Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Man Of Steel, Man Of Heart

Everyone who complains about the lack of plot coherence, character development or general heart in Summer blockbuster films, consider Superman Returns, which features all of the above and as a result, runs a solid two and a half hours. And unlike most films of this length that can suffer for having so much crammed into the running time (Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter), Superman Returns feels a little too uncompressed. Director Bryan Singer is so determined to make this film weighty and momentous that it moves at a bit of snail’s pace as a result. Or maybe it just felt like that because I saw it in a theatre with no working air conditioning or ventilation.

But when it steps up the action, it’s spectacular. Superman’s rescue of an out-of-control airliner in the Earth’s outer atmosphere is a truly stunning piece of FX-ery and action filmmaking and while the other action sequences scattered throughout the film are also impressive – hell, anytime Superman flies it looks amazing – they don’t really compare to that first salvo. But what was pointed out in another review that I concur with is that Superman doesn’t fight anyone. In Singer’s world, there are nogiant robots or alien invasions or super-villains, there’s just Superman. Even Lex Luthor, for all his genius, is just a man (at least without his stylish power suit). The only true challenges for Supes are disasters, either natural or man-made. I’m not suggesting that we need another Nuclear Man in future films or even a General Zod, but surely there’s someone in the rogues gallery that’s filmable and could offer Superman a decent throw-down? As much as I hate Bizarro… Bizarro? Nah, probably not.

The cast is pretty much uniformly excellent, to my surprise. Even though compared to their counterparts in the original film they look like kids playing dress-up, both Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth are very good in their roles, even though Routh’s channelling of Christopher Reeve only proves how iconic Reeve was in the role. And even though she barely looks as old as her 23 years and far too young to have accomplished as much as Lois Lane has, Bosworth brings a real strength and sense of experience to the part. As Lex Luthor, Kevin Spacey is excellent. While Gene Hackman’s portrayal was more used car salesman than criminal mastermind, Spacey gives him a real sense of evil – he hates Superman on a level far deeper than a costumed dogoodnik who interferes with his plans. Interesting that over the whole film, the two arch-enemies only actually share a few minutes of screen time.

Above all though, Superman Returns is a character piece. Singer seems like he’d be perfectly content to have spent the whole time examining the relationships between Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane or just hanging out in the Daily Planet newsroom. Which I can understand – it’s no secret that this is the film that Singer has wanted to make pretty much all his life, of course he’s going to milk it. And as slow as it is at (many) points, I never found it to really really drag and enjoyed being along for the trip as much as anyone. As disposable as many critics regard them as, I’m always pleased to see comic book adaptations given serious film treatment but not at the cost of the wonder and whimsy of the source material. Superman Returns strikes a good balance there, even if it’d be nice if he’d have been able to punch something/someone…

Harp talks to (almost) everyone’s Superman impersonator Sufjan Stevens about Illinois and The Avalanche.

And I somehow missed this Harp feature on Golden Smog in my writeup on them earlier this week, which is weird since the piece is pretty damn big. Minnesota Public Radio also has a radio session with Kraig Johnson and Gary Louris.

Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning tells The Japan Times that he’d have no problem with winning the inaugural Polaris Music Prize.

Pitchfork has some info on the new Decemberists record The Crane Wife, out October 3, including tracklisting and tour dates. They’re in Toronto on November 4 6 at the Kool Haus. Yeah, the Kool Haus. Come on, you knew that was coming.

Mates Of State’s September 16 show at Lee’s Palace will also have Starlight Mints on the bill, tickets are $13.50. And Art Brut, We Are Scientists and The Spinto Band are scheduled to play the Opera House October 14.

Stylus spent the week counting down their 100 greatest music videos of all time. Like Pitchfork’s recent “100 Awesome Music Videos” feature, it’s YouTube-d to death.

PopWatch has some spoilers about the upcoming season of 24, namely who the new President is. Hint – he’s got a familiar surname. My question is what does this news reveal about the timeline for season six? If they’ve had time to elect a new President, does that mean that Jack will have been in Chinese custody for at least that long? I can’t imagine that he’ll have found his way to freedom in the off-season, that would be a waste of a truly interesting plot line and a chance for James Hong to cement his place as the only Asian actor in Hollywood.

np – Greg Laswell / Through Toledo

By : Frank Yang at 9:53 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Jeremy says:

    I thought that superman was good as well. Just some advice to others that are going to see it : Don’t waste your money seeing it in Imax 3d. Its really distracting to have to take your nerdy 3d glasses on and off, and it serves no purpose except that you can hear everyone go "aaaaahhhh" when something comes near the front of the screen. They used the 3d effect not unlike Dr.Tounge from SCTV.

  2. Thierry says:

    Wow, Harp posts so much of their content online, you start wondering if anyone is actually buying the magazine!

  3. Frank says:

    while I love that Harp offers me so much blog fodder, I do still buy the magazine every month. I don’t like reading lengthy stuff on the computer and I can’t bring my computer into the bathroom with me.

  4. suckingalemon says:

    at least the kool haus is all ages, i think my sister really wants to go.

    btw, we have never formally met most likely cause im sketchy but you met my friend damon last night at ladyhawk and you know beth, so i figured id just say hello even though we’ve never in person.


  5. Mario says:

    Not sure about the James Hong reference… If you’re talking about the main Chinese guy with the grudge against Jack Bauer, he’s actually played by Tzi Ma, who, among other things, was the explosives expert in "The Ladykillers."

  6. Frank says:

    the james hong reference is an inside joke between me and, well, myself. But you know that if they did pick up next season in China, that they’d find some way to work the Hongster into the show. It’s a union rule.

  7. Lisa says:

    Just a heads up, the Decemberists’ page says November 6th.

  8. Greg says:

    Kool Haus :( … how depressing.