Tag Archives: the madness of crowds

Superman II 2.46: The Blowdown

It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil, or if not quite that, then at least the ultimate battle between cheerful and cranky. I don’t know if anybody’s in the market for one of those, but here it is happening anyway.

Three Kryptonian supercriminals from the other side of a twirling parallel hell have descended upon New York City, where they’ve challenged Earth’s greatest hero to a game of three-on-one grab-ass, hurling each other into things and engaging in general endangerment.

Caught between glam rock and a hard place, Superman has been knocked off the playing field for a moment, so the nearby movie New Yorkers — once again demonstrating that they’ll do anything for a good time — have turned on their snooty overlords, armed only with sticks and traffic cones.

And then the villains start to blow.

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Superman II 2.42: Save My Baby!!

Now, I have to admit that this one has a pretty good excuse, compared to other Save My Baby Ladies in her weight class.

Your typical Save My Baby Lady has left her infant unattended in a flammable apartment building playing with a pile of oily rags while she goes out to the pachinko parlor, and she comes home just in time to realize that she’s going to need a superhero, tout suite. “Save my baby!” she cries, and all of a sudden it’s everybody else’s problem, as seen in Backdraft, Spider-Man and Hero at Large.

In this instance, the Save My Baby Lady has made the simple mistake of going out shopping with her baby, while three sky tyrants beat the hell out of a guy in aerial warfare directly overhead. One of them just got knocked into the Empire State Building, and the radio antenna snapped clean off, now plunging in the direction of down towards this formerly carefree consumer.

Everybody else has the good sense to scuttle for shelter, but Save My Baby Ladies have a strict stand-your-ground policy. “Oh, my god!” she screams. “My baby!” And then she tries to cover it with her body, which is sweet but not a lot of help.

I mean, I don’t want to blame the victim, although to be honest, they are trending super blameable right now.

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Superman 1.56: The Catch

It’s impossible, of course. Falling object LL descending distance d at velocity v for a given time t, being met by rising object S at acceleration a, with v equal to a times t, and d equal to one-half a times t squared, would result in falling object LL rapidly disassembling into her component parts, some on rising object S and quite a bit on the ground g, making a terrible mess and putting the kibosh on the romance like you wouldn’t believe.

So overall I think it’s best if we stress the fiction more than the science here, and focus on the matter at hand. A handsome man from beyond the stars has suddenly appeared directly under Lois, sweeping aside the laws of physics for her immediate benefit.

“Easy, miss,” he assures her. “I’ve got you.”

Her surprised squeak of a response — “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” — is one of the great moments in American cinema, partly because her comic timing and the crack in her voice are utterly perfect, but also because she’s expressing the surprise and anxiety of a person who suddenly finds herself starring in a different movie than the one that she thought she was in.

It’s easy to imagine this scene going wrong; all you’d need is for Lois to be grateful rather than horrified. “Oh, thank goodness,” she would say, “I thought I was falling to my death, but here you are and you’ve saved me, hurrah!” And then she’d wave to the crowd like a homecoming queen, instantly comfortable with the idea that gravity is backwards.

What Lois is actually expressing is more along the lines of, “Holy shit, what’s happening? What the fuck are you, and what are you doing to me?” I mean, obviously she’s pleased that she’s moving away from the ground rather than smacking directly into it, but she’s fallen into the clutches of a monster from outer space, and that’s going to take a minute to get used to.

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Superman 1.52: Clap Your Hands

“Her light is growing faint,” Peter says, “and if it goes out, that means she is dead! She says…” Dramatic pause. “She thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies!”

The children in the audience stir, surprised, as Peter Pan turns to implore them from across the footlights. Their attention isn’t enough, all of a sudden. “Do you believe in fairies?” he asks them. “Say quick that you believe! If you believe, clap your hands!”

They clap, of course. What else could they do? J.M. Barrie has constructed a dramatic trap that snaps shut on every kid in the theater: if Tinker Bell dies, then you personally are an asshole.

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