Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns: Who's Your Daddy?

I went and saw Superman Returns today and I liked it. It was a good follow up to the spirit, if not the actual story of 1978's Superman. Unlike most films that rely greatly on FX, if you mentaly edit all the effects out of the film is there is still a story. Not much of one but more than most.

A few parts of the film made me say 'tsk'. Like when Superman used his little known power of Super-Republicanism to spy on Lois and her family when at work and in her home.

The other was Superboy. No way will I buy that Superman had a child born out of wedlock. That's just not my Superman. I could believe Lois would because she is a dirty, dirty girl. It is more feasible to my mind that a pregnant Lois got exposed to some Kryptonian artifact that was left around in her apartment and it changed the kid's DNA than having them doing the Titano. I also doubt he'd leave the Earth without knowing he impregnated his girlfriend.

I'd rank Superman Returns up there with first Spider-Man and X-Men films as the way to do a comic book movie right. It had flaws, namely the slavish devotion to the Donner/Salkind style, but I still recommend it.

That said, it will be a crime if Krypto the Super-Dog isn't in the sequel.

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  1. I caught it Wednesday night, too, and also enjoyed it.

    The Super Stalker bit was rather creepy, wasn't it?

    That the kid ended up being Superman's bothered me more because it made the situation of Lois' new relationship less interesting than any worries about a tryst. If the boy was really Richard's - and I give them credit for making Richard a concerned, loving, heroic guy rather than some self-centered ass who caught Lois on the rebound - then Superman's attentions would have remained creepy.

    It struck me that while they were avoiding specific mentions to confirm it, we were supposed to accept that not merely the events of the first film but some version of those in the second were also part of the backstory. For one thing there's the wry smile Lex gives the audience instead of an answer when Kitty asks him if he's ever been to the Fortress of Solitude before. Also, it was in that second film when Supes decided to have his powers cancelled and subsequently bedded the abrasive, chain-smoking hag that was the Kidder version of Lois. His altered state at the time is likely the reason they were able to conceive a child, why the kid's having all these medical issues and why his power's emerging as erratically as it is. (Yes, I know the piano hurling was triggered in a burst by the trauma of seeing his mother about to be killed and worse, but still...)

    I enjoyed many aspects of the 1978 original, though to be frank much of that film drives my finger to the Fast Forward button. That "Can you read my mind?" segment, for an egregious fer instance, may as well have had "Intermission" flashing on the screen.

    This latest film took the best thematic elements and, yes, somewhat slavishly, brought them into the here and now. I was pleased to not see the self conscious, play it for laughs approach that was such a part of even the first film (getting worse by the movie) as people behind the camera and several of those in front of it seemed more worried about their reputations -- you know, if someone thought they were taking a comic book-based film seriously -- than they were in trying to make the movie work on the core concepts. Fortunately for us it's all become so much more mainstream - so much more part of our popular culture - that we're finally seeing some quality work.

    As for the Superman/Spider-man comparison.., I don't know.

    I came into comics in the middle-late '60s and while I've read many a Superman comic I've more often than not ultimately been bored by the character. He's as iconic as they come, no doubt about that, but he's always been more a concept and a fictional character than, well, someone I find myself thinking of as a real person.

    Spider-man/Peter Parker connected with me far more deeply than Superman/Kal El/Clark Kent ever managed to, and I tend to think my experience is far from isolated.

    Still, I'm hoping to see more of each of them, at the level of quality we've been seeing, in movies to come.

    Oh, one last item: I haven't been looking, but has anyone on the Hollywood scene been making an issue of how early Superman Returns started working on it's "opening" box office? When it was moved from the original release date of the 30th back to the 28th I was wholly expecting the 12:01 AM Tuesday into Wednesday showings, but I was surprised to find the next day that some theaters started showing it around 10 pm Tuesday night. It seems to me someone in the biz has to be questioning how much of a running start can one get on the "opening weekend" of a movie.

    Apologies for being a comment space hog, but I came across your piece while taking a break at work and it spilled out. I've been avoiding specifics on my own blog because so many of my regulars have yet to see the movie, so I left it with little more than a recommendation.

  2. I wondered while watching the film how smart the writers wanted Superboy to be. I had a feeling he wasn't at all surprised by his abilities and started early playing his own version of Clark.

  3. I've just glad Lois's kid didn't start punching reality.


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