Monday, June 3, 2013

Do you believe the Man of Steel can fly?

If you believe the posters, you believe the Man of Steel can not only fly, but fly faster than movies have ever shown before. And while that may make nifty looking poster art, Warner Bros and director Zack Snyder are desperate for you to believe that this Superman won't be just a blip on your radar screen.

In a world of sequels post the discovery that "rebooting" can extend the life of potentially any movie franchise, DC Comic's Superman is getting yet another reincarnation as a movie star. If you're pondering why, try to name the actor that donned the red cape in Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns. Go ahead, I'll wait.

How about Lois Lane?, Perry White?, Jimmy Olsen? (ok, now I'm just being cruel). Lex Luther? - Yes, Lex was played by Kevin Spacey; ironically the most memorable presence was created by the actor who would likely most want you to forget he was in the movie. (No need to hit IMDb, the cast is listed at the bottom of this post.)

If you're looking for a clue at how resounding a flop Superman Returns was, look no further than the fact that the name Superman seems persona non grata anywhere near Man of Steel's marketing department. Then take a good look at the trailers. What's happening here, outside of the fact that Clark Kent can no longer even bring himself to utter the word "super",  is moviemaking by trend. Trending that follows box-office, reviews, awards show chatter and studio heads frozen with insecurity, while paying no attention at all to story, direction or the t-word - "talent".

The result - every movie studio's reserve super power, the reboot*. (*re-boot: to redo what has been done before, but deferent, so at least the people ponying up the budget can convince shareholders that there's actually something different about the same old thing. i.e. Batman into The Dark Knight, Star Trek 1 thru 6 into Star Trek 7-10 into J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, even Greek History into Zack Snyder's 300.)

The thing is, when "reboots" work, and they do, it's got nothing to do with rebooting and everything to do with making a fresh, entertaining movie using resources previously squandered by bad scripts, bad directors, bad casting and bad moviemaking.

Superman Returns was bad moviemaking. Man of Steel won't fix that or make you forget if it too is bad moviemaking. Admittedly, Superman is tough material - camp, silly and dated. The one Superman that still soars is the first. Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glen Ford and Valerie Perrine, directed by Richard Donner with a sense of respect to the original material and a sense of fun about itself, that no other superhero movie has matched. Goofy, yes - but reread those old comics and imagine otherwise.

Yes, the comic-book Superman has changed, but moviemaking is still about story, and in these summers of superhero movies plastered from April to August, if you don't bring original ideas to the table, perhaps you should just bring the original movies?

Man of Steel, as directed by Zack Snyder (notorious for the nearly unwatchable Watchmen (Warner Bros., 2009) and the over-hyped, but appropriately named nonsense of Sucker Punch (Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures 2011) tries to get some altitude back into Superman on June 14th (U.S.). My gut is that if you look up into the sky that weekend, you may only hear the sound of a superhero sputtering back to earth.

The cast of "Superman Returns" starred Brandon Routh as Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, Frank Langella as Perry White, Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen, and of course Kevin Spacey as arch-bad guy Lex Luthor. Thanks to Warner Bros. Pictures for trailers and posters.

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