The Return of Superman Returns

01-Dec-09 2:45 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on The Return of Superman Returns

Superman Returns, released to theaters in June 2006, was a mixed success: it raked in $391 million from the worldwide box office — a lot of money, but well short of the $500 million expected. Critics were also, well, critical: some found male lead Brandon Routh dull, the plot lacking in action, and the inclusion of Superman's son unnecessary.

But Superman fanboys, even those who can are not blind to the film's shortcomings, still love the film and want even more from it. The various teasers and trailers released at the time revealed footage not seen in the final cut, so we hoped those pieces would be restored in the DVD edition. And though some deleted scenes were indeed made available, there remain even more that were not.

Just as Superman II got a Richard Donner cut, there is now a petition for Warner Bros. to create Superman Returns: The Bryan Singer Cut, named for the movie's writer, producer, and director. These fans have taken what unreleased snippets they could find and strung together this trailer:

As an owner of the original Superman Returns DVD, I would buy another edition and so hope this petition succeeds — but I don't think it will. First, Superman Returns is likely to be dismissed in whatever film is next for the superhero; the potential for a reboot could be confused by further promotion of this film. Second, the Richard Donner cut was a unique situation in which studio politics prevented his vision for Superman II from being realized for more than two decades; I don't know of any similar dissatisfaction on Bryan Singer's part. Finally, since DVDs have regional releases, I'm not sure if it hurts, or is immaterial to, the cause that the petition is based in Argentina.

Nonetheless, you can follow the cause on Facebook or Twitter, though neither have been updated in the last two weeks, just two days after the above trailer was posted to YouTube. Perhaps this cause was just a superhero fly-by-night.

Hat tip to the BlueTights Network.

Who Watches the Watchmen Trailer?

30-Jul-08 12:00 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 3 comments.

In addition to Terminator Salvation, this month's The Dark Knight also saw the debut of the trailer for Watchmen. This movie, like so many others this summer, is based on a comic book (or, in this case, graphic novel), but not one of a comic nature. There's little to find funny about this contemporary to Frank Miller's gritty The Dark Knight Returns. It setting is primarily realistic, with "super"-heroes who are nothing more than costumed crimefighters with a repertoire replete of human flaws. They hide behind their costumes, seeking refuge from a multitude of sins: megalomania, paranoia, violation. Alan Moore's book is often considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, and many of its diverse elements and plot threads appear in the trailer:

But to the casual viewer — the vast majority of moviegoers who have never read, or even heard of, a 21-year-old graphic novel — the above montage will likely be unintelligible. It clearly portrays a dystopian setting, but its variety of brooding characters does little to suggest a storyline. I expect the movie will be successful in capturing the book's themes; what I question is the studio's ability to sell it. Will they call it a cross between Sin City and 300? Their pride in Watchmen's printed origin is evident, and given the recent success of other comic conversions, there's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So they're likely to continue promoting that background, unlike Constantine or Road to Perdition, which you'd think were meant for the silver screen.

It will be interesting to see the evolution of public perception as we near the watching of Watchmen.

War of the Formats

07-Jan-08 1:05 PM by
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The current buzz of the movie industry is Warner's decision to abandon the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. That leaves almost no major studios supporting both formats, choosing one or the other exclusively. The only party left to get off the fence is us, the consumers.

I know competition is supposed to be good for business and that we always benefit from having a choice, but my limited experience suggests this high-definition trend just isn't catching on, unlike our last media storage generational leap. The move from VHS to DVD was dramatic, delivering improved audio and video, more content, and more control over how the movie is presented. I have not observed that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offer significant incentives in any of these three departments. The video quality of either compared to standard DVD is noticeable, but only to entertainment mavens whose budgets support the high-end, next-gen televisions necessary to take advantage of the player's capabilities. No other significant feature justifies the upgrade: Interactivity? Internet connectivity? This is a DVD player, not a game console! And appreciable differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray — well, nobody has demonstrated that to me yet.

What is a consumer to do while this format war is waged? We're already poor enough from the last decade. How many of us have already upgraded our VHS collections to DVD — or from DVD standard edition to DVD "collector's edition" (now with director commentary!)? I doubt I could restrain myself (or my budget) to be satisfied with standard definition if I knew I had a high-def player in the house. Do I therefore replace my highly functional 36" CRT, buy a $850 combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, and begin replacing my hundreds of movies and TV shows at the cost of house and home?

Jeff Kleist suggest it's not really up to consumers to make such decisions; it's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon. That's fine for them. If not to decide is to decide, then I guess I've chosen my place on the fence. Though HD-DVD may go the way of the dodo, giving way for the superior species of Blu-Ray, we're farther still from the extinction of standard DVD. My DVD player turns ten years old this year and should continue to serve up new films for some time yet, and this old dinosaur is still an industry behemoth.

Clash of the Titans

30-Oct-07 6:59 AM by
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Most comic book movies have been adaptations of concept rather than of story. What we've seen have not been translations plot-for-plot from one medium to another, but instead familiar characters and situations being used to invent new adventures for a new audience. Such is the case with the recent direct-to-DVD release Superman: Doomsday.

Despite being animated, this movie is not wholly based on the previous cartoon series, either. The voice cast is all-new, including Adam Baldwin, James Marsters, and Anne Heche. The animation style is slightly different — a bit darker and more detailed (the lines on Superman's face suggest an older, more pessimistic character; whereas Luthor looks leaner and younger). And the story's tone is markedly different from anything that's come before.

The movie's first half-hour is based on the 1993 landmark event: the death of Superman at the hands of the alien Doomsday. And the team responsible for this adaptation has done a fantastic job portraying that titular villain, for Doomsday as a mindless organic killing machine has been captured in all his animalistic and fearsome glory. In all his frenetic action sequences, I never once got the impression that he was angry or vengeful or in any other way emotional, but just a mindless automaton. The closest we get to expression is when Superman is the first to not fall to a single punch: Doomsday cocks his head, intrigued or confused as a dog might be — before quickly resuming the fight. Probably the most humanity exhibited in this entire sequence was by the audience at the fight's climax; Superman (particularly Christopher Reeve) is one of my heroes, and to see his death in any medium is distressing.

And that's an accurate word for this cartoon, which is far more violent than its predecessors. Though the film is judicious in exactly what gets shown, the aggression is nonetheless apparent. In one scene, the camera focuses on a soldier's head disappearing into Doomsday's gigantic fist; the screen pans up to Doomsday's face before we see the muscles of his arm twisting and a sickening crunch sounding. We may not have witnessed the murder, but it certainly leaves little to the imagination. Doomsday isn't the only heartless killer; we also see Luthor economically dispose of one of his hirelings. This is all in vast contrast to the Saturday morning cartoon. As far as I know, there was only one death in Superman: The Animated Series's entire five-year span, and that was the bloodless vaporization of Dan Turpin.

For a story about the death of Superman, this escalation was both necessary and appropriate — and it's still probably less violent than the graphic novels. Yet I was still shocked, being unaccustomed to seeing such slaughter in any Superman vehicle. Shock is a good thing, though; when a character or story becomes predictable is when it loses me as a viewer.

It was this captivating and extended opening sequence that kept me through the rest, though I found the follow-up a bit disappointing. It's not just that the parallels to the comic book inspiration disappear after Superman's death; fitting the entire "Death of Superman" / "Funeral For a Friend" / "Reign of the Superman" story, which originally took more than a year of weekly comics to tell, into a 75-minute movie would be a herculean task. But the original story they've crafted to follow the Doomsday blitzkrieg doesn't strike any chords of emotion or intrigue. It's instead a rather mundane plot with no surprise heroes, villains, appearances, or twists — something I'd expect to find in another episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, if I haven't already, and not in a once-in-a-lifetime comic book epic.

Even if the circumstances of Superman's death and return are not wholly true to the source material, they needn't be; this is a different story, in a different medium. The parts that are done well are done extremely well and make the entire package worth viewing, if not owning.