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75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made ‘Superman Returns’ Part Two

(continued from 75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made Superman Returns Part One)There’s also the issue of the film taking place five years after the events of Superman II.  The gap between 1980 and 2006 is a lot more than five years, which is why starting over with the origin story was the most preferable way to go.  Almost nothing in the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films, with the exception of the Lois Lane article “I Spent the Night With Superman,” is directly referenced to in Superman Returns.  Bryan Singer said that he wanted to keep the established feel and spirit of the Richard Donner Superman films, and that’s why Superman Returns is a sequel of sorts.  Did anyone tell him that he could have done that and still do the origin story?  Besides the issue of what Lex was on trial for, there’s also the issue of whether or not he had been to the Fortress of Solitude before.  There’s a scene where Lex and his cronies arrive at the Fortress.  Lex activates the crystals, taking one and placing it into another module.  Lex’s girlfriend Kitty says, “You act like you’ve been here before.”  The audience is left to assume that the answer is indeed yes (he was there in Superman II), but Lex doesn’t say a word.  Bryan Singer should have made it clear if the movie was an actual sequel or not.  Making a quasi-sequel made no sense and it seemed to confuse a lot of people.  It’s as if Bryan Singer was a school teacher who gave everyone a homework assignment before watching Superman Returns (the assignment: Watch Superman: The Movie and Superman II or you’ll be a little lost while watching Superman Returns).  It’s kind of like seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King without having seen The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

For a movie that cost over $200 million, it didn’t really look like it.  I’m not saying that Superman Returns didn’t look expensive; I would’ve guessed $180 million.  Part of this may be due to the deleted scenes.  Probably the most famous deleted scene was the “Return to Krypton” sequence that would have occurred right before the opening credits.  This sequence cost a reported $10 million.  Bryan Singer said he cut it out because he felt it slowed the film down.  This is an example of something I don’t like filmmakers doing.  CG is very expensive, and should be used only if it is absolutely necessary.  Filmmakers like James Cameron and Peter Jackson have stated in the past that CGI is one of many tools available to a filmmaker and should not be considered the only tool in bringing a director’s vision to life.  Everyone knew that making a new Superman film would have cost a lot of money, but I don’t understand why Bryan Singer didn’t look at every single shot in pre-production and evaluate whether or not the shot (or even the scene) should remain in the film.  As one of the producers, it was his responsibility to make sure the film didn’t go over-budget, let alone way over-budget.  If he actually did go over which shots and/or scenes should be cut while still in pre-production and ended up shooting a great epic Superman film, it’s not the one that ended up in theaters.  If a three-hour version was better than the 2 1/2 hour version, then he should’ve fought for it.  If he could’ve released a three-hour version if he had wanted to, then he’s a fool for cutting it down.  If Singer was going to cut the Krypton sequence, he should have done it in pre-production because of the $10 million price tag.  I’m betting that Warner Bros. thought that Superman Returns would make at least $300 million domestically; it’s the only possible explanation for why they would allow the budget to balloon the way it did.

Also lost on the cutting room floor are additional scenes with Martha Kent and Ben Hubbard (her love interest who is seen very briefly in one or two shots in the theatrical cut).  These scenes would have shown that Martha (like Lois) had moved on, only in her case it’s her moving on after Jonathan Kent’s death.  There was also more flashback footage of the young Clark Kent (the shot of young Clark standing in front of the ship was in the teaser trailer).  In the theatrical version, the one flashback that is shown doesn’t seem to have any significance or weight.  In fact, it might have been better if the flashback that remained in the film had been cut out.  That scene could’ve still worked without the flashback if Bryan Singer had shot it in a way that the audience could understand what Clark was feeling without having to resort to a flashback.  It is doubtful that Bryan Singer did this, but it would be interesting to see if he did do it (or at least attempt it).  When looking at the budget and the editing decisions that Bryan Singer made, some viewers could actually wonder if there was even a completed script before shooting started.  Sadly, not only was there a completed script before shooting started, but there were at least ten drafts (probably more).  One of the surprises in Superman Returns was that Kal Penn (who played Stanford, Lex Luthor’s main crony) had almost no dialogue.  In actuality, most of his dialogue scenes got cut out (scenes that would have fleshed out his character some, if not a lot, more).  It turns out that he had met Lex in prison and that he was a highly intelligent chemist (or something like that in the field of science).  Those scenes would have made the role more substantial, especially when considering that his name was included on the poster with the rest of the ensmble cast that included Eva Marie Saint, Frank Langella, James Marsden, and Parker Posey.  The fact that Kal Penn has almost no dialogue in the theatrical version is kind of distracting for viewers who recognize him from Van Wilder and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.  Audiences seeing Superman Returns were always waiting for his character to say something, especially since Lex talked to him a lot.  It seems that the role was an important one (at least it should be in an extended version), hence Penn’s name on the poster as well as being cast in the film in the first place.  Had the role not been important, Bryan Singer could’ve cast a not-so-well-known actor in the part and the scenes with that character would have been less distracting.

And while I’m on the subject of Lex Luthor’s cronies, the role of another Luthor henchman must be addressed.  What was up with the guy and the camcorder?  Why did Lex want him to record what they were doing?  What purpose did this serve?  Surely, the tapes would be used as evidence during Lex’s trial if his plan had been stopped and he and his henchmen were caught.  This could’ve been explained in a line of dialogue in the film, but it doesn’t appear in the theatrical version (whether there actually was such a line of dialogue to explain the need of the camcorder is unknown).  Even if Lex had succeeded, would he really be watching those tapes later on?  That seems unlikely for “the greatest criminal mind on Earth.”

(Continued in:
75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made Superman Returns Part Three)

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6 responses to “75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made ‘Superman Returns’ Part Two

  1. Pingback: 75 Years of Superman: Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short | THE CINEMATIC FRONTIER

  2. Pingback: 75 Years of Superman: Why Bryan Singer Shouldn’t Have Made ‘Superman Returns’ Part Three | THE CINEMATIC FRONTIER

  3. Pingback: Tribbles, Hangovers & the Great Gatsby | filmhipster

  4. Wow, you know your Superman. 😉

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