Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns / **1/2 (2006)

If the great triumph of superheroes on the big screen owes its comprehensive success to any one specific person or thing, that distinction belongs solely to the moment in which Christopher Reeve tears open his shirt and exposes a giant red “S” in the middle of his chest. That split second of footage, a mere morsel it seems amongst a slew of great scenes and sequences in the original “Superman” film, characterizes the essence of the conflicted superhuman crime-fighter almost instinctively: the costume is not just some random impulse intended for casual dress-up, it comes attached with all kinds of responsibility. An entire city, and therefore an entire population, trusts him to keep peace, fight crime, uphold justice and look out for every individual’s best interest. He is a god amongst diverse believers, a public that stands in the shadow of a world so littered in turmoil that wildly fantastical heroes are the only hope they have. And yet no matter how many beasts or brutes he may tame, no matter how many sinister plots he may thwart, no one consciously seems to realize that the person wearing the costume is, too, a living and feeling human being at the core. To successfully adopt the identity that he does, his personal identity must remain secret to all around him, which thus restricts his ability to maintain a decent personal life. It is a hard job for a guy who seems to sociable and friendly to his peers, but it is unwavering nonetheless.

Poseidon / ** (2006)

“The ocean has been the cradle of rebirth.” So announces a character aboard the cruise ship Poseidon, mere minutes before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. A guy who obviously never took into consideration the fact that Earth’s oceans have a nasty habit of claiming human lives as easily as an elephant goes through peanuts, you would think basic history knowledge (or even movie-going experience) would have given him the insight to rethink that proclamation – “The Perfect Storm,” about a crew of fishermen who are swallowed by the ocean during a tropical storm, and “Titanic,” telling of a catastrophic loss of life at the hands of human error on the open seas, are two prime recent examples of just how easily a simple thing like water can quickly become an object of chaos. No, his rhetoric is that of a man who is either too optimistic or too foolish to comprehend the oncoming contradiction of his statement. This is a man who never bothered to watch Ronald Neame’s “The Poseidon Adventure” before boarding.