Thursday, September 30, 2010

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

After saying never again, Christopher reeve, Gene Hackman, and Margot Kidder reunited for a fourth Superman film. You may recall one of my biggest complaints about Superman III was the absence of the regular supporting cast. Careful what you wish for, because their return here doe nothing to sae this heavy-handed, technical mess.

Superman decides to rid te world of nuclear weapons in order to make the world safe for children. Oddly enough, his declaration and stealing of nukes from various countries does not prompt any country to declare war on him. It dos prompt Lex Luthor to create a WWE wannabe out of pure nuclear energy to fight him, however.

I cannot call that a thrill. There is nothing even passably entertaining in this film. The touchy feely peacenik message is scamp as the worst of ’60’s Batman television series. The alarmist nuclear war theme would have been corny in a ’50’s b-movie, much less an alleged blockbuster at the tail end of the Cold War when the Soviet Union had all but collapsed.

But the theme is not the worst of it. Superman IV is ridiculously poorly made. The special effects are cheap. The wire work on flying characters is often clearly visible. Characters hold entire conversations in airless space. But the worst of it is the editing. The original ending for the film was removed and placed in the middle with a new ending filmed. It not only did not make the movie better, it made the story incomprehensible. Te only way to get the full story coherently is to read the comic book adaptation.

I do not recommend that or the movie.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Superman III

Pictured above is Superman having a stiff drink. I can only assume e as just sat trough the travesty that is Superman III.

Christopher Reeve is back in the title role, but he is about it. Gone are Gene Hackma and Margot Kidder (save for a cameo) , as are just about every element which made the previous films great. Robert Vaughn takes the role of the non-descript megolmaniacal villain. Ross Webster. Go ahead. Describe everything you remember about him. But the worst element is, of course, Richard Pryor. Superman was a big property for Warner Brothers at the time and Pryor was box office gold. But only in a studio executive’s mind could those things go together and make something good.

So what we et is Pryor’s shtick, which I will admit is funny in places, combined with super heroics that just do not seem right. I am not talking about just the altered personality Superman getting drunk ad then battling some split version of himself. I will be generous and credit the sequence with trying to carry on the theme of Superman’s identity crisis and attempting to top the huge battle sequence from the previous film. But when you add that strangeness with an irregular supporting cast and an unknown, uncoupling villain, you get a mess. A sort of Superman adventure with some Pryor antics inexplicably thrown in.

I will also rat the final battle is exciting and well down wit the special effects technology of the time period. Vera Webster accidentally turns into a cyborg and fights Superman. In my younger days, thought it was quite scary. these days, it is a neat, but not redeeming factor. It is like Shakespeare compared to what comes next in the series,

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Superman II

Here in Superman II, we have the best of the original four movies. With a few strange elements, of course. Kal El delves deeper into the decision he made in the first film to embrace humanity by becoming completely human so he can romance Lois lane. Unfortunately, Gen. Zod an two of his cohorts, Kryptonian terrorists all, lead him to realize he has to strike a balance between being Clark Kent and being Superman.

Kal El makes the fateful decision to give up his powers once he realizes, after revealing his identity to Lois, his alien nature will forever keep them apart. The two are so lost in love, they never notice Zod has taken over the entire planet. After learning both the pleasure (Sex. Woo hoo!) and pain (Getting bullied) of human frailty, Kal El realizes it is more important for him to be Superman. He may have embraced humanity as his own, but he realizes he may have to sacrifice his own happiness in order to be its defender.

So superman kicks Kryptionian terrorist hienie in a very impressive special effects laden battle in downtown Metropolis which not only had a comic book battle come to life feel to it, but still stands up well today in the era of CGI. I still think it is the best Superhero battle ever filmed.

Aside from the great comic boo come to lie atmosphere, which would be enough to elevate the movie to superhero film classic, I like how the movie continues the theme from the original that Kal El is still trying to find his own identity. All too often, Superman is presented as a very bland character whose great power always puts him on top of things. He is more interesting when he is unsure of himself, particularly wen it is human emotion that is making him so.

John Williams’ stirring score returns, as does a couple of strange powers such as creating a cellophane net and planting smooches that cause selective amnesia. But the good far, far outweighs the inexplicable bits. For a long time there, Superman Ii was the reatest comic book movie of all time. Its two sequels did not give it much competition.

Rating; ***** (out of 5)

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Yikes! It has been nearly a month since I last reviewed a movie. I have had a good excuse, though--I did not feel like it. That is good enough when you are talking about a personal project. But back to the millstone.

Superman is not the first superhero movie I have reviewed here, so I o not have to go through the ordeal of explaining how longsuffering we comic book fans have been when it comes to adapting our favorite comics to the silver screen. In short, we want our beloved characters exactly as they are o the page, which is often untranslatable to a mass audience. Not to mention the creative vision, for better or worse, of the moviemakers in charge of the project. Tim Burton answered criticism about his1989 Batman film by saying he had never read a comic book in his life.

We noticed, Tim. We noticed.

I think you will find many fans cite Superman as a rare exception to the poor translation from page to stage. That is probably because director Richard Donner and screenwriter Mario Puzo--yes, the Mario Puyzo who wrote The Godfather novel--both grew up as fans of Superman. So the adaptation is about as faithful as a comic fan could hope for.

The cast is about as brilliant as one could hope for, too. Christopher Reeve is so splendidly cast as Clark Kent/Superman, he felt for years typecasting had ruined his career. I believe he felt differently about the role when so many fans who loved him in it supported him so adamantly after a horse riding accident paralyzed him in 1995. Gene Hacman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor helped prompt a change I the comics character from a mad scientist to an evil businessman Margot kidder has her moments as Lois Lane. Se ha big shoes to feel from Noelle Neil the Adventures of Superman television series.

Superman takes the biggest risk a comic book movie can tae by retelling the origin story. Fortunately, it largely remains faithful. At least enough so comic fans never athered up their pitchforks and marched to Donner’s mansion. The rest of the film deviates greatly from the mythos, but does it so well, all is forgiven. Superman and Lois bond much more believably during their famous can you read my mind? sequence than in any comic before and perhaps since. Luthor is a very effective villain just by being a maniacal human being.

We all have issues with the technicalities of the ending. Superman cannot travel back in time under his own power. This irked me as a young tyke and later as a adamant comic purist even though I knew, somehow or another, Lois would have to survive. In my older years, I appreciate the meaning behind Superman’s actions enough to forgive teh time travel impossibility for him. His love for Lois caused him to ignore the words of Jor El about involving himself in human affairs and emrace Pa Kent’s idea he had been put on Earth for a reason. At that moment, Superman officially adopted Earth as his home.

Superman is not the best of the original four movies, but it is good. For awhile there, it was the best comic book movie ever made. One cannot help but credit joh Williams’ stirring score for enhancing our emotional attachment.

Rating: **** (out of 5)