Thursday, October 21, 2010

Setting The Bar Low

Green Lantern screenwriter Greg Berlanti recently opined why that movie is going to be so great:

It definitely has slightly lighter elements, but the thing that gives it its gravitas and its weight that no other superhero film really has—maybe except for all the way back to Donner's Superman—is the space opera element and how much of it takes place in space. That's something I don't think people are expecting or have seen in a movie like this before.

Not to be too harsh here--a guy has a right to try to puff up his movie, after all--but help me out, guys. Was the "gravitas" of Richard Donner's Superman best expressed by Otis walking along screwing things up to the "Oafish Idiot" theme music? Or was that gravitas at its height when Valerie Perrine begged Superman to save Hackensack, New Jersey? Perhaps that "weight that no other superhero film really has" came from Luthor murdering a Metropolis police detective in cold blood and then the film immediately ignoring that for his comedy real estate scheme (which was such a great idea they recycled it for Superman Returns).

Yeah, The Dark Knight had no gravitas or weight compared to that.

Look, people--the Richard Donner Superman is one of the more overrated things, ever. That doesn't mean it's not good--something can be good but still be overrated. Hey, it's a fun movie, the first half is great, Chris Reeve is awesome. But is pretty much falls apart in the second half, when the camp rises past the flood level, the tonal shifts give us whiplash, and that unforgivable ending. Yet a whole herd of folks--including most of the leadership at DC these days--have lionized that film to the point where it's apparently considered the Citizen Kane of superhero movies.


So, what are we to make of the fact that the Green Lantern script writer believes his film is going to be better than any other superhero film because it's more like Superman: The Movie?

Maybe Carol Ferris will get to recite "Can You Read My Mind"...


Matt said...

Amen brother.

Of course, maybe the screenwriter is intentionally setting the bar low so everyone sees it with low expectations that can help but to be surpassed. It's kinda genius.

It's either that or he hasn't seen a good superhero movie ever. I hope that's not the case, though, because that idea makes my soul weep.

Mark Engblom said...

Them's fightin' words, Snell! Actually, I agree that the last half (or, more precisely, the last third) of the movie does not hold up well, but when you look at the movie in the context of 1970's cinema, it's right up there with Star Wars in its "epic" scope...which is what I think the screenwriter was getting at, rather than a direct comparison to specific elements of the Superman movie. You're definitely old enough to remember the dismal state of 70's movies in general, and sci-fi films in particular prior to Star Wars kicking down the door to a new (or perhaps revived) sense of high adventure, carried along by special effects that were lightyears ahead of the norm. Prior to that, Superman was primarily known (at least at the pop culture level) via the old Superman TV show or, later, various (poor quality) animated ventures...all of which were decidedly humdrum, earthbound affairs. From the opening of Superman the Movie, you knew right away that it was something different.

Yes, the camp factor remains the movie's biggest liability...but there really WERE some magical moments that set it apart from the dreary 70's landscape it emerged into, and still captivate to this day (well, at least some of us, I guess). Here's part one and part two of the random stuff from the Superman movie I still think is pretty cool.

Do I think it's the Citizen Kane of superhero movies?* No...but it's certainly not the Pluto Nash of superhero movies, either.

*That honor, by the way, still belongs to Spider-Man 2. Just sayin'.

Lazarus Lupin said...

There's a danger here of reading too much into this. What super hero movie was he going to compare it to? The Superman movies are the obvious choice and from there you better be donner and have a mind wipe if you even think of say Superman IV. Let's be cynically hopeful. As willy wonka said "Never doubt what you can't be sure of..."

Now for your stance. I agree, it is an over rated film. I would say it has dated, but that's not true. I thought it was over rated when I first saw it and still do. The story problems and mood swings are just horrible. And frankly it shouldn't be called "Donner's" super man because the one thing that holds it together is Chris Reeve. He was the one consistent anchor in the whole affair.

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

snell said...

Mark--I'm with you, but in my opinion the last 1/3 is so poor, so out of tune with the rest of the film, that it casts serous doubt on giving any credit to Donner et al for the first 2/3. That doesn't mean the awesome stuff isn't awesome, but the over-campy part is actually far worse than any of the Batman '66 to that extent (and to the extent that the camp approach went on to ruin Supes III & IV) it undercut any progress the first movie might have actually made towards reviving a high sense of adventure in films.

Pluto Nash? Hey, I said the movie is good and fun, so I was hardly trashing it, especially that much. But overrated? Yeah.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Maybe it's because I'm me, but outside of the real estate scheme (this is our criminal genius?) the movie never bugged me until the end. I'd like to think Superman went back in time Star Trek style instead of him reversing time by spinning the Earth backwards (which just asks way too many questions without discussing physics), but I don't think that was what Donner attended.

Really, it was the cast and the SFX that made the movie, not the story.

Siskoid said...

I could not be in more agreement, Snell.

And the Donnerization of the DCU (which I coincidentally mention in today's Reign of the Supermen) is something that tends to bug me a heck of a lot.