Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"You wrote that the world doesn't need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one."

Mes Amis

Tonight I saw Superman Returns maybe three years after everyone else... Its a film that I didn't want to be excited about. Of all the superheroes, Supes is the one who excites me the least. He's got that irritating boy scout mentality of Captain America coupled with the fact that he's pretty much invulnerable unless someone happens to get their hands on kryptonite. Which they always, always, always do (that stuff's available in Tescos, I'm sure, on some kind of Buy one Get One Free offer).

But at the same time: John Williams score chills me to the bone every time. I love it. It just speaks to the kid inside me. It excites me, somehow. And I admit to liking the first two movies - possibly the second one a little more but mostly because Terrence Stamp ups the cool rating by several million degrees playing loony General Zod. And I trust Bryan Singer to be at least watchable. And look at the job he did on the X Men.

But Superman isn't as succesful as X-Men was. I think just by the nature of the character and the fact that he's already a movie icon in so many ways (despite his oddly ill-fitting pants that he insists on wearing outside the trousers). There's only so much Singer can do before he drifts too far. Luckily, Brandon Routh, makes a great superman and a good Clark Kent. He's channelling something of Reeves performance (but of course, this is a kind of sequel to Reeves's first two movies and pretends the poor part III and the godawful part IV* never happened) but never stoops to simply impersonating the guy. Their physical simmilarity (at least to this short-term-memory impaired movie goer) helps a little.

Kate Bosworth as Lois, however, lets the side down. A lot. Margot Kidder had a kind of inquistive and spiky nature. Bosworth just looks like a china doll. This girl's no investigative reporter. And she just doesn't have that chemistry with Supes you need to believe in. After all, a great deal of the script concentrates on the love story between Supes and Lois (A wise move, really, because you need to give Kal El**** some emotional depth to keep him interesting) and she needs to have that whole history going, the feeling that she could still be in love with him... but it never happens. When Supes takes her for a flight, that should feel like a pretty sexy scene - albeit with clothes on - with the two of them rediscovering some of that old chemistry so that it can later cause some friction between Lois and her new live-in-lover (played by Cyclops from X-Men looking just dandy after being disintegrated in X3).

And of course, we know they have a history together. After all supes has a son. Oh yes, he does. Now I have been assured that in part II when Kal El and Lois, uh, you know, did it together in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman was human (his DNA altered by some mad technological doohickey his dad had rigged up for just such an eventuality). But all the same I couldn't help thinking about Mallrats the whole time. Specifically the conversation between TS and Brody about how superman's, uh, "load" would be like a shotgun blast and kill her and how he'd have to wear a kryptonite condom, but that would kill him. At times I was near sniggering like a small child as I heard Jason Lee musing on the topic in my head. Add to that Lex Luthor does produce a device at one point in the movie that really does look like a kryptonite condom and, well...

Again if there was chemistry between Routh and Boswell this could be heartbreaking stuff. But it isn't. They might as well not even be in the same studio and the fault really is with Boswell who looks pretty much bored throughout the whole thing.

A shame too because the rest of the cast is perfect. Jimmy Olsen, boy reporter, looks like he's in another film - a screwball comedy set i the thirties - and having a blast doing it. Kevin Spacey as Luthor is...

Jeezus, I love Hackman in almost any rule, but as Luthor, Spacey kicks arse. Hackman played Luthor for laughs. And sure there's a lot of that with Spacey but when he's on an evcil scheme, man, those eyes... Yeah, this is one evil man. There's a great scene later in the movie where Luthor's managed to get Supes in a real tight spot and the callous nature of Lex comes right to the surface. Its disturbing and as one of our party noted, he's glad he came to see it before saying whether his young son could come: its actually a pretty distressing scene and that Routh made me care for Kal El even for an instant is a testament to the fact he's pretty good in this role.

This isn't as good a movie as, say, Batman Begins. It thinks its more layered than it is and sometimes it feels padded, more a sequence of events than anything else. And the love story that should hold everything together falls a little flat. But Lex and Supes are both amazing and there are some wonderful, beautifully choreographed set pieces. When everything's fitting together up there on screen and when Supes is behaving like the icon everyone knows he is... well...

You'll believe a man can fly.

Au revoir


*NUCLEAR MAN! Best villian ever.**
**Or not.***
***Yeah, definitely not.
****That's his kryptonian name, give by his father Jor-el.


Dave White said...

I liked the movie... I even thought Kate worked (but that could just be because she's hot)... but the friggin' kid and the piano bothered the hell out of me because I know it's just going to ruin the sequel.

Steven said...

I felt let down by the movie, but I guess I went in with high hopes. I thought Spacey was great, but Lex's plan to eliminate continents and control the world's real estate just seemed dumb.

Also, how does the little boy go five years without his parents realizing that he's Superman's baby? He can't be vaccinated, can't skin his knee...

The movie seemed a bit directionless.

Russel said...

The kid and the meandering script were probably the biggest problems. The kid especially.

And Dave, Lois *was* hot but she needed to be so much tougher. Those scenes where she whiiiiiined at Perry about not investigating the blackouts... Nah, she just wans't strong enough. Maybe not all Bosworth;s fault, but compared to most of the other actors and actresses she just didn't have any presence.

Steven: I think the kid's meant to be half human. After all he seems very ill for much of the movie so its possible that his human half may have something to do with that (D in gym, A in science) or maybe krytonians just have weak kids (which they would have explained). Whatever they just seemed to think he was a good idea and then not know really what to do with him.

Thing is there was a lot right with the movie, but so many niggling bits too...

Although Lex has always been obssessed with land - that was pretty much his plan in movie #1, too, if I remember right....

Gerald So said...

I agree with Steven that the movie seemed directionless. I can take or leave the kid, so I would've preferred to leave him out.

To my mind, it's impossible for Lois and Superman to have chemistry because, as Superman, he belongs to the world; he can't belong to Lois. His only real opportunity to reveal his emotions, insecurities, etc. is as Clark.

I think Singer got too caught up in reproducing what people liked about Christopher Reeve's Superman, right down to Routh's looks and mannerisms.

And my biggest complaint: Kryptonite...takes...too kill...Superman.

Russel said...


fair point about Louis and Supes but I think you could have great fun with that tension: Supes wants to belong with Lois but he can't. And that could be heartbreaking. If Lois was worth giving a damn over. And she's not in this movie. I think its the Katie Holmes factor. Like the estimable Ms Holmes in Batman Begins she just looks too young and fragile to be doing such a dangerous job as she does. But at least Ms Holmes gave something in her performance where Bosworth just... goes through the motions.

And the kid... the more I think about it, the more I think... nah... would have been much better if it wasn't supes' kid and he kind of just wished it was: that could have been some dramatic tension there.

Maybe Supermans' just too big and perfect an icon to really have fun with any more. Because this wasn't a bad movie. Just... not so super as you feel it could have been.

But at least there was no gay R2D2 or Brainiac wrestling Polar Bears as producers wanted Kevin Smith to have (allegedly) in the abortive Superman Lives!

Gerald So said...

Supes wants to belong with Lois but he can't. And that could be heartbreaking. If Lois was worth giving a damn over.

I agree the tension would be good to see. This odd two-person love triangle was explored in the later seasons of the TV series "Lois & Clark" (Teri Hatcher/Dean Cain), Lois had fallen in love with Superman, but Superman wanted her to love him as Clark--his everyday identity.

I didn't like that the movie led you to believe the kid was normal and then suddenly revealed him to have powers.

John Ricotta said...

I've seen the movie twice (both times with Gerald, actually), and I can admit that I enjoyed the film much more the second time around.

After seeing the movie the first time, I had a very hard time digesting all of what I consider major plot problems. For example, the kid's five; Superman left five years ago; how, exactly, are we supposed to believe at all that Richard is the father, or how Richard himself believes he's the father? That was a little short-sighted, in my opinion.

And the kid. Okay, the kid. As soon as you heard about the kid, you knew it was Superman's. I just didn't want to believe it. And now that I've seen the movie again, I'm okay with it. I really am. It definitely adds a new angle to the mythology. I just hope they don't make this relationship the basis of the next movie. I want to see the focus shift more to the duality of Clark/Superman, and the struggle to be both at the same time.

I didn't have much of a problem with Kate Bosworth. And while I think Batman Begins was the better film, I don't think Katie Holmes was all that good. I believed Bosworth more than Holmes, if the former looked perhaps a little too young to have all this history with the Big Red S.

When I consider the possibilities of the next movie, I'll hang on to my high expectations. They did a great job with Routh, the effects were good, and some of the cast were great. (Hated Huntington, though. What movie did he think he was in with that hack performance?) Let's face it; Superman is the measuring stick of superheroes and superhero movies, so no matter what they put out, there will always be problems. The way Singer "homaged" the first two Reeve/Donner films was a great idea to relaunch the franchise, and let's hope the kid thing doesn't run it into the ground again.

Kellieanne said...

The movie i thought was very good... the special effects especially with the landing of the plane were believable.

However the kid didnt even look like superman. that aspect of the movie was a HUGE dissapointment. The whole piano scene was botched. it had no real emotional connection it just seemed like a tack on, like someone had just said oh and by the way your supermans son so ummm move that piano to help your mother.

Furthermore there was absolutely no evidence of chemistry between Superman and Lois which was an extremely big letdown, which was no fault of Routh. Bosworths lifeless performance was inexcusably painful.

i would like to see the impacts of Kal El's duel identity to be delved into further, especially Clark Kents link to Lois.

Hopefully we will see more carefully chosen actors in the superman movies to come.