Fans do amuse and infuriate in equal manner. As it is explored in this insightful piece, and in my previous articles concerning Hollywood and the Internet, comic book movie fans continue to fascinate me, not only due to the stubborn bone-headedness of repeated comment on discussion boards, but through the fickleness of swaying opinions, for which there is seemingly no middle ground.
It is blind adoration, or outright loathing, there is no in between.
It’s been noted that we see this in the reactions to movie trailers and articles, but we can also see it days, weeks and months down the line, where public perception changes at the drop of the hat.
I first came across this in 2013 with Thor: The Dark World; I like the film myself, though I do have particular problems with it, which I have more or less maintained from my first viewing nearly three years ago. The critics loved it, as did the fans for the first few weeks, and everything was rosy.
But overnight, (at least that’s how it seemed) the sites that I visited were plunged into a deluge of spiteful comments, screams of fury and oaths swearing vengeance against director Alan Taylor and his family (ok, so I may be exaggerating a little).
Maybe this only occurs on my chosen websites, but ever since then a negative cloud has followed it online. Yes, it’s one of Marvel’s weakest movies, but that doesn’t make it an unforgivable mess, though I’d be loath to write that on a comment board for fear of being attacked.
Such passion exists in these fans because the icons and stories are close to their hearts; in many ways it is admirable, but if scorned somehow they can be uncompromising in their attacks, and will grapple with anyone who states otherwise.
Public opinion gravitates around these, whether it is a good or bad; be it an established classic or new release, there is still an answer, even if it is to the incredulity of others but the tides of preference can be stifling to anyone with a more nuanced view.
Green Lantern (2011) still earns the ire of many fans, even though it may not fully deserve it. The Avengers (2012) remains loved nearly everywhere, and wars of perception still rages over Man of Steel (2013).
As Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice approaches, uncertainty derives from what is shown in the teasers, as well as from the mixed response to Man of Steel, but in our new wave of interconnected superhero movies post-Iron Man (2008) little thought is given to the now disregarded Superman Returns (2006).
Directed by Bryan Singer, the movie actually celebrates its ten year anniversary this June. With another Superman movie on the way, I can’t ignore the outstanding coincidence of this, and seeing as I haven’t watched it for many years, I thought I return to it and see if the disdain for it was deserved.
Because, looking on the internet now, you would find many disparaging remarks about it, and again, I’m not sure all of it is warranted, though that of course is open to individual interpretation. Before I began writing these words, I scanned through the lists of comic book movies, and could not help but well on the fact that it Superman Returns wasn’t dealt the best of hands.
2006 was a funny year for a Superman movie to be released; Returns sits amidst the wave of new series and adaptations, such as the first two parts of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man saga, the Tim Story Fantastic Four movies, and the end of the first X-Men Trilogy. It also comes just two years before the beginnings of the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, and follows the beginning of the darker and grittier reboots that Batman Begins (2005), well, began.
When they decided to bring Superman back, it was probably a bit of a tough call as to how they would do it. Everyone knows Superman and his story, because it had been told in his first two pre-2000 movies, which are widely seen as classics; reboots were not altogether as accepted as they are now.
Bryan Singer must have thought that ignoring the critically panned Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and continuing the story that was begun in the first two was the best move; the first case of keeping the situations old, but with a fresh set of eyes. Indeed, the story even follows this re-acquaintance by having Supes come back to Earth after a prolonged period, to a lukewarm reception and unexpected changes.
This deference to the previous two movies is evident; there are constant call backs to those events. Plot threads are reworked and even phrases of dialogue are repeated. The pacing of the movie is unhurried and tells a broad and uncomplicated story, somewhat detrimentally so.
It is longer than Man of Steel by over ten minutes, and could easily have been re-jigged in the last third or quarter of its run time to avoid the lag that sets in.
With a smattering of jokes and funny instances and with a focus on thematic drama, it really is the kind of superhero movie that isn’t made anymore. Returns isn’t particularly brooding and heavy, but neither is it as frothy or quick fire as many Marvel movies are; lacking the cynical, self-deprecation of modern superhero series, it’s a throwback to a more innocent time.
Indeed, it is an extremely nostalgic film, with cinematography, sets and costumes that are reminiscent of classic Hollywood, but with added modern touches like mobile phone and sleek, fancy yachts; it’s a stylised world that couldn’t exist outside a comic book or movie.
Few movies have adopted this sort of thing since Batman Begins, with cinematic universes tending to lean towards a reflection of today’s society, albeit with several adjustments.
Yet it does have modern touches, from the thrilling and memorable plane sequence to the grim, and surprisingly violent battle between Superman (Brandon Routh, impressively continuing from Christopher Reeve, even if his hair does look heavily styled) and Lex Luthor (a solid turn from Kevin Spacey).
It also has powerful thematic moments, such as the brilliant shot of Superman drifting in space, listening to the world and the scenes in The Fortress of Solitude; I haven’t seen the Christopher Reeve movies, however the cinematic importance and reverence of the scene was undeniable.
If anything, I think that it pays these movies a great compliment, though I can understand how to some Returns might be too slavish to its predecessors and not offering anything fresh or new material lifted from the graphic novels. Superman Returns stands alone from the crowd because it lacks the more aggressive, cynical edge of modern superhero movies, but that doesn’t make it bad movie at all.
Looking in the forums, you would expect it to be on the same level of cataclysmic level of critical failure as Batman and Robin (1997) or Catwoman (2004); popular critics are not always the true indication of a movie’s merits and flaws, but sites such as Rotten Tomatoes still maintain that it is of decent quality.
Of course, people are entitled to think that it is a terrible movie if they like. They can also state that they liked it or stand in the middle ground. It simply seems that comment sections, as soon as they begin soon become regimented ‘for or against’ campaigns, in which nuanced discussion becomes stifled.
Moreover, we’re all allowed to re-evaluate an old opinion, but we shouldn’t just be staunchly negative or positive just because it’s easy to go with the flow and join the crowd. In an ideal world, a healthy discussion of a film’s flaws and strengths should occur, and not a barrage of hate.
And yes, it is me enforcing my opinion that Superman Returns does not wholeheartedly deserve the hate, and my opinion that comments on movies should be broader and more inclusive, though I am willing to appraise and attack facets of each.