I love Superman, and have for a long time. I was a reasonable fan of the Christopher Reeve movies (well, the first two), and enjoyed Lois and Clark and Smallville well enough. I thought Brandon Routh made a very good Superman in Superman Returns.
So, how did it actually work?
+Fred Brackin over in the SJGGames Geek Culture forum posts a pretty devastating (and spoiler-filled) review. I think most of what he says strikes true to me, but let me go through my impressions, since I went to the movie predisposed to like the film.
First off, we spend a lot of time on Krypton in the beginning of the movie. And when things do start to happen, you get the first taste of the frenetic action that seems to characterize a lot of this era of cinematography – shaky cameras and purposefully out-of-focus, sometimes even out-of-frame, action.
I did like the hints of a previous friendship between Zod and Jor-El, and a long life of mutual respect. I did find it odd, as Fred did, that Jor-El went toe-to-toe with Zod and his troops and more or less kicked ass. Apparently the greatest Scientist on Krypton spent his spare time in MMA classes. Or Russel Crowe forgot he wasn’t on the set of Gladiator (or a Kryptonian version of Robin Hood, perhaps).
So, then, we flash forward to Earth, and an adult Clark Kent is on a boat, filming an episode of The Deadliest Catch, with a cameo from The Guardian. That actually was almost a nice touch, since you see that no matter where Clark goes, he can’t help himself from helping people, but he pays the price each time, having to move on.
You also see him steal. Hmm.
The thing is, as soon as I saw the film start with him on the boat, I’ll admit that the only thing I thought at the time was “oh, crap. They’re going to do his entire upbringing in Kansas in flashback.”
And so they did. The chronology was terribly disjointed.
Were there good fight scenes between Kryptonians? Yes . . . but the shaky-cam did not help. Could you see homages to other movies and some comic arcs? Well, in addition to Zod, there was the petite female brunette (formerly Ursa, now Faora-Ul), and a nameless giant male, presumably Non.
Lex Luthor was completely absent, though Lexcorp made an appearance as a logo.
Some of the changes made in the reboot made more sense – I liked what they did, sort of, with Superman’s weaknesses. They’re a bit more tightly integrated than the thought of bits of Krypton flung across intergalactic space.
Set Properly Damage to “Holy God.”
I’ll say this for Kryptonians – they are sure helpful when it comes to urban renovation. They destroy so much of the City of Metropolis as collateral damage that it left me with a very, very strong sense of “enough.” Smallville got its share too.
And the thing that got me is that Clark didn’t really seem to care. Perhaps he didn’t own his role as Earth’s mightiest Hero yet, but honestly, his parents raised him better.
Oh, right. We only saw Dad Costner in a few flashbacks. That explains it.
I’m still not sure how I feel about this one, honestly. I left the theater after Superman Returns feeling like I could fly myself. I felt Routh owned the character pretty well, nearly channeled Reeve as Kent, and was, well, properly heroic.
I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling that way this time. Maybe if there’s a sequel (and all the setups are there, of course) we’ll get more of that. There’s the roster of villians to be dealt with, and of course we need to meet Lex Luthor at some point. But in terms of how I felt?
Batman Begins was a brilliant re-imagination of the Batman origin story. Really well done, I thought. Hell, though I felt it was too soon, The Amazing Spider Man was a good reboot of the series following the stint Tobey Maguire did (I liked the first two, not so much the third). This one?
I think what it’s leaving me with is “not iconic enough.” I don’t know that makes it a bad film; but it did muck with my expectations of the Big Blue Boy Scout a bit as he’s introduced to the world.
Mulling further on this, a conversation with my wife crystallized some of my discomfort with the movie. By the time he dons the cape in the stories with which I am familiar, Superman is respectful and careful of people’s lives and property. Always. In Man of Steel? Not so much. He steals. He vandalizes people’s property. He deliberately throws some of his nemeses through buildings, destroying them and likely causing people to be injured or killed. And in the end, for laughs, he destroys a piece of Air Force hardware.
OK, that was admittedly funny.
But what I saw in the movie was him figuring out is own character at the same time as he put on the suit. I’m not sure I was ready for that, and honestly, his father raised him better – at least in canon.