Thursday, August 03, 2006

Superman Reruns

Finally saw it, and, before the Spoiler Warning goes up and anyone left who hasn't seen it takes off, I have to say that - while I thought Brandon Routh was amazing (particularly as Kent) and I would love to see him in the tights again - I was very and sadly disappointed.

And now the requisite

*** SPOILER WARNING ****

Little touches like the bullet impacting his open eye, that breaking-the-sound-barrier ring and the way heat vision was rendered were great, but story-wise,I was very surprised to find myself bored. Moreover, I realized as we were catching guys falling off buildings and saving airplanes that those kind of stunts are now humdrum. Over and done for me. The Spider-man films and even Singer's own two X-Men movies show how much more interesting, layered and rich superhero movies can be. Remember when Superhero stories on TV used to always omit the interesting rogues galleries and just pit the hero (whether George Reeves or Nicolas Hammond) against a few bankrobbers, kidnappers, and an occassional mad scientist or clunky robot? I thought we were done with that, and that, as the wave of continuity-rich recent films has shown, we were able to make super hero movies as nuanced and complex as their source material. There is nothing interesting anymore about catching damaged aircraft or people falling off buildings. We need to see Superman matched with worthwhile opponents - lots of them. I really thought this film dragged and was slow.

And rather silly. I hated Lex Luthor - the melodramatic villian is so dated. Luthor has become so wonderfully complex in the animated Superman and Justice League cartoons and in works like Brian Azzarello's Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. And while this film hinted at a better motivation (his Prometheus speach was one of the few bits of the film I approved of), in the end, he just likes to kill people, as camp as he ever was when Gene Hackman gloated about "causing the death of millions of people." Just a warped brain getting his kicks. That's so one-dimensionally Saturday morning melodramatic. It just doesn't play anymore.

And to think, Luthor has all the knowledge of "1,000 words spanning 28 galaxies" and all that he can think to do is grow some land - which is the first thing we've been shown the crystals can do? He just grabbed the first thing out of the box (as did the screenwriters). The problem here - particularly evident with the inclusion of Parker Posey's innane Kity Kowalski - is that Singer is slavishly immitating a 28 year old film, and so he is carrying the outdated plot contrivances of that work forward, their flawed trajectory ever more apparent in view of the sophistication of the intervening decades. You've got to carry the ball forward, not write a love letter to a four-decades old film. I was so annoyed when Wired magazine ran the tagline on their cover "Brian Singer Reinvents Superman." Reinvention is the very last thing he should be accused of. And the first thing he sound have done. (It's very telling that it's Batman Begins, but Superman Returns.)

I also found the ending extremely unfulfilling. Not only is there NO RESOLUTION for Luthor - a scene that his gruesome execution of the Man of Steel begs for - but the whole movie is like a showcase of irresponsible parenthood. We see Lois ignore her child, show up tardy for picking him up, bring him into a dangerous situation for the sake of a story. And there's not a real mother in the world that would say "My child has just been saved from drowning. Let's take the child back to the heart of the danger again." Especially since she has no firm idea if the Kryptonite she knows the villain possesses will kill her offspring. Jesus, where is social services when you need them?

And what a horrible situation between father and son - Superman, absentee father? You mean after dealing with the loss of Jor-El, he isn't going to reveal himself as this child's father or be an active part in his life for the sake of a loveless marriage? The best he's going to do is whisper at him in his sleep and then conveniently get out of the way. "I'll be around???" Thanks for nothing, dead-beat dad. Come on. How long before that kid figures out who dad really is, and how much harder on poor Richard White is it going to be then. How screwed up is Jason going to be when the penny drops. Great, here comes one maladjusted super teen. I don't buy this - not at all. These are the most "super irresponsible" parents I've ever seen.

On the small scale, I things like the dog eating the other dog was tasteless in a kid's movie. But more importantly - having Jason's first use of his superpowers result in a person's death is an utter travesty totally out of step with the entire Superman mythos. Oh, and Superman doesn't kill either, does he? Well, now he does, since his action directly resulted in smashing two of Luthor's henchmen. The problem here is that while Singer has memorized every detail of the first two films, he's probably never opened the first comic book.

Overall, I just think that there is so much potential to this character - I don't need to see him catch another downed plane or retread the first two films. I want to see the kind of rich, multilayered tale that Batman Begins, Spiderman II, and XMen II offered. This dragged, retread the past unnecessarily, and was really very story-light. I really hated this film, and I'm very sorry to have to say that.

I would love to see Brandon Routh in a sequel, preferably written/directed by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm. Or even Christopher Nolan & David Goyer, if it didn't drag them away from more important projects. This was not worth Singer's abandonment of Xmen III and the travesty that resulted in. Not at all.

14 comments:

Dianora said...

WORD. Seriously, for me, the biggest crime that movie committed was that it bored me.

Lou Anders said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in that. My brother, who hasn't seen it yet, and only knows a little of what's in store, said he thought Superman returning to a burnt out Krytpon was so cool, and I didn't have the heart to tell him that's all backstory we DON'T SEE. I think there's another movie we should have seen, of Superman there when SETI or NASA or whoever finds evidence of Krypton - how he goes and what he finds. And while Krytpon isn't there - maybe Braniac or Dark Seid is! Superman should take a page from (believe it or not) STAR WARS for its model and really bring in aliens and super-powerful opponents. Enough with catching downed aircraft - lets see something BIG.

brianwdow said...

I have to say that when I saw it, generally I liked it but afterwards I felt rather let down. I thought the special effects were great but I didn't like Spacey's take on Lex. His rolling of the word 'Kryptonite' just made me cringe. Maybe I just have such fond memories of the Christopher Reeve version that it clouds my opinion of the new one. I felt that Routh had no spark as Superman. I agree that he made a convincing Clark but I just didn't feel the charisma and intensity. I thought that Jim Caviezel would have made a very interesting choice. He has an intensity that seems right for Superman. Perhaps it's just me. I also didn't believe in the Lois and Superman relationship. There was no resonance there. No chemistry. I agree with all your other points but one that I didn't see in your post was why he left in the first place. For me, the entire movie hinges on that premise. There was perhaps one line about where he was, but nothing about why he felt that he had to go there and what he found. To me it would have to have been a pretty strong motivation for him to give up Lois and his responsibilities as Superman and just up and leave. Frankly, I expected more from Singer. I thought that this was going to be the movie of the summer. And while I think the movie has some interesting moments, it just won't hold up to the test of time.

Jose said...

I'm pretty much tired of all the superhero movies actually including the X-Men. I want more movies like Sin City and to a lesser V for Vendetta is my style of comic book that I want to see on the big screen.

Dark Knight Returns killed men in tights for me just like Unforgiven closed the book on the western.

Lou Anders said...

Hey Jose,
UNFORGIVEN is definitely the end-all, be-all of the Western, though OUTLAW JOSE WALES is my #1, and actually, could very easily serve as an unofficial prequel to that film. They are, together, my two favorite westerns of all time, and OUTLAW is one of my top 10 films of all time. I have watched it probably 100 times.

I thought V was sheer genius, but I've been unable to make it through SIN CITY. I think it looks superb, but the dialogue is so damn dumb. I managed to sit through the Clive Owen section - because he is AMAZING (have you seen CLOSER?), but I just can't take that film seriously. I think I agree with Lucius Shepherd's review that it was kiddie porn.

DARK KNIGHT - ah, still the best comic ever written, but sadly, it's been tainted for me by the stink of the unforgivable sequel. I don't think you should give up on men in tights, just insist on quality.

Ted said...

A minor correction first: the Donner Superman film came out in 1978: 28 years ago, not 38 years ago.

Other than that, I'm basically in agreement; I didn't hate the film, but I had hoped for more. I, too, would have much preferred the corporate Luthor from the animated series, but it was clear from the previews that Spacey was going to play the character for laughs the way Hackman did, so at least I was prepared for that. I had hoped, though, that Luthor would deliver on his initial threat of using advanced Kryptonian technology: an army of giant robots would have given us a more spectacular finale.

Lou Anders said...

Ooops, I'll correct that typo, but yes. A whole army of advanced Kryptonian tech would have been nice. Again, I liked his Prometheus speach and would have liked to have seen that followed thru on.

Bob Lock said...

I'd like to know how Lois survived Superman's ejaculation, crude I know but come on (excuse pun) the guy can fly faster than a speeding bullet...

I wouldn't like to be standing near him during a 'bodily function' moment...

brianwdow said...

Hi Bob - Actually, and this is totally a fanboy thing, I think Supes had already given up his powers in that crystal chamber thing when he impregnated Miss Lane. I could be wrong looking back 28 years, but maybe someone else can back me up. Or was the question perhaps not really a question at all? Now I really feel like a geek.

Bob Lock said...

Hiyahs Brianwdow,

No, no, it was a valid question (albeit couched in comic book prose!) for isn’t Superman not of human origin and even if he did give up his powers surely that wouldn’t have changed his status from Kryptonian to Human? Hasn’t it already been stated somewhere that he’s unable to donate organs or give blood due to his alien physiology? However, given that in the film Jason does seem to be his son, that raises other questions as to how the boy was impervious to Luther’s assault with the Kryponite and then again to the piece that was in Superman’s wound?

I enjoyed the film but anomalies such as above did spoil it a little for me, however, on the up side I thought Brandon Routh was excellent and in certain scenes paid tribute to Christopher Reeve with the way he captured the original’s way of naivety and understatement. I think Chris would have been proud to hand over the mantle to him.

Hmm… I think that geek feeling is catching…

brianwdow said...

Hi Bob - Maybe we shouldn't be worried about bird flu and start worrying about geek flu. While I did have several issues with the movie there were times when Routh did remind me of Chris Reeve. He had the same subtle swagger in his walk for instance. I agree also that the anomolies spoiled lots of the movie for me too. Lou's many points and yours spelled it out very well. I just hope that Singer will see fans comments and reexamine his direction for the series if he continues as the director of the movies. Mostly I think I need to see the film again to really make up my mind as to how I feel about the movie as a whole.

Lou Anders said...

Brian is correct that the impregnation occurs when Superman has given up his powers. Also, to belabor this unnecessarily, if you watch that film, an image of Superman is actually torn out of him when he's in the red sun chamber - it takes his uniform and all and leaves him in Clark Kent clothes. I think it's safe to assume the heavy-handed metaphor implies his "Superman nature" has been stripped out leaving him "fully human." This was "The Last Temptation of Superman" after all, just as the new movie is "The Passion of the Superman Code."

Scott Marlowe said...

Yep, Singer blew it on both counts. Superman Returns was just a rehash of the original movie and, but not getting involved with X-Men 3, that movie sank, too.

They really had an opportunity to do something HUGE here--bring in some of Superman's really big foes. Instead, like you said, catching airplanes and such was the best they could do.

I sure hope the next one is better.

Lou Anders said...

In an ideal world, they'd let it lie and then reboot it with a film with no connection to the old franchise.