One of these days, I’m going to write about a movie that isn’t actually two different movies. Specifically, that’ll be a little over a week from now, when I wrap up Superman II at post 2.55, and move on to a simple little boy-meets-girl thriller called Swamp Thing.
But in order to land this movie, I need to talk about two endings — Richard Lester’s theatrical cut, and the Donner Cut — which take different routes to get to the same frankly unsatisfying story point. And today, as we bid farewell to the giant Arendelle ice castle, I’ve actually got three different versions to discuss. I guess some people have a problem with letting things go.
Continue reading Superman II 2.50: Ice Cops
You know, they say that Dems are in disarray, but I don’t think anyone’s ever been in more disarray than this administration, which is currently on a badwill tour of the opposition’s main campaign strongholds. After a disastrous whistle stop in Metropolis which led to a grassroots groundswell wielding umbrellas and traffic cones, the delegation has moved on to a divisive meeting at the challenger’s North Pole retreat, where insiders report that they have made limited progress.
Continue reading Superman II 2.49: President falls down crevasse, administration’s agenda in doubt
One of the central themes in 1980s American cinema is the question of how much we care about murder. 1981 is right in the middle of the Golden Age of slasher films, when franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th are just starting to establish themselves. Raiders of the Lost Ark offers us heroes who don’t mind gunning people down or pushing them into airplane propellers if they won’t get out of the way, and we’re just a year away from America embracing the depressingly quintessential ’80s hero — a Vietnam vet named Rambo, who works out his emotional issues through the medium of machine gun fire.
But so far, the Superman series has been remarkably restrained in its attitude towards death and destruction, if you don’t count an entire planet exploding, which is more of a tragedy than a crime. In the first movie’s car chase sequence, people shoot off a lot of guns — bangity bang bang bang, they go — but the bullets don’t hit anybody important, as far as we can tell. The only on-screen murder we’ve seen so far is Lex Luthor pushing a police detective in front of an oncoming train, and that hardly counts; Superman hadn’t even put on his costume yet.
The important thing is that under Superman’s administration, everybody gets rescued, including reporters, train passengers, presidents, cats, goats, schoolkids, the 7th arondissement and the population of Tinytown.
But now we’re about to see the first three victims that Superman fails to save: a trio of international astronauts, engaged in research projects on the moon. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like anybody’s going to miss them.
Continue reading Superman II 2.11: Kill the Moon
And then, for about four minutes, it becomes a cop movie.
As we’ve been going through Superman: The Movie, I’ve been tracking the film’s swift pivots in tone, as it transforms itself from sci-fi space opera to tragic teen drama to screwball comedy, with a detour into the psychedelic mindscapes of the Fortress of Solitude. The film is essentially a montage of different styles, and once we get to Metropolis, that process doesn’t stop.
People talk about the Krypton / Smallville / Metropolis sections as if that explains everything, but Richard Donner keeps on juxtaposing different styles through the entire movie. This moment is a perfect example, because over the next four minutes, the film is going to walk us through a gradual transition that takes us from the last scene’s classic romantic comedy meet-shoot and leads us down into the depths of the underworld, and the brutal murder of a central figure in the sequence.
Naturally, this dark ritual of summoning begins with a quaint musical comedy street-sweeper, who shouts, “Hi, Otis!”
Continue reading Superman 1.43: The Training