So obviously there isn’t an actual news story in Clark Kent going back to Kansas for his high school reunion. How could there be?
This is a man whose entire life is newsworthy. Just the fact that he exists is a civilization-stunner on its own, upending everything that we know about aviation and muscle mass, among other things. He’s constantly monitoring the world around him to detect the slightest hint of calamity, and then dives straight towards it for a photogenic rescue, full of human interest. He is everybody’s favorite news story, twenty-four hours a day.
So where is the news angle on a brightly-decorated high school gymnasium in a state that, for Superman, is literally flyover country? The only headline that I see in this room is Hayseeds, Appleknockers Have Pleasant Rube Reunion, and that’s not going to make much of a dent in newsstand sales in Metropolis.
And I know that there isn’t a compelling news story here, because there isn’t a compelling movie storyline that motivates it. As I’ve mentioned before, the Newmans wrote the script on the “wouldn’t it be nice if” principle, which is not the correct method.
What Clark accomplishes in this particular story thread is that he re-establishes friendly relations with a local girl that might turn mildly romantic but decidedly doesn’t, then goes on a picnic with her, and takes her kid bowling. When he writes up this barn-burner of a tale, it’ll include the passage: “Old relationships suddenly seem very much the same. The prettiest girl in the school is still the prettiest girl in the school.” Meanwhile, people in Metropolis are tripping over flaming penguins and inventing ransomware.
So this “story” has to be a false flag of some kind, an excuse to get Clark Kent out of the city to engage in important undercover work. I mean, it’s in a movie; it has to mean something. But what?
It’s a bit of a stretch to posit that Superman wants to return to his roots, and revisit his idyllic childhood in Smallville. From what I saw in the first movie, Clark’s childhood was terrible. He had to hide his powers, and never do anything fun. He was scorned by the boys and pitied by the girls; in the one scene that involved other kids, we saw Lana get into Brad’s car and drive away as the boys laughed, leaving him alone and humiliated. Later that day, his adopted father died of a heart attack, and he had to help his mother with the damn wheat crop until it was time to walk to the North Pole and discover his destiny.
And anyway, this trip doesn’t reconnect him to the simple life and give him a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet, because he still has to put on the monkey suit and rescue people. There’s always a fire or a bridge accident or some dumb kid getting tangled up in the farm machinery. Besides, if he wanted to see Smallville, he could fly there any time he wants; the only reason he had to take a bus this time is because he’s making a big deal out of Clark killing time in this nowhere town.
So here’s how I figure it: there’s something in Smallville that Clark needs to find or fix. It’s not something that he could just fly in and take care of; he needs to spend a few days on site to monitor the situation.
My first thought is that maybe there’s something that he left behind, some remnant of Kryptonian tech that fell off the back of his spaceship when it crashed into the wheat field. It’s lain dormant for decades, but in the last few days it activated somehow, and he needs to find it before it eats somebody.
That’s why he goes on a picnic in this desolate overgrown patch of weeds, next to a field that is currently being noisily combine harvested. He needs an excuse to go out into the outskirts and scan for trouble.
But then there’s the bowling sequence: one of the most complex scenes in the movie, which we will return to more than once during our time with this film. For some reason that is not explicitly spelled out in the movie, Clark feels the need to assist Lana’s terrible son, Little Ricky, at an awkward social moment when he runs the risk of bonding with a helpful father figure. Clark separates the two, and then secretly uses Ricky’s ball to destroy other people’s property. There is no explanation in Heaven or Earth for why Clark does this.
I mean, the kid is clearly hopeless. He can’t bowl, he can’t fix his mom’s car, and he can’t even run around in a wheat field without knocking himself unconscious, and what else is there to even do in Kansas in 1983?
So the fact that Superman — the most powerful magical creature in existence — takes an interest in Little Ricky’s emotional development just doesn’t make logical sense. Even if you were fond of Lana Lang, you wouldn’t take an interest in Ricky. The kid’s a blank slate with a bowl cut.
My theory is that Clark suspects that Ricky has made contact with the alien tech, probably by tripping over it. Clark is concerned that Ricky may have Kryptonian nanomachines in his blood, turning him into some kind of sonic superweapon who can alter the course of human history with the sound of his annoying voice. As we will see, that turns out to be exactly the case.
I mean, I’m willing to consider alternative explanations, if there are any, but I think everyone would agree that Clark must have some deeper reason to spend time in Smallville. I mean, it’s not possible for him to have a shallower one.
4.13: The Girl Who Waited
There’s a cute reference in the reunion scene to The Goon Show, the 1950s British radio comedy sensation that you should look into if you haven’t already, because it’s one of the funniest shows ever made. The tiny old woman who greets Clark at the reunion is named Minnie Bannister — actually just “Miss Bannister” in the dialogue — which is the name of one of Spike Milligan’s recurring characters in The Goon Show. Richard Lester has a connection to the Goon troupe, having directed the 1959 short film The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film, featuring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.
Minnie Bannister is played by Enid Saunders, in her first credited role. She went on to play a bunch of minor characters in the 1980s, most of which were variations on “Old Woman” and “Deaf Old Lady”. Coincidentally, she’s got two credits in 1987 — a film called Home is Where the Hart Is, and an episode of MacGyver — where her character was named Minnie.
The D.J. at the reunion was played by Kevin Harrison Cork, in his only film role. Kevin is now involved with a live interactive D&D show called The D20 Initiative, where he plays the Dungeon Master. His bio on the D20 site says, “He has published books, acted Shakespeare professionally, helped Superman dance, helped GenXers invest for retirement, been interviewed on national TV and in international magazines, ran AOL forums, taught 700 Boomers how to take Instagram selfies and terrorized children as the Green Goblin.”
4.13: The Girl Who Waited
— Danny Horn