Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman Returns, and I really want to love this movie…

I want to love this movie, I really do, but I just can’t.

I love Bryan Singer. What he did in 2000 with X-Men was a huge paradigm shift in comic book movies. Whereas in the past your comic-based movies were made to bring the audience into the world of the comic hero, instead he brought the comic heroes into our world. This brought a trend to comic movies and helped to produce some of the finest and most entertaining superhero films of all time, including the first two Spider-Man films and the latest Batman movie.

Now I can respect Singer for his intentions, but sometimes the best of intentions go wrong. Singer did his best to emulate the directorial style of Richard Donnor who directed the first two Superman movies (He was fired half way through the second but that’s another story). It is in not doing what he does best that Singer does the movie, his reputation and the audience a great disservice.

This movie takes place 5 years after the events of Superman 2. In that time Scientists have found the remains of Krypton and Superman (Brendon Ruth) returns to his home planet to see it for himself.

Upon Returning he discovers the world has changed without him. He discovers that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has won he Pulitzer for her story “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman.” To top this shock to our hero’s system, Lois is engaged to a senior editor at the Daily Planet and they are raising a son.

Here’s where this movie really looses a lot of credit with fans. I have a belief in something called “Generally Accepted Superhero Lore” which is the dynamic of characters, events and interactions that are absolutely central to creating a classic superhero. They are generally accepted because most people, be they comic fans or not, are privy to these elements.

Case in point: Superman is the story of a super powered alien who comes to earth, disguises himself as a bumbling human, Clark Kent, in order to fit in with his adopted home. His love interest as a human is Lois Lane who usually is less-than-receptive to Clark’s advances and is absolutely in love with Superman. Simply put, you can write any superman story based on these rules.

This movie broke those rules.

But that’s not the worst offence of this movie. Casting was a major issue. Ruth is actually a very good Superman. His greatest asset is that he looks quite like Christopher Reeve in the 80’s (but with very long eyelashes). By the way, Reeve was the best superman of all time not by how he played Superman but how he played Clark Kent. Watch Reeve try to ask Lois out on a date in the first movie and tell me I’m wrong.

Kevin Spacy is Lex Luthor: Superman’s arch nemesis and supremely intelligent super criminal. Spacy is probably one of my favorite actors. When I heard he was cast in this role I had so much hope for a completely evil and psychotically nasty Lex Luthor. Instead, and this goes back to the directorial style decision mentioned above, we have Spacy playing Gene Hackman playing Lex Luthor. It just gives you the sense that things could have been so much more… real.

Finally, and the worst offender of the bunch was one of the most interesting characters in the Super-world. Kate Bosworth fails to actually play the sassy, never-take-no-for-an-answer Lois in favor of… well, a soccer mom. It is up to everyone else around her to play the role for her because she becomes your rather typical damsel in distress.

Finally we have the movie itself. In what could have been a great Superman story where the good guy faces off with the bad guy and after much turmoil good finally defeats evil we get a good versus evil plot that seemed rehashed from Superman I and a more involving plot where Superman and Clark try to deal with the issues left by his absence.

There are a couple plot twists that effectively knock you out of your seat, but much like tequila shots you find yourself regretting it in the morning.

It is my understanding that at the request of Warner Bros. Picures Bryan Singer was cutting scenes up until a week before the film’s debut. This means that the 2-hour forty-minute running time is actually the light version of the picture with the whole story only to be available on a director’s cut DVD with the extra forty-five minutes added in.

In the end this movie just tried to do too much. Between revisualizing the character dynamic, childhood flashbacks and an unnecessary third act sub-plot it bites off more then it can chew.

There was so much potential here. And so much of it never came to fruition. I wanted to love this movie. I really did, but in the end I just couldn’t.

1 comment:

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