Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bryan Singer Teaches a Class on Doing Sequels Right

Caught Superman Returns last week and I didn't know what to expect. But as soon as the retro title sequence fired up I had a good idea, and thoroughly enjoyed the remainng 2.5 hours of it.

This is old time cinema, with a blend of action, romance, and humor -- and that makes sense because the film fit perfectly in as the third movie in the trilogy that should have been, instead of the trilogy that we actually got. When they sell box sets of Superman DVDs in the future they should just include this one and drop the original 3 and 4.

One impressive thing about this is the suppression of ego required to make a sequel that both builds on, yet is continuous with the themes and stories from the original films. This requires the writers and director to admit that someone else actually did something right, that someone else had a good idea and maybe I should shape my work around that -- not at all a common thing to see anywhere, let alone Hollywood.

James Cameron did a great job of this in Aliens. He took the Ripley character and used the movie to explore her in depth. Why was she such a cold-hearted hard-ass in the first film? Because she needed to keep distance from people. But her dealings with the marines, and particularly Newt, breaks through that.

If the people who made Alien 3 and Terminator 3 understood what Cameron and Singer know, I'd own two more DVDs.

To wrap up, one more thing I appreciated about Superman Returns was how immersed it was in Superman-as-boy-scout (to use the Dark Knight's term): helping cats out of trees, telling people that flying is still the safest way to travel. In a world of Jack Bauers, where the people in charge of America are saying that torture's actually got some things going for it, where cynicism seems to rule the day, it's nice to see a film where the hero aspires to a higher ideal -- despite the fact that it makes him a goofball.

Another point I thought interesting: when Clark Kent expresses those ideals and acts that way in the film, people see him as a quaint nerd. But when Superman expresses them, they're ideals to respected. I think the subtext here is that we should respect the Clark Kents of the world a little more.


Anonymous said...

We saw it with Rick, Kristen, and a couple other friends yesterday. I think none of us liked it. On the drive home with R & K, K regaled us with all the reasons she was horribly disappointed, though R seemed to think that it hadn't been a complete loss.

I guess I've seen a lot worse, but I was very far from impressed. I'm not really sure why. I certainly found both Routh and Bosworth flat and uninspiring. And Kevin Spacey just annoyed me. (I've never liked Spacey much. I liked him in the film 'Swimming with Sharks', in which it's expressly his job to be an asshole, and then to get the shit kicked out of him. Good film.) Oh, and Parker Posey, who can actually act, was wasted in her role. Maybe all that is enough to explain why I was bored so much of the time, but I'm not sure it is.

Steve Peterson said...

We look for reasons why we don't like a film, but I think they're less reasons and more like excuses since, for films and stories we like, the flaws just don't matter to us.

We might like to think that the reasons we give in a review would hold weight with others and help inform their opinions the way reasons in an argument do -- but I've never seen that happen in either direction.

Rick said...

I really think of a reviews and movie experiences as comments in the sea of discussion.

The parallel between global warming/climate change was nice but completely understated. So My argument with the film is more that the city was broken and needed repair. However, people celebrated in the streets as if the foundations of all the buildings were ok.