Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Superman Returns

Lane & Kent
Originally uploaded by Lane & Kent
Superman is now and has always been my favorite super hero, he’s probably my favorite fictional character. Superman represents American ideals, the American dream, and everything that should be pure and good about humanity. He is the one pure and good super hero, he desperately wants to fit in but the more he tries the more he knows that the only way he can help the people that he loves is by separating himself from them. Superman is the selfless super hero who will never be shaken, and who can never really be who he wants to be – Clark Kent.

I lay out the above so that you will know where I come from when I critique a Superman movie. Since they begin committing Superman to film there have been good films about Superman, but no film has ever truly grasped the idealism, and pureness of the character. Superman the Movie and Superman II were pretty darn good, but not really the Superman from the comic books, and don’t even get me started on Lois Lane. However, compared to the way that Superman Returns bastardizes the man of steel the previous films are shining examples of Superman lore.

When I first heard that Bryan Singer was talking the helm of the Superman franchise I was excited. Singer is one of my favorite directors and made my favorite film of all time - The Usual Suspects. His visual style is phenomenal, he seems to be an actor’s director and he completely invented the visual style of the X-Men films so I thought he’d do no wrong…I’d do better, but he couldn’t do wrong. I was mistaken.

What I can say is that there are some things that Singer gets very, very right. There are visuals in the film that are perfect Superman visuals. When Superman rescues the plane at the beginning of the film and the entire stadium applauds him – perfect. When he flies over the streets and everyone stops and stares – perfect. When we flashback to Clark Kent as a kid playing with his powers – perfect. But the list ends about there. A few perfect visuals does not make up for the things that went wrong with the film.

What is most notable bothersome about Superman Returns is the casting. What Singer got so right in X-Men he got so wrong in this film; Brandon Routh is perfect as Supes, there is no denying that. However, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is not so perfect, she is fragile, annoying, and looks like she could snap in two under the slightest pressure. Where Margo Kidder was overbearing and slightly grating, Bosworth is too transparent and frail to be the stubborn, tough as nails reporter that doesn’t listen to anyone and makes her own rules. Let’s also note that in this film we assume the characters should be in their mid-thirties, and yet Bosworth and Routh don’t look a day over 24.

We then move on to James Marsden who plays Lois Lane’s fiancée Richard; I have no problems with Marsden, I adore him in every part and that is the problem. Marsden is far too likable for the character he was cast to paly. As an audience member we should want Lois to dump Richard and gun it for Supes/Clark. Instead, we want Richard to dump Lois because he is wonderful and she is horrible to him. Not exactly the kind of reaction you want to the character that should be the third wheel in the scenario.

Now we can discuss Lex Luthor, played by Kevin Spacey. I actually have no problems with this casting. I genuinely think it could have been perfect – if Singer had actually made him the Luthor from the comic books and not the Luthor from the first two Superman films. Instead of being the menacing villain the two time Oscar winner is capable of playing, we have a cheesy, poorly written performance of a villain who smacks of clichés.

Normally I try not to post too big of spoiler in my reviews, but I will break that rule here. Superman Returns does the one heinous thing that it cannot recover from, ever. They give Superman and Lois Lane a love child.

There is no way in Superman lore that he would EVER have an illegitimate child. EVER. I understand that children are the byproduct of sex, but this is still fiction and there is no way that with the pureness that Superman represents that he would ever have an illegitimate child. I’m sorry; it took about 40 years for Clark Kent and Lois Lane to tie the knot in the comic book, you cannot make the decision to give him a six year old son in the course of a two hour movie.

I still adore Bryan Singer. However, I remember him saying once that he doesn’t read comic books or know much about them. With X-Men that didn’t seem to make a difference, he understood what the characters where about and how to make them work in that world. He shared no such empathy for the man of steel; and I don’t know if Superman can recover.

Here and now is the first time that I say this publically for all to see. Warner Brothers, DC – someday if you give me the reins to the Superman franchise I can do to it what Christopher Nolan did to Batman. I can make the movie that satisfies the geeks because it is the Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane they know and love; I can make the movie that satisfies the audiences worldwide because it is a damn good story; I can make the Superman movie that makes Superman relevant again; I can make the Superman movie that breaks box office records.

All you have to do is give it to me in a few years.

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Clark Kent/Superman: Brandon Routh
Lois Lane: Kate Bosworth
Lex Luthor: Kevin Spacey
Richard White: James Marsden
Kitty: Parker Posey
Perry White: Frank Langella
Martha Kent: Eva Marie Saint
Jor-El: Marlin Brando
Jason: Tristan Lake Leabu

Superman: You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.

1 comment:

Adam said...

I too hate the idea of Superman having a kid. I liked the film, but agree that it could (should?) have been so much more. The follow-up, "The Man of Steel," is supposed to more in the vein of "The Wrath of Khan."

I'd give you the franchise. . .