Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Kneeling Before Zod

In honor of the upcoming Man of Steel (and because I didn't write anything for today), here's a retro-review from 2006!

I saw Superman Returns on a whim about a week ago. I remember liking the earlier Superman movies and the power of flight is just damn cool, so I assumed I'd have a mostly enjoyable movie watching experience. An afternoon spent on moderate acting and flashy special effects.

I was wrong. Hoo boy...

Dark Age or Dork Age?

Let's start with the obvious: Superman himself is the most boring character ever imagined after Jesus (coincidentally, the teaser that was playing in theaters a few months ago implied he was some sort of modern Jesus-figure). Superman can, and often does, do anything. Anything at all. Fly? Check. Burrow to the center of the planet? Check. Travel lightyears between commercials? Check, check, and check. If some basement-dwelling fantard can dream it up, the Man of Steel can do it. Hell, he probably did it back in the eighties. This might be acceptable if he didn't turn around and be all "Golly gee gosh, let me help that kitten out of the tree. There, now I'll go fight non-lethally for truth and justice and free candy!"

Superman as a character is perfect, so why should we care what he does? He can do whatever he wants and all he wants is to be the world's best boy scout. Once you know the character, any story is just filler. It's why you read the chapter's about Satan and skipped the one's about God when reading Paradise Lost in school. God was perfect, Satan wasn't. Why care what Milton's God had to say when it was bound to be absolutely wise and just anyway. No drama, no interest, get back to the Satan stuff.

That's the character, so what story is he in this time? Rather then do the sensible thing and just make a stand alone Superman flick, the filmmakers decided to make it a continuation of the older films starring Christopher Reeve. There's strike two already, see "Star Wars Prequal Syndrome." You better have a damn compelling plot to keep people awake between the awesome flying-man-in-a-cape sequences. So they give us Lex Luther rehashing his failed evil schemes, Lois Lane banging some pilot, and whats-his-bowtie still a smarmy little douchebag. And strike three.

Seriously, Lex Luther is repeating his "world domination through real-estate" plot that didn't work when he was Gene Hackman thirty years ago. What makes him think it'll work now that he's Kevin Spacey? Sure, Spacey is the film's redeeming quality with his reveling in cartoonish villainy, but that's hardly going to stop the young Chritopher Reeve look-alike and his special effects. Besides, his token floozy always betrays him in the end because she just cares too much. Or something. If you saw the original, you've seen every frame and heard, word for word, every cheesy flying joke of this one.

Oh, but this is Superman Returns - because he's been off visiting dead relatives and just happens to return to Earth in the same manner and same place as the first time he got here. Naturally, not a bloody thing has changed from the Seventies, right down to the bright earth tone fashions. But something's different about Lois! She's now a skeletal waif and a mommy with no acting ability, but that's not important seeing as her whole reason for existing is to get in trouble and be saved by Superman. Oh yeah, her son may in fact be Superman's since he shows an aversion to kryptonite and kills a thug by throwing a grand piano. That last sentence might have contained spoilers.

All in all, the producers and the public would have been better served had they just given the original to George Lucas and told him to go nuts. Then we could have gotten the Imax visuals of today's special effects with the lame story and acting of yesterday, rather then a pale imitation of lame story and acting.

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