EDITORIAL: Yes, SUPERMAN RETURNS Still Sucks Even After MAN OF STEEL
Ever since the Man of Steel was released, all of a sudden I heard some people say that Superman Returns is looking a hell of a lot better. Well, allow me to remind you of what was
Superman Returns was the long awaited return of the big blue boyscout after an almost two decade long absence from the big screen, though not from a lack of trying. After numerous attempts to get a new Superman movie off the ground, repeatedly failed, in the process burning through a cool 30 million on the doomed Superman Lives project, things looked bleak for Superman but after it was announced that fanboy favorite and self proclaimed Superman geek, Bryan Singer would be on directorial duties, fans were optimistic, especially after his success with The Usual Suspects, X-Men and X-2.
Now to be fair Superman Returns should not be considered a total financial failure although it did fail to impress fans for the most part yet critics overwhelmingly applauded it now contrast that with the Man of Steel which has largely pleased fans yet thoroughly divided the critics. Superman Returns has since been dismissed as entirely unoriginal, criminally negligent to the source material, drearily unimaginative and was quite simply lugubrious and with good reason.
The casting was so impressively egregious that whoever was the casting director should never be allowed near a movie again but Bryan Singer did approve the final cast so it's vexing to put it nicely.
Kevin Spacey was just a very bland and boring Lex Luthor, Kevin is undoubtedly a terrific actor but he just wasn't a good fit for Lex plus he made Lex look noticeably younger and it didn't help that he was given very little to work with.
Lex never felt menacing nor exceptionally intelligent, he constantly surrounded himself with incompetence and was a thoroughly one dimensional real estate villain, again, you thought Lex would have learned his lesson in Superman The Movie, Lex sure is pretty dumb for the world's smartest man.
Now contrast Lex Luthor with Ozymandias from Watchmen, both are at their core, the same character, both are supposed to be the smartest men on the planet but there are of course, lots of differences as well but they both represent the same thing, prodigious intelligence.
I had very little trouble imagining Ozymandias was the smartest man on the planet, he seemed like he was truly erudite, the way he spoke, the way he carried himself, he had an aura of superciliousness about himself now Lex Luthor comes across a legend in his own mind, nothing more.
Kate Bosworth was far, far too young, she was 22 while filming Superman Returns, considering this was supposed to be set 5 years after Superman 2, it was strange to see that Lois Lane looked a decade younger when she should have been a decade older, I would have preferred to see Kate Bosworth and Parker Posey switch roles, Parker Posey could have been a good Lois Lane actually.
I couldn't stop thinking Kal Penn was Kumar throughout the whole movie, it was very discombobulating as a viewer and Ian Roberts, why is this guy in a Superman movie, the guy was a rugby player, certainly not an actor by any stretch of the imagination, Brandon Routh was a decent Christopher Reeve look alike but was very monotone and was ultimately rather forgettable.
I remember that initially I was worried when I heard Bryan Singer describe Superman Returns as "It's a story about what happens when old boyfriends come back into your life after they've been gone a few years and things have changed." and everything that statement seemed to imply, came to pass in incredibly boring fashion, an overly saccharine love story, I did not however expect it to take a turn towards the creepy.
Superman Returns cost upwards of $250,000,000 dollars to make and It didn't look or feel like anything even close to resembling a movie that would justify that sort of budget, most of the action, what little there was, seemed dull and boring.
There was only one truly epic action scene that delivered a glimpse of the Superman we all wanted to see but the movie failed to improve and build on the momentum it created with that sequence. Man of Steel had a smaller budget than Superman Returns and it looked sublime with some truly incredible and awe inspiring action sequences, I hope you were taking notes Singer, for the sake of Days of Future Past.
Superman Returns was supposed to be set 5 years after Superman 2 yet it felt like a modern movie with people dressed up in old clothes, it just didn't feel genuine, the environment, the atmosphere felt too modern, if that makes any sense.
Metropolis and its citizens seemed empty and devoid of any feeling or substance and people having cell phones in what should have been about 1985 seemed wrong on so many levels, whatever happened to authenticity.
Superman's pathetic self loathing was irritating, boring and tiresome to watch. It seemed glaringly out of character for him to stalk Lois like that and Kal El using his x-ray vision to peer inside her house at his leisure and using his super hearing to listen to her conversations, it all seemed rather ignominious and well, just creepy.
That's a big invasion of privacy for the big blue boyscout, if that was anyone else, we would be thrown in jail as some sort of peeping tom, Superman would probably do the same if he caught anyone else doing it and I'm not even going to touch the whole deadbeat Dad angle.
We've seen the plot before, I re-watched the original Superman movie a little while ago and Bryan Singer lifted entire speeches and plot points from it, it was just insulting as a viewer, after waiting almost two decades for another Superman movie and in those two decades we have received some of the greatest Superman stories ever told yet we don't even get a movie with an original plot.
Bryan Singer even re-used jokes from Superman The Movie in Superman Returns, I noticed Kitty used a couple of the same jokes that Eve used in the original, someone needs to explain to Bryan Singer that there's a difference between paying homage to your predecessors and downright stealing from them, the amount of elements he 'borrowed' really becomes evident when you watch Superman Returns right after you watch Superman The Movie.
Lex Luthor joyfully declares that billions of people will die as a result of the new land mass forming and the resulting tidal waves, yet, that never happens, a shock wave goes through Metropolis and blows out most of the windows, a couple of things falls over and that's about it.
Ironically, a guy who drops his cigar by accident does more damage to Metropolis than Lex does with all his crystals and advanced alien technology plus Lex is supposed to be one of the smartest and most devious masterminds on the planet, did he just overestimate by billions?
When Superman is away and powerless shacking up with Lois in Superman 2, after only a few days, he gets his powers back and apologizes to the President and promises "Sorry I've been away for so long, I won't let you down again." yet only a matter of days later he embarks on a half decade long intergalactic space voyage.
If it were any longer than a few days Superman would have known that Lois was pregnant and wouldn't Lois after having her memory wiped, have been wondering after a few months, WTF?! When did I get pregnant? When Jason threw the piano, she must have known that this was Superman's kid but she never quizzed Superman, how the hell was I pregnant with your kid Superman? Now that's a conversation I'd like to see.
Now, that brings me onto Jason, Superman's kid, let's get one thing straight, Superman does not have a kid, not a legitimate heir and since he was the offspring of a powerless Superman does he still inherit Superman's powers, even though Superman didn't have any powers at the time, apparently he does, though not to my way of thinking.
Some people say, well Superman still had Kryptonian DNA so his powers would transfer to Jason regardless but wasn't there something about Superman not actually being able to have a child with a human in the comics?
Clark Kent never wore glasses as a kid, why would Singer depict him as wearing glasses, admittedly this is a small detail but Singer is constantly talking about how much of a Superman geek he is, I thought he would have gotten this detail right.
Clark Kent is shown recalling how he discovered his powers yet in the original Superman movie he is lifting up trucks when he is baby yet his apparent offspring can't open a door to save his Moms life, he won't even try? And his kid is much older than Clark was when he lifted up the truck so wouldn't logic say that his kid would be stronger as a young boy than Clark was as a baby?
Bryan Singer also claimed that the scene of Superman catching the car was a homage to the cover of Action Comics #1, now, I must call Singer's geek credentials into question here, if he has in fact read Action Comics #1 and I would think that he has, he would know that Superman wasn't catching the car he was holding, he had just picked it up, tipped its occupants out and was about to smash it to bits in front of them before he would proceed to hang them from their undies on an electricity pole, the two scenarios are polar opposites, the context is entirely and fundamentally different to the character of Superman.
Clark Kent and Superman disappear and return on the very same day and no one, in an office full of investigative journalists can put two and two together, Lois, the Pulitzer prize winning journalist still can't put the pieces together.
That's some great curiosity and perception there from one of the best investigative reporters around and I have to say, at least Margot Kidder in the original Superman movies actually treated Clark Kent with respect and valued his friendship, in Superman Returns she treats him like absolute crap, barely able to even give Clark Kent the time of day.
Lex Luthor is released from jail after committing murder, treason, larceny, attempted genocide TWICE and countless other crimes yet he is released because Superman isn't there to testify. And to add insult to injury, Lex Luthor, the smartest most astute mind on the planet and he is reduced to being a gigolo so he can swindle a geriatric out of her fortune, really...
Who would pay through the nose for land that cannot support any vegetation, has next to no natural resources or shelter and is covered with sharp and jagged rocks, it's not exactly a paradise, the next Alcatraz perhaps.
Let's just explore Lex's scheme further shall we, his island, which he plans on selling anyway, is laced with Kryptonite to keep Superman away, okay got it but what about everybody else? What's to stop the army from flying over there and dropping a bomb in Lex's lap or getting a sniper to take him out? What's that Superman? It's made out of Kryptonite? You're powerless on it? No problem, why don't you sit this one out, we'll handle it, it's the least we could do after all the times you've saved our asses.
Lois takes her sick child onto a boat where a notorious criminal mastermind and homicidal maniac is hiding out and at the very least she doesn't even make sure she brings her mobile phone with her, her phone which shouldn't have even existed in the first place, what a top notch journalist and mom.
Imagine someone asking Superman, so after this whole debacle and yet another attempted genocide by Lex Luthor, where is he Superman? Did you apprehend him? Can we, the citizens of Metropolis rest easy because that madman is in jail? Wellllll, I didn't apprehend him and I'm not even sure where he is, he completely got away from me. Surely we deserve to see some sort of conclusion to the final act.
"Superman is the Man of Steel. Bullets bounce off him, not the suit."
That's funny Bryan Singer because Superman's suit is seemingly completely impervious to a gattling gun, it can also survive the extreme temperatures of re-entry into our atmosphere and a doctor can rip it off his chest in one attempt plus I know this is a small thing but when he first steps onto the plane and you see his boots, they look like boots you would buy in a retro shop, very provincial.
I love his new suit in Man of Steel, it looks more alien, we're supposed to believe that Superman is from an advanced alien race and the best material that they have there is spandex, a red cape that looks like it was made out of a shower curtain and red boots that look suspiciously, local, come on...
People want to see Superman pushed to his limit, people want to see him fight, they want to see him brawl and yes, they want to see him punch someone (thanks Zack) and not just putting out fires and catching stuff, admittedly he did push the land mass into space but it all felt so trite, tedious and banal to watch.
No one is asking for constant action but this is a Superman movie and he was born in ACTION comics so keep that in mind, the action was incredibly sparse and mediocre most of the time, I still remember walking out of the cinema with my Superman shirt on and feeling so unbelievably disappointed with Superman Returns, after waiting so long for a new Superman movie to revive the legend and we get this.
And last but certainly not least, the train set, now this really deserves a special mention. It was so unbelievably puerile, I could hardly believe my eyes and ears, I was amazed, they even added in little screams when the trains went off the tracks, were there little people in there? When one of the miniature models fell on the train tracks he yelled out yargghhhh in agony when the train ran into him, I don't know what the hell Bryan Singer was on that day that made him think that this scene would be a good idea.
So the Man of Steel really faced a similar problem to Batman Begins, both franchises had to literally build themselves up from the ground floor again after they had both been creatively and commercially exhausted.
For any of the Man of Steel's perceived faults, it is still light years ahead of the 'out of touch' Superman Returns movie, the fans finally got a Superman from Action Comics and not a Superman from the Lois Lane Comics and for that, we should be grateful.
Superman Returns still sucks and the Man of Steel certainly doesn't change any of that.
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