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Superman: The Animated Series – Blasts From the Past, Parts 1 & 2 (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Blasts from the Past feels like it should be a better episode. After all, Superman’s relationship with his Kryptonian heritage should be fodder for good drama. If you read Superman as a parable for the American Dream – the story of an orphan from far away who comes to America and makes something of himself – it’s always fascinating to look at that story from the other direction. What are Superman’s ties to Krypton, a planet destroyed before he could speak? Does he define himself as Kryptonian?

Some versions of the character’s mythology suggest that his outfit is Kryptonian armour. Most recent takes on the character suggest that the famous “S-shield” is the emblem of the House of El. There are a lot of interesting questions about how an alien from a dead world who has become the protector of Earth must see himself. Is he one or other, both, or neither? Most interpretations seem to opt for “both”, although the suggestion is that Kal-El leans more heavily towards Earth.

Blasts from the Past should be a vehicle to explore this, bringing back two Kryptonian characters and allowing Superman to interact with them. At the very least, perhaps it could be an exploration of how much a childhood on Earth changed Superman. Instead, it feels like a rather bland rehash of Superman II, just with some names changed.

Red sky in the... well, eternity, I guess...

Red sky in the… well, eternity, I guess…

 

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Watch! Trailers for The Impossible and Song for Marion…

I love me some Terrence Stamp.

Okay, a lot of that love is rooted in the fact that he was cinema’s best comic book supervillain for well over a decade, playing the iconic Zod (of “kneel before…” fame) in Superman II. However, as I grew older, I came to love spotting Stamp in all manner of roles – whether serious, comic, subversive or even random. Whether it’s small roles in comedies like Yes Man or Bowfinger, or leading performances in films like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I just have a massive fondness for Stamp. (It’s a fondness, I must confess that extends outwards to other British actors of his generation, including Malcolm McDowell and Patrick Stewart.)

Anyway, I just received this trailer for Song for Marion, and it looks like it could be fun. Stamp plays a grumpy old man who gets involved in his wife’s choir. Oh, and Christopher Eccleston plays his son. It’s strange, but somehow brilliant casting. Anyway, the clip is below.

There’s also this trailer for The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. It’s the story of a family struggling to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I’m very curious to see how this plays out, because it’s a premise that really needs to be handled with a great deal of care.

Non-Review Review: Superman II (The Theatrical Cut)

I kinda feel sorry for Superman II. As a film, it’s overshadowed by the enormous controversy over the firing of director Richard Donner. Donner, who directed the original film, had begun work on the follow-up, when he was dismissed by the producers – reportedly for resisting the “campy” direction that the Salkinds where trying to force on the film. Richard Lester (who worked with the Salkinds as producer on The Three Musketeers, The Fourth Musketeer and as an uncredited producer on the original Superman) stepped in to fill the vacant position, and was ultimately credited on the finished product. While the film works relatively well, it suffers from the simple fact that Lester is nowhere near the craftsman that Donner was.

You'll believe a man can make a woman forget his secret identity!

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Right In Time: Are Some Concepts Just Too Silly For Movies?

I think it’s happened to all of us at some point. We see a poster for a film, or the start of a trailer that looks fascinating – all the right talent is involved to grab our attention, the technical stuff looks well-executed, it’s stylish and smart… and then we catch the plot of the film. It’s a plot that kind of makes us pause, drawing an almost unconscious, “huh?” from our collective lips. Maybe we read it twice to try to make some sense out of it, but there’s no joy. It still sounds as absolutely and impossibly silly as it did when we first read of the plot. It has happened to me quite a few times over the years, as I’ve found myself wondering how the hell such a concept could work on the big screen. I’ll confess, it happened when I read the plot summary for In Time, directed by Andrew Niccol, which drew this appropriate response

More at The Shiznit...

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Superman Returns & The Question of Consent…

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. I figured that, today, I’d take a look at Superman-related movies.

As I was watched Superman Returns again for the first time in what seemed like years, a question occurred to me. It wasn’t exactly one that the plot addressed, but it was probably one of those idle little thoughts which is best reserved for the late hours, as one enjoys a pre-bed snack, or fodder for a wandering mind on a long bus journey. The title of this post kinda gives the game away, but read on for more.

A super night...

Note: This article contains fairly basic spoilers for Superman Returns, but I think you probably already know what I’m going to talk about.

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Lex is More: Bringing Lex Luthor to the Screen…

I’ve been swamped with real-world work this week, so announcing that Zach Snyder would be directing the new Superman movie and that General Zod would be the primary bad guy on Monday (and a plot synopsis on Tuesday) really threw me for a loop. Anyway, I cobbled together some thoughts on bringing Superman to the big screen. I’ll hopefully have some more general thoughts early next week.

Lex Luthor shouldn’t be so hard to get right on the big screen. I mean, it’s not from lack of trying. The character is more than just Superman’s arch-enemy, he’s a member of his supporting cast. More than the Joker to Batman, Luthor is inexorably linked to the Man of Steel – no matter which enemy is invading Metropolis, Luthor is usually helping them or hindering them or figuring out a way to turn the events to his advantage. As such, he has appeared in all but one of the live action Superman films released over the past three-and-a-half decades, even where he isn’t the main adversary (as in Superman II, where he attempts to manipulate Zod’s vendetta against Superman). And yet, despite being portrayed by two incredibly talented actors – Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman – the big screen never managed to essence of Luthor’s character. Zack Snyder was earlier this week named director of the Nolan Superman reboot, and although General Zod was named the villain of the film I’d be fairly certain that Luthor will put in an appearance. So, how do you do Lex Luthor right?

Green there and done that?

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Richard Donner & Geoff Johns’ Run on Action Comics – Last Son, Escape from Bizarro World, Superman & The Legion of Superheroes & Brainiac

In light of the recent announcement that the villain of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot will be General Zod (brought to the screen by Terrence Stamp in Superman II), we thought we might take a look at the run which reintroduced Zod to comic book audiences (written by the director of the first two films).

You kinda figure that Geoff Johns would be the perfect fit for Superman as a character. I mean, no character needs to re-engage with his roots while seeming fresh and renewed quite like the modern Superman. Despite his iconic status, the character hasn’t really registered on global pop culture since Richard Donner brought him to life in Superman, the first of the modern superhero films. Fittingly enough, legendary director Donner joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for the first half of the run – if you needed any more indication that this was a pairing to be excited about, consider the fact that Donner gave Johns his first “in” in show business, working as the director’s assistant. If you needed any more, take a look at how perfectly illustrator Gary Frank draws the Man of Steel, making him look like Christopher Reeve. However, although the run is entertaining and engaging, it can’t help feeling a little incomplete – as if Johns is spending more times aligning the pieces on his board rather than playing with them. Still, it’s a pretty damn good collection of Superman stories that Johns and Donner have put together here.

Superman is adrift no more...

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Non-Review Review: Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut)

Superman II has had a somewhat rocky production history. Essentially conceived as the “second half” of the original Superman film, it was all beautifully and carefully mapped out since before the original was released – in fact, Donner had done most of his work on the sequel before the original saw the light of day, and Gene Hackman didn’t even officially work on the second film (his filming blocks overlapped). It was a bold gambit, but one which could have returned an almost infinite reward. Instead, the producers of the film – the Salkinds – would fire director Richard Donner before he could finish his work and hire Richard Lester to come in a film some replacement footage. Perhaps the most telling thing about Lester is that, on viewing Donner’s epic take on the Man of Steel, the replacement dismissively stated that he wanted to stay away from “the whole David Lean thing”. Because the last thing he’s want to do is make a good movie. However, Donner would eventually get an opportunity to tell his version of the story – or as close to it as possible. Although there’s only so much editting can do, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut makes almost as solid a case for its director’s vision as Superman III and Superman IV do for his successor’s lack of same.

Let's put this to bed...

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Looking for Christopher Nolan’s Superman…

Superman is a tough character to get right. In any format. I remarked earlier in the week that there are very few truly classic stories featuring the character. While I’m more than a little delighted that Christopher Nolan has been handed the reigns to the franchise, I’m also a little bit nervous. Is there a way to make Superman a viable commercial franchise for the twenty-dirst century? I’d argue there is, if we look in the right place. Here’s my opinion: Look! Up in the skies! I think that the place to look to take the character back to his roots is the sort of wonderful ‘out there’ science fiction of the fifties. Batman does noir, so let Superman do hokey sci-fi.

"You will always be a child of two worlds..." Wait, sorry, wrong monologue...

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