Superman Stuff

The movie Superman Returns is a piece of artistry. It wasn't at all what I expected. It is a tribute to Christopher Reeves and the original Supermans. Not only is the music/intro the same, not only do they use the Marlon Brando footage but the star (Routh) does an uncanny embodiment of Reeves as Clark Kent. Apparently, he was a huge Superman fan as a kid. Well, it certainly rubbed off. In his stills, he doesn't really look like Reeves, but as the character, the resemblance is so close, it is somewhat disturbing.

Kevin Spacey does not exactly embody Gene Hackman but he conveys the same ham-it-up villainy. He strikes me as more dangerous than Hackman's Luther, which I think is to the good. And he also has his Miss Kowalski.

But the thing that struck me the most is that the movie isn't really about the villainy. It is really about Superman or, to be more precise, the vision of Superman as conveyed in those early movies. And here I think Routh parted company from Reeves. Routh's Superman is possibly the most introverted Superman on the screen. (Dean Cain being the least, which is the most amusing thing about Lois & Clark: that the most normal, all-American guy in the world, of which Cain is one despite his penchant for bleached hair, turns out to be Superman.) Reeves' Superman was rather charming, even flirtatious. Routh's Superman is remote, self-contained, untouchable. The sense of him as "Other" is much stronger.

As a result, the movie relies much more on show than it does on tell. Which means a complete lack of exposition. We never get inside Superman's head. We are supposed to see Superman, not experience the story from his perspective. At first, I thought this was a failing of the movie, but now, I'm not so sure. I think the movie is supposed to be a visual tribute, and in that it absolutely succeeds.

On to more Superman. I have become a Smallville watcher. I needed a fantasy show! (I love my CSI and my House, but still.) And, okay, I like it. Except for Lana Lang, who is possibly the most useless character ever created. I want to like her since she will keep showing up. But she is thoroughly annoying. She does nothing. Clark does stuff. The Kents do stuff. Chloe does stuff. Lex is always doing stuff. Lana . . . sits around and mopes. Or complains about her boyfriend. Or her life. She has more angst than anybody on Buffy ever did, and they had more reason. (Since dead parents are awful but dead parents and monster boyfriend and vampires trump that any day.)

I think the really bothersome thing though is her lack of humor. She has none of Buffy's one-liners, Cordelia's eye-rolling or Willow's whimsy. Granted, the show isn't really geared towards Whedon's type of humor. But it reduces the character of Lana to mere eye candy.

Now, according to several male acquaintances, Kreuk pulls off her eye candy duties very well. But this show is supposed to be about Clark Kent/Superman. His long-term soul mate is Lois Lane, who also fulfills eye candy duties but does them while being smart, competitive and independent. Why is he wasting his time on this pretty but pointless girl?

Granted, teenagers can be a bit dim about long-term relationships. It would be nice to believe that the creators of Smallville are establishing Clark's disillusionment with Lana's ethereal but ultimately boring personality.

It would be nice to believe that.

In any case, I must give extra kudos to Michael Rosenbaum. I think he ranks up there with Faith as disturbed young person who goes progressively from bad to worse. That is, his villainy is entirely human and understandable. He does a magnificent job of conveying overweening ambition at a disturbingly young age. But then, if you think about it, Alexander the Great and Caesar probably did the same. Of course, we the audience know he goes bad, but I think it is an indication of real ability on Rosenbaum's part that although Lex's offers to protect the Kents are probably sincere, we don't want the Kents to accept. That is, Rosenbaum manages to do what James Marsters did: convey ambiguity (sincerity and intimidation) without weakening either sensation and without making the character just kind of bland. The sincerity and intimidation are both are work at the same time.

I was also mucho impressed by the last episode I saw, the one where a vision of Lex's future kills the woman in the old folks home. Rosenbaum played the scene perfectly: his surprise, then horror followed by a stumbling retreat were more than believable and took him from budding arch-enemy back into disturbed young man territory.


1 comment:

Cherndawg said...

Told ya.