A true classic: Superman Returns

Oct 23 // manasteel88
I went to Superman Returns twice in theaters, something I have only ever done with two other films in my life. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with my dad, and Power Rangers: The Movie with my cousins. The first one was because I was a stupid kid and the second one was because I was with a stupid kid. I didn't really get why I had been drawn in to the film so much until I found an old box of photos a year or so after the films release of my dad from what I can only assume was the early 1970s. He looked shockingly like Christopher Reeve. This alone gave a bit more weight to the tones of the film. Superman Returns is about a good number of things. Mostly though, it's about the changes a man returns to. Superman leaves in search for Krypton and upon his return, he finds the woman he loves with another man. The world still needs saving and Lex Luthor is still evil, but the thing that he loved the most is out of his reach. Obviously this can drum up any sort of reading from any number of different interpretations. For me it comes back to divorce. I never really grew up in a conventional familial atmosphere. I had a father and mother that loved me, and each other, they just lived in two different houses in two different areas of town. They divorced when I was extremely young, so it wasn't much of a big deal growing up. This was my normal. My dad wanted to be with me as much as my mom had me, but that wasn't the case. He eventually had to move out of town to take care of my ailing grandparents and a couple of years after their deaths, he died. A decade later, I would sit in a movie theater and unknowingly watch a film that would convey many of the emotions of the hardest parts of my childhood. In a Superman film of all places. [embed]204634:37289[/embed] I like to use Kevin Smith's An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder as the starting point of my analysis because it is the argument that actually cemented my understanding that Superman Returns will not be loved by everyone. His analysis helped me break down why I actually enjoyed the film. I respect Kevin as a writer and enjoy his films. I think he's wrong in his analysis simply because we viewed the film in two different ways. That's okay though as I'm sure I'm one of the only people that can see the movie this way. He came in looking for a blockbuster and found the art house rendition of Richard Donner's Superman. I came in looking for something like the originals and saw my father. These are two extremely different ways to take the film. I saw my father in the man of steel. I also saw my father in the man that shared his name, Richard. Both of them were good men and both played their roles in true fashion. Richard was the dad I always wanted to be there. The guy that would take care of me day in and day out. The one that was the normal every day father. Not saying my dad didn't do that when needed, just he really couldn't always be there. Divorce creates that barrier. Superman would be the representation of a father always wanting to be there. Wanting to have this perfect lifestyle and knowing he couldn't. The whiny emo Superman that floats outside of Lois's house. He does this because he had his chance and this just wouldn't work for him. He wanted it to, it just couldn't work out. So he's trapped outside always looking in. He could do anything for them, yet he will never have the opportunity. Richard would always be unable to live up to this ideal Superman while Superman would never be able to live together with Lois. He had his chance and he blew it. He would at the very least try to do the best he could. In a nod close to my life, he dies while trying to do just that. There is a scene in the hospital where nobody really knows what to make of a man of steel lying there lifeless. They stick needles in him and they break. They even try to resuscitate him with enough electricity to blow a generator and nothing happens. Nobody has the power to bring him back to life. Then Lois and her son come in and with their love, they breathe life in to a god. Sometimes the fantasy gets a bit too fantastical. As I took the movie out to write all this, I started viewing the film a bit differently than I did a few years ago. The key that seemed to hold the most weight was Marlon Brando. Bringing his voice in to really push these themes was a brilliant idea. "You will be different, sometimes you'll feel like an outcast, but you'll never be alone. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son." As a father now with a child this chord really hits home. The film really starts to hammer in the point of legacy and what it will leave on a child. I want to be there always for my child. I want to be able to pass my legacy along. I will never be a man with a child not knowing their true legacy. I have seen my father's life, I will use his strengths to succeed and will learn from his failures. Luthor presents all the failures my dad did indeed struggle with before his death. His health was in flux as was his business, his new marriage and the rest of the things in his life. Much like Superman tried to stop his problem, Luthor kept popping up stronger and more determined than before. Eventually he succeeded. He had invaded Superman's home, he had taken his ex and his child away and he proceeded to stab him in his back. Failures had consumed my father. While my father struggled with his issues, my mother had always struggled with him. She loved him, but they had always had their problems. This is personified by the headline Lois defines her life and her career on. "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." That was a struggle she had to deal with all her marriage and long after. Loving a man that infuriated her. Always stuck between why she does and doesn't need this man. Now I know that the film isn't flawless. Bryan Singer couldn't cast a female lead to save his life, or more importantly his movies. Margot Kidder wasn't necessarily a great Lois, but she was a good one. Kate Bosworth couldn't carry an attitude throughout this entire film. Pair this with the fact that the character was beaten so bad in this film that her survival in the end is nothing short of a miracle and she just doesn't seem believable as Lois Lane. Everything else we see is on the money. Evil criminal mastermind Luthor is paired up with a group of thugs and needs to make big money really quickly. He proceeds to lie, cheat and steal to destroy Superman and he does. Kevin Spacey just does a great job of showing Luthor's power. The biggest point of contention is the plot holes that Kevin Smith outlined pretty clearly. That Lois never questioned the how's and the why's of their child. To be fair, this argument hinges absolutely upon the fact that she didn't know, even subconsciously, that this was Superman's child. As a woman who had a decent relationship with Superman, she comes off like a woman scorned. At no point in Superman Returns am I to believe that Lois has completely forgotten that magical night they shared together. Some people seem to think that this strange power Superman supposedly gained in the prior movies was an absolute ability. That Lois's mind and heart could be shaken like this. I don't buy it and I believe that this is the point the film comes across with. I wasn't old enough to be a part of the generation that believed a man could fly. Those movies while still in my heart, aren't absolutes as they were for many. This movie was a bit of fan service for a fan that was a bit too young to enjoy any of the original films. It's a true classic for me. The fact that this won't get the sequel I think it deserves is a bit disappointing and Zack Snyder isn't going to reassure me. I don't want my Superman to follow the aggressive style that Snyder has brought to life again and again. My Superman is a force of truth, not a force of strength. Singer brought that out. I just don't go to see a Superman flick to see him punch a hole through someone or something. Superman Returns is a classic. Maybe not for you, but it is for me. I have a thousand films in my mind that would be considered better across many different demographics, but they might not have had this long lasting effect on me. A person can only truly see this with a select few films. Those films however will remain in our heart as true classics.
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[Oh look, it's manasteel88 again with a sexy blog from the September blog topic about classic movies, and he's got a great philosophy on classic films, which he uses to explore Superman Returns. Read and comment! Read this mo...

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Superhuman: The dichotomy of a Dark Knight


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[Manasteel88 writes a great post about something we've all thought about: how can an actor pull off both Batman and Bruce Wayne? Has any previous actor done it? Want to see your work here? Check out this month's topic and wri...

April Fools: Not Understanding Your Audience

Apr 06 // manasteel88
At the 2009 festival, I went to a screening of Tony Manero in the Palm Canyon Theater. It is a single staged theater that they lease to the festival to get some added revenue for the year. It's small, but classy with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. My grandmother and I had staked out a seat next to the aisle so she could get out before everybody else left the theater. The place was packed to the brim full of people. Apparently the film had been featured under the "Awards Buzz" category of the festival and it was getting more than anticipated sales. Like the rest of the films, a man stood up and announced the film and read off the description that was printed for the festival. His description read: "Set in 1978 Santiago, Chile during Pinochet's reign of terror, this disturbing film follows a psychotic petty criminal into the depths of his crazed obsession with John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever." What's interesting about that description is the fact that Palm Springs demographic is largely filled with retirees. I can recall somebody making a joke when I was there that Palm Springs is 70% retired and 50% gay. When you paired the words "Awards Buzz" with "Saturday Night Fever," it started to make sense why the place was packed with old people looking for a fun filled movie. So the film was introduced and then just as he was about to wrap things up, he announced that the film's sponsor was here and ready to give a speech. For about 5 minutes, she stood up there telling us how proud she was to sponsor this masterpiece from Brazil. How they had brought the director of the film here and that he was sitting in back ready for our questions after the screening. It was a speech that truly got us to believe that this film could have something. She then sat down and the lights dimmed. The film starts and we see exactly what I would expect from the description. It has some dancing in a place many of us wouldn't be caught dead in. Not as much dancing as you would think or want, but enough. It was a bit grainy, but nobody was too offended by the setting. That is until our main protagonist, and wannabe Tony Manero, Raul brutally smashes the head in of an old lady for her television set. All of a sudden, up pops 5 octogenarian couples heading for the door. Well, pops is a bit much. Slowly rose and left would be more accurate. Raul then kills a few more and with it followed some more of the audience. As the film neared the mid way point, a few more people started to realize that this wasn't going to be the dance spectacular that they thought it was and they left. Then a few more left as a sleazy love triangle showed up and again more followed after he destroyed his friend who dared to want to be like Tony Manero as well. At the end of the movie, we were left with half of the crowd that had shown up. Nobody was sticking around for the question and answer section. This was an odd phenomena that happened twice that year. Two films I had gone to had groups of people storm out of them. Something like this had never occurred in any of my visits to the festival. That first film was the playfully titled The Education of the Fairies. A fun film that I would suggest keeping away from your children, as the two graphic scenes of sex in the film will damper what would otherwise be a perfectly fine movie night. It was actually pretty funny to see the more liberal couples that had just put their hands over their children's eyes for the first part, storm out when the second sex scene popped up. The second was Tony Manero. To see a significant number of adults leave like this just fascinated my grandmother and me. However, with the way that they sold this film it should be expected. It was not a film friendly for many of the demographics in Palm Springs. Especially with how they billed it for them. Raul was brutal throughout the entirety of the film and even I thought it was an all around dud. I've seen some that could bridge interesting parallels between Pinochet and Raul, but that would have required me to ponder upon it later. Unfortunately, the only thing I left that theater thinking about was how we all as a group of people were disappointed by what we had just seen. Some obviously more than others, but it was an experience to see an entire audience show such dissatisfaction to a director sitting among them.
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[Here we are, the very first promoted musing blog on Flixist! The honor goes to manasteel88, who wrote a great piece about some weird audience-related moments. Want to see your work here? Check out this month's topic and writ...


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