Saturday, July 22nd, 2006
Man Of Steel, Man Of Heart
Everyone who complains about the lack of plot coherence, character development or general heart in Summer blockbuster films, consider Superman Returns, which features all of the above and as a result, runs a solid two and a half hours. And unlike most films of this length that can suffer for having so much crammed into the running time (Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter), Superman Returns feels a little too uncompressed. Director Bryan Singer is so determined to make this film weighty and momentous that it moves at a bit of snail’s pace as a result. Or maybe it just felt like that because I saw it in a theatre with no working air conditioning or ventilation.
But when it steps up the action, it’s spectacular. Superman’s rescue of an out-of-control airliner in the Earth’s outer atmosphere is a truly stunning piece of FX-ery and action filmmaking and while the other action sequences scattered throughout the film are also impressive – hell, anytime Superman flies it looks amazing – they don’t really compare to that first salvo. But what was pointed out in another review that I concur with is that Superman doesn’t fight anyone. In Singer’s world, there are nogiant robots or alien invasions or super-villains, there’s just Superman. Even Lex Luthor, for all his genius, is just a man (at least without his stylish power suit). The only true challenges for Supes are disasters, either natural or man-made. I’m not suggesting that we need another Nuclear Man in future films or even a General Zod, but surely there’s someone in the rogues gallery that’s filmable and could offer Superman a decent throw-down? As much as I hate Bizarro… Bizarro? Nah, probably not.
The cast is pretty much uniformly excellent, to my surprise. Even though compared to their counterparts in the original film they look like kids playing dress-up, both Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth are very good in their roles, even though Routh’s channelling of Christopher Reeve only proves how iconic Reeve was in the role. And even though she barely looks as old as her 23 years and far too young to have accomplished as much as Lois Lane has, Bosworth brings a real strength and sense of experience to the part. As Lex Luthor, Kevin Spacey is excellent. While Gene Hackman’s portrayal was more used car salesman than criminal mastermind, Spacey gives him a real sense of evil – he hates Superman on a level far deeper than a costumed dogoodnik who interferes with his plans. Interesting that over the whole film, the two arch-enemies only actually share a few minutes of screen time.
Above all though, Superman Returns is a character piece. Singer seems like he’d be perfectly content to have spent the whole time examining the relationships between Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane or just hanging out in the Daily Planet newsroom. Which I can understand – it’s no secret that this is the film that Singer has wanted to make pretty much all his life, of course he’s going to milk it. And as slow as it is at (many) points, I never found it to really really drag and enjoyed being along for the trip as much as anyone. As disposable as many critics regard them as, I’m always pleased to see comic book adaptations given serious film treatment but not at the cost of the wonder and whimsy of the source material. Superman Returns strikes a good balance there, even if it’d be nice if he’d have been able to punch something/someone…
And I somehow missed this Harp feature on Golden Smog in my writeup on them earlier this week, which is weird since the piece is pretty damn big. Minnesota Public Radio also has a radio session with Kraig Johnson and Gary Louris.
Pitchfork has some info on the new Decemberists record The Crane Wife, out October 3, including tracklisting and tour dates. They’re in Toronto on November
4 6 at the Kool Haus. Yeah, the Kool Haus. Come on, you knew that was coming.
Mates Of State’s September 16 show at Lee’s Palace will also have Starlight Mints on the bill, tickets are $13.50. And Art Brut, We Are Scientists and The Spinto Band are scheduled to play the Opera House October 14.
PopWatch has some spoilers about the upcoming season of 24, namely who the new President is. Hint – he’s got a familiar surname. My question is what does this news reveal about the timeline for season six? If they’ve had time to elect a new President, does that mean that Jack will have been in Chinese custody for at least that long? I can’t imagine that he’ll have found his way to freedom in the off-season, that would be a waste of a truly interesting plot line and a chance for James Hong to cement his place as the only Asian actor in Hollywood.
np – Greg Laswell / Through Toledo