In Kill Bill, Volume 2, Bill makes an unusual observation which reminds you that Tarantino is writing the dialogue because it seems so odd for Bill, as he's been portrayed, to say it. He tells Uma (the Bride) that nearly every superhero has a secret identity, and that they put a mask (like Spiderman) to become a hero.
The one exception is Superman. By all accounts, his Superman uniform is what he might wear on Krypton. His disguise, being an alien, is being Clark Kent. He disguises himself as he thinks humans would see him.
Superman the Movie came out in 1978. The tagline was "You'll believe a man can fly". This was an origin story. It crams a lot of a storyline in, to be honest.
The film starts off with the sentencing of General Zod and two others to the Phantom Zone. At the time, the special effects for this were pretty good. The three prisoners are standing in these encircling hoops, and then a mirror floating in space spins and captures the prisoners.
At the time, Jor-El, father of Superman, realizes that the planet is likely to be destroyed by their star. He creates a crystal like space vehicle (also rather clever at the time) to send baby Kal-El to Earth.
On Earth, the Kents adopt Kal-El and name him Clark. He's a bit of a bookworm, and knows he can be a football star, but has to hide it. There's perhaps 20-30 minutes devoted to this section of his life. He then takes a journey to the North Pole where he creates the Fortress of Solitude.
When he learns what he needs to, he heads to Metropolis. Christopher Reeve plays Clark has a bit of a bumbling, shy guy, who is uncoordinated. This was a completely new take on Clark Kent who had, up to then, been portrayed as something of a tough guy.
There, he meets Lois Lane, a tough as nails New York broad. OK, maybe not quite like that. One thing Donner did that was particularly interesting was to portray a stylized New York, with New Yorkers being rude, or impatient. There's a sense of New York the city in Metropolis.
Gene Hackman plays Lex Luthor in a light way. He's never all that menacing. He just has weird plans to cause an earthquake to occur so that he can own what's left of California. He surrounds himself with the bumbling Otis, and the voluptuous Miss Teschmacher.
Initially, it seems, Superman Returns might retell some of the origin story, but instead, it takes up after Superman has returned back from Earth after being missing for five years. Where did he go? He had to fly out to Krypton to see if his people were still there. Answer's negatory. He comes back to the only place he's ever known.
The question is, how much should Singer, the director, reimagine the Superman story. The story pays homage to the original in many ways, from the crystal like structure that is the Fortress of Solitude used in the original, to Routh's near impersonation of Christopher Reeve.
The problem with the film is that there's both not enough storyline, and also, not enough character. Routh's Superman comes across nearly as bland as Reeve's. His Clark Kent doesn't really make it as a character. He doesn't play him nearly as bumbling, but then, he doesn't play him almost at all. It's not that he's bad, it's that he's not that much of a character.
The story revolves around Clark/Superman's feeling for Lois. He takes an oddly detached longing for Lois. Lois herself is having a hard time dealing with Superman's return. She's missed him too, but has moved on, marrying someone else and having a kid.
It's this repressed, well, it's hard to call it desire. And this is where Singer works himself into a corner. He doesn't want Superman to be this lusting guy who can't wait to be in Lois's arms. He also needs to convey that Superman hasn't been back in a long time, and that too doesn't come across very well.
Routh makes Superman somewhat ethereal, almost angelic, but tough to relate to. Kate Bosworth isn't that much better. Margot Kidder gave her Lois Lane some spunk. Bosworth's Lois has a higher degree of difficulty. Somehow, she has to have repressed feelings for Superman, and yet also feel something for the husband she married, and it gets all kind of muddled. It would seem a bit too shallow for Lois to just jump into Superman's arms and yet Marsden as the husband is also not that exciting, at least, not to compete with Superman.
I don't envy the story that Singer wanted to tell, and it leaves all parties interested in this middle ground that they can't escape from. I don't know who thought Parker Posey was funny. She's a complete non-character. She makes a few (very few) smart remarks, and emotes here or there.
Even Kevin Spacey can't properly save the film. His Lex Luthor has a bit of pizzazz, but what to do with his character. On the one hand, they don't want Spacey to be completely menacing, and on the other, he's not really comic enough either. Again, another ehhh.
At one point, they do something in the film that resembles a bit of the second Spiderman film. I won't reveal what it is, but it seems almost too odd. (Oh yeah, I suppose there's a twist too, but come on, even the twist wasn't so effective).
For some reason, the story seemed awfully distant, and rather muted. Even if the original Superman is dated, there's something that makes it easier to follow as a story. The second film is nearly as good, and has a bit of fun. This film tries to be more personal than the original franchise, but I don't think it succeeds.
I give it a "C" for enjoyability and a "B" for what it was trying to aim to.
corrections - - Chick Corea (note the spelling) was a member of Miles Davis' band. - Graham Chapman, the only Graham in the group, is the only deceased mem...
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