Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Waiting (and waiting, and waiting for Superman)

Caught a 10 p.m. screening of Superman last night. Before I go into that - I checked out PitchforkMedia today and caught a shocker: Sleater-Kinney is apparently breaking up.

I may need to rethink not going to Lollapalooza this year since that may be one of their final performances. I saw them last year in Omaha at Sokol hall and it was one of the most incedinary performances I have ever seen.

While I am sad that they are packing it in, The Woods was one of the best "last" albums from a band...ever. Luscious Jackson's and Luna's last albums were very good, but it was pretty much paint-by-numbers for both bands. Sleater-Kinney blazed a whole new trail with The Woods. As for career ending albums, this ranks up there with Abbey Road (sorry, not going to include Let it Be).

So, I saw Superman Returns last night. The audience clapped when the movie started. But not a single person clapped when the lights went up. At 2 1/2 hours, it was way too long. And like many comic book movies out there right now, Superman Returns tries to do so much. There was no cathartic zing that should come in a movie like this, even in the action scenes.

The writers of movies like X3, Superman Returns and even more under the radar comics like Hellyboy and V is for Vendetta are geeks. They have a desire to make sure their product has an artistic legitimacy since comics, until the past ten years, have basically been dismissed as books for kids and adults going through severe arrested development. Unfortunately, that desire to be 'legit' means having to cram a ton of weighty ideas, post 9/11 references and a strong romantic story (usually a relationship that can never be) in a two-hour movie while including two or three whoop-ass action scenes. We've come a long way since Superman II and Flash Gordon. All of this can basically be traced back to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, a movie that grows in its influence each passing year.

So, without giving much away, we were treated to about 45-minutes of Clark Kent and Superman making doe-eyes at Lois Lane. While Kevin Spacey did an awesome Lex Luthor, I was nostalgic for the humor of the first two Superman movies (the late 70s/early 80s ones). Margot Kidder brought a sass to Lois Lane that Kate Bosworth is sorely lacking. Still, I gotta admit, I'm not much of a Superman guy. As one of my friends plainly put it: "Superman's a fascist." And while I like some of Batman's tortured psychosis, he is a billionaire who pretty much bought his way into the superhero community: the George W. Bush of superheroes if you will.

I definitely tend to favor Spiderman: a genial geek who comes from a blue collar family that is barely making ends meet - and he is pushed into a situation he has no control over. He didn't ask to become Spiderman.

To credit Quentin Tarantino, I formed a new appreciation of Superman in Kill Bill Vol. 2 when Bill dissected Clark Kent's ego. Superman chose the guise of Clark Kent to fit in with humanity because Clark Kent is how Superman sees the human race: weak and feeble.

Overall, Superman Returns is a good way to spend your Fourth of July weekend. And I'm not criticizing the movie for its lack of action. But there have been far greater movies that have been able to marry drama, big ideas and still give audiences the "wham bam" thrill of a superhero movie (read Spiderman 2 and Batman Begins). Hell, even throw in half of Batman Returns (the parts with Michelle Pfeiffer's sexy as hell turn as Catwoman) to the mix.

Preemptive strike
If Superman Returns is a disappointment, many ignorant folks are going to say it's because director Bryan Singer made the character "gay." After seeing Superman Returns, I can concede that maybe the director has a crush on Superman, but the man of steel is alpha-male hetero to his bones. But even the overextended romantic shots of virtually every part of his body is far from abnormal: Superman (late 70s) and Superman II also featured long, loving shots of the caped crusader.

If the gay fear of Superman smacks of homophobia, it's at least as annoying as some members of the gay community who try to co-opt every single comic character as gay. "Oh, Spiderman's gay", " gay." Funny, since I didn't hear a lot of guys classify the bearish Beast from the X-Men as gay, but were far more willing to imagine hotties Wolverine and Iceman as gay. It's normal to want to project your experiences onto your favorite superheroes, but the relentless insistence of trying to make every comic book character gay is grating. We have a Batgirl. We have a Robin (seriously, look at his outfit and his willingness to accept the name of such a submissive bird name). Give it a rest.

Let some straight characters be straight. That doesn't mean we still can't love 'em.


Blogger David said...

Just for the record, I saw Superman last week, and I hated it. I just found it boring, and I though Brandon Routh should be given a contract as an Abercrombie model (that's not a compliment) and nothing else.

Plus, they made Parker Posey look pretty silly. How dare they. (BTW, director is Bryan Singer, not Brett Ratner.)

I'd be interested to hear what you thought of last year's Batman Begins. I LOVED it. By far my favorite superhero / comic book movie, though I'm generally not a follower of that genre.

Still, I also liked V for Vendetta a lot, and The Matrix, if that one counts.

As for the Kill Bill thing. I guess I disagree with QT's idea. Or it seems incomplete. It seems to me that Clark Kent's view of humans isn't so negative as to be characterized as weak. I think he finds them noble, as he was taught by his father - there's that Bible rip-off uttered by Marlon Brando, remember? And if he has such a dim view of humans, how could he love Lois Lane?

8:50 AM  
Blogger TransformerGeek said...

I've made the correction to the director. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

As for 'Batman Begins' - I loved it as well. Almost a perfect mix of moodiness, character development and action. I think it's a movie that's only going to get more acclaim as it ages.

2:31 PM  

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