Friday, June 30, 2006


Two big superhero movies coming out within a week of each other, although their main audiences are on separate sides of the globe. Both are sequels of a sort, both are just a bit on the long side, and I wish I enjoyed both of them a little more than I did.

I liked Superman Returns more, but I really wish it wasn't so slavishly beholden to the Richard Donner version. It becomes a a tribute, rather than its own thing, even though I don't think I've ever met anybody who liked some of the things they kept - seriously, did anyone think Luthor needed another Miss Tessmacher? I'm also kind of disappointed that they kept the crystalline Fortress of Solitude. That design for the Fortress and Krypton was a nice budget-minded compromise in 1978, but today, the technology exists to make the Fortress what it has always been in the comics - a huge, fanciful mesuem of Superman's adventures, with something amazing tucked into every corner. Instead, we see every other version following the Donner film's lead - there's a new crystaline Fortress in the comics, and Smallville uses the same imagery.

And Luthor. Man, I loved the Luthor John Byrne created - having him be a corporate mogul made him modern, made him Superman's equal, just with a different kind of power. This Luthor annoys me, and the comics are following this lead. It's a bummer.

Krrish isn't quite as insane as its predecessor, Koi... Mil Gaya, but what is? I only knew that one existed because I was seeing the Weekly Wednesday Ass-Kicking at the new-demolished Allston Cinema, and I'm a sucker for anything with a spaceship on the poster. A superhero movie with action choreography out of Hong Kong is worth a look, too, and by the end I was kind of into it. It takes a while, though, and I don't know if I just had to get used to Bollywood or if the last half is just different from the first.

Superman Returns

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 June 2006 at AMC Fenway #10 (Preview Screening)

Superman returns; worthy adversary still missing.

Richard Donner's 1978 film of Superman is a great film, but not because it is perfect. It is great because it was the first time in a long time that superheroes were made majestic, something more than silly adolescent power fantasies. It is great because the parts that work are able to almost completely overpower the parts that don't. The trouble with Bryan Singer's 2006 follow-up is that it borrows indiscriminately from its predecessor, and what it adds is not compelling.

It's obvious from the start, where the opening credits are the same blue outlines whooshing toward the audience, although the background is jazzed up with modern CGI. We soon learn that Superman (Brandon Routh) left Earth five years ago to investigate the ruins of his home planet. During that time, archnemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been released from prison upon a successful appeal (Superman, you see, could not be called as a witness) and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has settled down some, with a son (Tristan Lake Leabu) and a long-standing engagement to Richard White (James Marsden), the son of her editor, Perry White (Frank Langella). Just as Superman returns to Earth, though, Luthor has found his Fortress of Solitude and stolen a set of crystals located there, which he intends to use for a new nefarious scheme, which like his old nefarious scheme, involves stealing missiles in order to wreak devastation that leaves him in control of the world's most valuable real estate. This time, instead of sinking California, he'll create a new continent, even if it floods huge parts of the ones we've already got.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 June 2006 at Somerville Theater #5 (Bombay Cinema)

Krrish is one of a certain class of sequels that often annoys me - you know, the type that dispenses with the previous film's main characters early on, to focus on a previously unmentioned brother/friend/other substitute. "Happily ever after" may be short-lived in real life, but shouldn't musicals at least have the implication that it lasts? Here, there's not even the excuse that the producers couldn't retain the star; Hrithik Roshan, Koi... Mil Gaya's Rohit Mehra, headlines as that character's son, Krishna Mehra.

We don't learn the details of why Krishna is living with his grandmother Sonia (Rekha) until about halfway through this three-hour movie, but he is, and she packs up and moves to the country so that they can live in isolated anonymity when six-year-old Krishna shows signs of being a spectacularly gifted genius, complete with Thundering Music of Doom as he answers all his teacher's questions. There, she makes sure he hides his physical and mental gifts and never leaves the village, even though he 's entering creepy twenty-year-old (who looks thirty) hanging out with preteens territory, and doesn't even have the excuse of being retarded like his father was at the start of the previous movie. Soon, though, Priya (Priyanka Chopra) literally falls into his life, crashing her hang-glider into a tree while on an adventure vacation. When she and her friend Honey (Maaninee Mishra) return home to Singapore, they hatch a scheme to save their jobs at a local TV station by showing the "Indian Superboy". Still trying to hide his powers, Krishna dons a discarded mask while saving children at a circus fire, and Priya's new assignment is ferreting out the mysterious superhero "Krrish". They don't yet know about Dr. Arya (Naseeruddin Shah), the head of the electronics firm Krishna's father Rohat was working on at the time of his death, who is just now recreating Rohat's work for his own nefarious purposes.

Read the rest at HBS.

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