Sunday, July 2, 2006

Superman's Two Hour Return



Superman is gone. He has been gone since astronauts discovered what may be remains of the planet Krypton.

Enter Lex Luther sitting on the death bed of his very old yet very rich wife. He must have done great things for her. She leaves him with all her wealth then dies. Now we have the perfect villain: evil and rich.

Back in Smallville, old Martha looks up in the sky after a quick earth shake and what does she see? Not a bird, not a plane, but a meteorite. She drives to the scene of the crash and there she finds her son. Clark has returned from his outer-space expedition.

This is how Superman Returns starts—a bit slow especially for audiences who have been dying to see the Man of Steel on the silver screen again. The long Superman cinema hiatus is the best teaser for this century’s Superman production. And since we are in the 21st century, the expectations for Superman have soared higher than even the late Christopher Reeve flew back in 1978.

His was a tough shoes to fill. Thank God for Brandon Routh who looks like Reeve, smiles like Reeve and even talks like Reeve. He is the perfect Superman, too perfect that most of the time he looks surreal. By surreal, I mean “cartoonish.” Even his nape does not appear human—or alien, for that matter—but like a computer generated image (CGI) of Superman’s nape.

With the magic of technology, the movie makers were able to retain Marlon Brando as Jor-El. The images of Superman’s biological father taken in 1978 were successfully incorporated in today’s movie. Ten points for that.

It is said that Superman Returns contains 1,400 visual effect shots. Now, the perfect visual effect is one which does not look like it has been digitally manipulated. It has to blend seamlessly with the human actors and with nature as the backdrop. Superman Returns went to the other end of the VFX line. What could have been the amazing Superman shots of the 21st century ended up as an elaborate display of a series of computerized 3D animation.

There would not be any problems if the movie was packaged as a two-hour long animated feature. Obviously, that is not the case. The production hired Brandon Routh as Superman, hence the viewers expected to see Brandon Routh fly, not the cartoon him.

Such is the downfall of The Hulk. Moviegoers refused to watch an oversized, green Eric Bana cartoon on screen, thus The Hulk’s box office failure. Even in the era of advanced computer animation, people remain partial to seeing their kind do the impossible on screen. Hollywood must therefore be careful not to overdo technology especially since present day audience still obtain a certain kind of human satisfaction in witnessing a real person display the superhuman traits they only dreamt of possessing ever since they were children.


Lex Luther being one of the main ingredients to the Superman film complicates the plot with his insatiable greed. Just like the Gene Hackman Lex, the Kevin Spacey Lex is into land acquisition. With his genius, he explores crazy ways to get his land—the key to more wealth and power.

Kevin Spacey is no Gene Hackman but he sure can portray Lex Luther brilliantly. You will hate him for his sinister smile, abhor him further for beating up our hero, then mentally strangle him for sticking a sharp piece of radioactive kryptonite on Superman’s back, twice. You wish him dead for the disaster he has caused Metropolis, but what do you know? He survives! And he winds up marooned in a tropical island which has the potentials of paradise.



Apparently, Lex Luther is not the only one who is not too thrilled with Superman’s return. Lois Lane, who is now a mommy (guess who’s the daddy?) and is engaged to Perry White’s nephew, Richard, is less than enthusiastic to see the Man of Steel despite the fact that his comeback save involves her. Her Pulitzer Price winning article, “Why World Does Not Need Superman,” may explain her hostility to Superman’s arrival but not her excessive bitterness towards Superman’s untimely and unannounced take off.

Later we discover Lois’ reasons—why she is done with Superman after she has “done” him. Apparently, Lois’ other article, “I spent the Night with Superman” was not just about a night of wholesome interview with the Man of Steel. Both Lois and Superman, despite their busy schedules, managed to get it on in the past—if you know what I mean.

If Brandon Routh is very similar to Christopher Reeve, if not Reeve’s reincarnate, Kate Bosworth is nothing like Margot Kidder. The Margot Kidder Lois we saw years ago was mature, physically a mess, and extremely curious and smart. She did not give a damn how she looked for as long as she gets her story. She was a bit clumsy too, making her a perfect match for Clark.


The Kate Bosworth Lois is more poised, pretty, and in control. She rolls inside a crazily crashing plane and gets up with picture-perfect hair. She is a bit young to become a mother of a four to five year old boy. She is too good-looking to be smart that even after sleeping with Superman (I assume Superman took off his clothes then) and after seeing Superman minus his suit lay still on the hospital bed, she never observed any resemblance between Superman and Clark. And did I say that as far as Lois is concerned, there are no sparks between Clark and her? Apparently, she is too absorbed with Superman that she doesn’t give a damn about Clark.

The movie cannot go wrong with the tried and tested Messiah archetype it maintains. People bought it then, people will most definitely buy it now. With further promotions, Superman can grow more popular than Jesus Christ—not a funny thought but absolutely possible.

The new twist introduced in the form of Jason, Lois’ son, is the risk the movie makers choose to gamble with. It was unexpected alright but still a good thing. At least the viewers will have something to talk about after they step out of the theater.

If you ask me, the Jason twist is a lot 2006ish. Our day and age is the perfect time to assign Superman an offspring. (Oops, I blew the surprise!) Besides, after the Da Vinci Code, we can handle any hero having kids, right? I wonder if the fools who opposed the Da Vinci Code loved Superman Returns.

Personally, I liked the movie but I cannot say that I loved it entirely. Superman has a very commanding effect that, for some reason, makes me want to cry. Therefore by default, the movie has won me.

I know that Superman is very much American but I have to admit, we, Filipinos, do not have a hero that measures up to his strength and fame. Come on, Captain Barbell is no match to Superman! And I bet that even Captain Barbell himself took a day off just to catch the Man of Steel—in I-max theater. Besides, if Captain Barbell is good enough, Superman would not have flown to Manila to save the Filipino day.

On the other hand, I adhere to old school movie-making where the real actors or at least their stunt doubles play their part. Even if I am a bit of a techie, I yawn at animated actors (although I applaud their animators). The young Clark celebrating his special abilities in the cornfield and other scenes to that effect may have been a big leap for silver screen technology but, sad to say, it is a step back for actors who choose to show off their acting skills using their limbs, vocal cords and facial muscles. This factor prevents me from totally loving the film. Call me old-fashioned and paranoid but I really dread the day when CGI’s take over Hollywood-–the day when science gobble up the arts.

COMMENTS

Hi Tyrene
How r u? Ang galing mo mag sulat :) :) Are you a writer by profession? I saw your article in Friendster and I was interested to read coz I loved the movie. Actually I would like to see it again in an IMAX theater. I kept reading on coz I loved how you wrote your thoughts on the movie. Ang galing! Hope to bump into you someday...
Take care,
Therese
Posted by: Rizzie | July 2, 2006 03:40 PM

CGI stunt men ?
the same poor cheat from Warner Brothers.
the same movie outfit who gave us CGI Neo in the burly brawl with multiple Agent Smiths in Matrix Reload.
you'd think they'd have learned by now.
makes you appreciate Shaider flying via strings on a crane machine a little bit more, huh? :P
Posted by: Poli | July 5, 2006 08:57 AM

Lois IS too dumb to notice the resemblance between the man she loves and the man she can't see she loves. Ehrm... I'm not making any sense here, am I? And after the night they shared, Superman had to kiss her (if my amnesia is not kicking up again, I might be right) so she's forget everything that happened. HaHaHa! I'm inventing stories na ba? Basta. Brandon Routh is a Fafa. I pretty much didn't care about Lois. =)
Posted by: Badger Addict | August 5, 2006 06:01 AM

No comments: