Friday, June 30, 2006


A review of Superman Returns

The day before I saw this movie I managed to catch a Discovery Channel special called The Science of Superman.  In it various physicists and materials scientists discussed Superman’s abilities as if he were a real person. The directors and writers for the movie (who all looked about fifteen years old) also appeared to brag about how “realistic” they had made the film – they lavished special gratification on their research for a scene in which Superman rescues a commercial jet.  “We actually got the stress test data for the wing of a 777,” the director warbled, cutting right to the quick of what makes a good movie: accurate stress and tension characteristics faithful to the specs of real-world airframes.
     I still had a little hope for the movie thanks to Kevin Spacey and (especially) Parker Posey, but unsurprisingly the director sidelines Spacey’s surprisingly nuanced jailbird fop Lex Luthor and Posey’s delightful re-cap of her signature drunk-n-crazy character.  He focuses instead on Bland Turgidson, the new Superman, and pretty girl/occasional actress Kate Bosworth.  He also, for reasons which I pray came from focus groups in Wisconsin, includes an actual tow-headed moppet who performs, on seemingly innumerable occasions, Chopsticks.
     If the boring characters and bad acting have not warned you off, consider yourself on notice for the bombastic direction, oleaginous plot, and stale cinematography.  The film continually congratulates itself for referencing old, better Superman movies and the comic books. Not the point of a sequel/adaptation.  The last hour of the movie is one hideous cacodemonic roar of explosions and disasters; the first two hours suffer calamity equal in import but lesser in noise.  Superman is, by custom, a hard character to deepen: he’s basically a nice guy with none of the daddy issues of Batman or the psychotic rages of the Hulk, but this putrid film doesn’t even try. Awful beyond even the reach of humor (tMa and I kept up the wisecracks for about the first hour and a half, but then succumbed to an intense fatigue and depression).

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