Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I finally got to see 3/4 of Superman Returns last night. I say 3/4 because just after the big Supes-rescues-Lois-and-Cyclops scene, I got an important phone call that I had to take and it lasted just long enough for me to see the final scenes. Hey, it was money and bid'ness, OK?
Did anybody out there hate this film as much as I did?
"Huh-WHA? Hate, you say? But JB!"
No, I hated it. Hated it even as I was watching it. Hated it for the fact that they chose to recreate the production values and simpleminded, lowest-common-denominator-aimed script of the 1979 film, even as they laded on the 2007 CGI. Hated the fact that they had a lead actor playing Superman, the Iconic Man of Steel, that looked like he could have been sharing that apartment with Derek Zoolander, he was so pouty and clueless. I don't know what YOUR ideal Superman looks like, but that ain't mine. Oh, his performance was decent enough, considering that all he did was ape Christopher Reeve (another wooden prettyboy actor who grew into the role, thankfully). I know Smallville is all the rage among those who don't know better or don't care one way or the other, and I know that finding an actor with the proper physique and acting skills is hard to do. But at least the cat that plays Clark Kent in Smallville is supposed to be playing a young Superman, so his lack of build isn't such an issue. But this is supposed to be ADULT CLARK KENT! Five years after the 1979 film- FIVE YEARS! He barely looks older than Jimmy Olsen!
Crap. I don't have the time or the critical vocabulary to lay into this movie properly. But I'll do what I can.
Yeah, there were one or two decent effects-heavy setpieces, none of which eclipsed Dick Lester's in Superman II. And while I'm bitching, what the hell is up with this revisionist history that claims that Lester somehow ruined II when he took it over from Richard Donner, necessitating that money-grab "Director's Cut" that came out last year? Hell, as far as I'm concerned II is the best of the lot; not as ridiculous as its two successors and unburdened with the campiness of the second half of the first one. Maybe it's just because Lester directed Hard Day's Night and I'll always cut him slack because of it, but while II had its silly scripted moments as well, it was directed just fine.
Kate Bosworth? As Lois Lane? Now Bosworth is very attractive, and can even act a little, as she proves here; but the only examples of more egregious miscasting in comics-based films I can think of offhand are Katie Holmes, overmatched in Batman Begins, and of course Halle Berry in that wretched Catwoman film. She is fine, she just isn't Lois Lane, or at least the Lois Lane that exists outside some clueless producer's mind.
"Kevin Spacey!" You say. "Kevin Spacey! One of the finest actors in recent memory! SURELY he avoids your scorn, JB!" Yeah, well, OK. Spacey knows how to underplay and be menacing, and he does that real well here. Half the time he seems to be self-consciously channeling Gene Hackman, but he does manage to exude a nerdy, Keyser Soze-sort of malevolence the other half. I'll give Spacey a pass, he does the best with what he had to work with. And what he had was a dumb, tired rehash of the first flick's "beachfront property" scheme, dovetailed into the only slightly less-tired "I hate and want to kill Superman because he's an alien" trope. Why, oh WHY do Hollywood screenwriters want to make Luthor into a buffoon? Do they not want him to somehow send the wrong message to the kiddies and impressionable idiots out there, who could possibly think that Luthor has more charisma and is cooler than their wooden, lifeless Superman? They ALWAYS have to saddle him with a doofy sidekick (thanklessly played by ol' Kumar, Kal Penn) and a ditzy Miss Tessmacher-type "moll" (again, thanklessly played by Parker Posey, who is SO much better than this crap), and make bald jokes with all the wigs, and hit every single note that has been hit in the character's three other big screen appearances. Sigh. I will say that I got a chuckle to his annoyed reaction when Lois teased him about being out of the public eye for so long. And in all fairness, to have Lex find the Fortress of Solitude, steal the crystals, and make mischief was a decent idea. But it wasn't THAT good of an idea.
Just so I'm not completely negative all the time, I will go on record as saying that of all the company, Frank Langella's performance as Perry White was as good as any of them, including Spacey.
I won't even go into all the Jesus Christ Posing that the scriptwriters and director saw fit to jam in; I have my blood pressure to think of. Not to mention the whole Superman's kid thing.
I could rant on and on, but I'll spare you. Who knows, I might see the 15-30 minutes of the movie I missed when I got my phone call, a light will switch on (or a candle, as the case may be) in my head, and I'll reconsider. And maybe I've been spoiled by the vastly superior Superman: The Animated Series, still the gold standard for depicting the Man of Steel and his friends and foes as far as I'm concerned. But damn- for all the money they spent, and the pre-sold audience they had, to make such a pretentious, sodden, dull, dimwitted, noisy motion picture like this is almost unconscionable.
Say what you will about Marvel's filmed output- and I understand Spider-Man III has its share of head-scratching scripting and pretensions too- between this and the watchable-in-spite-of-itself Batman Begins, it's time for an old DC guy like me to admit that right now, Marvel is making the superior motion picture product by far. There's no reason why a Batman or Superman film couldn't be at least as entertaining, even in a "big dumb fun" way, as I'm hearing that Ghost Rider or Fantastic Four 2 are. But they have just GOT to look beyond 1979 and 1990 as starting points, and remember that they're trying to be entertaining without being moronic. I believe that it can be done- just look at Spider-Man 2.
Cripes, did I hate this movie. Not to put too fine a point on it.