Sunday, July 09, 2006


It's the hot new superhero musical!

Since I've already demonstrated that I can't write lyrics, I'll keep it short this time (sung to the tune of "America" from West Side Story):

Superman doesn't do kryp-to-nite.
Lex Luthor steals him some kryp-to-nite,
Gets Kal Penn to file down that kryp-to-nite...
We're getting some action this kryp-TONITE!

I got around to seeing Superman Returns this weekend. On the whole, I didn't mind it. Here's what I mean:

1. Rhymes with "mouth." I've read this helpful pronunciation guide in many an article introducing Brandon Routh. It's always in parentheticals, and it's always "mouth," as opposed to "south." This is the writer trying to be subtle and clever. The actor makes a pretty worthy Superman, but that's the easier role. How is he as Clark Kent? I have no idea why the mild-mannered reporter gets so little screen time -- in the film's second half, Superman gets to do most of Clark's brooding -- but Routh (rhymes with south) doesn't channel Christopher Reeve as much as I thought he would. I'm eager to see what he'll do with the role in future installments. For now, I didn't mind.

2. Blue crushed? You know, I was really prepared to hate Kate Bosworth. But, as it turns out, I didn't mind her. She wasn't a black hole of non-acting, like Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, nor did she represent all that is wrong with young actresses, a la Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man. I thought she delivered her lines effectively, and played the role as it was written. But...

3. Three icons. She wasn't playing Lois Lane. The mistake the filmmakers made was assuming the Superman story had two iconic figures: Clark Kent/Superman and Lex Luthor. In truth, it has three. Lois Lane is an edgy, sometimes unlikable gal. She's your prototypical snappy newswoman with a chip on her shoulder and something to prove. Kate Bosworth's character lacks any edges; heck, she's filmed in soft focus. It's clear that director Bryan Singer was not interested in defining Lois Lane. At all.

4. Parker Posey saves the world. If there were an actress today who could effectively re-create the Margot Kidder version of Lois Lane, it's Parker Posey. Long gone is her indie charm from Party Girl; she's now a relentlessly offbeat shell of her younger self. Too skinny, and a little batty. (As a reminder before the movie, we were treated to the absurd Pepsi commercial she does with Jimmy Fallon.) Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing Posey as a better Lois Lane; she may have been effective in the Richard Donner movies, but she'd be out of place here. Truth be told, I have no idea who'd make a good Lois Lane; every young actress today seems wrong for some reason. On TV's Smallville, Erica Durance employs a terrific army brat approach, but there's nothing journalistic about her character yet. Back to Posey:
she's kind of a cross between the Otis and Miss Teschmacher characters of the first Superman movie, and acts well opposite Kevin Spacey.

5. The mute Indian guy. When I learned that Kal Penn had no speaking lines in this movie, I was pissed. Why have Kumar play a role if you're not going to use him? Well, he gets more screen time than I would have guessed under the circumstances, and it's almost challenging to have the chatty actor stay silent. So, you guessed it, I didn't mind. Much.

6. Man in tights. The S logo is too small -- Christopher Reeve's was too large, but is there no middle ground? -- and not on the cape at all. And the cape looks maroon. So this Superman stands for truth, justice, and metrosexual makeovers. But the flying was so visually impressive that I didn't mind.

7. They spent $260 million on this? I'm not sure where the money went. The effects are okay but not groundbreaking. I liked how Superman's X-ray vision was like a low-tech flashlight, and that bullet bouncing off the eye looks cool. The rest looks computer generated, especially the sets. Not too fake, not too impressive. I didn't mind.

8. Wigging out. They could have called this Luthor Returns, because the script's main purpose is to showcase Kevin Spacey as the villain. The actor is predictably terrific, and looks great bald. But I think his evil plan is lame; he's still obsessed with land ownership? Lex clearly is the smartest character in the film, making his intentions even more frustrating. His knowledge of Krypton (from the Gene Hackman days) could have been the basis of a much better movie plot. And with Michael Rosenbaum so completely redefining Lex on TV, I expected a lot more out a Luthor-centric film. So I minded a little.

Finally, it surprised me that the love triangle dynamic basically ripped off the premise of TV's The Dead Zone. I can't say much else without spoiling the film, and here at Brevity, we leave the spoilage in the comments section. So feel free to vent, defend, or add musical numbers.


K-Lyn said...

Yay! a jumping off place to start negotiations...

1. I had a HUGE crush on Christopher Reeves but then I think I was 5 when I first saw it. I got some of the same warm fuzzies for this guy. He's pretty! I had never read "mouth" before (always seen south) but wow...that could go in a whole new direction...

2. She didn't suck. True. But they lacked chemistry and she was too darn young. Not acting-wise but character. We're supposed to belive she's picking up 5 years after Kidder left off? Notsomuch. My friend and I were recasting as we waited in the theatre for the movie to start. Our selection of Lauren Graham was popular amongst those we polled in the rows in front and behind although the gal to my right wasn't impressed. I thought of you.

3. I concur. The writing didn't leave much room but I bet Lauren could have done it.

4. I disagree on Posey (see above). I loved her in her role but wish she had been given more oportunity. It felt like she was on a leash (even if her dog wasn't)

5. Never seen Kumar...moving on.

6. It was in the script. "Truth, Justice, and all that stuff". Is even Supey having troubles with our current regime? But I digress. I never liked the S on the cape and I dug the new look. After just rewatching the original last night it is a vast improvement.

7. I think it was all on airbrushing...Grrr. But the bullet scene was worth my admission. Or, more importantly, the look immediately after. I have no idea what effects cost these days. I did enjoy going through and identifying the effect from prior movies. Ah, the Harry Potter flying moment, the Titanic boat splitting sounds, etc...

8. Again, much more after a rewatching of the 1978 film I saw this as more of a soft shoulder tap to see if we would accept Superman Returning. It was a nod to Reeves, Donner, and heck, even Brando. They didn't remake the film but they sure made it obvious that they loved the original and I felt were asking permission to do more. To which I beg them to make good on the promise of two more.

Spoilers: That hospital scene has got to go!!! Could have been done in 30 seconds what took 15 minutes. Even more painful on second viewing. Also, how did they clean up the crumbling city so fast while he was off chucking kryptonite land masses into space? Is there a reset button none of us were previously aware of?

Neel Mehta said...

I couldn't be happier than if they were based on real grades.

1. That's the direction that the press was hinting. Sort of a same-sex casting couch thing. That said, Routh is terrific. I mean, in the film.

2-4. I don't see Lauren Graham and Brandon Routh having much chemistry. An older actor should have been the way to go anyway, considering the post-Superman II plot.

Actually, if you consider that Lauren's been paired opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Vin Diesel in recent movies, maybe studios don't know what to do with her. Here's hoping that she'll do well with Steve Carell next year.

By the way, I never heard any talk of Lauren Graham in the Lois Lane discussion, but she's still preferred by many for Wonder Woman. I'm not holding out hope because Joss Whedon is making it. (If he does pick a lead among the actresses he's worked with, Morena Baccarin would make the most sense.)

5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is on my reserve list. So put Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle on yours. Quid pro quo, K-lyn.

6. Isn't the cape just Kal-el's baby blanket? I can understand no S there. But the uniform should have a slightly bigger S.

7. Digital botox... on Spacey or Posey?

8. I'd look forward to two more movies, though the writers have to step up.

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Spider-Man is still the gold standard, and guess who co-wrote the second one? The guys who do Smallville. That's why we had James Franco slapping Tobey Maguire. Twice.

K-Lyn said...

Skipping right to Wonder Woman discussion - Are you serious in that YOU haven't seen THIS???

And, I've updated my Netflix queue. Also, you STILL need to catch up. Pirates? Hello...

Now back to Superman. No, the cape isn't the baby blanket. It had too much yellow on it.

Digital Botox - actually I meant on Mr. Routh(Mouth) himself. He so didn't need it.

Spider Man is the gold standard? Are you kidding? Have you forgotten Batman????

Rob said...

*Spoiler waring*
Decreasing the size of the "S" is understandable, but making the Kryptonite pink? Unforgivable.

Neel Mehta said...

Rob: You lost me. When was the kryptonite pink? I noticed only green.

K-lyn: I was not aware of the info supplied in your link. I haven't seen anything with her in it. Purists may complain that she's not Greek or Mediterranean, but I could live with this choice.

I have low expectations because I keep thinking he's going to give us Sarah Michelle Gellar, even though those brass bracelets would fit around her shoulders.

Okay, I've had all of three days to see Pirates. You're kidding, right?

Finally, I'll give the edge to Spider-Man because there are two successful movies. Batman Begins, while terrific, is low on action and kind of an anti-superhero movie.

Neel Mehta said...

By the way, Priyanka Chopra is not currently attached to Wonder Woman, according to her IMDb page. No one is.

At some point -- maybe when I've seen enough -- I'll compile some sort of Beginner's Guide to Bollywood.

K-Lyn said...

Pink Kryptonite? Didn't see it pink in either viewing.

Pirates. Well, everyone else in the world made it on opening day. Besides you are the one with the low down on the sneak peeks.

Rob said...

I have not seen this movie, but a colleague who has told me that Bryan Singer had made the Kryptonite pink. Turns out he was just winding me up. Sorry for causing any confusion.

Neel Mehta said...

Since we're thinking pink, this article about the London premiere cracked me up. Its writer is clearly the type of person that would have used "rhymes with mouth" if given the opportunity. Selected bitchy tidbits:

"is more concerned with his make-up than saving the world"

"Routh's aides had new darker foundation flown in for him to use in time"

"he asked for an expensive fake tan moisturiser to be used instead"

"The young star's diva-like behaviour is a far cry from that of his straight-talking predecessor, Christopher Reeve"

"Routh's portrayal has been described as a rather more effeminate hero"

"Routh stars opposite Orlando Bloom's girlfriend Miss Bosworth"

That last one is the harshest. I mean, if I hadn't seen the movie, I'd have thought Brandon Routh is more girly than Orlando Bloom.