A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 410 – Superman Returns

Superman Returns – April 14th, 2011

By now if you follow my reviews at all you might have noticed that we own a lot of comic book based movies. This is, as I’ve mentioned, because Andy collected them for a while. And I supported that because it was a cool thing to do and all. Now that we’re watching everything we own, however, I have had to face up to the fact that some of them are better than others. Lots better. This, sadly is in the lower end of the middle of the pack. Good potential that’s sadly balanced by some truly unfortunate choices and holes. Alas.

I’ll warn right now that I am going to spoil this movie. And I don’t feel at all bad about it because I think the stuff I’m going to spoil was ultimately pointless and such a huge plot-hole magnet it should have been left behind in script editing. But yes, I will spoil things. Not yet, but it’s coming. First let’s go over what I enjoyed about the movie before I go and get pissy about it all.

And yes, I did enjoy some things in this movie. For one, I think Brandon Routh was fantastically cast. He might not be the best actor in the world, but he feels right in this role and he certainly looks right. I think, honestly, it’s his Clark that does it for me. He’s so earnest and fumbling and awkward and I like that. It’s what sells the “disguise” of his glasses, which was always an issue for me when it came to Superman. I mean, Batman wears a mask, the X-Men aren’t necessarily as public (okay, there’s Warren Worthington but for the most part they’re not), Iron Man’s got his face fully covered, as does Spiderman. Swamp Thing doesn’t have an alternate identity once he’s Swamp Thing and the same goes for a lot of the villains. And then there’s Superman. Who wears glasses. So it’s got to be sold to me and the movie does that. Routh does that. And that makes me happy.

I also really enjoyed Lex Luthor. Sure, he’s cartoonish and all, but I think he played. He’s got motivation and he’s got plans and he’s over the top because he’s Lex Luthor, okay? That’s how he should be and Kevin Spacey obviously had fun with him. The movie also had a number of little nods and references to the older movies and to the shows and I do like when there’s that sort of respect and knowledge in a movie like this. It makes me feel more kindly inclined towards the folks making it when they mess up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make up for the issues I’ve got.

For one, much as I liked how Clark was done, Superman bugged me. Oh, he’s great when he’s being all heroic and catching crashing airplanes and saving people from falling debris and stopping robberies, but then he goes and peeps on Lois and her new family? I get it that he’s got Issues about Lois, but um. Ew. See, this movie is set up as a sequel to Superman II (which we don’t have, and I think we should because I need some Zod in my life), sort of. There are issues. But whatever. It’s set up to start five years after Superman takes off to look for the remains of Krypton. And he’s been gone all that time and Lois moved on and got engaged to Perry White’s nephew, Richard (who is never once set up to be anything but a nice guy who just isn’t Superman), and they’ve got this kid, Jason. And, well, Clark/Superman is conflicted about that because yeah, it isn’t realistic to expect her to wait for him when he disappeared without telling her he was going anywhere and was then gone for five years. But then too, he loves her and here she is with a family that he’s not a part of. Thing is, I don’t care how conflicted he is. Hovering outside their house and eavesdropping on their conversations and looking into their living room through the walls? That’s creepy, Clark. Knock it off.

That creepiness right there is sort of an indication of there being something amiss with the emotional plot of the movie. Now, the action plot? With Lex Luthor stealing pieces of the Fortress of Solitude and somehow melding them with green kryptonite to make a new landmass that he can rule? Dude, that is so a comic book villain thing to do and I am all over it. I do regret that such a nice model train set had to be ruined in the process, but so it goes. This whole plot and the conflicts in the Daily Planet office with Lois wanting to follow a story about a blackout that occurred when Luthor was testing his new tech but Perry wanting her to cover Superman? That’s good stuff. And it definitely could have carried a little more of the Clark and Lois storyline and relationship. But instead of using what was already there, the movie has another subplot. And this is where I get grumbly and start spoiling things.

You know, I was doing okay with the movie. I wasn’t blown away by it and it had that regrettable bit where Superman totally took a page from Edward Cullen’s book and got all creepy peeper on Lois, but I was coping. It had some fun moments and I was enjoying Jimmy Olsen and all. And then. And then. Oh movie. I’m not best pleased with your biology here. I think someone involved in this film needed to brush up on their Larry Niven. So there are some extenuating circumstances if we’re taking this movie as a direct follow-up to some of the earlier movies, but still. Fail. And that’s just on the biological front. There are plot holes a mile wide here any way you try to put it together. Some gaps just can’t all be filled at the same time. And Really, it all just seems to be tossed in there to try and add a “human” element to the plot, so there can be some nod to daddy issues. I could have done without it and I think the movie could have done without it too.

It’s a pity really, because I think it ends up adding time to what was already going to be a longish movie. And it doesn’t also add enough positive interest to make that time worth it. It weighs the movie down and makes it sag in the middle. And in the end. It’s disappointing, really, because this movie has all the right pieces to make a fun Superman movie and then it sticks all these superfluous plot holes in between them. Take out the kid, or have him be less super, and it would be a hell of a lot better. Superman spying on his ex would still be creepy, though, so I guess that would still be a problem.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Superman Returns

April 14, 2011

Superman Returns

I am extremely conflicted about this movie. It has parts that are like an inspired return to the magic of the first two movies back in the eighties back before the Superman films descended into camp. It manages, briefly, to make Superman cool again. It awakens in me a nostalgia for a simpler time and it pays homage to the first movies wonderfully. It can’t maintain that level though. Once the nostalgia wears off though this movie squanders the good will it has built up for me with the usual ludicrous silliness that plagues the Superman movies and the issues that it tries to address about home and family don’t coalesce well and end up making me feel disappointed and uncomfortable.

It’s pretty interesting to watch this so soon after watching the Tron reboot. Both are full of references to movies from the eighties. Both involve issues of parenthood (in a way.) Both involve absentee fathers. (Okay, yeah, spoilers. Sorry about that. You can stop reading now if you really care.) Flynn, however, reconnects with his son and realizes that the “perfect world” he wants to create has to incorporate the imperfections of biology. Superman is just a creepy stalker who breaks into his son’s room at night. It’s just not the same.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. This movie starts out really well. It starts out with the familiar John Williams score and the swooping credits of the original movies. Kal-el, the alien orphan known to us Earthians as Superman returns to the planet after a lengthy sojourn abroad. He had gone to investigate reports that the shattered remains of his home planet of Krypton had been discovered by astronomers, but it was kind of a dump so he came back. The general thrust of the first half of the movie is that things have changed in the time since Superman left, but it sure is awesome to have him back and kicking all kinds of ass. He stops a plane crash, foils a ridiculously over armed bank robbery, catches a man falling from a German skyscraper…in short he generally does the day-to-day heroing that the world desperately needs done. All the while he is angsting over the fact that Lois Lane, in the years that he was absent, has had a son and has a steady boyfriend.

I’ll be frank: I don’t really want angst in my Superman movie. It’s only been a couple weeks since we watched the three Spiderman movies and that was more than enough superhero angst for a good long while. I really enjoy the bits of this movie that involve Superman being Superman. Brandon Routh is fantastic both as Superman and as his bumbling alter-ego Clark Kent. It’s frightening how much he resembles Christopher Reeve. I also love Sam Huntington as Clark’s pal Jimmy Olson. He delivers a lot of the best laughs in the movie and is just fun to watch. Kevin Spacy’s Lex Luthor is also a high point. He’s just so wise in the ways of a Superman movie – he knows exactly which way the wind is blowing at all times, and he frequently expresses the feelings of the audience.

Sadly this is not a perfect Superman movie. It has several flaws. Some of them, like the ridiculous climactic “action” scene I can kind of forgive. It’s almost traditional for a Superman movie to conclude with him doing something completely impossible. I can’t claim that him throwing a cryptonite-laden mountain into space is any stranger than him turning back time by spinning the planet backwards.

The movie begins to lose its way, though, where Lois Lane’s son is involved. Superman stalks her, floating outside the home she shares with her son and boyfriend Richard (an all around nice guy) and watching the family through the walls using his x-ray vision. Creepy. I understand the entire theme of how things change when we’re away for a while – but I liked it better in Grosse Pointe Blank, where at least it made sense. I suppose it’s an attempt to inject mature adult ideas into a superhero movie, which is what all the cool kids are doing these days, but it just makes the movie feel bogged down and vaguely unfocused. Part of the problem is that nothing is really resolved at the end of the movie. Superman is still stalking Lane and her family, Richard is still dating Lois, even though he has no chance to measure up to her almost worshipful love of the alien stud, and her son is still a wheezing nerd kid who will be ostracized by his classmates because of his long hair. Maybe they were planning to resolve things in the never-produced sequel? I guess we’ll never know.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment