The Science of Superman 2006
One of the shows that I used to enjoy when I was a kid was the early programming of the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel back before they became the go-to channel for reality TV freak shows. There were plenty of shows on those two channels that were full of cutting edge technology and the like and in a way, this special follows that format. And while it does remind me of the Batman Tech special that I watched on the DC Universe app a couple weeks ago, where that felt very much like the promotional material for the Dark Knight that it was, while this was released in a similar way as Batman Tech, being shown on the National Geographic channel the day after the theatrical release, it really spread out the clips used between all sorts of Superman shows and cartoons alongside a fair amount of Superman Returns clips. It also helps that it was inspired by an actual book of the same name and they included the author alongside several of those interviewed for the special. Overall, it was a pretty good doc with a lot of interesting information and theories backed up by the shows and comic books of Superman that weren’t just Superman Returns.
With Brightburn coming out later this month, I thought it was high time that I wrote a blog post looking at a specific trend in superhero movies. And as Brightburn basically seems to be a movie that asks the question: what if Superman wasn’t raised in such a good home and turned out to be a person with good morals and great intentions. Instead, what if he was a more troubled child and used his powers to become more or less a horror movie villain. And while superhero horror isn’t a widely expansive genre within superhero movies, there are actually quite a few different superhero movies that could be considered horror, or at least have several horror elements within them. Some of the best ones are more within the action/horror genre or they play more like a monster movie, the few that fall more towards the thriller side of horror tend to be very light on the superhero element and the film itself focuses more on the circumstances rather than the super powers. Also, I will be steering clear of comic book based horror movies since they have nothing that restricts them in terms of story and can be as horror as they want to be.
Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics 2010
There’s still a few more DC comics based documentaries on the DC Universe streaming app that I haven’t watched yet so I did a quick little Twitter poll to see which one I should check out next and this one won. I didn’t really know anything about this specific documentary but I pretty much assumed that it would cover the history of DC comics, which it did in a much better way than I anticipated. It was full of comics artwork, film and TV clips, and interviews and archival footage with many different important personalities in comics. The story that the film told was mixed with information that I already knew about sprinkled with some that I didn’t. It was interesting, informative, and entertaining. And even though it specifically calls him out on the poster, I didn’t realize that Ryan Reynolds narrated the doc until I saw his name on the end credits, and this film would be right around the time where he was filming Green Lantern.
#96 Superman III
The First Intentionally “Funny” Superman
First and foremost, I apologise for the slight delay in this review. Life events (including a rather annoying change of flight plans) got in the way. However, we’re here now to discuss Superman 3, the one that tried new things and couldn’t quiiiiite stick the landing. Does that mean it was a bad film? Let’s delve right into that, shall we?
This film was my second ever Superman film. Full transparency, to date I have seen (though not in this order) 1-3, Returns and Man Of Steel. I’ve seen Justice League too, but let’s leave that alone for now. This film was one of the two that stuck with me after watching it and it did so due to one scene, which I will get to later. However, I recall enjoying it enough when I was younger that it kept my interest. On this rewatch, I found that many of the old-school cliches are there (mostly limitations of the time, but some were just what you did back then in these types of films), the villains were kinda lesser copies of Luthor and the like and they managed to water down Richard Pryor. Does this make it a film that held up well? No. However…
I would argue that you shouldn’t worry about that. Yes, there’s cliches but those cliches are only there because this film was one of those that laid the foundations that became the cliches. The villains were effectively Luthor 1.5 (plus some eye candy, because reasons), but that actually lets them have fun because you know exactly what they are. There’s no need for any real development, there’s no attempt at fleshing them out. There’s only “I’m clearly evil and want to rule the world” followed by “Curses! It’s Superman!” followed by “I’ve beaten him!” until finally “Oh, no I didn’t.”. Everything else is just the filmmakers trying something new, injecting humour and different scenarios into a well-used machine. I actually admire them for that. And there’s not much else you can take from the world that is presented other than it being a real product of the time. We don’t see much of the world, only Metropolis (or a few buildings in it), a couple of disaster sites, a scrapyard and the people. You’ve got a hero, many, MANY bystanders, some villains and a “love interest”. So, to get a better grip on how this film fared, let’s look at the characters themselves.
This version of Superman is what you’d expect. He’s nice he’s clean cut and he’s got random powers (I don’t care how hard you blow, you cannot get every single drop of oil back into a tanker. And furthermore, how the hell did it not explode when he sealed it?). But here’s where the filmmakers decided to take a risk. They made Superman selfish, grumpy, brooding. Basically, they turned him human for a while. And it actually works well. Really well. They use a slight colour shift in his suit to help with this too (unless my copy was just messed up) by having his suit be a few shades darker blue while under the influence of the MacGuffin, fake Kryptonite, until he ends up defeating himself. The final showdown with himself was a little boring, but I think that’s more to do with my having seen it before than anything else. So yeah, all in all they did quite well here!
- Lois Lane / Lana Lang
I’ve lumped these two together because they’re basically the same character. A LL for Clark to pine for and a distraction for Superman. Lois vanishes for 98% of the film due to a trip to Barbados (holding up some swimwear that probably had many people wishing we could simply follow her instead of Clark for this film) that feels pretty random. But don’t worry, we have another fairly thin woman who’s Clark’s age and happens to be nearby. Despite them spending so much time together in the film, the problem with Lana is that she felt like exactly what she was: a stand-in for Lois. The end of the film basically has what should feel like a shoulder-shrug, look to camera from Clark as the two meet, but ends up feeling like “Oh, I guess that whole thing didn’t really matter” as there’s zero resolution and you can easily surmise that Lana will be nowhere to be seen in any future films (She isn’t). To be honest, I feel like this film didn’t need her.
- Ross + Vera Webster
As I said before, these guys are basically Luthor 1.5, just without the intellect. Imagine any bad guy who wants to make loads of money and doesn’t care who gets hurt. Well done, you’ve imagined these two. And as I said earlier, I don’t think that’s a bad thing for this film. There’s no time spent on character development, no time spent on backstory, no time wasted on trying to understand them. We see them enjoying a few bad news stories, we see them scheme to beat Superman and we see them almost win. There you go, Superman villain 101 achieved. However, that lets you do anything you want to them and we don’t care. The sister (the joke is that she’s mean and ugly, yay) gets turned into a cyborg by a super-computer. And we basically go “Huh. that sucks for her” and then just wonder what Superman was doing flying away at that time. Effectively you have the perfect foils and they perform their roles to a T. So not good, not bad, simply there.
- Lorelei Ambrosia
Ok, first things first. I had NO idea who played this person until I looked up the cast after the film. So, in case you don’t know, she was played by a comedian from New Zealand who was well known in England for Not The Nine O’Clock News and also for being married to Billy Connolly. So yeah, that surprised me! Secondly, this character is one of the first that I can recall actually being a well written female character in a superhero film. Well, about 90% well written. It kinda goes away at the VERY end of the film after she’s lifted by a random telekinetic ball thing, which I promise makes sense. But anyway, she’s actually smarter than the other two villains and does very well at hiding it. She uses her looks to get whatever she wants and fools everyone until the end. I really do think it’s a well made character that could have been a good call to come back in the sequel in some way. And who knows, she might have been an inspiration for other filmmakers down the line to include more nuanced female characters!
- August “Gus” Gorman
Yep. They took Richard Pryor, a legendary blue comedian, and asked him to do comedy in a PG film. Anyone who’s seen him in stuff like See No Evil, Hear No Evil will know just how silly that is to ask. And yet, he managed to do well. Not great, as any real frustration rants were going to be dialed down to 2, but good enough. And really, it’s just fun to see someone actually act the most like a real person in the entire franchise. This guy just wants to make some money. He does, but ends up being blackmailed into this ridiculous scheme that he has to go along with. So he does, as best he can, until he realises what the ultimate goal is. He’s got the best arc of the entire film and I actually was rooting for him. So yeah, way to go Mr Pryor!
As you can tell, I did enjoy this film. It’s clunky in places, it’s loaded with what we now know as cliches but were actually fairly new and interesting at the time, and has a real need for more character depth. However, it’s still a fun Superman film. Oh yeah, one more thing…
The Cyborg Scene
This scene messed with my head as a kid. Bear in mind that I didn’t catch Doctor Who until the 2005 reboot, so Cybermen were a total unknown to me. For some reason, the act of total transformation into an external component of a computer was actually a little off-putting to me as a kid. And watching it back now, I still had a slight twinge as the sister’s voice gets cut off and the eyes opened. Now, the actual applying of the components are hockey as anything (imagine placing a fork on a thumb and a cheese grater on an arm, you’ve got the basic gist) and it’s totally undone by the end. But still, it’s actually a moment that was surprising to me as a kid and actually was VERY well done. Kudos to the filmmakers!
Ok, time for Mr Bubbawheat to give his two cents. Over to you, my very own Mr Webster!
When I first started this website the very first movies that I watched and reviewed were the first four Superman films starring Christopher Reeve. I think that it was the last time that I’ve seen this film. While the first two Superman films were pretty great, this was the first one that didn’t have any input from Richard Donner and was completely taken over by Richard Lester and his comedic touch. Due to the change in director, Gene Hackman refused to return and Margot Kidder was only in the film for about five minutes and was replaced with Annette O’Toole’s Lana Lang. Lester’s comedy starts straight from the opening scene with Richard Pryor in an unemployment office followed by a comedy of errors with a series of pratfalls and other physical comedy. Later on in the movie there were a couple potential action scenes where one was mostly replaced with Richard Pryor describing the series of events and another replaced with video game style graphics. Lex Luthor was also replaced with a Lex Luthor-esque villain played by Robert Vaughn. Everything in general felt cheaper than the first two films and Richard Pryor felt like he was basically the second lead.
As far as its importance within superhero cinema history, this was the start of the downfall of the Superman franchise. After the first two Superman films were successful grossing a combined $235M, this film dropped quite a bit down to only $60M. It was still considered a financial success at the time with its $30M budget, but still a big dropoff from the first two combined with very poor critical reception. But this film also has one significant element in it when Pryor doses Superman with a chunk of black tar Kryptonite and turns him evil. Or more technically, turns him into an all around jerk until he battles himself as Clark Kent in a big junkyard fight scene. Jerk Superman doesn’t really do anything evil, he just acts like a sleaze toward Lana Lang, straightens out the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and gets drunk flicking peanuts to break bottles in a bar. This was also the first movie where Christopher Reeve started having a more creative role in the Superman movies, something that would continue in the fourth movie where he would get a story by credit.
Alrighty. I’m back and it’s time for our 3 questions. And heeeeeeeere they are:
1) Would I recommend this film to others?
2) Does it deserve to be on this list?
3) How do I rank the films thus far?
And in numerical order, here we go:
1) Yes. Totally. This film, despite any flaws, has a defined place in the Superman canon and needs to be seen by anyone who desires to see a Superman film!
2) Yes. Again, there’s a lot of cliches that are found in this type of film. And the reason is that they originated around this time and from these films. So watch the original, get a sense for the time and see why they’re there. And if only for that, it does deserve a spot on the list.
3) Well, this took some thinking. As always, I try to focus more on the film’s importance, relevance and overall quality over my personal feelings. However, I feel like they’re fairly well aligned here. So, for all the reasons listed above, the updated rankings are as such:
1) Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
2) Batman: The Killing Joke
3) Superman 3
4) The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
6) Batman & Robin
7) The Amazing Spider-Man
8) BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
Well folks, it’s time for us to vanish again into the ether until the next review. And I’m looking forward to it, since it’s the first MCU film to drop in our series and the first film that I’ve already reviewed on my podcast (Shameless plug: The BlokeBusters Podcast!). So, until that time, make sure to keep that tar out of your Kryptonite lumps. You never know what will happen…
Vincent Has No Scales 2014
And finishing up with Aquaman April I decided to watch this movie that I didn’t even realize was French until I looked it up right before watching it. This is a film that I just happened to discover on the library streaming app Hoopla by searching for “superhero”, and based on the description it sounded basically like a low budget French Aquaman movie. And after watching it, that’s pretty much exactly what it is. There’s not really much action, instead it’s a bit more of a combination romance with a little character study. But honestly there’s really just a whole lot of nothing going on in this film aside from the main character Vincent swimming a lot, eating, and getting himself wet in one way or another. There is a bit of super powers here and there and kind of an action scene in the second act, but there’s also just plenty of shots of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous most of the time, but it’s still just scenery and Vincent swimming or chilling.
DC Superhero Girls: Legends of Atlantis 2018
If you like what I’m doing here, please take a moment and consider joining my Patreon so I can find more lesser known superhero and comic book movies to review here. I’m almost done with my month of Aquaman with the last official DC movie featuring the underwater hero. There is one more indie Aquaman-like movie, at least it appears to be based on the synopsis. But besides all that, this is yet another DC Superhero Girls movie and likely the last one before they switched styles yet again for the new Cartoon Network series. They have all been on the same level of quality with a large number of women heroes along with an overall message of friendship and acceptance. This one is no different and it includes Mera and her sister Siren for an underwater battle with a mere cameo from a teenaged Aquaman.
Batman Tech 2008
I’ve been trying to go through everything in the DC Universe streaming app and while I’ve already seen all of the traditional movies, there’s another category called “Specials” that include the TV specials like the Aquaman Pilot and the Legends of the Superheroes minseries that I’ve already covered here, but there’s also a handful of what appear to be documentaries. And the first one I decided to check out was this one called Batman Tech. While I initially thought it seemed to be more like a DVD special feature for The Dark Knight, it was actually a promotional doc that aired on the History Channel during the Dark Knight’s opening weekend. But all in all, there was just enough there to review it as a short-but-still-feature-length documentary. And while we didn’t get much cinematic Batman, there’s a lot of info from the comics alongside some geeky real world tech stuff.
Chicken With Plums 2011
It often happens that I chance upon a movie that I hadn’t heard of before that I feel like I really should have already known about. I was a fan of Marjane Satrapi’s first movie based on her comic of the same name Persepolis. But I didn’t realize that she made a second movie based on another of her graphic novels called Chicken With Plums a few years later in 2011 until very recently. Watching it, it reminded me quite a bit of a black comedy version of Amelie. There are plenty fantasy sequences and flights of fancy mixed into this relationship drama, but there’s a decided lack of whimsy in favor of a more darkly comedic tone.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes 2018
I’ve been a fan of anime for a long time, back when it was referred to as Japanimation, and while I’ve heard of the series My Hero Academia, I’ve never watched an episode. Similar to Tiger and Bunny, the other anime superhero series that spawned a couple movies, this takes place in an alternate universe filled with people that have super powers. Similar to most anime movies that follow a series, this is more of a side story that brings in several of the characters. It took a little while to get into the world of the movie, and while I didn’t connect with all of the side characters, I really got into it by the end.
Justice League vs the Fatal Five
I’m a couple weeks into my 5-week trial of DC Universe and it’s a nice benefit that at least some of their home video releases are also being released on their streaming app the same day as their physical release date. I was a big fan of the Batman animated series as well as Superman the animated series but I fell out of cartoons before I was able to follow them to Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. And it was nice as it always is despite repeated assurances that he will retire the voice to see Kevin Conroy back as the voice of Batman along with the Justice League animated series voices for Superman and Wonder Woman. I had a few doubts considering that the last time they redid this style of animation was the disappointing Batman and Harley Quinn, but I’m pleased to say that they got things right this time around. There was still just a slight disconnect because they moved away from the kids series tone and brought it into a much harder PG-13 in terms of the violence and language, but it also just felt like a slightly more grown up version of the animated series, serieses, series’s, the multiple series. And as with every film I review, I will be discussing it in full so here is your spoiler warning.