Tag Archives: the whole point of superhero movies

Superman II 2.47: The Snowdown

“Scruffy,” sniffs the leader of Earth, alighting at his worst enemy’s palatial polar beach house. “So morbid. A sentimental replica of a planet long since vanished. No style at all.” This, from a guy who’s still in the same outfit he was wearing in Idaho.

Superman leaps out and takes them by surprise, because this was a clever ambush and not just running back to his dad’s place. Then he stands there and waits for the bad guys to make the first move. I swear, these stuck-up Kryptonians may know a lot about early Chinese writing and Joyce Kilmer poetry, but military strategy is not their strong suit. That’s why they’re the only intelligent species in the universe to go extinct because their planet got tired of listening to their bullshit.

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Superman II 2.18: Mother’s Day

Well, it’s not hard to understand why the Salkinds decided to cut Marlon Brando out of the second Superman film; he was currently suing them over money that they owed him for the first one. In fact, during the first movie’s opening weekend, he tried to serve them with a restraining order to get them to stop showing it, which if anyone had taken it seriously would have been one of those Great Moments in Chutzpah that would ring down through the ages.

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Superman II 2.11: Kill the Moon

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.

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Superman 1.44: The Man Behind the Curtain

He’s had henchmen. He’s had cronies. He’s had dupes and hostages and occasional team-ups, and according to the comics, there’s a whole planet out there populated by knuckleheads who think he’s a hero. But he’s never had a sidekick before; it’s just not a thing that Lex Luthor does.

He doesn’t really have a sense of humor either, or a collection of wigs, or any kind of compelling backstory or motivation.

So this, right here? This is not a Lex Luthor that we’ve seen before. This is something new.

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Superman 1.26: Let It Go

Man, when Clark Kent says he’s going north, he does not mess around; dude goes north. He is currently just about as north as you can possibly get, clad in a jacket comfort-rated for Easter in Massachusetts, looking for the right place to toss a magic crystal and summon his own personal snow castle.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, except for the ice palace, of course, which is fucking enormous. Here he stands, and here he stays.

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