Friday, June 30, 2006
Superman Returns (USA, 2006, Bryan Singer)
The movie just didn't work for me. I found that the story really just plodded along during the first hour, when exposition was king and eyelids were droopy. When we finally got to the set pieces, only the "Superman saves the plane meets 9/11 meta-commentary" sequence had any urgency or visual excitement to it. Singer's never really been my cuppa tea as a director, so perhaps there's something about his approach that just doesn't click for me, but I found the pacing of the movie was startlingly pedestrian for an action film. As for the characters, I felt like I'd walked into the b movie version of Spiderman. Both movies are primarily set in a newsroom, yet not a single casting choice here matches the quality of actors working in the Spiderman series. Langella as a supposedly fiery newsroom editor proves to be muted and uninspiring when compared to J.K. Simmons, while Bosworth is a milque toast version of Dunst's Mary Jane and Routh is a watered down Tobey Maguire. Even more disastrously, there isn't a single bit of chemistry between any of the actors (Routh, Bosworth, Marsden in particular. Spacey and Posey fare somewhat better, as they at least appearing to be having some fun) who are supposed to feel so passionately about each other. No sparks, just a big old wet blanket.
Getting into the mythology of Superman, there's something about the whole character that bugs me. Like most superheroes, he's a walking deus ex machina, which is reason enough to dislike him (where's the suspense when you know Superman's gonna show up imminently?), but more importantly, I wonder about his purpose on this planet. Is his raison d'etre really to save people whose brakes have failed? Are there no larger problems he could tackle? Also, while the film gives some lip service to the notion that Superman's heroics will act as inspiration to humans, who might then improve their own lot by upgrading their behaviour to match Superman's. Yet, can anyone point to a single character who makes any significant step forward toward heroic levels of greatness other than Superman? Sure, Parker Posey feels bad, and weeps for Superman, but fat lotta good that does him. Luthor still stabs the lad with cryptonite.
I'm reminded of Bill's (David Carradine) monologue in Kill Bill about how Superman is really a critique of humanity, via the character of Clark Kent. Kent is how Superman REALLY sees us. Well-intentioned, sure, but in the end, clumsy, inept and ineffectual. That's pretty much the way I feel about this film as well.