Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 22, 2006

Superman Returns

Although I've heard several reviews of this movie, none of them better than mediocre, I decided to go see it for myself because I (generally) like superhero movies and I also like to form my own opinion. Well, I have.

It was dull.

Brandon Routh is a very handsome young man, and would make a fantastic Superman in a movie with some sort of conflict. As it was, he portrayed the worst characteristics of the Man of Steel: with his powers, he's invincible. Without them, he's nothing. His activities reminded me of Ayn Rand's discussion on the invincible, immortal robot: such a thing could have no values, because nothing could make any difference to it whatsoever. Nothing could be either for or against it. Everything Superman does is strangely purposeless. It's possible that it makes a difference to the people he saves, or even to the curiously zombie-like hordes that watch his activities, but it can't make any difference to him whatsoever.

Why does Superman fly around saving people? The question is not addressed in the movie, but it seemed very much that he'd picked up the idea that he ought to: from his father, with his noble speechmaking that was nevertheless detached from reality, and from his human family, that encouraged the deathless demi-god to think that human things somehow applied to him. This was especially apparent in his relationship with Lois, which he could not even approach in any sensible manner, much less sort out. He couldn't decide whether it really applied to him or not; whether he could be human or not.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor was even worse: he couldn't even manage to be really evil in any horrifying sense, instead he projected an aura of pathetic degeneracy, like a prison-yard thug. (In fact, his one confrontation with Superman was about as titanic as a prison-yard knifing.)

In addition, he was stupid. There is something mortally indecent about hearing a stupid villian utter the words "mind over muscle" in a tone of righteous self-satisfaction. What mind? Are you talking about the alien technology that you stole (and could never have come up with on your own), the kryptonite rock (also stolen) that fell out of the sky, or the boat that you schmoozed out of some befuddled old lady? What a fountain of cognitive superiority. I'm awed. *sarcasm* Carmen and Vivaldi playing in the background do not turn a man into an intellectual; they make him a ridiculous second-hander who has latched onto the supposed trappings of the intellect as a showpiece.

Between Luthor's sham intellect and Superman's sham humanity, there wasn't much left of this movie to make it at all interesting. Oo, special effects. Yay.


softwareNerd said...

Interesting observation about the robot that needs nothing.

To kid viewers though, I think the lack of motivation does not matter much, as long as Superman is bashing up bad guys. They just take it for granted that he'd want to do so!

I do think that Superman's near-vulnerability means that the script-writers have to figure out how to make him vulnerable. I think the best solution was in SuperMan-2 when three bad guys from his owen planet arrive on earth. Now that they're matched, the script-writers can script a real battle.

The lazier way to tackle it is to have the villain expose him to Kryptonite. That was done in Superman (1) and ought not to have been repeated. After that episode, you'd think that Superman would have made sure he secured all the Kryptonite on earth or got rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Hey kiddo,

Grandpa and the boys and I went to see it and I have to agree. The special effects were cool, but cool special effects nowadays are de rigeur. Even for us willing suspenders of disbelief, it was too much. I can easily believe that Superman could survive reentry: but his tights? ...and then later they're ripped off of him by a medic in the emergency room? ...and then later they show up whole again? Way too many examples of this kind of stuff.

I liked your review. Smallville on WB does a much better job with the character and his motivations.


Jennifer Snow said...

There was one scene in the movie that I really liked: his flashback to his youth on the farm, running through the cornfields and just enjoying the absurd ability of his body. THAT was neat.

Jennifer Snow said...

Oh, and Nerd, Superman doesn't have to be physically vulnerable in order to make a good plot: there are any number of ways that he's exposed. A lot of them are tackled on Smallville, with the "threatening loved ones" and "threatening to expose him" schtick.

You know what I'd like to see in a superhero movie? "Threatening to make him useless." It almost would have made sense for this movie, even: he's gone for five years so what do people do? They adjust to his disappearance and figure out how to handle their problems on their own.

Now the hero has returned and he has a bigger problem: what does he do with himself? Then you could have this great Superman movie about him discovering how to turn his powers towards something productive . . .the villian could be someone that encourages him to act without integrity because "business isn't like all that superhero nonsense. It's dog-eat-dog out there."

The climax would be: him discovering that production requires even more stringent virtues than picking up airplanes, perhaps through some vehicle like a cut-rate space station disintegrating (which would be a cool opportunity for him to save people).

Eh, I don't write movies, can you tell? :)