Sunday, July 02, 2006

Superman Returns

The big guy in bright blue and red tights has a fascination for me since I discovered him in the comics when I was a wee lad. Currently I am enjoying Superman-the animated series, volume two and three on DVD. Though, I have not been too impressed with the previous four Superman movies, I was looking forward to this movie when Supes returns to the big screen.
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Peter Singer directed this movie though I have hoped that he would take up the challenge to direct X-Men III before taking on Superman Returns. But that will be crying over spilled milk.

The opening credits were impressive and remind us of the old Superman movies. John Williams’ music did not fail to induce a sense of nostalgia. The crash landing of a spaceship in the Kent’s farm was impressive and it was a pleasant shock to discover that Singer was not rehashing the legend of Superman’s first coming to earth but of a second coming. Interesting overtones of a ‘messiah’ legend.

Some will regard this movie as a love movie- between Superman and Lois Lane.  There were nice moments in the movie which brought us back to the relationship of the two in previous Superman movies. However, one would question a love in which Superman will disappear suddenly without saying goodbye when astronomers discovered the remnants oft the planet Krypton. Flying away suddenly and leaving behind earth which he was entrusted to protect by his father, Jor-El smacks of an adolescent identity crisis.

Lex Luthor, the arch-villain was an interesting contrast of brilliance and stupidity. In his quest for revenge on Superman and real estate, he was willing to doom billions of people and drown the United States. It is interesting that he sees himself as the modern Prometheus. Prometheus was punished by the Greek gods for giving mankind fire (technology). In the movie, Luthor did steal Kryptonian technology for mankind (though for his own gain). Like Prometheus, he was caught and punished.

Central is to the theme of the movie is Lois Lane’s article, “Why the world doesn’t need a Superman”. It was written after Superman left abruptly and had won her the coveted Pulitzer award. Rephrased, the question became, “Does the world need a Saviour?”  There is a scene in the movie where Superman hovers in space, listening and then responding to cries of help. There is another scene when Superman and Lois were floating in space (Lois apparently do not need oxygen or feel cold) when Superman answered the question. “You wrote that the world doesn't need a saviour, but everyday I hear people crying out for one." This has much resonance about the question about the world needing a saviour. One can cast Superman as the “Christ” figure. There are enough pointers in the movie; Jor-El sent his “only son” to earth. The talk about the father being the son and the son being the father. There is a scene in which Superman hovers in space in a crucifix position: arms outstretched, legs together. The second coming as in the return. The sacrifice and death of Superman. His apparent resurrection. His felt “responsibility” to be a saviour to the people of earth. It is easy to find Superman as the “Christ” figure in this movie.

However, we need to look deeper into the character of this Superman. Is he saviour material? In Superman II, he took Lois to bed (and fathered a son) while leaving the world unprotected. In this movie, he returns from a 5 years absence again leaving the world unprotected. He expects things to be what it was when he left. He tried to rekindle his relationship with Lois who has a son and a lived-in boyfriend. He stalked her like a love-sick puppy. Lex Luthor got out of jail (a 2 lifetime sentence) because Superman was not around to testify at his trial. He may be Superman but he is not perfect man. Only a perfect man can be the true saviour of mankind.

Brandon Routh was too scrawny to be cast as Superman/Clark Kent though at certain angles he does look like a very young Christopher Reeves. Kevin Spacey had fun as Lex Luthor. Kate Bosworth look totally out of character and looks as a Lois Lane. She lacks the toughness of Margot Kidder. Marlon Brando was well, Marlon Brandon. All in all, it was an interesting 155 minutes of movie making of an imperfect man/alien who wants to be saviour of the world. And I received a free movie poster too.

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