Monday, June 26, 2006

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A Sequel...

Well, the summer movie blockbuster season is going to get ramped up in style these next couple weeks. This Wednesday, Superman Returns hits the big screen in the Bryan Singer directed effort that is getting pretty good buzz. However, it’s going to get a run for its money 10 days later when Pirates of the Caribbean 2 comes along. It’s going to be really interesting to see which one captures the bigger box office.

In the mean time, we get the original movies on TV as the networks try to grab ratings and punch up the interest for the sequels. It works out well for me, as tonight I got to watch Superman and Superman 2 back to back on the Space station. And since Space doesn’t believe in edited movies, we luckily didn’t get the edited for TV “Zod arrested version” of Superman 2. :)

I can’t actually remember sitting down and watching both movies all the way through before. I’d seen parts of them, but this was a first. They’re both really good movies, structure, plot, and acting wise. What’s really impressive though, is watching the ‘special effects’ action sequences that they pulled off in 1978 & 1981when these movies were made. There was no computer driven CGI that everyone gets to use today. There were some admittedly ‘cheap’ looking spots, but that had to be expected.

The acting was great, and obviously Christopher Reeve IS Superman, on the level of how Hugh Jackman just IS Wolverine in the X-Men movies. Margot Kidder was excellent as the feisty Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman surprised with his comedic ability. The stories were character driven, with action supporting the story, which is what makes a good movie, not the other way around. All in all, quite a fun couple hours of movie watching. (Even if the reversing time thing defies logic :)

This actually gets me quite a bit more interested in seeing the upcoming Superman Returns. I’m not a huge Superman fan, but hearing how Singer is presenting this one in line with the first 2 movies as almost a sequel (and ignoring along with everyone else the reportedly horrid Superman 3 and 4 ;) makes me interested in seeing how and where he goes with the story. Getting an actor in Brandon Routh that so uncannily resembles Reeve in the Superman role should give the movies a fluid transition. However, I’m doubtful Kate Bosworth will be as good as Margot Kidder in the Lois role. Kidder took what could have been a rather irritating character and made her a joy to watch in the movies. I don’t get that feeling from Bosworth in the trailers. Still, the person to watch in the upcoming flick will be Kevin Spacey. Can’t wait to see him let loose in the villainous Lex Luthor role.

Obviously, most folks know the drama behind the filming of Superman 2 and how the director Donner was fired and Lester took over. Considering the background studio shenanigans, the second film came out remarkably well. However, I really wish we could have seen the original vision of Donner’s considering he had already filmed 3/4 of the movie before getting canned. The good news is that I remember reading on The Digital Bits website that there will be a Donner’s version coming to DVD as these two original movies get the extra special DVD treatment. Can’t wait for that.

Having watched and read up on all this, what kept going through my head was how history keeps repeating itself and how studio execs never learn their lesson. They screwed around with the Superman franchise and killed it, they did the same with the Batman franchise, and now it looks like the same kind of stuff is going on with the X-Men franchise. It took years before the Batman franchise was brought back to respectability by Nolan and Bale, and the same for Superman (assuming Singer hits this one out of the park like everyone expects). The jury is still out on the direction of the X-Men franchise. After that 3rd one, it really could go either way.

It seems like the key is to treat the source material with respect. Without that, the whole thing falls apart. That’s why Superman 3, Batman 4, Elektra, and Catwoman (among others) all failed miserably. As soon as the respect is gone, and egos, greed, and stupidity are brought into the equation instead of telling a good story, the death of a franchise can’t be far behind. The similarities between the first 2 Superman movies and the first two X-Men movies are uncanny, as are Batman Forever and X-Men 3. It looks like the only franchise that may escape the “change of director (plus tone and quality)” curse will be the Spider-Man movies. Everyone’s intact through the 1st, 2nd, and now 3rd movie coming next year. Looks like somebody was paying attention to history…

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