Inside The 'Superman' Fanboy Dilemma, Part 2: How Much Prep Work Is Too Much?

In the second of five columns on the Man of Steel, Karl Heitmueller weighs the pros and cons of obsessive pre-release nitpicking.

In the first installment in this series of columns, I discussed what Superman means to fanboys (including myself) and the anticipation that's been building ahead of the release of "Superman Returns."

This week's column looks at the breadth and depth of prep work that film fanatics often engage in prior to seeing certain movies and will address the question, "Just how much information is too much information?"

(Click here to watch an exclusive interview with reclusive "Superman Returns" director Bryan Singer.)

In their wildest dreams, movie studio publicists of the past could not have predicted that technology would one day effectively do their jobs for them.

Thanks to the Internet, all it takes to get millions of people buzzing about an "event film" like "Superman Returns" is to put out a single photo far in advance of the film's release. Last summer, Warner Bros. released a promotional shot of Brandon Routh as Superman posing against an Art Deco background. Almost instantly, this first "Returns" image was copied and pasted into a 1,000 Web sites, sparking furious speculation about the entire film.

 Part One: " 'Superman' — Truth, Justice And The Fanatical Way"

 Part Three: "Watch It When? Where? With Whom?"

 Part Four: "Come On Feel The Toyz"

 Part Five: "What If 'Returns' Is (Gasp) Kraptonite?"

With no other information available, fanboys debated and dissected the photo as if it were a still from the Zapruder film. The most common complaints (many of which I shared) were that the colors of the tweaked uniform were too dark, the bright primary crimson of Superman's cape, boots, shorts and 'S' shield dimmed to a subtle maroon. The 'S' itself became a controversy, with its raised relief and small size. The shirt's neckline was deemed to ride too high. Superfluous 'S' logos were added to Kal's belt and the heels and soles of his boots — why? — while the yellow version of the design that customarily adorns his cape was excised. (Would prove too time-consuming to digitally animate?)

I was also a bit befuddled by Superman's brown hair (instead of the traditional blue-black) and that it's parted on the wrong side. In order for the trademark S-shaped spit-curl to fall onto his forehead, Superman's hair needs to be parted on the left. In the movie, it's on the right.

This, friends, is what's called kryptonitpicking.

Information kept coming. On, director Bryan Singer took a page from his pal Peter Jackson and instituted a series of online video journals documenting the production of "Superman Returns."

Jackson's weekly online "King Kong" production diaries delved into the making of that blockbuster so deeply that they were released as a DVD set that's even longer than the three-hour movie. Add to that the post-production diaries that are a bonus feature on the actual "Kong" DVD and you have enough pre-release "making of" content to choke a dinosaur.

While Jackson was careful not to show completed scenes and keep as much mystery intact as possible, many who faithfully watched the journals weren't exactly going into "Kong" in a fog.

Bryan Singer: Out Of Solitude
From bringing Brando back from the grave to joking around with Peter Jackson, the 'Superman Returns' director opens up to Gideon in this exclusive interview, only on Overdrive.

Singer's Bluetights blogs featured the usual behind-the-scenes stuff: storyboarding, costume and set design, special effects and (occasionally) witty banter from the cast and crew. But after 27 installments, the postings abruptly and inexplicably stopped. Rumors circulated that Singer was tired of having every single move he made questioned by the fans. A late installment filmed at a Q&A session at the San Diego Comic-Con last summer featured a visibly annoyed Singer defending his Superman's costume for the umpteenth time.

I, for one, had mixed feelings when the blogs stopped. I was disappointed because I had been gobbling up the information. But I was also more than a little relieved. In theory, I want to know as little as possible when I finally see the movie; in practice, I'm too much of a fanboy to ignore any beefy chunks of pre-release info.

They're called "spoilers" for a reason. As a teen, I had two movies nearly ruined by knowing too much in advance. One was my fault, as I foolishly read the novelization of "Alien" before the movie came out, thus eliminating much of the shock of the classic "chest-bursting" scene (unlike my friend Nathan, who was curled up in his theater chair, clutching his legs, gasping in horror).

Far more damaging was the day in May of 1980 when my pals Jeff and Bill told me that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. They had read the book of "The Empire Strikes Back" and decided it would be funny to kill the movie's biggest scene for their ol' chum Karl. While we did all line up on opening day to see the movie together, to this day I've not completely forgiven them.

"Superman Returns" Photos
"Superman Returns" Trailer
Check out everything we have on "Superman Returns."
For some fans, there's no such thing as too much information. Adam McAllister's gathers every bit of content on "Superman Returns" possible, posting daily updates. While Adam is careful to warn his visitors of spoilers, the sheer magnitude of material he collects makes it impossible for him to remain as ignorant of possible spoilers (for himself) as he might like. While he says that he'd "rather know hardly anything about the plotline," he does feel that when you have a personal stake in a film a little knowledge isn't necessarily a bad thing. "It's good to know a general outline for a movie if it's something you're into."

Animator Chris McCulloch, the creator of "The Venture Bros.," agrees.

"You might think something was slow or boring while watching it cold, but if you're braced for the 'first hour of exposition' [based on something you've heard from a fansite] you might have more patience."

For many, the desire to have a fresh cinematic experience is the priority. Superman collector Steve Leach notes that "Spoilers are the unfortunate side effect of living in the information age. I try to avoid them, but it's inevitable that I'll read something I wish I hadn't."

Jeff Ayers, the manager and buyer for the New York City comic store Forbidden Planet, found that avoiding all spoilers worked to his benefit when it came to last year's biggest comic book movie.

"I blacked my senses out for the weeks leading up to 'Batman Begins.' I saw no trailers and was even reluctant to talk about the film in the store or with my friends. I saw the film in IMAX the day after its release, and it knocked my socks off."

There's a part of me that feels like I know too much about "Superman Returns" already and as I write this, the movie's still two months away. My knowledge of the character, coupled with what I've seen so far and the fact that the film uses Christopher Reeve's first two Superman films as its jumping-off point, makes me fairly certain that I've figured out a number of major story elements (which I won't share here).

From now until June 30, I'm going to try to avoid too much more information. I'll try to not peruse the many books and magazine articles that will soon be hitting the stores. I won't read the reviews and the comic book adaptation until after I've seen the film. I'll walk down the street with my hands over my eyes if I have to.

But a lot could happen between now and the release of the film. It remains to be seen if Super Restraint is a power I possess.

In the next installment of this series, we'll discuss the various ways that fanboys of disparate temperament can assure themselves a perfect viewing experience on opening day of "Superman Returns."

Check out everything we've got on "Superman Returns."

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