July 1, 2006

Superman Returns

Category: Movies :: Permalink

My parents are here on vacation. My dad has been helping me get my books unpacked and my office set up, and my mom has been relaxing, playing with Aletheia and visiting some secondhand stores with Moriah.

Yesterday afternoon, Dad and I went to see Superman Returns. In a word: It’s a dud.

In what follows, there are some spoilers.

The plot is weak.

We’re supposed to believe that Lex Luthor (who is never frightening) is going to create a new continent off the coast of North America, which will quickly shift the earth’s surface so that much of North America is either under water or is incorporated into the new continent. But the new continent, when we see the first stage of it, is entirely made of crystals. Nothing would grow on it, and so no one would live there, which means (contrary to Luther’s plans) that it’s worthless land.

Furthermore, there were no surprises. Sure, the movie tried to give us surprises. A plane plummets toward the ground and disappears from view … and then, comes flying back into view, supposedly because the pilot finally managed to pull it out of its dive! Anyone seen that one before? Of course, you have. A man in the hospital is flatlining. He’s dead. Next scene: He’s in a coma. (Huh? How did that happen?) Someone comes to visit him. Does he wake up? No. (Ha! Fooled you!) But in the next scene, he’s alive again. Could you have predicted that? Of course you could. It’s one cliche after another.

I also have to admit that huge catastrophes don’t particularly move me in films. Maybe that’s just me. I don’t find it particularly scary to watch earthquakes ripping apart the ocean floor or make builidngs fall down. I’m much more interested in smaller-scale dangers, I guess. I want to have a sense that the people that I care about (not just people in general) are in serious danger of being hurt by other people, not by somewhat impersonal catastrophes (even if they are launched by homicidal maniacs). But, as I said earlier, Lex Luther and his schemes were never remotely frightening. And, more significantly, at no point did I feel that one of the characters was really seriously in danger.

In fact, there was only one character that I cared even marginally about. I found Superman thoroughly annoying, topped only by Jimmy. Lois Lane was hardly believable as a journalist or as a Mom (“How many f’s are there in catastrophe?” this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist asks, apparently, I’m told, in continuity with the first movie, but still…).

The only person I cared about was her (shack-up) fiancee, and mainly because I thought he cared for her more than Clark Kent/Superman did and I didn’t want the movie to kill him off or make him be the ultimate bad guy or otherwise separate him from Lois Lane so that she could be with Superman. I cared about him because I thought he seemed like a decent guy, a good dad, a loving “husband” and so forth, and I didn’t know if the movie would value that enough in the face of a possible affair between Lois and Superman.

Toward the end, I almost fell asleep. Dull dull dull.

Of course, some reviewers will tell you that there are all kinds of Christian symbolism in it. After all, one of the big questions the movie asks is “Does the world need a savior?” Superman hangs in space, hearing everyone’s cries for help. When Superman “dies,” he has his arms stretched out and his feet crossed in a cruciform position. That kind of stuff is almost certainly deliberate.

So is the stuff about “sending my only son” to the world, though in this case Jor-El says that it’s because the people of Earth have so much potential for good. There’s some weird stuff about “now the son becomes the father and the father becomes the son” and some Christian reviewer a bit weak on the doctrine of the Trinity will doubtless see that as an echo of “I in you and you in Me.”

But all of that is really the lamest and most obvious sort of quasi-Christian symbolism (“Let’s put in some Christian symbolism here”) and it certainly doesn’t redeem this movie.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:03 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Superman Returns

  1. Elliot Says:

    The comic book Lex Luthor could be frightening at times. And the way he stabs Superman in the movie is certainly disturbing.

    But aside from that, yeah, you’re completely right.

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