Friday, November 17, 2006


"Too corny," they said. "Too wholesome," they added. "People like their superheroes dark and troubled. No one wants to see a new Superman movie." And to an extent, they, as always, were right. "Superman Returns" sparked little excitement last summer, except in the spectator sport of watching a would-be blockbuster falter.

I haven't seen the new one yet, but I have seen the others, so I wonder who Warner Bros. expects to buy the upcoming fourteen-disc box collecting all 5 films. Yes, *all* 5, including the putrid "III" and even worse "IV." The only good thing that can be said about the former is that it indirectly inspired "Office Space." The only good thing that can be said about the latter is that, until last summer, it was the final Superman movie.

The geek selling point of the set, of course, is that it includes the fabled "Donner Cut" of "Superman II," a version assembled from the footage Richard Donner, the director of the first film, shot before he was taken off the project, one, it turns out, comprising his footage, a smattering of substitute Richard Lester's footage, and also a hunk of old screen test footage to connect it all.

I haven't seen Lester's version in a while, but it's hard to believe it can really be much worse, because the Donner version pretty much sucks. Yeah, he added more "breathing space" to the movie, but that means when it's not being silly, or reveling in its own now very dated but then state of the art special effects, it's boring. That's some great achievement, dude.

Christopher Reeve, however, still holds up well as the earnest Man of Steel, while Terrence Stamp makes for a marvelously campy and easy to quote villain. Hackman's goofy Lex Luther can go either way, but as Donner points out on his commentary track, the guy's got an underrated gift for comedy. Assuming any of his hamming it up as Luther is funny, of course. Still, it reminded me to dig out the mostly forgotten "Scarecrow," starring a young(er) Hackman and Al Pacino.


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