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« Prelude to a scene analysis of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns | Main | Were I a “Real American,” I would’ve ended this post “It doesn’t help matters any that they all look alike.” »

Thursday, 09 April 2009

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James T

But what was the significance of casting a then-23-year-old (who looks, if anything, younger) as a woman with both a Pulitzer and a 7 year old son? I suspect what Singer is trying to communicate is, "Supes likes 'em young" (as does the Daily Planet).

SEK

I'm not sure about that. I think Singer has a type. It's sort of eerie. But in truth, the much more interesting sexual dynamic in the film involves Singer and Routh-as-Superman --- there's a gay male aesthetic present throughout the film, I'm told. (I'm being serious both about it being there and having been told about it. I'm not as familiar with the conventions of queer cinema as I should be, but apparently Singer's depiction plays off some of its stereotypes.)

JPool

Regarding the first post, the 9-11 motif didn't work for me for a couple reasons, but mainly because for us, the audience, superman never left. We begin the movie with him "returning", so there's no real catharsis there. We still don't have him in real life and, given the multitude of movie superheroes lately, it's not like his was a yawning cinematic absence. Then there's the fact that Singer's film ultimately paints Superman, not as a fabulous savior, much less as a necessary evil, but as a creepy stalker who saves people so that he can continue to stare at them through the walls of their house. OK, not just that, but yeesh.

Now, I'm the sort of person who loves puppies and kittens and flowers, doesn't tend to watch movies for individual shots and doesn't care so much about violating convention, but artificiality is a problem if you notice it. The problem for me came much earlier in the Lois-Lane-gets-out-of-her-seat-during-an-emergency-situation sequence. As Kenneth Turan
observed, Kate Bosworth is a game actress, but doesn't have the chops to give her character depth, make the broken heart at abandonment by superman thing convincing. This makes the putting herself and others in danger shtick seem moronic rather than plucky (this is even more poignant/infuriating in the "let's bring my young son to the super villain’s hideout" scene). Margot Kidder managed to infuse her Lane with the awareness both that she was compensating for sexist coddling and that she was a real adrenaline junky who enjoyed putting herself in danger. Bosworth's lane just seemed somewhat self-involved. The combination of arbitrariness, lack of emotional connection, and problems of believability, meant that during the scene where she gets bounced around inside the passenger compartment, I wasn't thinking, "Oh no! What will happen to her?", but "She would have been knocked out twenty seconds into this, dead a minute later, and then probably taken a couple of other passengers out with her as her lifeless body pummeled them to death."

Maybe Singer was somehow trying to deconstruct the Superman mythos, but he sure wasn't doing a good job of it.

SEK

Regarding the first post, the 9-11 motif didn't work for me for a couple reasons, but mainly because for us, the audience, superman never left. We begin the movie with him "returning", so there's no real catharsis there.

Singer needed to set that up more forcefully at first, because the audience never really feels his absence (opening the film with his return will do that), so what follows may be an artifact of me having re-watched the film a couple times, but I do think that Singer establishes the world-wide elation at Superman's sudden reappearance: the montage of devastations averted and kittens rescued betray an impolitic giddiness to the social body of the sort that flies in the face of reality. An exuberance so earnestly and consistently performed points to a depression in petto, and because I'm feeling literal today, let me rephrase it thus: you're only implacably giddy on a mountaintop if your lungs ain't used to the thin air; so from the fact that you're sucking wind between giggles, we can infer that you're unaccustomed to breathing at high altitudes, that you have, in fact, spent a few years in the heavy air of some deep valley.

But you're correct, the film would've worked better had Singer followed in Nolan's footsteps and kept the audience in the dark as to when Batman would actually be beginning. As I noted in the Batman Begins post, it's not like we think Batman'll never arrive, it's that we want him to and Nolan denies us that pleasure. Singer's film would've worked better, more viscerally, had he done something analogous.

That said, there hadn't been a Superman film in 14 years, and the actor people not in the AARP associate with Superman had, in fact, disappeared forever two years earlier. (On some level, Singer was aware of that fact, otherwise why would he have chosen a clone for his lead?)

Then there's the fact that Singer's film ultimately paints Superman, not as a fabulous savior, much less as a necessary evil, but as a creepy stalker who saves people so that he can continue to stare at them through the walls of their house.

You see, I liked this part, not because he was deconstructing the Superman mythos in the colloquial sense of "deconstructing," but because he was deconstructing the Superman character in the technical sense: the film addresses the deep melancholy of the character that Reeve's chippy earnestness always obscured. Superman Returns embraced the first half-hour of the 1978 film in a way the Reeve films never did. Singer's Superman was and is despondent: he leaves Earth, the place a dying father on a planet entrusted him to protect, on the off-chance that he could locate some other Kryptonians. Why? Because he wanted to live among peers, to have not even a family, but an equal. It's a typical immigrant tale of the sort the bespoken devotion to Truth, Justice and the American Way tends to erase. How can he embody the American Way when he's even less of a Real American than I am? (Edit: Linked for posterity, not because I don't believe you can remember what I wrote yesterday.) All of this is Anglicized out of the Reeve films, but it's there, in all its creepiness, in all its pained immodesty, and that works . . .

. . . except when Singer feels the need to prove Umberto Eco correct by showing that, above all else, Superman defends the property rights of powerful interests. There he is, floating in space, ostensibly able to hear the life drain from a murdered Sudanese or the hunger pangs of a Muscovian orphan, but instead of putting himself in front of a Janjaweed bullet or plowing and irrigating the Russian steppes, he stops a bank robbery.

StevenAttewell

One thing that annoyed me about this movie, and actually the other Superman movies as well, is that for some reason they always portray Luthor as some third rater conman, rather than the corporate titan he usually is in the comics. In this movie, he actually plays rent boy to some elderly rich woman to get the start-up capital for his scheme.

Why is that? It robs the character of the very plausibility he has as a villain: Superman might be a superhuman individual, but his strengths are all physical (unless you go with some of the really stupid 50s era comics that give him super-basketweaving). Luthor's an ordinary human, but he's so smart and rich that he can use the system to even the odds up a bit.

One of the best Superman comics I ever saw involved Superman running in Luthor for some complicated crime, and then Luthor walking out of the courthouse a free man thanks to his wealth and his hordes of lawyers and just smirking at Superman as he walked off scott-free.
So much better than giant icicle-islands.

SEK

I'm 96 percent with you, Steven, except for one bit of it: Superman's plenty smart, what with his Super Reading Skills, but he's the wrong kind of smart, a collector of facts, not a thinker. Whereas Lex, well . . .

SuperGirl

pahaha
your post is funny

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