View Full Version : Flying Jesus?

12-12-2006, 02:54 PM
Superman Returns (2006) directed by Bryan Singer

Clearly the parallels are obvious: A pure and chaste man, comes down from above, the only begotten son of the father, raised by a good-hearted woman that does not give birth to him. He dedicates his life to the pursuit of truth and justice. He never lies and has the morals of a saint. His father even ‘speaks’ to him from a ghostly form in a place shaped like a cathedral!

Yet, the comparisons end there. When Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster invented Superman, they did so during an era when people drank their coffee black, they dunked plain donuts into it while smoking unfiltered cigarettes and wearing big wide dark hats. Take a gander at any picture of the day and you’ll see a crowd of men all wearing hats! Even when the comic book artists drew Superman, he did not have a lean body and wear a robe. Rather, he had on tights that accentuated his manly muscular features (always wearing a cup, of course). In addition, Superman did not back away from a fight as that other religious guy might do. Far from being a peacemaker, he often got into scraps with the bad guys, using his fists and throwing them around left and right.

In the recent film, “Superman Returns” (2006) just released on DVD, we find director Bryan Singer hearkening back to an earlier philosophical concept of this super-being acting in the role of savior. (“I hear them crying out for a savior” he tells Lois flying high above New York City, a.k.a. Metropolis) This time, superguy is definitely buff, yet gentle enough not to really fight it out, choosing instead to use his super-abilities to resolve conflict and not his big muscles (though newcomer Brandon Routh did beef it up for the part). If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the same delivery made by Christopher Reeve… soft spoken, quiet, unassuming (Singer dedicated the film to him). Let those comparisons end now as well. Reeve’s Superman wasn’t afraid to knock a few heads around. Just as Routh approaches the back guys, we do not see the result, only his intent as the camera cuts away. The only violence we see is actually perpetrated on Superman by Luthor’s men on his growing island. The beat the tar out of the poor guy only to have Luthor’s island wreak its own revenge as it falls apart (a.k.a. Atlantis).

I first saw this film in Imax and 3-D, disappointed the opening title sequence was not part of the three dimensional effect. I still believe that would have been incredible to see. Watching the DVD, it struck me that the four sequences chosen hardly highlighted that effect well with the exception of the boat being torn in two.

This film opens with the original Lois Lane from television, Noel Neill playing Gertrude Vanderworth (surly a pun). As she lies dying, Lex Luthor manages to have her sign her fortune over to him, financing his revenge on the world and ultimately flying wonderboy. Superman, however, has left us all alone. He took off without a word to anyone (“You didn’t even say goodbye,” Lois Lane later mentions. “Sometimes it’s difficult to say goodbye,” Kent retorts). Soon we discover why the opening credits involved the long space shot as a strange crystalline craft crashes into the Kansas back yard of Martha Kent (Eva Marie Saint) bearing the star with a skin-tight silver leotard on. Although the music credit is given to John Ottman (whose music career is rather undistinguished to date), the original themes created by John Williams largely dominate with his Superman march being the most prominent.

Later, Clark, downtrodden over Lois changing boyfriends during his absence, sits in a bar drinking with Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) while bartender Jack Larsen (the original Jimmy Olsen) ironically hangs close offering his support. When a NASA sponsored event goes wrong, with Lois Lane in attendance, Clark must rush from the bar and change into his alter ego. Superman makes his reappearance in a flashy way by rescuing a plunging airliner (with Lois aboard naturally) from crashing into Yankee Stadium. When he emerges, his face is electronically plastered across New York to a standing ovation. Superman didn’t just return; he brought down the house. The interesting twist to this film’s simplistic ‘save-us-from-the-villain-Superman!’ plot is the relationship between Lois and Clark/Superman. Often alluded to, her article “I spent the night with Superman” taken from the first film is literally translated into prodigy. Any sequels to this film will have to include junior. How an alien and human DNA can mix is left up to the nerds in the audience to figure out.

One of the film’s funniest moments happens during the climax when Frank Langella (with a rather long and distinguished career in both stage and film mediums), as Editor in Chief, Perry White is nearly pummeled to the ground by the Daily Planet Globe breaking loose and falling to the ground (we knew Superman would stop it, please!) He stares skyward for a moment, then, in an antithesis to previous actors playing the part whispers, “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”

The DVD is not just talking heads with film clips but some rather clever behind the scenes docu-style filmmaking, planned from the start of the production, as crew and cast often acknowledge the camera as “Oh, those DVD guys are here!” Singer and the DVD production crew also include a gag reel at the end of the last short. Watching how they created Marlon Brando’s return is almost frightening, using a computerized mouth and manipulating his face to say words he only spoke in the voice over tapes. One can envision Hollywood trying to create digital characters in cameo appearances, instilling enough angst to send copyright lawyers running for their law books.

“Superman Returns” is a big budget Hollywood fun-time movie with just enough intelligence, wit, and humor to make it worth watching at least once, while the DVD 2-disc special edition (the one I purchased) is strictly for fans of the genre.

12-19-2006, 09:13 AM
Thanks a lot cinemabon- I'm glad this film has champions

When I wrote that Superman Returns was possibly the film of the decade, I meant that it was the film of the decade for ME.

I needed this film more than any mere moviegoer.

Jesus hasn't sent us a memo on whether or not he's coming back - he's a little late, isn't he?

I'll settle for the man in red boots and cape.

The world doesn't need a savior?

But no one's coming to our rescue.
It's not like the movies where a hero comes in and saves the day (wouldn't it be nice if Superman could walk into the White House and take out the villain?)

I can dream- leave me alone!

Anyway, this film has more importance to me than just entertainment. I like the whole IDEA behind it, I like the awesome sfx, and I love the CHARACTER.
Superman was tailor made for the cinema.
Story, action, bad guys, it's all there.

Bryan Singer and his teams of creative geniuses deserve a lot of credit.

They resurrected a GOD, a comics icon, and that's very hard to do without looking foolish. I think all of the lukewarm reviews are people's justification for low expectations and mainly from people who don't really give a shit about comic books or Superman.
Doom on them.
I said it before, I'll say it again: Singer is a messiah of sorts.

You got me thinking about buying a fedora, CB.

I rarely wear hats, but yeah, back in the 20th century times you mention people DID wear hats and dress snappily.

12-19-2006, 10:02 PM
You're not old enough to wear a hat! Besides, even if you did buy a fedora (an Indiana Jones-style of hat with a wide brim and a point at the front), you'd resemble Alan Ladd or someone like that and look silly. I'm afraid the era of hats has left us for many reasons...

As told in the style of James Joyce...

Remember the mad hatter? Mercurious Nitrates did him in and you too if your hat is made from the old fashioned method with felt. Besides, hats also 'crimp' the scalp leading to early baldness. After a while, the hat becomes a necessity for those who wear one daily. Hence the style about a decade ago to shave the head, thus eliminating the hat and the idea of hair, leading many women to have the 'genie' fantasy about men. Why wouldn't that make Arabic men more attractive, if not for their chauvanism. And yes, she said yes, the wind waving in her hair, the waves crashing on the shore, and she said yes, and yes, ...

12-20-2006, 06:53 AM
Yeah, I guess you're right.
I'm too young to wear a fedora.
It might look stupid.

I don't even like baseball caps.

But my hairline is receding already, thanks to Dad's genes.
I'm starting to look like he did at age 31. (irk!)

Genie fantasy? Really?
I've never thought about that.

Shaving my head is something I did way back in the army days, I'd never do it on purpose. I'm trying to hang on to the locks I got!

I love Joyce.
He's a beautiful literary challenge, a great poet.