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00675 - SUPERMAN RETURNS


MovieHype00675 - SUPERMAN RETURNS

In a 2005 interview with Larry King director Bryan Singer revealed that in an early draft of the SUPERMAN RETURNS script, there was a scene where Superman gets done saving people and flies down alone to the World Trade Center, Ground Zero, taking it all in, as if to say, “If I’d been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

No way that ever makes a shooting script, let alone the final cut of a movie. You’re wincing just thinking about the uproar. Yet: I wish they’d done that. I wish Singer and Co. had pushed the envelope, tried to make his new super hero movie about something, something that truly mattered (even if it pissed you off).

To me, Superman the hero deserves that kind of high-concept treatment. Instead, what we get is a perfectly respectable movie with flawless special effects, a great villain….blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before. Maybe that’s not Singer’s fault, but at this point in the evolution of comic book movies, I wanted more.

The first two X-Men films (which Singer himself directed) raised the bar. Spider-Man certainly raised the bar, and I’m on record that last summer’s BATMAN BEGINS is the best superhero movie ever. If SUPERMAN BEGINS came out in the pre-Matrix world of 1998, I’m sure everyone would have gone ape. But it’s 2006. Superman’s been gone a long time, and the world has changed. I expect more.

Segueing with the best of them, that’s sort of the plot of SUPERMAN RETURNS. He’s been gone for five years (to look for remains of his home planet Krypton), and now he’s back. In the meantime, the world has changed.

Lois Lane is a now a single parent. Lex Luthor has been released from prison (when Superman didn’t show up as a witness in the appeal). The world has moved on. Lois even won a Pulitzer for an editorial “Why the World doesn’t need Superman.”

But the world does. We know that. (Else, why make a movie?) There is some real poignancy in a scene where Superman takes Lois up into the clouds. “What do you hear?” He asks her. “Nothing.” She replies.

“I hear everything. I come up here and I hear every single one of them, crying out for a savior."

If you think that sounds a bit Christ-like, it’s not an accident. SUPERMAN RETURNS is filled with Savior references, with the Father giving up the sun. I wish they’d done more with it. I would love a much darker Superman, really delving into what makes this guy tick. Why is he saving the world? Why can’t he be with the woman he loves?

But let’s talk about the performances. Kevin Spacey is brilliant as expected as Lex Luthor, although Superman doesn’t meet Lex face to face until almost 2 hours into the movie. That’s way too long a draught for such a rich history. Lex has minions this time, and they’re mostly faceless except Parker Posey in a truly annoying performance.

On the other side of the ledger Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane has the sex appeal of a vulnerable woman down cold. As a reporter it’s hard to believe she won a Pulitzer. Brandon Routh seemed bland as milkwater as Clark Kent and Superman, but then again—and shoot me for heresy—I always found Christopher Reeve to be wooden and lacking charisma as well, so maybe that’s just the role. (If you ask me, Tom Welling, who plays Clark in TVs’ Smallville would have been a great choice.)

I know summer movies have to use plot devices, but they just annoy me. For example, ten seconds after Clark meets Lois’s kid, he pops his inhaler. You’ve never seen a movie before if you don’t know that’s coming back. (In contrast, if you’re going to use a contrived device like that, make it mean something, like the Batman flashback to when Bruce fell in the well and had the bats attack.)

Much of the plot felt like it was just there to be cool. For sure there were some majorly cool special effect driven stunts, like when Superman rescues a plane from crashing into a baseball stadium, or the one quick flashback when we see him jumping cornfields, but I kept asking myself, “How does this advance the plot?”

SUPERMAN RETURNS was a fine movie to watch and I’d probably watch the inevitable sequel, but I was just hoping for more. The Big Evil Scheme is a glorified real estate scam. There was a lot of lazy things too, like a computer going right back where it was after a power outtage, a cape flapping in space, or even ripping the earth’s mantle beneath the ocean (how are there not massive repurcussions for what happened.)

I know, I know: you can’t take a superhero movie too seriously. I certainly never held the X-Men movies to that standard, and maybe I shouldn’t here. But Superman to me has always been larger than life, mythic. I just thought he deserved a mythic movie, and not something any number of super heroes could have done just as well.

1 comment:

Avitable said...

I loved it. I loved like Oprah loves chocolate. Like Mel Gibson doesn't love the Jewish people. Like Batman loves little boys in capes.

I saw it three times in theaters and was amazed at how Singer managed to capture the beauty of the original films and blend them with the effects of today.

I don't think there was any other way to do this film. Any reimagining or retelling would have backfired among fans who hold the original film to a very high standard.

I'm very excited to see where he'll go with the next one, now.

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