Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hollywoodland, Superman Returns (or does he)?

Hollywoodland is one of those independent films that is intended to be seen in all major theaters. Universal Focus is the US theatrical distributor, and Disney's new Miramax is one of the production companies, in this film noir by Allen Coulter and Paul Bernbaum. We see a haggard Ben Affleck as George Reeves, whose mysterious death is investigated by a wiry Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) who looks a lot more man here than in King Kong. Affleck, on the other hand, far from the "beautiful Ben" of the 90s tabloids or in the gay bar scene with Sandra Bullock in Forces of Nature, here looks chubby and deteriorating, even as he dons a grey Superman suit, and impresses the kids in the 50s.

Superman Returns (2006, Warner Bros., dir Bryan Singer) does put a little more drama into the comic book hero series than the original series in the 70s and 80s with Christopher Reeve. Iowan Brandon Routh plays the young hero, and the most engaging shot of all might be of the surface of planet Kyrpton, with its condo-cities and decaying environment, turning into a Venus with a runaway greenhouse effect. Lex Luthor's model railroad world is intriguing.

But I still think that the most compelling treatment of the Superman legend is TheWB/CW series Smallville, now in its sixth season, with Tom Welling as the teenage Clark. The first two seasons were by far the most effective, starting when Clark is supposed to be a freshman in high school, and has to deal with keeping his extraterrestrial origins a secret and is pilloried by others for being "different" to the point that he is nailed on the Scarecrow cross. The opening episode, in which Smallville (AKA Lawrence, KS) is partially destroyed by a meteor shower, was filmed shortly before 9/11 actually happened. The nearby city is Metropolis, which is a code name for KCMO (Kansas City), though it is filmed in Vancouver, BC.

Clark is supposed to be "19" now, and normally should be a sophomore in college. Instead he is home on the farm looking after his state senator mother after his adoptive father is sacrificed by Jor-El. But I think there is an opportunity here for an independent film about the younger Clark. Put him in college, and have the military approach him (for ROTC) and sports teams (especially baseball -- imagine the home runs or the fastball) approach him and see if he can keep his "secret." This would be an arthouse kind of film, something more in the line of Warner Independent Pictures, with the same production team (Tollin/Robbins). Has this idea been considered?

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