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The “S” is for Scandal

Posted by Dirck on 4 June, 2013

A bit of a diversion today from the usual material (or is it?  I’ll return to the question), as I’ve read a rather interesting piece about the upcoming Superman film, and it’s gotten me thinking about the last one.  That piece, by the way, looks at previous films as well, with an eye to working out why so few of them are well received or even marginally popular, and it uses the last one, Superman Returns, as an example of a failure.  I’d managed to not see that one until a couple of months ago, and while I agree with some of the reasoning the author I link to uses, I think that on the whole it’s not a terrible movie.

On the whole.  There is, however, a problem with it which nagged at me throughout, and which renders me unable to really suggest to others that they should have a look at it.  I’m going to go into that in a few lines, but before I get there I will warn that if you are, as I recently was, one who is inclined to see Superman Returns but hasn’t yet, I am going to give some stuff away.  Read on if you dare!

Now, on to the problem.  It is not Superman himself.  While I agree with the item I read earlier about the general want of sympathy Brandon Routh generates, that’s not really wrong; Superman has ever been a bit of a big blue plank.  If he had a better sense of humour, he’d have far less trouble with Mr. Mxyptlk (which I doubt I’ve spelled properly).  I was, in fact, struck by how very like Christopher Reeve this Routh fellow ran in his portrayal.

Nor do I have any trouble with the villain of the piece.  Kevin Spacey is almost always a good laugh, and Lex Luthor is one of the more satisfying Superman villains in the versions of him where he’s not just trying to get back for Superboy having made him accidentally bald.  However smart he is, Luthor is just a guy, and he’s working against an alien that can not only lift small continents and move at relativistic speeds but is also clever in proportion.  The trick to making him a satisfying villain is having him do something so darkly evil that this imbalance doesn’t leave us rooting for him and so effectively evil that Superman actually has to work hard to deal with him.  Supeman Returns has a sufficiency in this direction, more or less.

At the risk of drawing accusations of sexism, my problem with this film lies with Lois Lane.  The problem is not, I hasten to say, is not with the character… and while I was about to say “it’s the actress,” that’s not altogether right.  It’s the combination of character and actress that does it, not unlike mixing up bleach and ammonia.  In general terms, I don’t have any brief against Kate Bosworth nor the reporter she plays.  However…  when the film was made, she was 23 and very nearly that old to look at.  Lois Lane is a Pulitzer-prize winning, highly respected reporter of long and resplendent career with a staggering smoking habit, and I’m not drawing that from the comics but from things mentioned in the film itself.

These are not impossible to reconcile, but the hook from which disbelief is suspended starts to groan under the weight of it.  Add to this the fact that the Pulitzer article was about Superman’s departure from Earth five years earlier (thus the title), putting her at if not under 20 when the thing was written, and thus several years younger than the current youngest-ever Pulitzer recipient.  Oh, also, she’s a working mom.

…and that’s a bigger problem, because it comes clear in the course of the film that the father of her child is in fact the Last Son of Krypton.  Leaving aside the essential impossibility of this sort of coupling bearing fruit (Larry Niven took that one to bits a long time ago, and he’s not wrong in his conclusions), there’s a small matter of morality.  Superman’s essential goodness is the foundation of the character; whatever he’s doing, unless he’s been given a lump of red kryptonite or befuddled by enchantment, is Right and Good.  Even allowing for rumours one hears about farm-ways, Right and Good may not entirely be served by having unprotected sex with someone who is at most eighteen (23-5=18, eh?) and who is also possibly a little star-struck at having a chance to bed an effective demigod.  Even less are they served by buggering off out of the solar system after knocking her up– and if he can hear and differentiate from background noise an armed robbery happening hundreds of miles away, his super-senses should pick up on the popping of cell-division and the changes in personal scent the hormone adjustments of pregnancy will bring on, so his surprise at the development rings a little hollow.

The author of the article that got me going on this has high hopes for the new film, which apparently reboots the whole cinematic Superman enterprise.  His hope lies in the nature of the villain, who can actually give Superman a run for his money.  I agree, and add to that– Amy Adams, who is playing Lois Lane, is 38.  That’s old enough to have a believable back-story

Now, having gotten all that out, I have a thing to moot; I begin, after somewhat more than four years of this nonsense, to run out of purely pen-related topics, but I do really like holding forth.  I’ve been contemplating doing something like this for a while, although more in the line of responding to some of my favourite film reviewers than doing actual reviews myself.  I very nearly asked, “What to folks think about that?” but the last time I did something like that I had a pen fall apart on me, so this is more in the line of an announcement/warning.  Pen material will be the core of the experience here, but there will be a somewhat higher percentage of other stuff.  And that’s the way it is.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Sovereign
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

One Response to “The “S” is for Scandal”

  1. […] I can do a certain thing.  This is, in fact, the sort of thing I warned might happen at the end of a post having nothing to do with the tools of writing a few days ago.  I’m making good on a […]

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