The Slow, Donnerward Spiral (or, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

The Superman Movies)

Welcome, my acolytes, to this week’s recitation of Tact is for the Weak, the column that pays tribute to the heathen gods of yore with the ever-running blood of the innocent!…*ahem*…

This summer, DC’s Superman Returns will hit movie theaters, and fans couldn’t be happier. Supposedly, it will rectify the massive existing Superman movie clusterf**k just as Batman Begins invigorated the abysmal Batman movie run. As Batman Begins marked the end of Bat-nipples and Holy Metal Grates, so too will Superman Returns hopefully end the days of super-telekinesis and rooftop skiing. No more S-shield force fields or planet-spinning; this film will usher in a new age of Super-tales, and with Bryan Singer ditching X-3 to helm the movie, all the pieces are in place to make this film a flop… or a hit.

But were the old Superman movies really that bad? In preparation for the upcoming movie, let’s take a critical look at what you need to know about the supermovies of yesteryear:

Superman: The Movie

The Good: This first movie had it all. Marlon Brando as Jor-el, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, a killer John Williams soundtrack, and an epic retelling of the Man of Steel’s origins. This movie was mythically good; revealing the down-to-earth Kent upbringing side by side with the dramatic display of Superman’s fantastic powers. Anyone who saw Superman standing in the Fortress of Solitude for the first time and didn’t get the shivers is dead inside. And anyone who didn’t giggle like a schoolgirl when they saw Superman fly up to catch the falling helicopter (and that clumsy Lois Lane, to boot!) is a grouchy old curmudgeon.

The Bad: Not much, really. To be honest, I never understood why a stud like Superman would pick stodgy ol’ Margot Kidder over that foxy Miss Teschmacher (least…romantic…pool scene…ever), but hey, that’s his loss. Plus, the climax of the movie demands a fair deal of suspended belief; anyone that believes one can actually turn back time by flying around the earth, thus spinning it in reverse, is either seven years old or heavily medicated.

The Ugly: The scream. When Superman finds Lois Lane dead under an avalanche of rocks, he emits one of the most inhuman vocals ever captured on film. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine the sound Howard Dean would make if his genitals got caught in a lawnmower. Also ugly: seeing Lex Luthor (Hackman) emerge shirtless and hairless from his underground pool, demanding his lackey Otis to dress him in his robe. Okay; now that’s the most unromantic pool scene ever…

Superman II

The Good: Finally, some supervillains! Sure, Lex Luthor’s a smart guy, but the best way to showcase super powers has always been beating up on other, more able-bodied foes! In the second movie, Superman faces the three Phantom Zone criminals, each of them his physical equal. A famous comics story in its own right (in which the Man of Steel makes the heart-wrenching decision to execute the criminals), the movie sells it a little short (not really delving into the moral dilemmas of killing foes, but simply pushing all the criminals over a cliff… in the Fortress of Solitude. Lame…), but it’s a still a great movie that stays true to Superman’s roots. Plus, there are some great lines: “Australia!” “North, Miss Teschmacher, north!” and my personal favorite: “Kneel before Zod!”

The Bad: Superman’s powers must have reached puberty after Kal-El became a man (see The Ugly below)! In addition to the standard fare (flying, super speed, super , super hearing, invulnerability, X-Ray, heat, and telescopic vision), Superman now apparently has finger-pointing telekinesis, self-duplication powers, and some sort of sticky S-shield in his belt that, when thrown, expands and traps its target.

The Ugly: Who knows how to say “bump uglies” in Kryptonese? When Superman realizes that his dangly parts stand at attention around gal pal Lois Lane, he asks his dead mother (wait… What?) for love advice, and ends up getting rid of his powers in order to be with the woman he loves. Then, he proceeds to court and romance Lois… for about twelve minutes, until they hop into bed in the Fortress of Solitude and swap some inter-species fluids.

I’m sorry, and maybe this is an indication of my age, but… Margot kidder? Really? I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t give up the ability to fly for Carmen Electra, let alone Margot “Clark! Claaaark!”
Kidder. Plus, in Superman IV, Superman uses his super-kissing powers (useful!) to make Lois forget his identity and their relationship…or, mind-wiping, if you will. Again, a little suspension of disbelief is in order. Would Superman really bed a chick, and then erase her memory of the incident? If so, that’s the first I’ve heard of it (or is it?).

Superman III and IV

These movies aren’t really important, if you’re just interested in being prepared for Superman Returns. Besides the fact that these movies quickly descended into kitsch, politics, and away from heroics, Director Bryan Singer has announced that Superman Returns is the movie equivalent of a ret-con, taking place after Superman II and writing the latter two movies out of history. But, if you’re still interested, here’s all you need to know about these two flops:

  • Richard Pryor was unwittingly involved in a plot to destroy Superman, but ultimately came through and saved Big Blue.
  • Superman fights himself (literally!) when he comes into contact with some off-brand Kryptonite. Before this fight, the bastard Superman manages to punch a whole in an oil tanker, straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and get busy with some skank that probably has more diseases than the only remaining toilet seat at a roadside trucker diner.
  • We also see Clark Kent catch up with his old friend Lana Lang, who is now a single mom. Oh, and he eats dog food at a picnic.
  • Superman then decides to rid the world of nukes by gathering them together and hurling them into the sun. For some reason, this was supposed to be a revelation at the time.
  • Superman has a lengthy battle with the “Nucular Man” (probably the reason our President says “nucular”), in which the very long fingernails of “Nucular Man” scratch and sicken Superman, but he bounces back and saves the day.
  • As stated before, Superman erases Lois’s memories of their torrid inter-species affair. Nine months later, she passes the world’s worst kidney stone ever.

Ick. One would think that people would simply get sick and tired of misrepresenting comic book characters, but only recently has this trend shown signs of slowing. All we can do is have faith in modern-day comic-book-movie muse Bryan Singer to breathe some life into this stagnant property. Either that, or we’ll have to suffer through another slew of poor superhero movies until Brandon Routh gets as tired as Christopher Reeve did with playing second banana in his own movie…

Well, you know what time it is now, kids; it’s time to hand out this week’s Tactless Book of the Week Award!!

This week, the award goes to… DC Comics’s Nightwing #119!

Nightwing really hasn’t gotten any love from DC, has he? His hometown was blown up, no one answered his call to action in Infinite Crisis, and apparently things with Barbara Gordon didn’t work out. Now, on top of that, he has to contend with Jason Todd stealing his name and uniform and fighting crime in his city. So, the two come to blows, and good ‘ol Dick is so out of shape, he gets pantsed by his doppelganger. However, the worst is yet to come; by now, he’s probably got herpes from sleeping around so much! In this issue, not only does Dick do a little male modelling; he also “thanks” his boss for a hefty raise by…*ahem*… trimming the hedges. Y’know, maybe all those years running around in short shorts really did something to this man-whore’s idea of sexual expression…

Well, that’s all for this week, folks. Before leave you, I want you to know that next week, Tact is for the Weak is going to take a small hiatus. You know I love you guys, but there comes a time in everyone’s life when their music degree performance recital happens in the same week as the big four-day indoor drumline world championship competition, and I won’t actually be here after Wednesday. But rest assured, I’ll be right back after that week, and you can continue to wallow in the muddy goodness of Tact is for the Weak! Until then, keep it real (and never trust whitey)!

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