East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Superman Returns: Jesus, Lois Lane and the Jack of Spades

Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey. Oh, and Marlon Brando.
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris from a story by Bryan Singer, Dougherty and Harris
Directed by Bryan Singer

All the recent comparisons of Supes to Jesus (sorry Semites, he's not Moses) have intended to tell you something about comics, but might tell you more about religion. The point of the original quasi-Jewish Clark Kent was that you could be him: you could be the Chosen One. As DC, unlike Marvel, goyed with time, he morphed into That Guy Sent to Save You. Singer finishes the transformation, letting Supes acknowledge himself as Saviour and Enabler, and that's modernism and the post 9/11 world etc: our individual powerlessness is more apparent now than ever before. The movie has no explicit politics, of course, but its reactionary potential is lessened by Supes's role as saver-not-killer (thankfully the movie doesn't use mass death as spectacle, and if you think that's a spoiler what planet are you from?) and Luthor getting to say "bring it on".

However icky you find the saviour stuff, there's also plenty of choice material. No director spends his superpowers budget better than Singer does: he knows we want to see our hero stop bullets and take Lois flying because that shit's inherently cool. And it's not just action sequences: as Supes turns stalker, the x-ray vision shots are gorgeous (not in that way, pervert), exploring Lois's domestic set-up or tracking her as she takes an elevator to the roof. If this shows our boy's tender side, we also get to see Lois's brawn: she gets to save Superman! Which is sort of problematic because it reduces the definition of courage to the physical (couldn't she just do some lowdown muckraking? That emo Pulitzer editorial doesn't count) but bah, I'll play the inherently cool card again.

It's a slight problem that Kate Bosworth doesn't strike one as the journalistic type, even when she puts on her glasses: in a perfect world, Superman might exist and Parker Posey would be the one playing his squeeze. Routh is certainly hot in a, uh, gay kind of way, and his Reeve imitation is passable except for the attempted comedy, but the guy you want to see more of is Kevin Spacey. This is the perfect role for him -- an intellectual whose erudition barely conceals a sadistic megalomania -- and the writers scrape together enough good lines for him to fly. (Lex: I know it's on the tip of your tongue, just say it once for me. Please. Lois: You're insane. Lex: No! Not that, no. The other thing.) Spacey might be 2-D, but it's the colour that makes the difference.


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