After X-Men: First Class, I was talking to Leigh about My Superhero Movie Problem–And Ours. (Superheroes are deeply embedded in Leigh’s personal mythology, a fact of which I was just becoming aware some fifteen years ago when I recorded her singing my high school band’s song “Superhero Music” — a recording which somehow never made the leap to digital along with the rest of my juvenilia, and which is redeemed only by Leigh’s improvisation of “Why don’t you leave your utility belt in the corner?” at the end of the track.) She proposed that Superman II was a counter-example, with a powerful story that distinguished itself from the standard fare, and we scheduled it for the holiday weekend.
Leigh recalled the powerful themes correctly. After Lois Lane demonstrates that she knows who’s behind Clark Kent’s glasses, Superman must choose between the woman he loves and being super. He gives up the powers of a god to love a woman — but must leave her behind and reclaim his mantle when General Zod, Ursa and Non need must have their asses kicked. There’s a remarkable sequence (one of the ones originally shot by Richard Donner) in which the now-mortal son of Jor-El gets his ass handed to him by Rocky the diner-counter thug.
Unfortunately, the movie is otherwise a mess. Superman doesn’t actually come face to face with the bad guys until the hour mark or so. The handoff from one director to another leaves the movie uneven and awkwardly campy. The story would have been helped by having Superman encounter the evil trio early on, and only then, thinking he’d beaten them, put down his superpowers for the love of a mortal woman. There’s a Superman reboot forthcoming starring White Collar‘s Henry Cavill, and Michael Shannon as General Zod; maybe it will make something of the good stuff from Superman II.
Below the fold, a couple of false starts and something on theme for Independence Day… Read more »