As opposed to the growing universe of The Avengers, the X-Men saga seems less a dollar-driven mega-brand these days than an interweaving, incestuous franchise bent on its own redemption. James Mangold’s The Wolverine rather effectively removed the bitter taste of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class opted to wind the clock all the way back to the 1960s, as if to distract us from the overreaching piecemeal mess that was Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Now comes X-Men: Days of Future Past, whose very plot involves amending the ills of days gone by, and using this valiant approach to suppress chaos and make for a better future. Allowing life to imitate art, Marvel even reached into its own past to bring this picture to the screen, tapping X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer to once again take the reins. Few would argue that Singer’s X films, particularly X2, were the strongest of the series, and then there’s the tangentially related tidbit that his Superman Returns soared above Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. It’s with that directorial promise that viewers can watch Future Past’s debut trailer with confidence, taking in the Marty McFly parallels to a comic-book storyline first penned by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, and watching Halle Berry channel Helen Slater from The Legend of Billie Jean. X-Men: Days of Future Past may not be able to wipe clean the sins of the series, but thanks to its helmer and the sheer audacity of its apparent convolution, it may just be the rare new superhero film that’s actually remarkable. Watch the trailer after the jump.
Superman Returns (#1–10 of 7)
Though elegant and pristine in all its shadows and shimmer, the new poster for Man of Steel is an exercise in tedium, proving more unwelcome than exciting in a summer that just saw Spider-Man rebooted. Truly testing the limits of tolerance in a superhero-saturated culture, this design and the film it’s touting reek of yesterday’s news, like a back issue of the Daily Planet made into shiny papier-mâché. Admittedly, there’ve been far worse teaser one-sheets released on the world, and this one, conceived by the fine folks at P+A, already trumps the simple, gleaming “S” that first announced Superman Returns. Caught an angle that’s just right for showing off the Krypton native’s pectorals, this image is striking for its sharp attention to detail, specifically in regard to the work that went into that revamped suit. What we see stretched across Superman’s chest is more than just a familiar logo, it’s a texture emblematic of the new film’s title—the rubbery, unitard equivalent of chain mail. That’s a neat trick, and the costume designers are no doubt thrilled to have their labors front and center, but damned if this doesn’t echo the poster we just saw for The Amazing Spider-Man, another ad that zoomed in on the kinks of its hero’s armor.
Symptomatic of a compulsive streak in my nature, I’ve always been a tad obsessed with seeing the exact moment a digital display on a clock or cellphone clicks off a major milestone. For instance, I often feel a pang of frustration upon glancing down at a car’s odometer to see that it has advanced into a new hundred, thousand, ten thousand, or (heaven forbid) hundred thousand series without my noticing it. If you can recall the extra excitement exhibited ten years ago by New Year’s revelers as 1999 gave way to 2000 even though, technically, the millennium didn’t turn over until the following year, you may be able to empathize.
This probably explains why the cinematic “reboot” phenomenon of the 2000’s decade intrigued me more than it should. More extensive than simply changing lead characters, a reboot involves melting down the component parts of an established film franchise that has run its course and reforging them into a new, yet familiar vision. Successful or not, there’s something about the exercise itself that I gravitate toward. Of course, in addition to being obsessive, I’m also cynical. In my heart of hearts I realize that the decision to breath new life into an otherwise exhausted film series is made on commercial rather than artistic grounds. But that doesn’t mean reboots can’t be done well or aren’t worth the attempt.
[Editor’s note: The following is a contribution to the Deeply Superficial Blog-a-thon, currently underway at House contributor Todd VanDerWerff’s blog South Dakota Dark.]
It’s been said that sound dealt cinema a blow from which it has yet to recover—that between 1927, when The Jazz Singer was released, and the early ’30s, an art form that that had evolved an increasingly sophisticated, supple visual language was slapped back into the hieroglyphic phase. The camera, which had grown ever more fluid and restless, was suddenly bolted to the floor and encased in bulky sound-proofing armor, and forced to gaze impassively while newly verbal actors chirped fancy-pants dialogue into tiny mikes hidden in flower arrangements.
So essentially meritless are the films up for this award, it’s hardly worth discussing the merits or demerits of each as a viable candidate. Rule out immediately Poseidon, for making most of its audience long for the days of toy models in studio tanks. Both Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest look pretty corny, but at least the latter gets away with it for being self-consciously bad. I’ve read an interesting theory that suggests the nominees in this category (as well as in make-up, more often than not) are, year in and year out, so rote and predictably limited to big-budget, CGI pyrotechnics because of a “circle the wagons” mentality among the guild deciding the nominees. In other words, to make their profession look as vital as the obscene price tags of this trio’s respective post-productions, those with ballots in their hands have a vested interest in nominating films that literally wouldn’t exist without their trade, instead of the lo-fi innovation of (for instance) The Science of Sleep. Whatever, we’ll be snoozing through this category from here ’til kingdom or del Toro come.
Should Win: Superman Returns
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.
1. CINEMA: DEAD AGAIN
MZS: We just came through a pretty tumultuous year for movies, and for the media and the entertainment industry in general. Although it’s not possible to cover everything, I’d like for us to at least touch on some of what I think were evolutionary highlights—moments, movements, trends or developments that altered movies, or how we perceive movies.
Right after the first of the year, David Denby tried to to get at a big part of this—specifically the effect of technological change—in his New Yorker piece “Big Pictures.” But it didn’t satisfy me. In fact, parts of it were so out-of-it that they reminded me of an old episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways run into a Japanese soldier who wanders out of the bushes where he’s been for 20 years not knowing that the war is over.
- Abbas Kiarostami
- all that jazz
- Caveh Zahedi
- children of men
- david denby
- david lean
- David Lynch
- david thomson
- iraq in fragments
- jacques tati
- james cameron
- jonathan rosenbaum
- miami vice
- michael mann
- mike d'angelo
- Paul Schrader
- peter rainer
- Robert Altman
- sin city
- Steven Spielberg
- superman returns
- terrence malick
- the black dahlia
- the company
- toy story 2
- twin peaks: fire walk with me
Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns, which opened yesterday, is getting wildly mixed reviews (including pans from Roger Ebert and Manohla Dargis). Three House contributors wrote about the movie for their respective publications this week; excerpts and links follow.
I adored the movie—despite a first act slog that leaves a lot to forgive—because of its mythic spectacle. The movie is visionary bubblegum, unabashedly in love with its source material.
“In scene after scene,” I wrote in New York Press, “Superman Returns implicitly asks what it might feel like to be Superman and to live in a world that has the Man of Steel in it…Where most comic book movies are paradoxically inclined to make their points verbally—bulldozing heaps of raw data in our faces, a la the Matrix movies, Batman Begins and Singer’s own X-Men films—Superman Returns is conceived as a visionary spectacle, a series of mythic tableaus that brazenly liken Superman to Mercury, Jesus, Atlas and Prometheus. It’s a sensory—at times sensuous—experience, modeled not just on great comic book art, but on the crème-de-la-crème of machine-age spectacles: 2001:A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”