So I believe that this is the moment in Swamp Thing — when the villain tears off his lookalike skinsuit made out of another person’s face, and it turns out to just be a different guy, who sits down quietly and introduces himself — that the real disappointment sets in, and you realize that this movie might not be the rocket sled to adventure that you were hoping for.
“You have heard of, but never seen me,” says the tired old man, settling himself in a chair with a sigh, “so I will introduce myself. My name is Arcane.” And that is literally the only thing that we ever know about him.
Is he a doctor, a dictator or a drug lord? Is he a cult leader? Is he a criminal? Why did they say he was dead? Why are there people who risk their lives for him? Does he have employees, or worshippers? I have dozens of questions about who this character is supposed to be, and none of them are answered in the film in any way. His name is Arcane. The end.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.14: Mister A
And then the island is overrun by malefactors and nogoodniks, emerging from the mud flats. Dr. Alec Holland has just made his amazing scientific breakthrough — like, literally in the last sixty seconds, he made it — and suddenly, this is a base under siege.
I don’t know if you remember all those guards with guns who were scattered around the landscape outside the lab, but every single one of them has either been shot, run away or turned out to be just a cardboard cutout with “guard” written on the front. As far as the main characters are concerned, they are alone on the moon with no outside assistance, surrounded by a tribe of terrible people who are dead set on ruining everybody’s day.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.12: The Hostiles
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
#1. Focus groups.
Obviously, “Kneel Before Zod” is going to be the main theme of our re-education program, as we transition to a fully Zod-based society. It’s a simple message of global submission that everyone can understand. However, it’s not testing as well with all demographics, especially the elderly and the injured, who are having trouble getting into the correct kneeling position. It’s important to pay attention to the injured demographic, because there are a lot more of them now than there used to be.
Continue reading Superman II 2.38: A List of Things That Our Kryptonian Overlords Don’t Care About
The bar is destroyed, the Jeep is unsalvageable, the meth lab in the barn exploded, and the business district will never be the same. Still, there’s one demographic in East Houston that seems to be pleased with the current trend of events: the chickens.
“Come forward!” Ursa proclaims. (cluck cluck cluck) “Your general (cluck cluck) wishes to speak.”
“I am (cluck cluck) General Zod, your ruler!” says the suzerain. “Yes!” (cluck cluck) “Today begins a new order! Your lands, your possessions, your very lives will gladly be given in tribute to me, General Zod! In return for your obedience, you will enjoy my generous protection. In other words, you will be allowed to live!” (cluck cluck cluck)
That’s got to be the thing that appeals to the poultry voting bloc — the promise that if they’re obedient, they’ll be allowed to live. That’s a better deal than chickens usually get.
Continue reading Superman II 2.30: The King of Chickens
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
The telephone trills.
It’s mid-November 1978 in sunny Los Angeles, and all four of the Warner Brothers, seated at their identical desks, reach for their four matching telephone receivers. “Hello?” they chirp, in unison. “These are the Warner Brothers.”
“Good afternoon, Mizter Brothers,” says the voice, in an imaginary Russo-Swiss-Mexican accent. “Zis is Alexander Salkind.”
Mr. Salkind is the executive producer of Superman: The Movie and the head of a bumbling, crumbling international crime syndicate, and he’s making a transatlantic person-to-persons call to make Warner Bros. an offer that they can’t refuse.
Continue reading Superman 1.94: The Shakedown
“… Some sort of fantastic hoax,” says the man on the TV, and he’s right; as hoaxes go, this one is terrific. An angelic figure from beyond the stars has appeared in the night sky, righting wrongs and gathering up loose housepets. “Your guess is as good as anybody’s,” the man on the TV continues. “True or false, miracle or fraud?”
“Miss Teschmacher!” shouts the man in the swimming pool. “Turn it off!” He’s something of a miracle or fraud himself, and he’s not used to competition.
Continue reading Superman 1.66: So Below
For the last week, we’ve been looking at the new version of Lex Luthor that was invented for Superman: The Movie — a down-at-the-heels art thief, inventor and real estate magnate, lurking underneath Metropolis’ Grand Central Terminal in a lair made out of other people’s property. The movie Luthor doesn’t need death rays; he’s got sarcasm, and National Geographic, and the ability to reprogram ballistic missiles. He’s sophisticated and urbane, and he plays the piano. He wouldn’t dream of putting on a silly costume, and trying to punch Superman in the face.
So that puts him at odds with the trend of modern thought at DC Comics in the mid-to-late 70s, where they’d spent the last several years turning Luthor into a cartoon character.
Continue reading Superman 1.49: The Look of Luthor
The chilly splendor of the Fortress of Solitude interior, the glass-lined maze of the Daily Planet newsroom, the unbelievably well-landscaped jungle of Lois Lane’s balcony — Superman: The Movie is full of enormous art installations for the characters to live, work and fight in. But the most spectacular of all is Lex Luthor’s lair, two hundred feet below Park Avenue.
Overstuffed and shabby chic, this subterranean museum of crime is the perfect hideout for a villain who’s trying to convince the audience that he’s important, in a hurry. Luthor enters the film with a messy murder that immediately establishes his villainous credentials, but after that, he spends a lot of the movie just hanging around downstairs. Superman gets to fly around catching crooks and saving the day, while the villain sits in the basement, reading back issues of National Geographic. If he’s going to get any respect from the audience, then that needs to be a damn impressive basement.
Continue reading Superman 1.47: Lair Life