SPOILER WARNING: The following post discusses the new film Superman Returns, so if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to read this after watching the flick.
There is little in life I love more than the opening notes of composer John Williams score to the original Superman series of films, so it was with a little surprise, if not shock, that I found myself actually dreading hearing that music again, and again, and again during the course of the new film Superman Returns.
This is the thing. Before, I wondered: How are they (the new produers, writers, director, actors) going to top the Christopher Reeve flicks? They were so pure, so potent, so fundamentally perfect. (For me.) As I wrote a few months back, every generation deserves its own incarnation of Superman; what worked for me as a kid will not necessarily work for kids today. Such is life.
And yet, from the beginning frames of the film, my heart started to sink. Why? Marlon Brando's voice; the familiar John Williams score; the credits, identical in texture and tone to the first film back in 1978. I suddenly realized: They're not playing fair.
Here's what I mean. Kids today, toddlers, infants, whatever, they're not going to remember the original flicks; or, if they have seen them, they will seem like relics from the past. Us grown-ups, the ones who loved the originals, have them encoded in our emotional DNA. So by playing the same music, using the same credits, having the story work as a quasi, unofficial sequel to the first two films, referencing familiar events, it all seems like a cheat. That may seem strong. But you have to earn love and respect and awe and wonder. On your own terms, on today's terms, with your own originality and effects and wit. Superman Returns uses our emotional ties to the first films as a way of reinforcing what should be our love for this film.
For me, I don't buy it.
Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot of interesting developments to Superman's character, and the effects are marvelous, and it is entertaining. (Although Kevin Spacey as Luthor didn't do it for me, and the less said about Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane the better. Brandon Routh as the big guy does an admirable job, but his Clark Kent left a little to be desired -- which may be the script's fault, not his. Oh, and the film for some reason disregards Superman III and Superman IV, mostly because most people think they blew, big-time, when the seven-year old in me knows that they are, like, two of the most awesome flicks ever made.)
But it's a cheat. Imagine if Batman Begins, a stellar new entry into the Batman mythos, used a lot of the same music as Tim Burton's film, and continued the story line, and referenced his film ad nauseum. What does that prove?
That's what happens here. To me, it proves a lack of daring; a laziness; an unwillingness to imagine, to conceptualize, a new and different approach to this legendary character.
I saw the orginal films; I love the original films. When I hear the same music as the first film and see similar set-pieces from the first film, updated with more modern effects, I can only groan. They're playing on my nostalgia; they're buying emotion they haven't earned. Some might argue that, because this story is, in fact, a continuation of the earlier films, then it makes logical sense to utilize the same score, storyline, etc.
Uh-uh. I think that's called, let me see, what's the word, copying.
The character is old enough, venerable enough, that he deserves another realization of who and what he is. By constantly harkening back to what worked so well before, they're essentially saying: We're not trying to craft anything new; we'll do what got you off twenty, twenty-five years ago. But the effects are way, way, cooler.
It's just a movie. I know. And the three-year old kid next to me who shouted "Superman!" every...single...time...the man in blue tights appeared on screen obviously enjoyed himself.
It's funny, though. I always loved the Superman music. I always associated it with Christopher Reeve, flying leisurely above the earth, as he does at the end of each of the original four films. The music soars, his head turns, his smile flashes wide.
The new Superman movie ends exactly the same way. Same music, same soaring, same turn of the head.
I've seen this, I wanted to cry out. Do something new, please. Don't copy Christopher Reeve's every motion with the same music and the same ending and expect me to be thrilled all over again.
Every sequel, every remake, every comic-book movie, I ask the same thing: Give me what I love, but different. This flick gave me what I loved, but the same.