Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman Returns Verdict: "It's Worthy!"

Let Me Explain
When I say "it's worthy", I mean I am satisfied that Singer/Routh & company didn't screw it up - and that there is definitely potential for a solid franchise here. As opposed to say, the new Star Wars flix which, honestly, [and it pains me to admit this] were overall let-downs, a big disappointment - especially compared to how great I know they could have been. [Had Lucas stuck to producing & gotten pal Spielberg to direct....well, it almost makes me cry to think of the difference it would've made.]

In Superman Returns (SR), there were some truly eerily magical moments....when I felt like it really connected with SI & SII and also, where I could sense the "passing of the torch" as it were, from Reeve to Routh. There was one moment in particular where I just wanted to throw my arms around Brandon Routh in a grateful embrace to say, "Thank you. Thank you, for your deference to those who have come before you (Reeve), and for also adding those little touches that make the role your own. And for not acting like a guy who's trying to act like Christopher Reeve acting like Superman".

Lex Luthor
I really liked Spacey as Luthor - a lot. But, I came away with the sense that there was much left untapped, or maybe left on the cutting room floor (the movie is over 2.5 hrs long after all); like I hadn't seen all I could have of Lex in action. What I thought was missing in particular was the "oooh-I-can't-stand-the-way-he-gets-under-my-skin-cuz-he-always-wins" kind of thing from Lex. There were a couple of references that were included - a jealousy remark and an "I spent 5 yrs in jail because of him and now it's payback time" explanation for Luthor's motives in being, well....Luthor. But I was left feeling like I hadn't seen enough of the verbal banter between Lex & Superman, that battle of words where you angle for clever high ground, to justify the majority of the plot.

Jimmy Olsen
I thought the Olsen character was underused and frankly, out of place. He didn't seem to really belong in the movie, or serve any purpose. His scenes were like afterthoughts, as if someone in the editing room said, "But wait, shouldn't we have Jimmy Olsen doing something now and then? We did hire the kid and he is getting paid. Plus, you can't have a Superman story without Jimmy Olsen." It was like he was included cuz everyone expects to see him - or for no other reason than to aggravate Perry White by constantly calling him, "Chief!". [But they didn't even really play that up, either....yeah, Olsen did refer to White that way, but White never barked back at him for it like we know he's supposed to.)

Perry White
Speaking of "Chief!"....Perry White was 'okay'....not bad, but not really memorable either. He's no J. Jonah Jameson, I'll put it that way.

Lois Lane
I never really totally bought Kate Bosworth as Lois. Yes, Lois Lane is a "mommy" now, so some would argue that you have to consider how that would fundamentally change the character. But if I'm not mistaken, Martha Stewart is a "mommy" too....and yet when it comes to her profession, she's a force to be reckoned with (so I've heard). Hillary Clinton is also a "mommy" - doesn't mean she's all soft-n-cuddly, either. To me, Bosworth's Lois was missing the swagger, the attitude, of Lois Lane. The "I'm a tough broad, in a tough city, in a tough profession and I've been around the block once or twice - and don't you forget it!" general approach to things. I was imagining how Margot Kidder or Smallville's Lois, Erika Durance, would've played her. I have to admit, both of them incorporate more of the "chip on the shoulder" and "driven to get to the bottom of things even if it kills me" elements than Bosworth did. Consider the scenes in the plane before the catastrophic events with the space shuttle. Lois asks the government 'tour guide', as it were, why there is only one network covering such an important event. The woman shoots back with a directive to hold all questions until the end of the demonstration. Lois retreats, without even a smart comeback, comment loud enough for colleagues to hear, or clever redirection toward the lack of openness with the invited press. What????! Hold up....would Lois Lane have let that Government Scientist Barbie get off so easily? I think not.

Special Effects
I thought the CGI breathing life into a long gone Brando as Jor-El was nothing short of amazing. I'm going to pay better attention to that next time I see it. Too bad there wasn't more of it included here. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of that in the sequels to come. I can't wait.

The flying, I'll admit, is the most realistic I've seen. Supe no longer seems to be hanging from an invisible guidewire in front of an obviously green-screened backdrop. No, this Man of Steel looks more like Cris Angel of Mindfreak fame - effortless levitation, except without all the creepiness.

The journey from the remnants of Krypton back to earth was breathtaking. It gave a real sense of why Superman had to be gone so long - heck, he probably spent most of the five years he was gone just getting to and from! He probably hung around Krypton for all of 15 minutes before realizing he had made the trip only to find that Wallyworld was closed for repairs....indefinitely.

Martha/Ma Kent
Eva Marie-Saint was a capable Ma Kent, more there for Holy Mother metaphoring than actual dialogue or bonding with the audience. I'm spoiled by the WB's Smallville, I guess, where Clark's parents are fully-developed characters to which we've become attached - vs fixtures from the comics who are included to evoke certain emotions or dispense sage advice at pivotal moments. I did find it odd that there wasn't even a picture of Pa Kent hanging around the farmhouse though.

Jonathan Kent
Hello??? Who raised you, boy? Pa Kent gets barely a mention in this incarnation. I thought they could've had Clark have some flashbacks to Jonathan Kent to at least bring him into the story as a major influence on who Clark/Superman was and had become, as well as another source of the emotional angst our tormented hero seemed to have in droves. Heck, Glenn Ford is still alive (who knew?!) and could've even done new voiceover work.

Bottom Line
All in all, I'd say it was a valiant effort that mostly succeeded. There is a good foundation for at least a couple of more movies, with hopefully some more character development and cohesiveness to the story besides just that which is seen between Clark/Superman and Lois. Superman has indeed returned.....and with the political climate and state of world affairs, perhaps just in the nick of time, for all of us.

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