Superman 1.65: You’re Doing It Wrong

And he flies, soaring across the sky on wings made of wax and feathers and cables and front projection. He catches a reporter, a helicopter, a burglar, a boat, a cat and a very important airplane all in a row, and deposits each one exactly where it’s supposed to be, as the crowd cheers. He is here, and he is magnificent.

And then he goes home and gets yelled at by his dad, which I for one find intolerable.

I’ve written before about the various versions of Superman: The Movie, including the bloated Extended Cut with an extra 45 minutes of mostly worthless footage, and the more restrained Director’s Cut released in 2000, which only added 8 minutes of mostly worthless footage.

We’ve reviewed a few of these correctly-deleted scenes, including Lois’ parents on the train and the “feed the babies” scene in Lex’s lair. Now we get to a scene that made it into the Director’s Cut, which I think would have been the worst sequence in the movie: the apology scene.

It comes right after all the exciting rescue sequences, when the audience is just coming down from the burst of thrilling superhero action. The march dies down, and we see the Fortress of Solitude from across the Arctic wastelands. There’s a pause, and then Jor-El’s echoey voice: “You… enjoyed it.”

And then we see Superman, standing to attention like a naughty schoolboy behind the crystal control lectern.

Superman:  I don’t know what to say, father. I… I’m afraid I just got carried away.

Jor-El:  I anticipated this, my son.

Superman:  You couldn’t have!

(He scoffs, smiling at the recollection.)

Superman:  You couldn’t have imagined…

(Then he collects himself, and looks down, ashamed.)

Jor-El:  … how good it felt?

(Superman nods.)

Jor-El:  You are revealed to the world. Very well. So be it. But you still must keep your secret identity.

Superman:  Why?

Jor-El:  The reasons are two. First, you cannot serve humanity twenty-eight hours a day —

(Superman smiles.)

Superman:  Twenty-four.

Jor-El:  — or twenty-four, as it is in Earth time. Your help would be called for endlessly, even for those tasks that human beings could solve themselves. It is their habit to abuse their resources in such a way.

Superman:  And secondly?

Jor-El:  Second… your enemies will discover their only way to hurt you — by hurting the people you care for.

Superman:  (nods) Thank you, father.

Jor-El:  Lastly… do not punish yourself for your feelings of vanity. Simply learn to control them. It is an affliction common to all, even on Krypton. Our destruction could have been avoided but for the vanity of some who consider us… indestructible.

Jor-El:  If it were not for vanity, why… at this very moment… I could embrace you in my arms.

Jor-El:  My son…

(Superman raises his arms, as if to embrace the mental projection of his father.)

(The projection of Jor-El fades.)

(Awkwardly, Superman puts his arms down.)

So: I can see the appeal of more Superman/Jor-El interaction. Brando is always fun to look at and listen to, and the father and son having a conversation about their feelings is, in the abstract, difficult to resist.

But this is the wrong time for it, and the wrong tone. As the audience, we have just been enjoying ourselves tremendously, watching Superman slip the surly bonds and rescue everybody in his line of sight. And now we have to see him hauled into the principal’s office, for a lecture.

It’s the “sorry, father” and “thank you, father” stuff that bugs me, really. Superman spent a ridiculously long time in Arctic grad school getting trained up, and he’s just on the verge of going out with girls. After a very long prologue, he’s finally grown up, and I don’t like seeing him acting like a little kid. Keeping his secret identity should be his own grown-up choice, not just something that he’s being told to do.

Now, the “twenty-eight / twenty-four” moment when Superman corrects Jor-El is very cute, and if this was a more grown-up conversation, then it might have been worth saving. But as it is, I think it’s a downer, and not worth being in the Director’s Cut. It turns out the best version of the film is the one released to theaters, as is often the case, thank goodness.

Monday:
Lex Luthor unilaterally
declares war on the sun in
1.66: So Below

Chapters
Movie list

— Danny Horn

12 thoughts on “Superman 1.65: You’re Doing It Wrong

  1. What I find in writing is that a deadline clarifies the issues. You pick the one thing you want to say, and you try to cut away anything that detracts from it. It’s the same with movies. And blog entries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess that depends on whether you think the rabbit holes are a distraction or the rabbit holes are the point. Poking around on the trail of Yank and Doodle, for instance, led me to other forgotten Golden Age heros like

      * Rusty Ryan and the Boyville Brigadiers (which should absolutely be the name of a touring Chippendales-like male review) — I’d point you to example stories, but there is some really, really nasty casual racism reflecting the era;

      * The Dart and Ace — probably my favorite. Imagine Batman and Robin if Batman was a centuries-old Roman who had been imprisoned in a slab of rock and Robin _told people his real name while whaling on them in costume_ In his civvie alter-ego as a school teacher The Dart had a real Clark-and-Lois thing going on with fellow teacher Miss Tilbury. See the delightful https://www.cracked.com/blog/3-bizarrely-era-specific-comic-book-heroes-part-1 for more details.

      Circling back to Yank and Doodle (who, by the way, were revived by Dynamite, the company whose _Dark Shadows_ comics make Danny actively angry), while the on-line scans of the issue with their 1st appearance have missing pages at the start of their story (https://wallcomic.com/comic/prize-comics/chapter-13/207250/all), there is a delightful illustrated dramatic reading of their origin story on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KBMOSzj5Jg).

      Once of their last appearances is in Prize Comics #68 (https://graphitecomics.com/issue/Prize-Group/Prize-Comics/Prize-Comics-68-volume-1-issue-68/1). The villains literally tie Yank and Doodle to train tracks, where they are rescued by hobos. A rather weird piece of information I stumbled across (https://panelologicalpantheon.blogspot.com/2010/05/our-30th-post-featuring-final-gasp-of.html) was that the artist for Yank and Doodle’s later appearances including that issue was one Sheff Rutledge, who got in legal trouble for his work on other artistic endeavors with titles like “Army Buddies After Hours.” Yikes if true (I can’t find another source confirming this information).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. >> the “twenty-eight / twenty-four” moment when Superman corrects Jor-El is very cute,

    Reading the description of that scene had me thinking Jor-El made the ‘mistake’ intentionally for emphasis, much like the Beatles singing “Oooo, I Need Your Lovin’– Eight Days A Week.”

    It must come off differently on film.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sloppiness adds up. There were only two really bad bits in the sequences where Supey introduces himself to Metropolis- the car chase and the mother slapping her daughter after she tells her about the miraculous being who’d rescued her cat. You could forget those, if they were the only missteps in the movie, but as this tiresome segment reminds us, the first 47 minutes were a big pile of junk. And there are more bad moments coming…

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    1. I don’t pretend to know SUPERMAN well, but in such a generally happy film, I don’t want to even about that second part. Unless of course it has a kind off “slapstick” look to it (someone would have to tell me).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So, what exactly IS Jor-El at this point?
    An app? Sort of a Kryptonian Alexa?

    I see what was being attempted in the scene in dramatic terms; I wonder if it might’ve worked better with Martha Kent? After all, the “secret identity” was how the Kents brought him up. I mean she made the suit for him, didn’t she? Did Jor-El think that Earth people dress like that? (“Oh. Is that what you and your friends are wearing now?”)
    Honestly, how was Kal-El supposed to conceal superpowers? That’s the sort of thing that’s bound to manifest itself sooner or later.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I did think Jor-El had a very valid point about people being lazy and demanding Superman fix everything for them. Heck, The Powerpuff Girls did an episode about that very thing.

    But yeah, J, we just got done watching Superman soar on his triumph and confidence after more than forty five minutes of wondering when he was going to suit up already. Maybe read the damn room next time?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to disagree strongly. This scene was crucial and added depth to the movie. It shows us the conflict between Superman’s adoptive parents and his real father, which otherwise goes unreferenced between the opening act, with its twice-repeated warning about not altering Earth’s history, and the closing act where he sees his father in the clouds sternly reminding him of this same injunction. This is in opposition to Jonathan Kent’s final words to Clark that he is here on Earth for a reason (i.e., to take part in and change the world, not observe it from a distance).

    The fact that this scene deflates Superman — and the audience — after what should be a triumphant night is precisely what makes it so good. First of all, it’s a welcome change of tone after a blithe, lighthearted romp through Metropolis. Superman has been acting freely and authentically as he helps people and stops crimes. He’s thrown off a great weight: the burden of hiding what he can do since childhood. It seems like this *must* be the right path — that Superman can do no wrong — and then suddenly this scene happens, catching the audience off-guard and forcing them to take more seriously the underlying concept of a superman and whether it would be right for such a powerful being to be allowed to act in the world. After this, we now understand the tension between Jor-El’s and Jonathan’s respective philosophies of a superman.

    Secondly, Jor-El’s lecture also explains why Clark starts to reveal his identity to Lois and then stops: it’s because his father told him that he must keep his identity secret to protect those he cares about, a lesson that Kal-El thanked him for.

    Thirdly, we see here that Superman is eager to please Jor-El, the father he never knew. This makes sense considering that he can’t visit or speak with his adoptive father Jonathan anymore, and he no doubt misses him terribly. This remote and somewhat cold white-haired man is the only paternal figure he has now.

    Fourthly, when you think about the fact that Kal-El spent 12 years in Jor-El’s (holographic) tutelage, it brings up the question of whether he might have been programmed or indoctrinated by the immersive mental interface with Jor-El’s program. Remember Jor-El’s line, “He will never be alone”, while his gaze fixates on the crystal program in his hand? It takes on a more menacing air in light of this scene, doesn’t it?

    All in all, cutting this short scene deprived the movie of significant depth, and I wish from the bottom of my heart that it had been kept in the theatrical cut. It would have lent more weight to the climactic moment where Superman must break through the barrier of his disapproving father, literally, and set aside Jor-El’s expectations for him in order to find his own path.

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