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Jul. 8th, 2006 @ 12:08 am superman returns: the passion of the superman
Current Mood: gibbering
Current Music: Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead

On Erica's advice I decided to splurge today and treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie. The dinner was unremarkable, but the movie? Best $10 I ever spent.

I'm not even going to attempt a Christian reading of this movie--it's too easy. While it isn't explicitly Christian by any means--all savior figures have a lot in common--the parallels are far too numerous and too strong to be unintentional. And it is, in a roundabout way, one of the most astoundingly accurate secular depictions of what Christ means to Christians. Not who He is, but what He means to us.

But this movie is amazing in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. It touched me on a visceral level in a way that movies seldom do. While it does assume some familiarity with Superman and the previous few movies--a total newcomer to the series would be hopelessly lost--it's very faithful to the Superman legacy. Tastefully subtle references to old Superman covers and superhero cliches abound, as well as very subtle nods to the modern comic book continuity and some of better-known comics commentary. This isn't a fanboy wankfest, though--somehow it still manages fresh enough to wow an eight-year-old. It is an exceptional piece of cinema from beginning to end--the directing and visual style are nothing short of spectacular (it's amazing how much the film manages to say without dialogue), the special effects are mindblowing, and Kevin Spacey is the best Lex Luthor I have ever seen. And, as always, John Williams's score is sublime. This may very well be one of my favorite movies of all time. I kid you not--it is up there with Back to the Future and Star Wars. The first Matrix aside, there hasn't been an action film of this caliber since the '80s.

And what wows me most about this movie is that it understands its source material so well. It pays tribute gently, in ways that will bring smirks to old fans but would leave no eight-year-old tilting his head in confusion. It avoids the cynicism and it's-all-been-tried attitude that dooms most modern superhero movies to self-parody (I'm looking at you, X-Men), and it never tries to "reinvent" Superman as some kind of hip gunmetal-grey Matrix ripoff in a desperate bid for cultural relevance. Rather, it takes the old Supes--the one kids grew up wanting to be, before Christopher Reeve's fateful accident, and before he was killed off by Doomsday in the comics--and uses him to restore a jaded America's faith in superheroes. (In fact, it frames itself around an editorial written by Lois Lane titled "Why We Don't Need Superman"--the very sort of thing I could easily imagine a journalist writing today.) So much has been made of Superman since he dropped off the cultural radar, from the infamous "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" article to the song in my "Now Playing" field to the short stories about Clark Kent crying himself to sleep in a tiny New York apartment--what if Superman was one of us?--and this movie not only addresses those issues, it transcends them. This isn't a postmodern Superman movie--it's a post-postmodern Superman movie, one that challenges the cynicism that killed him in the first place. And it's very much a post-9-11 Superman, in a way that could have been totally tasteless (see the 9-11 tribute DC put out a month after the towers fell) but instead delivers convincing, heartfelt sentiment with grace and style. Superman is no longer an escapist savior, the kind of hero we wish existed to save us in times of tragedy. He is the kind of savior that already exists within us. And indeed, though the movie is about someone who is by definition more than human, the co-star of this movie is man.

Bonus points for small but magnificent details like the word "ALIENATION" in the Scrabble game in the beginning, the brief mention of Gotham City, and the "It's a bird! It's a plane!" scene. Also, I'm not completely sure about this, but I think there's a brief snippet of a newscast in German in which they refer to him as the Ubermensch. (Zarathustra, you have it backwards--Nietzsche is dead, and Superman has killed him!)

None of this would probably matter to the film's other target audience, the generation of five-to-fifteen-year-olds who grew up with world-weary superheroes like Neo and Wolverine. All this pop culture stuff is going to go right over their heads, but they're still going to leave the theater incapable of saying anything but two words: "holy" and "shit."

Scott Kurtz's blogpost after seeing this movie says it best: "My name is Scott Kurtz, and I am six years old. When I grow up, I want to be Superman."

About this Entry
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Date:July 8th, 2006 03:31 pm (UTC)
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wow. that was a lot of fun to read. I heard varying things about the movie, but this now really convinces me that I should see it. I've never been a huge comic book/superhero fan, but it's something that isn't completely lost on me, either.

(and this is really lame, but I feel like sharing: my brother used to have a small collection of comic books, and I saw that he had the one in which Superman died. I was all taken aback, and so I sat down to read it. By the end, I think I actually cried a little bit. "SUPERMAN CAN'T DIE! THAT ISN'T ALLOWED!" heh. I don't know how old I was... eight? ten?)
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Date:July 8th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
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Doomsday killed Superman, not Apocalypse. The latter is the Marvel villian "Ensab a nur" (spelling may be off) who was born in ancient Eqypt and was the first mutant, Creator of the 4 horsemen, of which Hulk, Angel, and Wolverine were one time members of.

That is all
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Date:July 10th, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)
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D'oh. Fixed. Thanks!