Monday, September 10, 2007

ARTICLE: Up, up and go away! Superman and Superhero movies must go.


Saw Superman Returns on Sky the other day. Terrible. This film has turned a key in my brain that has firmly locked a door in my preference center. I hate Superhero films.

So, faster than a speeding bullet[point], I will offer my answer as to why Superman Returns really does whiff of wee.

1. Kate Bosworth - too young and inexperienced an actress to convey a character whom the film relies on having some connection or understanding of. She was not like any Lois Lane I know of. She didn't act like Lois Lane, she didn't look like Lois Lane. Is it just me, or does she look like Cameron from another Singer production called House M.D? Is that coincidence? And furthermore, as my sister pointed out, is it also co-incidence that she came from a film recently starring Mr Spacey, the villain of Superman Returns? I ask the question: is she, of all the actress in the US who went for the part, the best they could find? Or is there a little nepotism going on? Given that Mr Marsden was clearly the best person to play Lois' love interest, and a lead actor from Singer's other big Summer Hit "X-Men", we have to wonder if friendship and creative familiarity scores over acting skills. The same question has to be asked of the great Hugh Laurie, who was also to be in the film as Perry White, but was too busy with Singer's other production, House M.D. Did nepotism kill the radio star? Or less erroneously in this context, the Summer Blockbuster called Superman Returns?

2. Love - Love in films is a difficult thing: it makes one man weep, and another man sing - apparently. If Huey Lewis was referring to the context of "movie love", he was suggesting that one man would be weeping from the 120 minutes he has wasted of his life having watched a film which had a large romantic story which failed to even suckle on any of his soft, sugary, syrupy spots.

The film does little to build the structure of Lois and Clark's romance, rather arrogantly presuming that as a "sort of" sequel to Superman II, the audience has already built up an affinity with these characters. No they haven't. This isn't Reeves and Kidder in the spotlight, and despite Routh's occasional flashes of memory to act like Reeves, the pair are nothing like the originals. The audience enters this romance cold, and leaves cold. It's a nice conceptual idea; to use the earlier films as a basis of the new film's setup, but they should have looked at finding a Lois who could at least give the audience a feeling of the old Lois so they could transfer their established feelings for the original couple.

3. Story. What happened? The film moves along at a snail's pace as it builds up Luthor's threat, but when the threat is realised, its merely a rock that Superman lobs into space. To coin a slice of Pop-Americana, "that 's all folks"? Is that it? Also, having Superman "die" at the end, before he's even had a more substantial encounter with the villain - something that we call in narrative terms, "a finale" - only to come back to life and the movie to end? Again, that's all folks? Oh, and I don't consider a 5 minute tête à tête with Luthor, upon which the villain kicks and stabs the hero a few times, a finale.

The "death" of Superman feels like a pause before a final act. It's not - it IS the final act. A slow amble up to the action, then the action is over -- tout suite -- because we've ambled for too long.

Surely it's not all THAT bad is it Mr McLean? Well, John Ottman does a good job of the score, and his slight variant on the main theme is great. The idea for Superman Returns, both conceptually and in Luthor's plan has potential, but it all misfires. Spacey is great as Luthor, managing to mix a little Hackman with a little Spacey antagonism.

Overall, a good idea, but with the two leads lacking chemistry (yes, the love rival Mr Marsden offers stronger chemistry with Bosworth than Mr Routh does), and a plot which spends too long in the background to be fully realised, the film fails to ignite. And that's an amusing comparison, as the plane attached to the space shuttle early on in the film, should indeed have ignited as soon as those shuttle engines fired - instead the pair carried on moving, awaiting their man of steel. Newsflash: plane's are quite fragile. A shuttle with enough engine power to push it out of orbit, strapped to a pressured container of ignitable fuel, does do nothing else but create a large pyrotechnic. Okay, maybe that was a little picky. It did bother me though. Just a little.

Superman: Man of Steel is penciled in for 2009 which is super stuff, as it gives me 2 years to excrete this stink-waste from my poor system. The worst thing is I should have known better. I should have learned that no superhero film really does anything interesting, even when it does its best efforts to avoid the tiresome "origin" story.

And with that, we reach the bottom line - why I hate Superhero films:

I hate superhero films. Ridley Scott recently said sci-fi is dead film genre, like the Western, and he's right, because the only slight sci-fi that make mainstream releases are established franchises or sequels. With Superhero films (Batman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Superman, Iron Man, Blade, Hellboy, Daredevil, Ghost Rider etc), franchise sci-fi (Transformers, Firefly) and sequel sci-fi (Aliens vs Predator, Terminator) there is little I'm seeing that is REAL sci-fi. Sure, the occasional film, but then the Unforgiven gave us a great Western long after the genre died.

People aren't interested in sci-fi as a genre, they are interested in franchises, and that's what Hollywood is playing safe with. The genre itself has explored itself so much, people aren't interested in the concepts and ideas of sci-fi, merely the setting for established dramas. It's sad really, but until we realise that this multitude of Superhero films all amount to pretty much the same plot, and demand something a little more unusual out of the fantasy genre other than the same film over, and over again, I think Scott will remain utterly righteous in his statement: the genre IS indeed dead.