Super Disappointment

This post contains spoilers, but from films shot in the ’70’s — no spoilers of the new Superman movie as I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll spoil the new one for you tomorrow.

I’ll be seeing Superman Returns tonight (I know, it’s about time), so I want to get this off my chest before the new rubs out the old.

I recently watched the Christopher Reeve Superman: The Movie, as prep for the new one. I recall the old one with nothing but fondness, so I was surprised by all the things I didn’t remember.

I really didn’t remember anything from the farm days (including that the actor playing teenage Clark looks older than Christopher Reeve), and I had blocked out the painful recitation of all the lyrics to “Can You Read My Mind” as Clark and Lois muck about in the sky (Margot Kidder, a foreshadowing of Shatner – egads!).

But mostly I forgot how unsatisfying the movie is. (I know, sacrilege!) Hey, Reeve is great, and the action is great, and it is all magical (I do believe a man can fly – clap! clap! I do believe a man can fly – clap! clap!), but the ending…

Hey, did I mention this had thirty year-old spoilers? Here we go…

At the end, Supes decides to honor a promise to save the East Coast before heading West and saving California (Lois included). Because of that decision, Lois dies.

Wow! Holy consequences, Batman! But wait…

So Superman reverses time, and saves Lois after all. No cost, no pain, no problem.

The sequel promotes the same philosophy. Clark tells Lois his secret, but then decides he doesn’t like the consequences of such a choice, so erases his action.

No risk, no danger, no tension ever again. In a world where choices do not have consequences, there is no drama. Any thing Superman does from now on, he can erase at whim.

And such a story has nothing to say about real life.

In fact, it is a very popular philosophy, one of wishful thinking: our choices have no consequences.

Cheat on your wife? No harm in that, really. Cheat on your taxes? Everybody’s doing it, it can’t be morally questionable. Cheat on your diet? Who’s to say that this is less healthy — just those priggish health police.

These are lies; choices do have consequences. And thus, to see a movie world where there are no consequences – no cost to personal choice – is unsatisfying to the soul.

Doctor Who did an episode on a similar theme, where Rose chooses to change the past to selfishly make her life better (and don’t even try to tell me that Supes spinning around the world wasn’t pure selfishness); but the consequences are dire, and the cost is oh so much more personal.

Even the Smallville folks got it right, with Clark pulling a Movie move to save a dead Lana, and being forced to live with a dead dad as a result.

Much more satisfying, much more real.

Much more dramatic.

Just my thoughts,



3 responses to “Super Disappointment”

  1. janet says :

    Yes. We watched the original before seeing the new one (our kids didn’t remember having seen it). And I was bored to tears. Hope you enjoy the new one, Sean. Sounds like you’re ready for it!

  2. Danny says :

    I think there were consequences to his actions in turning back time. I recently watched Superman II, and Superman is living in a world that has no soul. At first I thought it was because of an inferior script, and that Margot Kidder was high as a kite, but the more I think about it I realize that, like Donnie Darko, the world is out of whack because someone is alive who should be dead.

  3. Gaffney says :

    Hmmm… I like the theory. And that explains 3 and 4 (Pryor and Peace) as Fate’s revenge on Supes for messing up the timeline. If only we weren’t punished as well…-Sean

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