Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Superman Returns

He's Back!

Superman returns! And in a style befitting a worldwide pop cultural icon easily recognizable from that distinctively red-yellow S-shield. Being stuck in production hell for almost 2 decades since the last movie installment, Bryan Singer has resurrected the Man of Steel for the silver screen, with an all new cast made up of fresh faces and veterans, even Marlon Brando, as Jor-El.

In the hands of lesser directors, it will be tempting to make a Superman movie consisting of mindless slugfests, capitalizing Supes' invulnerability. Early drafts of a new Superman movie wanted to do just that. In the hands of unimaginative storytellers, this same invulnerability will also prove to be a bane, and therefore translate into a bore. Singer, based on his track record of his successful X-Men movies, in massaging multiple favourite characters and telling a compelling story, weaves his brand of magic into Superman, giving us not only what everyone would come to expect, but also an extremely important factor that makes this movie a winner -

He humanized Superman. It's no easy feat, but he pulled it off wonderfully.

Being the last son of Krypton, sent here like a messiah with powers to conquer, it is too easy to dismiss him as a boy scout on a mission to save the world from evil doers and natural disasters, and take for granted that he does what he does, because he can. Singer worked plenty of emotions into Clark, as well as Superman, in feeling the isolation of an alien in an adopted home, in always trying to pretend to be what he's not. You feel his pain that despite being around his loved ones, he will never able to always be there for them, because of his higher calling. There are scenes which makes you feel just that - Here's Superman, but ok, now that you're safe and sound, he has to go wrap things up, see you around later. A man yearning to shut out the outside world for quality time, but not being able to do so, for who he is.

For someone almost invulnerable, Singer worked into the story, moments where his invulnerability wanes. And I tell you, even the most stoic critic of Superman, will feel pain and anger when that happens. It's as if Superman was a fellow human being, and seeing him subjected to the cruelties of nasty human thugs, just makes the blood inside you boil. You want to help, but obviously can't since it's just a movie. But you feel just that way.

Brandon Routh, a relative unknown, filled the shoes well as the new Clark Kent/Superman. He bore some resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, and at times even sounded like a youthful version of Reeve too. He did a commendable job in not being over-awed in a role which is under constant spotlight, and he is believable both as the Man of Steel, and as the bumbling Clark. I believe Routh will win fans approval worldwide for his portrayal, and it should endear him as another definitive cinematic Superman. I like the continuation of that bit through conversation that Superman doesn't lie.

Kate Bosworth too did a great job continuing the film version of the tough as cookie Lois Lane, though here the character has mellowed somewhat because she's a mommy now. And it's always the little things that count, that she still smokes, still is a klutz at times, and an extremely nice touch to progress from the first two Reeve-Kidder Superman movies, she finally won her Pulitzer Prize, although it was for her story which stung with a criticism on why the world doesn't need Superman. (Look out for that explicit jibe about the Oscars too).

And not to forget, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, criminal mastermind. Brain over brawn. It's interesting that Superman's greatest enemy has always been Lex, a mere human, but with a desire to eliminate Superman, and here, Lex wastes no time by lapsing into mindless monologues when going one up against our hero. Spacey's Lex is slightly different from Gene Hackman's, in that this one had a little more comedic flavour, though not always intentional. Spacey hams it up a bit, and made it somewhat scary - you'll never know what is going on inside his bald head. And there are some scenes which just crack you up at times, like the gig with the toothbrush (shan't say more).

Lex's scenes were slow to begin with, but builds up into a megalomaniac's plot to become a landlord, again tipping the hat and staying true to the Hackman version. That means that there is no LexCorp, but that's just a minor upset. His array of wigs and headpieces are also included, and his female companion in Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey) brought back shades of Eve Teschmacher from the 1978 movie, in having a thing for Superman and humanity in general. In reference to the earlier movies, Superman's ability to see through lies was also mentioned, and it worked into Lex's brainchild of an idea in having Kowalski put up as a sort of bait.

Plenty of nice performances from the supporting characters, like X-Men's Cyclops James Marsden (does he hold the honour of starring in superhero movies from Marvel and Dc?) as Richard White, the Superman alternative of a man who can always be there for you, the family man with no cares of the outside world other than his own family, and Frank Langella bringing veteran clout as Daily Planet's Chief Editor Perry White. Sam Huttington's Jimmy Olsen was a natural too, rounding up our Planet's crew.

Singer gave fan boys what we've come to experienced - Superman's powers. As far as I know, most of the obvious powers were covered, from heat vision - two techniques used, TV's Smallville invisible swirls and the laser beams blasting, his invulnerability, his ability of flight with nice details like sonic booms when he breaks the sound barrier, the see all X-Ray vision, his super eavesdropping ability, and his powerful breath. It's a showcase of powers done to perfection with today's special effects. And of course with technology, Superman is always in a constant state of motion, seldom with his feet on the ground (hey, if I can fly, why would I want my feet to be planted firmly on the ground? I float!)

There are plenty of exellent elements incorporated from the earlier movies, like the opening credits scene, spruced up of course, but you'll see touches of the original, and THAT all too familiar fanfare theme composed by John Williams has been combined into a new score as well. It's as if to signal an intention to reboot the franchise, but keeping with it the good bits from the earlier movies, saluting them, like in that final flight around earth's orbit.

There are also many signature scenes which have already become part of the Superman mythos, put into the movie as well, like how reliant he is from Earth's yellow sun as his source of power - that flight into the sun rays to recharge, gave me the goosebumps, as did the scene where he tips a car, right out from Action Comics, as does his lifting of the globe scene, akin to Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his broad shoulders. And his constant staying in orbit to tune in to cries for help like a police radar, is just pure classic, which brings him to places around the world where his assistance is required.

Now this might be premature, but if it's any indication, a World's Finest movie, if done correctly with Routh and Bale in their respective title roles, might just blow the minds of fans worldwide. Until then, this Superman soars and epitomizes truth and justice in a world that needs a beacon of hope. I like to believe that almost everyone who has encountered the Superman character, in print or in various media, is secretly admiring and supports the character, whether they like to admit it or not. Somehow a character who wears a cape and saves the world is boring and unhip somewhat.

Singer's Superman might just bring all fans out in the open, and declare that yes, that's the Man of Steel whom we have been so familiar with, taking his rightful place amongst the better cinematic versions of other superhero movies.

You Look Familiar...

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...