Thursday, July 20, 2006

Superman Returns

My favourite characters, from most to least …

Lois Lane’s boyfriend
Perry White
Lois Lane
Lois’ son
Lex Luthor’s girlfriend
Lex Luthor
Jimmy Olsen
Superman
Clark Kent

How could a script get it so wrong? Starting with 20 minutes of stuff that doesn’t advance the story at all (who care if Superman feels like an alien? Who cares how Lex gets his money? These things don’t have any pay-off in the film), and then focusing on – basically – Lois’ story, because she’s the one in interesting dramatic situations and having to make interesting choices.

Let me say this plainly: I have no problem with Superman Returns grounding itself heavily in the drama – Unbreakable is one of my favourite films – but I have a massive problem when the drama Singer chooses to focus on pushes all the attention away from Superman.

Either make a movie about Superman or make a movie where Superman does cool shit every 3 minutes against impossible odds and super-powerful villains. Either way, I’d be more entertained … which is what this movie forgot to do.
Filed in:

7 comments:

morgue said...

Does Lois actually make any choices in the film?

Does *anyone*?

Unless you count "avoid confrontation" as a choice, I can't think of any.

steve said...

** SPOILERS **

Lois makes some bad, but interesting choices ...

- she steps onto Superman's toes and goes flying with him.
- she doesn't tell her fiance about the kid (which is the source of a whole other rant about this movie)
- she chooses not to tell her fiance, I think his name's Richard, about her true feelings for Supes.
- she chooses to go visit him in the hospital.

That might be about it - and what's interesting to me is how two of those are invisible choices - we have to infer their ramifications; it's all about the subtext.

Loise doesn't tell Richard about her feelings for Superman? Ok, then she's lying and may still have feelings for him.

So, I see choices, but in the context of a family drama. The question now is how Richard could ever have thought the kid was his. Did Lois start banging him the second Kal-El shot off into space? That doesn't seem plausible.

Or at least, about as plausible as Big Blue lifting a Zanzibar sized rock covered in Kryptonite into orbit.

Because that's what was making Superman into a crappy character - that he was vulnerable to kryptonite. Now he's gotten rid of that, he'll be AWESOME!

Conan said...

I must say, I disagree with you on nearly every count.

The preamble helps to set up the tone that this isn't just a superman movie, but a look at Clark Kent versus Superman. It takes a lot of riffs from Smallville in recognising that Superman as invincible is boring.

Instead Superman's villain isn't Lex Luthor - but the fact that the world moved on while he was away. Like Smallville, it recognised that for Superman to suffer you have to hit him where he's vulnerable - people.

The Lex Luthor getting his money was a set up to show you just how low Luthor is willing to go. It was a character piece that set up how he was able to afford to go to the antarctic, gave him an identifiable base of operations and explained a lot of the smaller visual links in the movie that helped give his sets character.

It also allowed them to have a little fun with Kitty as a character by providing the dog as a running joke in the background..

Fraser had a good reading of the movie too - that it wasn't a superhero movie at all. It was a movie about a demi-god like figure who thought he was god. This is constantly referred to in the movie, and many of the scenes are given an almost religious feel (especially towards the end.) This is where I felt Clark/Superman worked - this was a movie that made Superman a believeable person with depth and not just some do-gooder. He has feelings and isn't perfect.

The big point of this being that Superman learns he ISN'T a god.

In regards to Lois Lane, the movie isn't about her choices - she made a choice before the movie began, and most of the movie explores Clark learning why she made that choice and that she isn't going to change her mind.

That's what is important about the scene in the car with her and her HUSBAND (not boyfriend.) It is also why they have the scene where she basically tells Clark about his son, and clearly shows that she isn't going to leave her family.

It was a very well made movie, certainly superior to XMen 3, IMO. Parker Posey shone as always in her role as Kitty. The theme was clear and the movie was fairly tight and to the point for the most part.

The script was fine, I feel. The movie's strength was in excellent performances from the entire cast, some well directed scenes and beautifully filmed shots.

Conan

mashugenah said...

I thought I was reformed... :(

a look at Clark Kent versus Superman.

I think there were clear signs that they wanted to go this way, but I don't think Clark got enough screen time to make it work. I also feel that the scenes which hinted at it, such as the scene with his Ma where she says "where have you been for 5 years" he comes across as emotionally dead instead of exploring the consequences of that decision to go to Krypton in terms of his relationship with the woman who loves both Clark and Superman.

Though there were some nice touches in there, such as when Lois gets to see Superman, but Mrs Kent can't... because she's not Superman's mother.

the fact that the world moved on while he was away.

I got the same feeling as I did during The Incredibles: the world doesn't move on... it just pauses. At the first return of Superman, the press goes nuts.

Clearly they were aiming for something along these lines, such as when Lois can't write the anti-critique "why the world needs Superman." A nicely ambiguous moment that was too little, too late.

The Lex Luthor getting his money was a set up to show you just how low Luthor is willing to go.

I quite liked that opening, but I'm not sure I could tell you why.

The big point of this being that Superman learns he ISN'T a god.

I agree... to an extent. Ther was a lot of imagery in there about this. Fex his outstretched pose as he drifts back to earth. There were many moments when I got this impression, but I'd like to have seen it explored more.

Superman to suffer you have to hit him where he's vulnerable - people.

I never felt like Superman or Clark were challenged by this. Again: I saw it as a plausible and even probable story outcome that was hinted at, but without much follow-through.

That's what is important about the scene in the car with her and her HUSBAND (not boyfriend.)

I have to say: I liked him. I thought that in a slightly different movie, he could have come out as the real hero.

It was a very well made movie,

No question. :) The question is: was it the right movie? I described it in my own review as a series of anti-climaxes; a challenge or dilemna would be set up and then ignored or brushed aside.

Actually though, on reflection, it felt very much like a part I of II; so I'm reluctant to be as harsh about it as I might be.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Conan said...

I will admit that I still prefer Smallville's approach to the mythos - despite its campy moments, it really does explore Superman/Clark Kent as a three-dimensional person. He is often presented as the weaker character, despite his powers. He lets people walk all over him, and it really hammers home the reality that having superpowers isn't necessarily a blessing.

The movie luxuriates in Superman's abilities, which is very cool. I agree with Mash that it felt like a large set up for a second film. A lot was left unresolved at the end of the movie.

hix said...

Conan,

Fair enough. Some of my favourite reviewers, including James Berardinelli, have rated it extremely highly – so disagreement seems to be the norm on this movie.

... oh, and Richard White is Lois' fiance – I've confirmed that with Wikipedia, Ebert and three Christian-oriented film reviewers (who I didn't realise made up such a popular sub-sect). I believe that gives Lois

Aside from all that, I agree with this:

"The movie's strength was in excellent performances from the entire cast, some well directed scenes and beautifully filmed shots."

mist1 said...

Okay, I haven't blogged about the movie because I didn't want to spoil it, but I have a bone to pick with Superman. People have had enough time to see it by now. Maybe I'll blog about it next week.