Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Superman

Last night I saw the new Superman movie (or most of it, my son’s broken arm started bothering him during the last 10 minutes and we had to leave) at a special "Red Cape Screening" for the Hugh Hewitt show. If you like this kind of movie, you’re going to love this one. It was entertaining in every respect. But it was not without problems.

First, I should have known better because of its PG-13 rating, but nostalgia for the old Christopher Reeve movies (they were among the first real "grown up" movies I saw as a kid about my daughter’s age) and the discovery that the action sequences of the Spiderman movies did not disturb our little ones, made me think that the rating had more to do with "violence" than with any other elements of the story. I rarely worry about violence in and of itself if the story is one of good triumphing over evil--as Superman surely would be doing. Well, this PG-13 rating is earned for many reasons. The violence was breathtaking and the pace a bit too frenetic for my taste. But, again, most movie-goers will like that. The real problem is with the plot.

Superman is, of course, "returning" after a 5 year soul-searching mission on what’s left of planet Krypton and Lois Lane has moved on. She has a kid. She has a live-in boyfriend--NOT a husband. This sub-plot of the story deepens throughout the movie so I won’t give too much away, but suffice it to say that it required some serious explaining that I would have prefered to put off for awhile. So, if you have kids, you might want to keep this in mind.

Much has been made about the Daily Planet editor’s, refusal to talk about "truth, justice, and the American way" but instead invoking "truth, justice and all that stuff." There is no doubt that the omission was intentional--the makers of the movie have admitted as much. For my part, however, I think I might have been more disturbed if he had invoked the famous phrase. First, the Planet is clearly a literary version of The New York Times and the editor of the Planet, like good old "Pinch," is a major league sleaze-ball more interested in sensationalizing the news than reporting it. He wouldn’t know the "American way" if it bit him in the . . . So I didn’t miss the invocation if it was supposed to come from him. But there was also nothing of the American way anywhere else in the film. Superman seems to be a kind of post-modern hero--worried about his love-life, worried about his purpose and nature, worried about the nature of mankind and doubting his ability to improve upon any of it. He is depressed and brooding in this film. I found him a bit self-indulgent.

I won’t go so far as to say that I did not like the film. I did and I wish I could have seen the end--maybe it redeemed itself. But the 70s version was better for me. Maybe I’ll try to go rent that tonight.

Discussions - 17 Comments

I wish I knew these details about the movie last night, or even earlier today for that matter. For then I would have been able to warn my sister about taking my little nephews to the movie tonight. My sister Terry was simply relying upon the PG-13 rating. I don’t think she’s even read a review of the film.

I did not see the movie yet, but I am looking forward to it (despite your comments) as I have otherwise read a number of very favorable reviews. A few comments: one, the media portrayed in Superman I was just as sensationalist and a sort of caricature of the media as you say this film is; two, your point about the American Way is well-taken and Superman I certainly was very strong on his duty, self-sacrifice, and ideals (though he did do what was "forbidden" out of his love for Lois by turning back time and acting selfishly); and, three, Superman II is a film that would match many of your criticisms above about Superman being brooding and selfish for love, even giving up his powers to marry Lois. The violence should be good for my manliness. I heard Kevin Spacey plays a very good slightly subdued Lex Luther.

I was concerned about the Messianic overtones from a preview from this spring. Specifically, that his would be an postmodern Hollywood attempt to supplement Superman as a Christ figure. Was ther any evidence of that in the movie?

I also agree with the deceptive nature of the PG-13 rating. It seems that yesterdays R is todays PG-13 and yesterdays PG-13 has shifted to G. I recently saw the movie "Click" -Adam Sandlers attempt at "Its a Wonderful Life". Actually it wasn’t so bad for anyone who needs a "spend too much time at work and too little with the family" message. But my point is that for a PG-13 movie there was a bit too much adult humor for the 13-18 year olds in the audience (and many under the age of 13 -who wouldn’t undertand the message anyway). I think that parents have to be very careful trusting todays rating system -like a box of choc... -I won’t go there.

Hey folks, with the abundance of info available on the web nowadays, there’s really no excuse for taking kids to a movie that you haven’t thoroughly checked out beforehand.


Allow me to recommend, just for starters, www.kids-in-mind.com,
which gives a fantastically detailed picture of why a film earned its rating and what potentially offensive (or difficult to explain to the kids) things occur in the film.


On the actual movie reviews side of things, there’s nobody better than Jeffrey Overstreet at www.lookingcloser.org when it comes to assessing the art and message of a movie from a distinctly Christian perspective.
Hope you find these useful.

Ohio Brass, you are right about the Messianic overtones, although it was more of a direct statement than an overtone. It had a line from his father that said something like "They need a light to show them the way, so I sent my only son." I thought it was creepy.

About Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther: Yes, he was very good and, I think, even better than Gene Hackman in the originals. Though the fight scene between him and Superman was a bit ridiculous--even if Superman was weakened by kryptonite. Was Luther strengthened by it? No explanation is given.

About Superman II: Yes, the criticism I have of this movie would apply to it as well. But nothing could be worse than Superman IV from 1987 in which Superman crusades for nuclear disarmament and about which probably most people have completely forgotten. I know I did until I looked up the origninal movie on Amazon.com yesterday. Sometimes things are better left to the memories our nostalgia for them holds.

About parental responsibility: Yep. I dropped the ball this time. But I think, on balance, they’ll survive. If this is the worst thing I ever do to the psyches of my kids then I guess I’m not batting 400 but I’m still pretty darn close. Of course, it won’t be the worst thing and I’m sure my average is much lower than that! We all at least try to do the best we can, I hope. Thanks for the website info though, Scott. Next time I’ll check it out. My only excuse this time is that Michael Medved is on vacation and I usually rely on him.

Oh no, Dan! Your little soccer warriors might be permanently damaged from being exposed to the concept of shacking up!

Actually, they would be "damaged." They would learn that sex is not something for a marriage but rather to be enjoyed as leisure with as much license as they can manage. They would learn from Superman that men can simply use women for sex without actually committing to them. Maybe the little tykes’ sexuality should be encouraged (actually, many clothing lines and teeny-boper music and dancing already does so). I don’t mind exposing my children (when they’re older) to the idea that some people actually do this, though they will learn that it is wrong.

Well Phil, there are still some of us who don’t think it’s wise to subject a 5 year old little boy to the latest cultural "breakthroughs." Or perhaps you would have me air the latest Austin Powers movie for them? Lest the little fellas not fully grasp the connotations of a "Yea Baby!"

But the rational amongst us knows there’s no need to hurry that; there’s all the time in the world for them to form their own opinion about this post-modern age. And I’m sure they will.

But as for the "warriors" themselves, they each made an all star team, and each led their teammates to their respective championships. And one of the deciding games went extra innings. You’d be surprised how excited ALL of those kids were. Too bad you weren’t there so as you could have given a stern lecture that those kids weren’t supposed to enjoy competition, nor were they to strive for victory. No. They were only to enjoy the game for it’s own sake, irrespective of the outcome. Yea, that would have went over well....

It’s interesting to see the opinions you form without any knowledge. Don’t you get weary of mockery, sarcasm, caritcature, the telltales of a jaded mind. I know I would.

They would learn that sex is not something for a marriage but rather to be enjoyed as leisure with as much license as they can manage. They would learn from Superman that men can simply use women for sex without actually committing to them.

Well Tony, if they learned that sex can be enjoyed as leisure, good for them. The second lesson is one I’m not so sure they would necessarily learn. MAYBE they’d assume that women might enjoy sex too, rather than only using it as a cynical tool to hold a man down. I don’t know, maybe they’d just watch the movie to see a super hero flying around, instead of jotting down notes and learning life lessons.

Dan- what kind of soccer has extra innings?

Whoa, Dan, it sounds like somebody needs to relax a bit. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe all that competition is too tough on kids? What about the losers? Do you ever think about them? Have you ever checked to see how the losers are feeling? If some of them end up killing themselves on down the road because they don’t feel like there worth while, then how good is that, huh? Why NOT enjoy the game for it’s own sake? Baseball or soccer or whatever you’re talking about can be a lot of fun even without keeping score. Or hey, have you ever just had a nice relaxing afternoon with your kids and a frisbee, or do you have to make your little kids into paramilitary warriors for that too? Geez, you parents should just relax, loosen your tie a bit, ok?

Phil, can you explain why kids watching the movie would not learn that shacking up with a woman encourages men to have all the sex they want without marrying and thus committing to a woman?

Sure Tony, it’s pretty simple. A five-year old isn’t thinking, "Hey, why aren’t they married? How come Lois doesn’t have a ring?" What little boy is worried about something like that (unless maybe someone TELLS him to be worried about something like that)?

And what is the deal your OBSESSION with committing to a woman and NOT having plenty of sex? Go ahead and fire back about out-of-wedlock births and abortion and other dreadful sins, but I’m talking about two responsible, consenting, birth control-using (and as a bonus, heterosexual!) adults who don’t want to get married but DO want to have sex. The Christian Right hates sex, and they don’t want anyone else having it.

But this whole debate is absurd, because little kids get excited about a guy in a cape flying around, not the marital status of the female lead.

The boys were in two leagues, one was soccer, the other baseball. They’re in a soccer camp right now. They asked to get in those leagues because most of their friends are in them.

My nephews are OK with the competition, and their parents aren’t pushing them in any way to be more competitive. Phil created a caricature. But it hasn’t anything to do with reality.

Now there were some parents who were clearly overboard. For instance there was one kid on an opposing team, probably the best player too, who clearly wasn’t enjoying himself. He caught pop flys, had a double play, and every single hit was for extra bases. But nonetheless, it looked like it was all drudgery for him. And it was VERY noticeable. That little kid had a look like he was "going over the top" during the Somme offensive. And in the extra innings, he made a blunder, allowing himself to get doubled up down the 3d base path. And his mother just snapped out on him in front of everybody. It was so bad, that one of the other parents on that kid’s team actually said OUT LOUD: "The kid is still a good player." That didn’t seem to cut it with his mother. Now if Phil were directing his comments towards that kid’s parents, I’d understand. My sister has noticed that little boy before, because he has often played against my nephews, and the kid is so big and athletic that you can’t help but notice him. He really stands out. And my sister said that he NEVER looks like he’s enjoying himself, whatever sport he’s playing. I’ve only seen that kid a few times, but I’ve noticed how his parents place a great deal of pressure on him.

But we’re not like that with Connor or Ryan.

I went to a showing yesterday afternoon and found it to be a pretty good movie. There were many scene overlaps from the first Superman which made me think a bit about the commentary that the original conveyed versus the T.V. serial from the 50s. I also remembered that Batman has changed over time as well. I also didn’t find much of the Messianic overtones as were conveyed in some of the trailers.

As for the whole out of wedlock illegitimate child thing, I think that after watching the entire film (especially the last 10 minutes)you gain some different insights into the nature of the relationship of Superman and Lois. After all that part of the plot line is a continuation of the romance from Superman II (remember the silver bean bag?). For those who haven’t seen the film I wouldn’t have any qualms against taking my 13 year old pluses to watch this version.

Whoa, where are y’all from? This is a very tame PG-13 movie. If I had children over 12, I would be totally comfortable with them seeing it. The only big deal is some dirty sex refrences from Ms. Lane. However, any middle schooler says the same stuff with the same connotation on the playground; it doesn’t go to the next step. But there is not excessive violence, are hardly any other sexual things. Don’t worry about it.

The live-in boyfriend isn’t too big of a deal. It is a "normal" family unit as far as I could tell. While marriage is nice, the boy calls his father "Dad" which says alot about the role of the father. It is a legit relationship.

The post-modern hero is an interesting critique about a portion of the movie that requires more thought on my part. It didn’t bother me at the time--doing justice does require serious soul-searching, but maybe it’s a little excessive on the selfishness??? Not sure what the critique is, but there may be something.

For the religious the most disturbing is the Jesus references. Superman is sent to earth by his father to save them; "The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son." Add this to the world saving son having his own planet and we began to quip that maybe a Mormon had a hand in this version. Honestly though the idea of Superman being paralleled to Jesus was a little weird especially when the family scenario is fully explained. Tones of the Da Vinci Code??/

All told though a good movie. Good wins, evil is vanquished, and the soul is uplifted. Take the family and get the kids into the world, explain the tricky parts wisely and the world will thank you later--and you’ll be a "dad" or "mom" even if you aren’t married.

Well, my sis took the little guys to the flick.

Little Ryan fell asleep. And Connor yawned through vast portions, so this has probably been a case of "much ado about nothing...."

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/8682