25 October 2006

Superheroes on Screen - Should Superman Return Again?

Readers of this site are aware that I have been closely following the box office of Superman Returns which last weekend squeaked past $200 million. I have also been pulling for a Superman Returns sequel, but I have been less vocal about what I want in the sequel. For the record, I think Warners does care a lot about their flagship DC heroes. Batman Begins and Superman Returns were expensive films with lots of power given to the directors. They were not given the quick-and-dirty milking treatment that Fox gave to Marvel's Fantastic Four and X3. They were also more character than action driven, though Superman could have used a bit more flash. I also believe the films were intended to be true to the characters. Anyhow, here is my take on the Superman Returns situation.

First, let me say that I enjoyed many parts of Superman Returns.
-The jet rescue scene was amazing.
-For the most part, I enjoyed all of the actors.
-Lex Luthor was better than I expected him to be.
-Overall, the filming was cinematic, beautiful, and epic. I also would like to see the dangling plot threads tied up, so I guess I was drawn into the characters.

But there were several things that I did not like.
-The whole Superkid seems like a gimmick that did not pay off.
-Call me old fashioned, but isn't Superman supposed to be a boy scout? How many boy scouts would engage in extra marital relations, and then skip out on child support? If any superhero was to have a bastard child, I wish it would have been someone other than the Man of Steel.
-Superman seemed too mopey throughout the film, and his behavior bordered on stalking. He has amazing abilities, and he doesn't even enjoy them (I did like his scene as a kid on the farm, actually smiling when testing his abilities). He spent an awful lot of time using his powers for invading Lois' privacy when he could have been fighting crime.
-The real-estate plot was laughable. Who would buy a lot of radioactive crystal shard island? And while Luthor was portrayed better than the Gene Hackman character, why did they have to do Luthor, and only Luthor again? There have been 5 modern era Batman films, and thus far, none of the villains have been reused (He has faced 10 major villains). This is a tad extreme, but in 5 films, Superman has only faced 2 real foes (Lex and Zod), a computer, and a nuclear abortion. The only reason people think Lex is the only real bad guy to choose is simply because audiences have never seen anyone else.
-Where were the super smackdowns. One limitation of Lex is that one punch would kill him. In Superman Returns, Superman did not throw a single punch. All he did was lift things. Granted lifting a continent is impressive, but still...
-Superman Returns was supposed to be an unofficial sequel to Superman I and II, but it was more of a remake. Similar plot points (jet rescue, villainess goes soft, ridiculous real-estate scheme, near drowning because of kryptonite), and direct quotes were lifted from the originals and inserted here (flying is still the safest way to travel).
-The character of Superman has changed since 1978, but this film threw all that growth right out and went the retro route.

Anyhow, now that a Superman Returns follow up in 2009 seems fairly likely, I am left to decide if I would rather see Superman Returns 2, or a whole new take on the character. I can say that I think I would have preferred a fresh take to what Superman Returns turned out to be, but since that film now exists, I think I would like to see it have a direct sequel. Part of my support comes from how well Singer's X2 built upon X-Men. I hope Bryan has some Aces up his sleeves that will pay off in the next film. Still, there are some requests I would like to make for Superman Returns 2.
-Kill the Superkid. Give Superman a long and lasting reason to be angry with a formidable enemy.
-Speaking of formidable foes, please bring in someone new. I have a hunch we will see General Zod, which is better than just Lex, but now that Superman I has been remade, can we please do without the Superman II remake. Why not bring in Metallo, Brainiac, Doomsday, or the Parasite, or even a different Kryptonian (while Darkseid would be an ideal foe, I cannot see him working in this continuity)? At least let Superman engage in an epic battle where he can unleash and be unrestrained. And AT LEAST let him throw a punch.
-Let Superman be happy. What kid hasn't dreamed of being Superman. It can't all be bad can it?
-Let the villain be evil, not a Donald Trump knock off. And let them have a decent scheme (even the Batman Begins microwave laser plot was a little shaky).
-Resolve the love triangle, though I can't see a good way to get rid of Cyclops (unless he somehow turns out to be an alcoholic, or a jerk for no explained reason) that won't make Superman look like the bad guy.

For the most part, I think that while audiences may not have loved it, they enjoyed Superman Returns. It just lacked the pizzaz to get people really excited. The formula was a tad stale, beholden to a 30 year old film (granted Superman I is a classic). Superman Returns took chances, but in the wrong areas. Superman should be a moral compass, not a deadbeat dad. And he is the most powerful guy in the galaxy, lets see what he can do (other than how much he can lift). Lastly, the sequel could use better money management. While $200 million isn't record breaking, it is a huge sum of cash... unless you spent $250 million making the movie. I don't care if a film costs a lot, but money was wasted on finalizing effects in long sequences that were cut from the film, and really not every scene needs to have a CG Superman. They did hire an actor for the role after all. If the film had cost even $175 million, the ridiculous calling of the film a "bomb" would die down. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you still have a chance, and why not see it in IMAX 3D?


nØsØap said...

I totally agree! Superman on film seems stuck in a rut. Returns was a step in the right direction but man, half the movie seemed like retouched shots from the first films. I would also like to see Superman punch something. There were no fights in this movie, just rescues. The trailer for the video game had the action I was hoping for with giant robots and and throwing things. Let's hope good ol Kal can cheer up for the next one. I wish the Batman and Superman film creatives would take a few more cues from the animated stuff that's been done in the last few years. I think that would do alot for the films.

Dragulf said...

I agree with you on the Quality of the film. SR was a beautifully shot movie. The sad thing is that's the only good part. Instead of a rehashing of the old plot a fresher new start would have been the way to go.
SR cost $ 207M+ and extra baggage of $ 60M. I don't blame Singer for the excess baggage but he misspent a lot that will never been seen, not even on the extended directors cut.
Singer knows how to direct but he needs better scripts.

Anonymous said...

Like the previous comments, I completely agree with what you said. It was still a great movie because, IMO, it's so good to see Superman back on the big screen, and Brian Singer took the helm. And you forgot to mention the soundtrack. The updated soundtrack sounds so much less campy and silly. Well done on the critiques and one helluva blog!

Chip Chief said...

i did like the soundtrack, and loved hearing the superman theme being belted through the speakers, but again, the score was almost a remake rather than a new take (for better or worse).

Anonymous said...

SR sucked and sucked badly. They should of done a whole new take on the franchise just like batman. Unfortunately I will watch singer ruin superman even more