REVIEWS

[The Night Shifters is] a fascinating ride. The voice feels a lot like Neil Gaiman. This is a huge compliment in my mind, and one not to be taken lightly.” - Melinda VanLone Reviews

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“The SUPERMAN Movie Bugged Me” Bandwagon



I am one of those rare creatures, a girl who loved superhero comic books, including SUPERMAN, back in the 60s, when most SUPERMAN fans were boys. Girls who liked comics were more likely to read ARCHIE and MILLIE THE MODEL (I liked those too – I contain multitudes). I am aware that this makes me a nerd, possibly even a dweeb. But I'm not necessarily a purist – I'm willing to entertain alternate visions of my favorite heroes. So when I agreed to go see the Superman movie with some friends, it was with an open mind.

I actually ended up liking it more than they did. In fact, I would give it three stars. But that's mostly because I liked the guy who played Superman; I liked his character, and I think future movies about him could be quite entertaining. What bugged me about SUPERMAN was the way the Kryptonians were handled in the story.


Now I'm really venturing into nerd territory. Yes, I am actually going to kvetch about a bunch of imaginary people and how they were misrepresented. Here's my main complaint: these folks are presumably an older race, very advanced both technologically and socially, and yet they apparently cannot survive unless they're on their homeworld. This despite the fact that one guy goes somewhere else and develops superpowers.

Not buying it.

And yet, I can see how this might be the case if the script had managed to make a few points. (NOTE: writers of scripts are not always or even usually to blame for story problems – studios always are, since the buck stops with them.) Way back in the 60s, some guy on an iconic TV show made the point that superior abilities breed superior ambitions. In the case of the Kryptonians, this could mean that they've reached a pinnacle in their development and would like to maintain that high position. I would assume they have the know-how to select for attributes they consider to be superior when engineering their children. The fact that they would even consider engineering their children in the first place suggests that they are a race that focuses on their achievements as a group rather than on individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It's a control-freaky kinda attitude, and I can accept it as an interesting possibility.


But something would have to drive them to be this autocratic. Long-term war could be a factor, though they made the point that they had never encountered another race in their space travels (except for us, and we look exactly like them – sheesh). So they must have been fighting with each other all this time. A long-term conflict between bitter enemies with their kind of intelligence and abilities would be truly epic. The losers in this conflict might all have been killed and/or dissenting opinions stifled. They could have pursued that angle, and it would have fit in with the idea of a bunch of hardliners chasing after Kal-El and going all world-engine on his ass. And maybe that was what they were trying to convey, but they failed.

So here's what I would have done differently. I would have cut out most of the special-effects-ridden conflict near the end and replaced it by salting backstory throughout the rest of the movie. They had an interesting plot device (also a REAL device) in the old starship that Kal-El discovers, and it could have helped to do that. He's been raised as a human by a farmer in Kansas, and that's the most important point of the story – it explains why he's so full of possibilities while the people he came from are so severely limited in their choices.


And that brings me to the other major stumble in this movie. I loved the special effect of the tornado, but I don't believe that farm dog would have huddled in the car while his masters ran off to the overpass. One whistle would have called that dog. And I also don't believe that a farm wife would sacrifice her husband to save the dog. I DO believe a good farm dog has value, both emotional and monetary, but the scene was unbelievable and clumsily contrived.

I won't even get into how many millions of people must have been killed in that attack on Metropolis, or the dopey heat-ray-vision, I-can't-bring-myself-to-kill-the-bad-guy scene. Both of Kal-El's fathers would have agreed: the response to the deadly force represented by Super Bad Guy needed to be as swift and decisive as possible.


I also believe that the people of Earth would feel very paranoid and freaked out about the fact that they were attacked by aliens. It would be hard to go back to Business As Usual. And as was so beautifully illustrated in The Incredibles, there would be law suits. Another good reason for Superman to have a secret identity.

So – it was a mixed bag. And they could have done a much better job. With the amount of money and know-how the Movie Moguls have at their disposal, it's pretty scandalous that they can't handle the most important (and most low-tech) component of a movie: the story.

Too bad. Maybe they'll do better next time.


I didn't even try to get the rights to any images from the SUPERMAN movie.  Instead I just stole a bunch of art from Ernest Hogan.

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