Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Shallow and more or less brainless


Superman is a super hero for teenagers with no complicated innuendo in the first three films, that is to say up to 1983. In 1987 they ran into dire straits and foul waters in the world with the end of the USSR looming more or less high in the night sky. We sure were at a turning point in history with the end of Reagan, Bush Sr. taking over for a short while in 1988 and the Iron Curtain falling in 1989. Those years were feeling bizarre. China was moving but it was not yet obvious it was going to go that fast. They were at the very beginning of a new era. Were we optimistic or were we sad because of the good old simple split world that was vanishing at high speed? I don’t want to remember. More than twenty-five years later we just do not regret that period that changed many things but also re-dynamized the whole world.

And yet war was everywhere, conflicts erupted in all corners of the planet and the US were blowing on embers and flames to have it more gigantic than it already was. Iran-Iraq, then Iraq-Kuwait, then the Gulf war pretty soon. The Middle East was becoming the center of global warfare and arms dealing. So the fourth film deals with that and tries to set up a dream that is just as phenomenal and absurd as taking an aspirin tablet to cure cancer or leukemia. But they dared. Make people dream about peace and you might get good cash flow in the cinemas. But the series was to stop for 19 years. Actually Superman was just plainly dead, our Superman.

But he comes back from Krypton. The actor has been changed in the mean time. And his love affair with his journalist colleague provided him with a son who is only six or seven in the last film, nineteen years later. Some pregnancies can be very long. That’s the most surprising fact in this series: the time line is not exactly right. And yet this film is essential because they seem to be preparing this son to be the next Superman. That was nine years ago. So the child should be of age now to return under his own identity. But will he? Behind all that there does not seem to be a long lasting project. The first three films are rather pubescent and very superficial. The fourth film is just unreal. It no longer is a superhero but a super sleeping pill for politically disoriented kids in a changing world. The last film is like an after thought to regain some cash desk money and maybe prepare a real return. But will Superman really return?

The last film is the only one that has the proper special effects for today’s cinema and audience. It is also the first film that really has a villain that actually succeeds including in failing and finding himself and his bimbo lost on a small desert island eating dogmeat. But that will not be a new “Lost” series. The island is too small and there is no connection to any real past period. And then there is something morbid in the end of the “episode” with Superman’s disappearance from his death bed at the hospital, his appearance in his “son’s” bedroom to say goodbye and bless him for his future as well as saying goodbye to his “son’s” mother and then he finally disappears into space. Where to? We do not know. This last film is such a transition episode towards something else that has not come yet and may never come that it is plain nostalgic, pathetic and pointless.

Superman was such a success in his comic and filmic life that we wonder why? Because of the superficiality of the character and the shallowness of the discourse? I guess it is in the do-gooder nature of this character that we can find the answer: Superman is a pacifier, is the cinema Prozac of the western world delivered to the people in massive doses. And they do not get an overdose. Or maybe they did so that when the real change arrived with the fall the USSR they did not even react and let the warmongers of the west believe they could start moving their troops towards Siberia and Mongolia. But they were sleep walking in such a deep dream that the public had a very hard wake up hangover and the political wizards had to swallow the worst crisis since 1929, in fact eighty years earlier. In 2009. And Superman did not come back to clean up the stables of Wall Street.

These films are not too heady and brainy and I guess children of six or seven years of age can watch them without too much damage. But be careful and don’t let your children believe it is the real world. It sure isn’t. Just ask yourself how many blacks are in influential positions and how many Chinese or even Asians are ever shown as having real power in this world. Asking the question is answering it. It is a film for those who have never experienced a trauma in their life. The reveille of tomorrow’s shift of power will make them suddenly realize they have been doped.


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