Sunday, July 09, 2006

I Am Superman and I Can Do Anything

Way back in '03, I sat through the Matrix Revolutions, wondering how I was going to get my money, and more importantly, my time back from that complete piece of garbage.

However, from my perspective, the movie did offer one revelation, if you will: after watching Neo and Agent Smith battle in the skies and throughout the city, I thought "Someone's going to make a kick ass Superman movie someday."

Fast forward to today. Superman Returns is out in theaters, and while I was right in one regard – it is impressive. Otherwise, I’m feeling a big pile of ambivalence about the movie.

For those of you who don’t know, the basic plot is after a mysterious five-year absence, Superman returns to Earth, discovering that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Lois Lane is winning a Pulitzer for her editorial “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” Oh, and she’s raising a son and engaged to Perry White’s nephew, and associate editor at the Daily Planet. Lex Luthor is out of prison and he’s raiding the Fortress of Solitude for advanced technology, but he’s using it for a land swindle. And the world? Still needs saving.

This movie does a lot very well. I liked that Bryan Singer chose to make it a sequel to Superman II, effectively removing Superman III and IV from the picture, and using Richard Donner’s version of Superman as a springboard was a great choice, in that viewers are already somewhat familiar with the basic premise and story.

The action scenes, especially the plane rescue, are simply breathtaking. (If you get the chance, see it in 3-D; you’ll thank me later), and Brandon Routh, except for his propensity to pose like Gerorge Reeves in every scene, isn’t bad as Superman. (I was most concerned about him in the title roll – I originally thought he looked too pretty for the part).

But the movie brought a lot of negatives along with it as well. Kate Bosworth, while easy on the eyes, simply wasn’t very convincing as Lois; she failed to convince me that she had Lois’s steely character down. However, she’s still a step up from Margot Kidder’s gravelly voice rumbling “SUUUUPPPPEEERRMMANNN!!!” –shudder-

Superman Returns is also about 30 minutes too long; I’m pretty sure small scenes could have been cut. As it was, the movie screeches to a halt in several scenes and it has a lot of trouble recovering the lost momentum.

And then there’s the plot. I felt like there was a lot of been-been-there-done-that thrown into the movie, and I’m not sure why. Rehashed jokes from the original Superman movie included Superman reminding reporters that flying is still statistically safe and Parker Posey’s character repeating one of Miss Teschmacher’s jokes from the original. Plus, there’s the small problem that the plot is largely a rehash of the first movie, where Lex Luthor is going to kill millions in a land grab. Couldn’t they do better?

I’m thinking probably not. I’ve long suspected that Singer and his writing partners, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, don’t have many original ideas within themselves. Take their biggest recent venture, X-Men 2; the plot was a cross between Chris Claremont’s graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn (watch the end of X2 and then watch the end of Star Trek 2 and tell me the end of X2 wasn’t a straight lift – I expected Patrick Stewart to start saying “Space, the final frontier . . .” in his ending voiceover). It worked, but I was a little disappointed, seeing that there was so much better material available to use.

So we get Superman Returns, which is basically a rehash of Superman: The Movie. I didn’t think it was bad, but I was disappointed that they chose to basically remake Superman instead of mining other parts of Superman’s rich 75-plus year history. There are other villains available – Brainiac, Mongol, Metallo, but they went with Luthor again (and apparently, there was a version of the script where Zod made an appearance, but Jude Law, who Singer wanted for the role, declined so they wrote him out). And lest I forget, the scene where Lois is on board the yacht and finds all of the wigs was also lifted straight from Star Trek 2.

I don’t mind homages; I don’t mind even incorporating elements from previous films, but I believe this could have been a better movie had the filmmakers chosen to go a different route.

In any case, while it's definitely not a great movie, it's not a bad one either. If you're looking for decent check-your-brain-in-at-the-door entertainment with a lot of truly impressive special effects, or you're a big fan of the Man of Steel, then Superman's well worth seeing.

Just be sure to block out lots of time.

1 comment:

Shoes said...

Finally someone who isn't so amazed and enthralled with it.
It was fine. I really enjoyed parker posey's and kevin spacey's portrail of the already done characters. This is her second movie where she is tagged along by a ferocious pomerian (Blade 3)And she reminding of when we saw her long ago thinking she was Jackie O in house of yes. Is America ready to see other bad guys than LL....I wish.
Kate Boseworth didn't convince me of anything more than she needed a better dye job and that she looked more like she got knocked up when she was in high school. I wanted an extra 5 years to her and superman. I could deal with him but she just didn't fly for me...excuse the pun.