"Superman Is Dead” screams the headline of the Daily Planet, employer of Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen (not the prime piece of St Kilda real estate (stock code PPN)).
You will not be surprised to learn that there is a significant proportion of the American population who consider Superman to be an allegory of the Christian story : Son sent from out of this world to offer redemption from evil; can do super human feats – you get the idea. The religious iconography doesn’t end with mere inference either.
In Superman Returns (you will notice too how modern day film producers do not number sequels, such as Superman 57 or Rocky 112, they give them actual titles, eg Rocky Balboa, because the punters (that’s us) think that sequels are crap and that films with individual titles are cool … or something like that), anyway, in Superman Returns, Superman saves the world (and himself) by casting the kryptonite infused crystal continent into outer space. Dying (because of said kryptonite), he falls back down to earth, arms outstretched to form a super-crucifix, with his red cape flapping about him to look like spilled blood.
Naturally, falling to earth from outer space would be enough to crush most people but this is Superman after all. Rushed to emergency, the ECG’s blow up when administered to his super-chest, needles bend when attempts to inject into his super-biceps fail and the heart rate monitor flat lines. Superman is dead.
But, like Hulk Hogan in many a super wrestling bout (I half expected to see the hand go up and the fingers raised 1, 2, 3, just like the Hulk but not on this occasion) the Super Man ain’t Super Dead, he’s just waiting for a bit of a pep talk from Lois and the boy who can seemingly cross police lines and enter an ICU with no-one to stop them.
Kevin Spacey plays Lex Luther, Superman’s arch-nemesis, and he gets all of the good lines. On song, Kevin Spacey’s manic insouciance is better than anyone’s. When played against Parker Posey’s simple minded blonde, Kitty Kowalski, you do get some good comedy :
Lex : Kitty, what did my father always say ?
Kitty : “You’re losing your hair”
Lex : Before that.
Kitty : "Get out" ?
It was a pity therefore that Lex is caricatured in his last scene on a desert island. But don’t worry, also like the Hulk (two Hulks ? well go figure) he’s still breathing and will find a way to get back for Superman Returns Returns.
Brandon Routh who plays Superman bears an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve and is believable in the role – for the record, it wasn’t Routh’s acting that made the whole thing unbelievable, if you can reason that out.
In truth I’m a bit sick of the heart wrenching, hand wringing, stoic, I’ll Go It Alone, heroism of our super heroes who spurn their lady loves for super deeds (think Spiderman and Kirsten Dunst … although perhaps its Kirsten Dunst. Jason Schwartzman as King Louis didn’t want to go KD either). At least we reflect that Superman got a little bit of super-action in one of the (three hundred) prequels because Lois Lane has clearly given birth to a mini-super-me. Wouldn’t Lois have worked out the whole Superman/Clark Kent thing ? Or is he a super-lover with a super-you-know-what that Lois didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about anything else ?
And while we’re on the boy, why would an 8 year old spend so much time in his parent’s work place, the news room ? Doesn’t he have school or day care and why doesn’t the cranky boss, Mr White, get cranky about that when he gets cranky about everything else ?
And one more thing, if Superman really was a super-deity, then how do they explain the moral issue of people dying in freak accidents all around the world when the best Superman can do is attend one incident at a time, albeit at super-speeds ? And then, only at night time (because he’s posing as Clark Kent during the day). And given his singular presence (more like an angel, less like an omnipresent God) how does he know who needs super-saving ? If he was that super-clever, why doesn’t he find Lex on his desert island and have him locked up in Guantanamo Bay or somewhere ? That’s the American Way.