Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Recap: "Superman" Part 2: This Looks like a Day Job For....

Now that we've gone over Superman's origin, it's time for the movie to shift gears from subtle sci-fi into costumed superheroics.

It's less jarring than it sounds.
The next act of the movie begins in a dingy taxi, which soon arrives at the offices of the Daily Planet. Inside, reporters type furiously as a young man (Marc McClure) goofs off with his camera. He ends up taking a picture of a lovely young lady (Margot Kidder) who cheerfully asks him a question.

Woman: "How many T's in 'bloodletting'?"
Photographer: "Two."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these two are none other than Dave McFly Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.
Jimmy: "What're you writing, Miss Lane?"
Lois: "An ode to spring. How do you spell 'massacre'?"

Geez. Sounds like she's doing a story on Gotham City.
She hands the story over to the editor, Perry White (Jackie Cooper), and gives him a few tips on how to make it look good on the front page.

Perry White: "There's only one P in 'rapist.'"

I don't know what kind of news story involves the words "massacre," "bloodletting," and "rapist," and I'm not sure I want to know.

Perry introduces Lois to their newest reporter, a young man named Clark Kent, who somehow got hired despite the fact that he dropped out of high school during Autumn to head to the Arctic. She walks right by him without looking at his face, leaving Jimmy and Clark to get acquainted while she tries to hype up her story to Perry.

Lois: "It's got everything; it's got sex, it's got violence, it's got the ethnic angle...."
Perry White: "Yeah, so does a lady wrestler with a foreign accent."

He has Clark try to open up a bottle for him while Lois insists that she could use this as a basis for an entire series of articles.

Lois: "'Making Sense of Senseless Killings' by Lois Lane."

"I just suffocated a mailman with a swazzle. Decipher that"
As she goes on and on, she doesn't even pause while she takes the bottle from Clark and hits it on the table to loosen it.

Perry White: "Lois, you're pushing a bunch of rinky-dink tabloid garbage."

In other words, what passes for news today.

The discussion is interrupted when Clark ends up getting soda on himself, leading Lois to quickly apologize.

Lois: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shake it up like that."
Clark: "Oh, of course not, Lois. I mean, why would anyone want to make a total stranger look like a fool?"

Says the alien superbeing who only pretends to be clumsy, thereby making Lois look like a fool.

Things resume as normal when Perry yells at Jimmy for standing around while Clark needs a towel. He tells Lois to introduce Clark to the other employees before he takes over as the reporter in charge of the city beat. Which, until now, has been Lois's job.

Perry White: "Lois, Clark Kent may seem like just a mild-mannered reporter, but listen. Not only does he know how to treat his editor-in-chief with the proper respect, not only does he have a snappy, punchy prose style, but he is, in my 40 years in this business, the fastest typist I have ever seen."

And not only that, he's a pretty sweet guy, too. The very next thing Clark does is ask for half of his salary to be sent to an address in Kansas every week.

Lois: "Your bookie, right?"
Clark: "My what?"
Lois: "Don't tell me. He sends a check every week to his sweet, grey-haired ol' mother."
Clark: "Actually, she's silver-haired."

Perry agrees, and something amazing happens. She stops making fun of the big lug for a second.

Lois: "Any more at home like you?"
Clark: "Uh, not really, no."

With the pleasantries over, Lois shows him to his desk, and he "accidentally" bumps into her.

Superman! Last Son of Krypton! With his amazing powers of disguise, he runs into women's behinds!
Once that little "accident" is over, Clark sits down and meets the man he'll be working next to.

Bill: "Hi, Bill Breesen."
Clark: "Hi, Clark Kent."

Ah, he's saying hi before he leaves the movie, never to be seen again.

After a hard day of reporting, Clark exits the front elevator behind Lois, who's busy listening to a friend's story about the man she met at a dude ranch. Once she leaves, Clark gets a chance to talk to Lois again and tell her about his day.

Clark: "Gosh, on the whole, I'd say it's been swell."
Lois: "'Swell'?"
Clark: "Yep."
Lois: "You know, Clark, um, there are very few people left in the world who feel comfortable saying that word."
Clark: "What word?"
Lois: "'Swell.'"
Clark: 'Really? I always thought it was kind of natural."

A cute little conversation, but I can't help but think it plays out like somebody telling their grandma that she shouldn't use the N-word anymore.

Anyway, they continue to walk down the street together until an arm with a gun sticks out of an alleyway and tells them to follow him.

Lois: "Clark, I think we'd better get out of here."
Clark: "We'd better do what he says, Lois."

Clark continues to stammer as they shuffle into the alleyway, all the while making sure to stand between Lois and the gun. Instead of opening up a can of Kryptonian whoopass, he tries calm words.

Clark: "You can't solve society's problems with a gun."

Surprisingly enough, it seems to work.

Mugger: "You know something, buddy, you're right. I'm gonna turn over a new leaf."

But starting a new life takes money, so he's still going to take Lois's purse. Clark suggests that she give in, but she ends up kicking the guy in the head after she "accidentally" drops her purse. When she sees him try to fire his gun, she turns around in fear, but Clark manages to catch the bullet and fall to the ground while the mugger runs off.

And now it's time to start up the Lois Lane Near-Death Count! That's one.

Once the mugger's nowhere to be seen, Lois frantically checks on Clark... only to see that he fainted. She grabs her purse while Clark allows himself a sly little glance at the audience.

"Impressed? I know you are."
They head back to the city streets as Clark asks Lois if maybe the whole ordeal wasn't worth it.

Clark: "Is it work risking your life over ten dollars, two credit cards, a hairbrush, and a lipstick?"
Lois: "How did you know that?"
Clark: "Know what?"
Lois: "You just described the exact contents of my purse."
Clark: "Hm. Um... wild guess."

Geez, Clark, you're worse at subtlety than Peter "I was in the neighborhood" Parker.

While they get a cab, the goofy, bumbling music starts up as the exact sort of guy you'd expect that music to play for (Ned Beatty) heads down the street. His name is Otis and the cops are tailing him, hoping that he'll lead them to the big boss, a man named Lex Luthor. Otis gets a paper from a blind newsman as he tries to drum up excitement about the news about an experimental missile. He also grabs a pretzel that he doesn't pay for... until the man's dog starts barking. Otis heads into a train station and down a tunnel, giving the cops the slip as he ducks into a secret passage. As he makes his way down the hidden tunnel, a man watches him over the security feeds.

Man: "It's amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving."

This mysterious man also activates a booby trap that pushes the nosy cop into the path of another train.

"He was only twenty-eight years from retirement..."
The man's assistant (Valerie Perinne) calls him sick, but he doesn't care one bit.

Man: "Sick, Miss Tesmacher? Sick when I'm mere days from executing the crime of the century?"

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Lex Luthor.

Lex: "How do you choose to congratulate the greatest criminal mind of our time? Huh? Do you tell me that I'm brilliant? Oh, no no no, that would be too obvious, I grant you. Charismatic?"

Well, he is played by the legendary Gene Hackman.

Lex: "Fiendishly gifted?"
Miss Techsmacher: "Try 'twisted.'"

So, why exactly does Lex have a personal assistant who doesn't approve of his cartoonish supervillainy? That's just asking for trouble. He keeps telling her to get away from the filing cabinets, too, so I can only wonder why he even keeps her around.

Miss Teschmacher: "Tell me, Lex, why do so many people have to die for the crime of the century?"
Lex: "Why? You ask why?"

"Have you read the papers? It's the only way I can top that rapist who went on a bloodletting massacre."
Lex: "Why does the phone always ring when you're in the bathtub? Why is the most brilliantly diabolical leader of our time surrounding himself with total nincompoops?"

I'm wondering the same thing, there.

Otis: "I'm back, Mr. Luthor!"
Lex: "Yes, I was just talking about you."

Lex reads the newspaper he had Otis get, and sees the front page regarding nuclear missiles.

Lex: "Thanks to the generous help of the United States government, we are about to be involved in the greatest real-estate swindle of all time."

Even greater than convincing rubes that you want to sell them a bridge in Brooklyn?

Miss Teschmacher: "Lex, what is this obsession with real estate? All the time, 'land, land, land.'"
Lex: "Miss Teschmacher, when I was six years old, my father said to me..."
Miss Teschmacher: "'Get out.'"
Lex: "Before that, he said, 'Son, stocks may rise and fall, utilities and transportation systems may collapse, people are no damn good, but they will always need land and they'll pay through the nose to get it.'"

Well, that's true, but there also has to be some kind of inherent value to the land. I mean, whether it be some kind of natural resource, or aesthetic value, or tactical advantage, or....

Lex: "'Remember,' my father said...."
Otis: "Land."

Fine, whatever, land for the sake of land. Says the man who's perfectly happy with his underground lair, even taking a moment to defend it from Miss Teschmacher's verbal barbs.

The next day at the Daily Planet, work continues as usual for the day. Clark's work impresses the chief, Lois thinks there's a Z in "brassiere," and Clark ends up asking Lois out to dinner. But she'll be busy tonight hounding the president at Air Force One. Clark asks her why the heck she never lets up, and Lois responds thusly.

Lois: "What for? Hm? I mean, I've seen how the other half lives. My sister, for instance. Three kids, two cats, and one mortgage. Yuck!"

What's wrong with cats?

Lois: "I would go bananas in a week!"

Nope, not making a joke.

Clark: "Can I take you to the airport?"
Lois: "Not unless you can fly."

"Would you settle for leaping a tall building in a single bound?"
She lets him mail something for her, though, as a consolation prize.

Lois Lane soon arrives on the roof of the Daily Planet, ready to board the helicopter for her meeting with Air Force One. Unfortunately, her ride snags a cable and starts going out of control. With numerous lives at risk from the helicopter dangling by a thread from the roof, and Lois herself risking her own life by trying to escape the deathtrap, this looks like a job for you-know-who.

Clark exits the Daily Planet building and looks up to see what all the commotion's about.

"Huh. You'd think my super-hearing would have caught the sound of Lois screaming."
And true to form, he heads to the nearest payphone to change... only to find a bit of a problem. Phones booths aren't actual booths anymore. Yeah, they were already making fun of Superman's favorite changing room in the 70's. So instead, he heads into a revolving door and spins around at super-speed to change, shocking a nearby 70's-as-hell pimp. Lois's grip finally fails, and she begins to plummet... into the arms of a strong, handsome Kryptonian at a speed that should still break her back.

Kal-El: "Easy, miss. I've got you."
Lois: "You- you've got me? Who's got you?"

He even ends up grabbing the falling helicopter with a single hand and setting both it and her down safely on the roof of the building.

Lois Lane Near-Death Count: 2
Kal-El: "Well, I certainly hope this little incident hasn't put you off flying, miss. Statistically speaking, of course, it's still the safest way to travel."

Before he goes, Lois just has one question.

Lois: "Who are you?"
Kal-El: "A friend."

With that, he flies off, leaving Lois to take the weight off her legs for a second.

And so, Kal-El lazily drifts through the air, coming across a man with a high-tech suction cup system for infiltrating a skyscraper.

Kal-El: "Hi, there. Something wrong with the elevator?"

The startled man lets go and has to be rescued by Kal-El, only to be delivered right to a nearby police officer. Next thing you know, Kal-El gets involved with a shootout between cops and the stuntmen from Kojak and ends up taking care of the ones who try to get away on a boat... by delivering the boat straight to the police station. And to top it all off, he even rescues a cat from a tree.

Girl: "Mommy, mommy! Frisky was stuck in the tree! Then this man swooped out of the sky and gave him to me."
Mother: "Haven't I told you to stop telling lies?"

The characters are offscreen, but the next thing we hear is a sharp smack, which... isn't as funny as it used to be. From a modern standpoint, it looks like our hero just failed to save a girl from her abusive parent.

Elsewhere, Air Force One is flying through a thunderstorm when suddenly a bolt of lightning comes out of nowhere to utterly demolish one of its engines. "Safest way to travel" my foot! This is the second incident tonight! Luckily, Kal-El is once again on the case, taking the place of the engine and allowing the plane to resume its course.

Wait, no, sorry, that's Bizarro. Either that, or they ended up mirroring this shot.
Some time later, Kal-El recounts the situation to the hologram of his dad.

Jor-El: "You... enjoyed it."
Kal-El: "I don't know what to say, father. I'm afraid I just got carried away."
Jor-El: "I anticipated this, my son."
Kal-El: "You couldn't have. You couldn't have imagined..."
Jor-El: "How good it felt?"

Jor-El basically says that what's done is done; the world knows about him. But he also stresses that Kal-El must maintain his cover as Clark Kent.

Kal-El: "Why?"
Jor-El: "The reasons are two. First: You cannot save humanity 28 hours a day."
Kal-El: "24."
Jor-El: "Or 24."

Nice touch.

Jor-El: "Your help will be called for endlessly. Even for those tasks which human beings can solve themselves. As they're happy to abuse their resources in such a way."

You know, that's actually a good point. If Kal-El roamed the streets in his spandex 24/7, the guy would never get a chance to relax, and that would not end well.

"Hey, Superman, can you do me a favor?"
"I'm on break."
"Bullshit. Superman don't take breaks."
<SMASH>
"Really? You look pretty broken to me."
Jor-El: "Second: Your enemies will discover their only way to hurt you. By hurting the people you care for."

Same old, same old.

Jor-El: "Lastly..."

Okay, I think Kal-El should stop consulting this hologram for advice. I mean, he can't even understand the difference between two and three.

With one last message warning his son to not let his vanity get to his head like the Science Council did, Jor-El fades away. So... unlike Jor-El, I actually do have two things to say.
  1. If Jor-El's plan was for Kal-El to hide his powers away from the world, then what's with the overkill Clark Kent disguise? I mean, the real Clark Kent isn't bumbling and doesn't need glasses. Why continually put on an act if he has no original intentions of a secret double life?
  2. Again, if Kal-El had no plans to become a superhero, then why does he wear a costume in secret?  
Anyway, the news goes nuts about these reports of a flying man. Miss Teschmacher watches a report stating that the whole thing must be a hoax, and Lex yells at her to turn that crap off from his pool. She asks him whether or not she thinks this guy's for real.

Lex: "If he is, he's not from this world."
Miss Teschmacher: "Why?" Lex: "If any human being were gonna perpetrate such a fantastic hoax, it would have been me!"

The logical conclusion.
Lex calls for his robe and starts musing over the fact that his "crime of the century" now has a super-powered do-gooder in the way. But he's not really upset. Quite the contrary, he almost relishes the opportunity for a challenge. Speaking of a challenge, the next day, Perry White tells his staff that he wants their paper to be synonymous with this flying guy. But not in the Daily Bugle fashion of printing slander.

"Libel."
Perry wants the real scoop on the blue guy, and he'll use that story to make his paper big. Clark suggests that this guy doesn't seem like the type for shameless promotion, though.

Perry White: "Exactly how would you know that, Kent?"

My God, thank you, Perry.

It's a common trope for superheroes to come face-to-face with people who misinterpret their character like this. So the scene where our hero, in their civilian identity, refutes them is also common.  Oftentimes, our hero will get just a bit to protective or specific when defending their own heroic identity, and too often it just gets brushed aside with a vague dismissal.

Peter Parker can waltz right in there and give a passionate spiel about Spider-Man's motivations, and how does JJJ respond?

"Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
I love how Perry actually calls Clark out on this, despite resuming his spiel on how they'll make the Man of Steel an offer he can't refuse.

Perry White: "Has he got a family? Where does he live? What does the S stand for?"

As he rants, Lois finds a note in her papers asking her to meet "a friend" at her place at 8.

Perry White: "Tony, who is he? Mike, what's his name? What's he got hidden under that cape? Batteries of his? Why did he show up last night? Where does he come from?"

Where does he go? Where does he come from, Cotton-Eyed Joe?

"Seriously, Newt, I can't see a thing. This isn't worth the pun."
Perry White: "Does he have a girlfriend? What's his favorite ball team, Kent?"

I love the fact that Clark is clearly about to answer.
Perry White: "Now listen to me, I tell you, boys and girls. Whichever one of you gets it out of him is going to wind up with the single most important interview since..."

Frost grilled Nixon?

Perry White: "...God talked to Moses!"

That wasn't really an interview, though, was it? God pretty much called Moses up to a mountain as said, "Hey, I just want to lay down some quick rules...."

Later that night, at the stroke of eight, Lois wears her best dress and waits on her penthouse balcony for the Man of Steel, doubting that he'll actually show up. But show up he does, just as she pours herself some wine.

Kal-El: "Did you have plans this evening?"
Lois: "Oh, this old thing? No."

No, she always sits out there on the balcony of a penthouse she shouldn't be able to afford in her best dress drinking wine.

Before the interview begins, Lois lights up.

Kal-El: "You really shouldn't smoke, you know, Miss Lane."
Lois: "Don't tell me. Lung cancer, right?"

After a quick scan....

Kal-El: "Well, not yet, thank goodness."

And I'm sure that healthy dose of x-rays is doing wonders for her health. Between the chain-smoking and the burst of radiation Superman just shot into her lungs, I'm calling this number 3 on the Lois Lane Near-Death Counter.

Lois takes a puff, then quickly puts the cigarette out as she offers some wine to her guest.

Kal-El: "No thanks. I never drink when I fly."

"I never fly without drinking."
The interview begins with basic questions. He's not married, doesn't have a girlfriend, older than 21...

Lois: "And how big are you? ...How tall are you?"

"No, wait, I was right the first time. Actually, don't bother answering. Those tight briefs don't hide much."
Lois: "I assume, then, that... the rest of your bodily functions are normal?"
Kal-El: "I beg your pardon?"
Lois: "Well, putting it delicately... do you... eat?"
Kal-El: "Yes, I do, when I'm hungry."

THE GREATEST INTERVIEW SINCE GOD TALKED TO MOSES!

She then asks if he can see through anything, and she tests this by asking what color underwear she's wearing. But she's standing behind a lead planter, so he can't tell. She walks away when she asks if he has a name, and....

Kal-El: "Pink."
Lois: "What?"
Kal-El: "Pink."

"That's a weird name."
She asks about his background, and he tells her the story of how his parents stuck him in a rocket and launched him from their doomed planet of Krypton.

Lois: "Oh, Krypton!"

Yeah, you know, Krypton! Go into space, take a left, follow the hyperspace bypass, it's on the right, you can't miss it.

Lois: "C, R, I..."
Kal-El: "No, actually, it's Krypton, with a K-R-Y-P-T-O-N."

Says who? Did they use English letters on Cripton there, Cal-Ell?

Lois: "Do you like pink?"
Kal-El: "I like pink very much, Lois"

She asks why he's here, and... well, check out this answer.

Kal-El: "I'm here to fight for truth and justice and the American way."

"You know, 'He pulls a gun, you pull a knife, he puts one of your guys in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue.'"
"Um, that's the Chicago way."
"...uh-oh."
Lois: "You're gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country."
Kal-El: "I'm sure you don't really mean that, Lois."

And then he whips out this number to prove his sincerity.

Kal-El: "I never lie."

No, you just maintain a masquerade by pretending to be clumsy and wearing glasses you don't need.

Lois asks him how fast he can fly, but he doesn't know; he's never timed himself. But as a special treat, he picks her up and takes her flying over the city and the countryside. This is probably one of the most famous sequences in Superman film history, if not actually the most famous one. It holds up pretty darn well, too; the effects are still convincing enough, and the sequence manages to treat the gift of flight like the miracle it would be, rather than something that every other hero can do.

Soaring above the clouds, arms outstretched, supported by just her fingertips in flagrant disregard for the laws of physics... even the part where he drops her momentarily on accident; it really is a wonderful sequence.

Lois Lane Near-Death Count: 4
And then the spoken word song starts up.

"Can You Read My Mind?" was originally going to be sung by Margot Kidder over the background. And then they hit a snag during production: Margot Kidder can't sing. Like, at all. The solution was for her to give a Shatner-esque spoken word rendition of the lyrics, rather than hiring a voice double to sing for her. It's a matter of opinion whether or not it's too goofy to enjoy, especially with Christopher Reeve's expression after Margot Kidder's echo-y voice asks "Can you read my mind?"

"Oh my God, I actually can!"
They descend through a cloud before returning to Lois's place, which I can only imagine ruined Lois's dress. That thing's probably dry clean only. Kal-El says good night and flies off, leaving Lois to let it all sink in.

Lois: "What a super man. ...Superman...."

As she thinks about that name, she lets in ol' bumbling Clark Kent, who just came over for their date. She heads into the other room to get ready, leaving Clark alone. He takes off his glasses, stands up straight, and toys with the idea of telling her the truth... but something in his head makes him change his mind.

That seems about right.
And to all of you who think the Clark Kent glasses are a stupid disguise, even after that thorough post I wrote....

This. This right here is why no one can figure out his secret.
Coming up in Part 3! The actual plot, more or less.

2 comments:

  1. Henry Cavill actually tested glasses thing by walking around Station Square. Next to giant Batman v Superman posters. Without glasses. While wearing Superman t-shirt.

    - Faceless Enigma

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    Replies
    1. Roger Moore tells a similar story about Christopher Reeve in his autobiography. When Reeve would go to the studio canteen in his super suit, the ladies were practically following him around. Clark Kent suit? They ignored him like he was an extra.

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