The situation could hardly be worse. An enormous chemical plant out in the middle of somewhere has burst into flames in all directions, with fire and smoke pouring out of every window it can find. Firefighters are crawling all over the scene, spraying their hoses at everything that looks hot, and the fire just keeps on burning anyway; I’m not sure it’s even noticed.
There are workers trapped on the roof, scurrying haplessly from one bad outcome to another, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do. “Get me the number three ladder truck in here!” the fire chief hollers, and one of his men counters, “It won’t reach!” I don’t know why they didn’t bring the truck with the tall ladders on this trip; this town needs taller ladders or shorter factories.
And then an omnipotent space angel materializes behind the fire chief, wearing a circus acrobat suit. “Chief, how can I help?” it booms, raw power sizzling from every pore.
“Get this man a helmet!” the chief shouts, and then turns and recognizes what’s next to him. “Oh, it’s you,” he says.
Continue reading Superman III 4.10: Oh, It’s You
It’s dynamite. Five sticks of it. And he’s maybe eighteen inches away from it when it explodes.
The combined effects of the blast and the reflex muscles in his legs propel him through the door and into the swamp…
… but Alec Holland is already dead.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.15: Feel the Burn
Okay, so I might have gotten a little distracted yesterday by the unbelievably crappy little town that the Kryptonians are demolishing, and I didn’t focus on evaluating this sequence for what it is: a tutorial level.
Continue reading Superman II 2.28: We Serve
Hey gang, it’s time for another round of What Did Mankiewicz Do, the fascinating behind-the-scenes game where we look at old drafts of the Superman: The Movie script, and figure out how script doctor and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz solved its many glaring problems.
So far, we’ve seen how Mankiewicz made the Kents more appealing, took the corny sci-fi cliches out of the Jor-El/Lara scene, and made Lex Luthor stop chewing Kleenex all the time. Now we’ve arrived at the largest and most important structural change that Mankiewicz made to the script: taking three Lex Luthor/Superman confrontations spaced out through the second half of the film, and compressing them down into just one climactic face-off between the hero and the villain.
Now, you would think that having the hero and the villain only share one scene together in the whole movie would be a bad idea, but that’s because you haven’t seen the volcano sequence yet. In this movie, it was the right call. Allow me to explain.
Continue reading Superman 1.67: The Gauntlet
So here we are, my 50th post about Superman: The Movie, and today I’ve decided that I’m going to mark this mini-milestone by talking about something else.
Because this isn’t specifically a Superman blog; it’s a history of blockbuster superhero movies — and so far, I haven’t really explored what a “blockbuster” is, and how it works. So today, I want to go back to the beginning of that story, starting with a 1913 silent film from Italy about the persecution of Christians in ancient Rome. No, wait, come back, it’s interesting.
Continue reading Superman 1.50: Dawn of the Blockbuster
Hang in there, folks; the credits are almost over. I’ve been using this journey through the opening titles to set up all the backstory before the film actually starts, and we’re almost there. But there’s one more piece of the story to tell, and it begins with a warning.
“Richard Lester had been suing the Salkinds for his money on Three and Four Musketeers, which he had never gotten,” said director Richard Donner. This is from a 1979 interview with the magazine Cinefantastique. “He told me he’s won a lot of his lawsuits, but each time he sued them in one country, they’d move to another — from Costa Rica to Panama to Switzerland. So when I took the picture, Richard Lester took me aside and said, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t work for them. I was told not to, but I did it. Now I’m telling you not to, but you’ll probably do it and end up telling the next guy.'”
But Donner didn’t listen; he agreed, and managed to direct about 75% of Superman and Superman II before they fired him. As it turned out, he didn’t have to warn the next guy, because the next guy was actually Richard Lester, signing on for another tour of duty with the Salkinds. On the whole, you should probably listen to harbingers; that’s what they’re there for.
Continue reading Superman 1.5: The Discovery of Fire