Saturday, July 22, 2006

jimmy olson's blues

michael jackson, the prince of pop, the greatest entertainer of the 80s, is now generally seen as a wacko.
and tom cruise, who was the epitome of cool all those years ago, is looked upon with confusion, too.

o where have all the heroes gone?

at a time like this, it is nice to know that superman has returned.

actually, he's been around for a while.... the comics killed him then brought him back as four or five different incarnations, network tv married him to a desperate housewife, and the wb thought he would be more interesting as a teenager.

but the best superman is the superman.

bryan singer brought insight, depth, and general coolness to x-men six years ago, a series that could have easily been a mediocre comic book movie. he revitalized the public's interest in superheroes, a rebirth that has produced a surprising amount of good movies [all three x-men, the second spiderman, and last summer's batman begins].
i was nervous when mr. singer left x-men 3, but it seems to have turned out just fine. better yet, his expertise could not have been better placed than with the first and the greatest superhero.

unlike christopher nolan's batman begins, superman returns does not erase the previous story and begin anew, but continues with what has been said so far in his cinematic life. from the very start this is acknowledged, as the opening credits are done in a style that look like they could have been designed for 1980's xanadu. i loved it.

i loved to movie from the start. and through the end.
often i find myself waking from the suturing of the screen after 45 minutes or so, enjoying a movie but perhaps a little restless for it to be done, so that i can have seen it and then be on with my life.
but for over two and a half hours, i loved it all.

scenes are not wasted in all that time. we don't have to wait an hour to see the eponymous character, he and the world he lives in is treated as if it were real, and even though he is invincible and omnipotent, he still has to work hard.

lest there be any question about the abilities of the man of steel, once he is 'back', we are given an excellent slice of his life: a diabolical crinimal is on a rooftop with police surrounding below--a typical dc comics scene. the bad guy opens up on the officers below with a giant machine gun and havoc ensues. literally moving faster than a speeding bullet [much faster], our hero comes and walks right into the fire. not only does the shot say so much about who superman is and what he does, it is also very cool.

back at the daily planet, the editor states that three things sell papers: sex, violence, and superman.
that's interesting to think about.... if superman was real, he would be fascinating to read about. i'd buy the paper. look at the headlines on 'superman stops bank robbery' would stand out like a physician among the sick.
hearing the editor bark out subjects for investigation to all the differest newspaper sections is fun, and you have to agree with him; it's interesting stuff.

while he was gone, lois lane wrote a pulitzer-winner article entitled 'why the world doesn't need superman'. written out of a broken heart for him leaving her suddenly, she cynically looked upon the world and declared that there was no need for a Savior. that we are fine without any help from above. to this, superman takes her high above the city. lois doesn't hear anything. but he hears everything, he tells her. every cry for help, every prayer sent up is heard. the world pleads for a Savior; they need him, and he is there.

there is an interesting association with our heroes and their values. batman is an iconic hero, but works in the shadows dishing out vengence. he is not against 'truth' and 'justice', and is in fact a soldier of them, but those are not slogans of the dark knight.
but superman does stand for 'truth, justice, and the american way' [interestingly, that final phrase is deftly omitted in the movie...]. and he looks and acts like it.
he is not a popularly cool hero. no chains or spikes or guns or sunglasses. he wears a bold blue
costume with a red cape and neatly combs his nice black hair. even clark kent is a lovably nerdy guy. our heor is polite and courteous, cares for those whom he loves, and encourages people not to smoke. no lasers or claws, his strength is based on his physcial abilities, albeit infinitely enhanced by the powers of his father, who sent him to this earth to save those who could not save themselves.

not only does it feel refreshing to have such a classic hero return, it feels right.

like the chronicles of narnia, it is not only a fun blockbuster of the season, it's unexpectedly wise.

go see it.

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