explain why the killer get coming back, Jason Voorhees’ power deriving from his demon heart, Michael Myers driven by a druid clan, etc.?

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That’s what is happening with some of these comic book properties by this point. Let’s do a Batman TV show without Batman but instead focused on a young James Gordon and Bruce Wayne because what other new angle is there on the material? Let’s do a Superman show without Superman but all about his planet years before he was born because what other new angle is there? This way you can do something which doesn’t heavily interfere with the concurrent Batman or Superman movies, and the case of Krypton SyFy maybe gets that Battlestar Galactica-esque space opera they’ve been dying to recreate. It’s entirely possible that Krypton could turn into a very interesting show, not tied down by the lack of dramatic stakes which plagues Gotham since we know they can’t really kill off any of its biggies like Gordon, Wayne, Alfred, etc. However, it will still be a prequel to what is essentially a disaster story, and though there is some potential drama to be had from watching a show about a people we know will perish that assumed end point could also make it all seem pointless.

It could be a while before we find out anything else about Krypton, though. We first heard about the Teen Titans TV show set up at TNT last September, and there had been no news since then until yesterday when DC’s Geoff Johns revealed they will shoot a pilot sometime next year. The majority of shows which go into development never even make it to the pilot stage, and an even luckier few make it on the air.  So, as usual with these kinds of stories everything I just said about Krypton may have been all for naught as this may never leave the planning stages. I wouldn’t be crushed if it never does.

What about you? Am I wrong, so wrong about all of this? Was the Krypton prologue the highlight of Man of Steel for you? Or do not care about any of this, and simply wish David S. Goyer would focus a little harder right now on trying to save Constantine? Let me know in the comments.

Source: AVClub


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