Friday, May 5, 2006

MOVIES: Look, up in the sky…

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Superman. He's the Man of Steel, the first and, still, the most iconic of all the superheroes, the one every other one came from. But he's also kind of... well, bland, compared to the tortured angst of Spider-Man, or Batman, or The Hulk. But he's been off movie screens since 1987. Now in this golden age of comic-inspired movies, it's his turn to get the big-bucks film experience again.

Finally, we've got a new movie trailer that gives us our first real long look at what director Bryan Singer hopes to show us with "Superman Returns," coming June 30. So far, me like. The gist – Superman is back after five years in outer space. He returns to find a Lois Lane who's got a son, a world that isn't sure it needs him, and a very, very angry Lex Luthor.
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The trailer captures a lot of the joy and fun of the first two "Superman" movies.. We get lots of flying and bullet-deflecting and Kevin Spacey chewing the scenery as Lex Luthor, all of which goes down pretty smooth. I worried "X-Men" director Singer might put too psycho-analytical a spin on Superman – who's not Wolverine, after all – but Singer has gone out of his way to embrace the near-great first two Superman movies (of "Superman III" and "Superman IV: The Quest For Peace," we shall speak no more). The use of John Williams' pounding classic score is extremely welcome – I put the "Superman" theme as probably my favorite movie music other than the original "Star Wars." And check out the Marlon Brando cameo in the trailer.

The question mark remains Brandon Routh, who lacks the cheery All-American charm of Christopher Reeve, but who's also playing an older, wiser Superman. But he fits in the costume (which could make many an actor look idiotic), and his Clark Kent seems to be haltingly awkward without being buffoonish. It remains to be seen how well he'll handle dialogue scenes. Kate Bosworth makes a pretty, sassy Lois Lane, although she doesn't have Margot Kidder's husky allure. There are things that concern me – did we really need a cute kid for Lois Lane to tote around? – but the trailer shows us plenty to be excited about.

Spacey looks like he'll provide the movie's biggest moments, á la Jack Nicholson in "Batman," and I like the way he's using some of Gene Hackman's affable Luthor portrayal to create a crueler, meaner arch-nemesis, who's obviously not mellowed with age. This trailer seems to emphasize the humor – but as long as it doesn't tip into ultra campy (no bumbling sidekick Otis, for example), it ought to work. The superhero movie trend has been to go dark, dark, dark, which is fine and dandy for some, but a little wit doesn't mean we'll start seeing Batman dancing the "Batusi" again. The "Spider-Man" flicks have been best of the recent wave of capturing the simple sense of wonder of having super-powers; hopefully this one can evoke something similar. I mean, Superman can fly, y'know!

I'm hoping for a movie that provides us spectacle and awe and respect for the characters, but also has a healthy sense of fun as well. Come June 30, I'll be in line to see what Bryan Singer has come up with for the biggest superhero of them all.

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