Hagioscope

Sunday, July 02, 2006

truth, justice, and the American way

Superman Returns. I caught the matinee yesterday. Overall I enjoyed it. However, it left me bemused on a few counts, not least of which were:

What could Supe possibly see in Lois Lane? She is 100% personality-free, literally nothing but a stick figure in this chapter of the story. I don't know if that's Kate Bosworth's fault or the screenwriters'. But she's definitely lacking the compelling depth of, say, Spiderman's Mary Jane.

Also, her little boy's hair? Needs a wash and a cut, stat! You can't tell me a prig like Lois Lane would not have her darling boy barbered every two weeks come rain or shine. Seriously. The sooner Hollywood gets over this "exceptionally bad hair = adorable child" fetish, the better. Gag me.

And wasn't Lois's boyfriend Richard played by Cyclops from X-men? And did anyone besides me read actor James Marsden's name in print and, wishfully, see James Marsters instead?

And why didn't any of Lex Luthor's henchmen speak a word, especially the very interesting Kal Penn? It's not like there was no budget here to pay actors. They got Kevin frickin' Spacey, for heck's sake. They could have slipped Kal a few bucks to be as slyly funny as he was when he starred in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

And Supe stalking Lois home and using his x-ray vision to spy on her family? Just plain creepy, and out of step with the Man of Steel's moral code.

Anyway. Brandon Routh, as the new Superman, delivers exactly what's needed here, which is a damn good Christopher Reeve impersonation. He does a fine job and looks swell doing it. Routh should have a lock on the role for as long as he can fill out those tights.

Visually, this movie has it all: a handsome hero, excellent production design and top-notch special effects. The action sequences are also good, if a little too choppily edited for my taste. Music: grand, and the "Chopsticks" scene is unsettling.

Story-wise, it's also pretty rich, with plenty of juicy Supe-as-Jesus imagery to chew on. Don't worry, you won't exactly have to dig for it. Just picture Superman, spent with the effort of hoisting an enormous chunk of rock into space to save humanity, falling back toward Earth, feet together, arms spread. And don't forget the blood on his hands and the stab wound in his side.

But the tone? The tone is off. The Supe/Lois scenes are all about twice as long as they need to be. He's believable as a brooding, multidimensional hero, while she's just . . . flat. I'm not buying the relationship between them, so it's a yawn to watch them on the screen together. And that's too bad, since their relationship is the foundation of the entire movie.

Anyway. Overall grade: 1.5 thumbs up. Good matinee fare. It's nearly a full 2 hours long, so plan your soda consumption accordingly.

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