Thursday, April 14, 2016

Recap: "Superman" Part 3: Double Jeopardy

And now, the film shifts gears once again, as brain meets brawn. Might meets mind. The Son of Krypton versus... um, the Baldness Below the Streets?

Yeah, that's not catching on any time soon.
The day after Lois' night with Superman, Lois and Miss Teschmacher read all about it.

"Geez Louise, he eats when he's hungry! Can you believe it, Mr. Luthor?"
Lex: "Miss Teschmacher, some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."
Miss Teschmacher: "Lex, what has chewing gum got to do with the secrets of the universe?"

Hey, the Anti-Life Equation!
Lex tries to figure out how to use the newly-gained information to his advantage, despite Otis's bout of slapstick pulling the ladder out from under him as he browses his library.

Lex: "In the interview, he says that the planet Krypton exploded in 1948."

And yet, Jor-El claimed to have been dead for thousands of years. Not only that, but if Superman did reveal that Krypton exploded in 1948, and said he was sent off as a baby, he just outed himself as being about thirty. So much for "over 21."

Anyway, Otis is slow on what Lex is trying to get at.

Lex: "Do you know why the number 200 is so vitally descriptive to both you and me? It's your weight and my IQ."

Lex tells them that they can assume that some of the particles from Krypton may have floated to Earth. And he even finds a record in his books about a meteorite from Addis Ababa, which Lex theorizes is his ace-in-the-hole.

Lex: "The level of specific radioactivity is so high to anyone from the planet Krypton this substance is lethal!"

Which Lex figured out because...


Anyway, he starts crafting an evil scheme to kill Superman, aided by the reveal that Superman can't see through lead. Way to go, Lois.

Soon enough, Lex enacts the next stage of his evil plan by sending a remote controlled car to flip over in the middle of the road where a convoy is hauling a nuclear missile. When the convoy arrives, they find Miss Teschmacher lying on the ground, pretending to be hurt while Otis sneaks onboard the missile hauler. The army guys and their superior (who I will be calling Major Nelson, since he's played by Larry Hagman) try to figure out what to do in a scene that wouldn't exactly fly today.

Soldier: "She's having trouble breathing, sir. What do you think?"
Major Nelson: "Well, I suggest a vigorous chest massage. If that doesn't work, uh, mouth-to-mouth."
Soldier: "Yes, sir!"

But Major Nelson insists that this soldier will not be sexually harassing this woman under the guise of saving her life.

Major Nelson: "I won't have one of my men do anything I wouldn't be prepared to do myself."

So he orders his men to turn around while he does it himself. Wonderful.

Over with Otis, he reprograms the rocket according to Luthor's instructions written on his arm in marker. As he works, an ambulance, driven by Lex himself, comes for Miss Teschmacher. As they all drive off, Lex double checks that Otis did his job properly.

Lex: "It isn't that I don't trust you, but uh... I-I don't trust you, Otis. What did you do?"

Otis explains that he reprogrammed the coordinates to 38-67-117.

Lex: "What about the fourth one?"


Lex: "The third one was supposed to be 11, and the fourth one, 7."

Well, then maybe he should have driven the ambulance instead of doing the technical work. Oh, well, too late to change it now.

In a second scheme, Lex and a black-eyed Otis drive a truck hauling an entire house in the opposite direction of the navy while Miss Teschmacher sneaks up to the second missile being hauled and sets new coordinates.

Over at the Hoover Dam, Jimmy Olsen is busy taking pictures. You might be wondering what he's doing on the Nevada/Arizona border when Metropolis is all the way over in... um... a different state. I think. Well, we get our answer when we see Lois conducting an interview while driving, leading to the inevitable close call.

Lois Lane Near-Death Count: 5

"Um... do you want me to hold that microphone?"
"I'll ask the questions, if you don't mind."
Apparently, history seems to be reversing itself. In the past, white people offered blankets soaked in smallpox for vast acres of fertile land. But it seems that somebody has been paying through the nose for worthless desert....

Back at the Daily Planet, Clark looks for Lois, only to find that she's out in the desert investigating somebody buying up all the worthless desert. And if that weren't strange enough, Perry shows him a dispatch they got from Addis Ababa.

Perry White: "People break into a museum at night, kill two people, and what do they take? A worthless piece of meteorite. Now, how do you figure that?"

While Clark's in Perry's office, he tries to speechify some backbone into the mild mannered dork. But all of a sudden, there's a loud ringing in Clark's ears as all the dogs in Metropolis go nuts, almost as if the sound is heralding the phenomenal rest of the movie.

Voice: "This is Lex Luthor. Only one thing alive with less than four legs can hear this frequency, Superman. And that's you. In approximately five minutes, a poisoned gas pellet containing propane lithium compound will be released through thousands of air ducts in this city, effectively annihilating half of the population of Metropolis."

So Clark sneaks off as Perry continues to look out the window and rant about finding more info on Superman.

Perry White: "Find out who he is. What's he like? Where did he get that blue suit? Did he have it made? Is it silk? Is it plastic?"

No, we narrowly avoided a Superman in a plastic suit.
Voice: "I know it all seems a bit much, but how else was I going to meet you, Superman? I knew you'd never accept an invitation to tea. But a disaster, with people in danger, people who need help... Oh, I just knew you couldn't resist that chance to sort of pitch in. You know what I mean?"

So Clark jumps out a different window and uses his apparent shapeshifting powers to change into his Superman suit. Earlier, when he changed in the revolving door, I figured that he changed so quickly that it was just visible as a blur. But here, he jumps out the window and crossfades from his suit into his costume.

Wouldn't be the strangest power he's ever had.
Voice: "There's a strong streak of good in you, Superman. But then, nobody's perfect. Almost nobody."

Superman uses his super-hearing to locate the source of the transmission, and ends up spinning around to drill through the city street. He ends up in the abandoned maintenance tunnels and makes his way toward Lex Luthor's lair after passing through the gauntlet. Automated machine guns, fire, and even a chamber that freezes him into a solid block of ice. For a second.

At the end of it all, Superman bashes down the think, steel door to Lex Luthor's parlor.

Lex: "It's open, come in."

And so, we've reached the part of the film that is, in my opinion, not only the best part of this movie, but any Superman movie to date: the meeting between Lex Luthor and Superman. I mean, Lex has gone through the movie so far quipping at his henchmen. But now his sarcastic wit and evil scheming has a straight man to bounce off of.

Ever the gracious host, Lex tells Otis to take the gentleman's cape, which he ends up deciding might not be the best idea.

You don't tug on Superman's cape, after all.
Lex admits that the gas pellet scheme was one he'd been thinking of, but hadn't gotten around to yet.

Superman: "Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?"
Lex Luthor: "No. By causing the death of innocent people."

We cut to the stock footage representing the Army/Navy missile launches before Lex continues. Luckily for him, the abandoned train terminal he's using as a lair has a map of the US on the floor.

Lex Luthor: "As you may or may not know, I am, as they say, very heavy into real estate. To make money in that game, you have to buy for a little and sell for a lot, right?"

Lex ends up outlining the exact problem I pointed out with his little spiel on land in the first part of my Recap.

Lex Luthor: "How to make the land more valuable between the time you buy it and the time you sell it?"

"I flip houses."
Lex has a plan that's a bit more involved, but much more profitable. He points out California, and asks if Superman has heard of the San Andreas Fault.

Superman: "Yes, it's the joining together of two landmasses. The fault line is unstable and shifting, which is why you get earthquakes in California from time to time."

Lex continues the lesson with glass sheets over the map to illustrate his idea. He says that everything to the west of the fault is valuable real estate. To the East, nothing but wasteland.

Lex Luthor: "Which just so happens to be owned by..."
Otis: "Lex Luthor Incorporated."

"It's a bit of a mouthful, I know. I'm trying to figure out a way to shorten it. LuthorCorp?"
The key part of Lex's plan is the next part, where a 500-megaton bomb set at the right part in the fault sends half of California into the ocean, killing millions, but allowing Lex's desert to become valuable coastal territory, which he plans on converting into giant cities. Lexington, Lex Springs, Luthorville, Marina del Lex, and Otisburg... which he doesn't remember adding.

Otis: "Miss Teschmacher, she's got her own place...."

The aptly named "Teschmacher Peaks," of course.

Otis cleans off his addition to the map while Superman tells Lex that his plan won't ever work. But Lex tells him that it's already begun. As Lois and Jimmy continue their business out West, the Army and Navy find themselves unable to adjust the trajectory of either missile, which are now both heading off course. Superman continues to tell Lex that he's deluded, but Lex believes otherwise.

Lex: "It's history. It's happening, Superman."

"Wait, really? Aw, nuts, I'm not allowed to interfere, then."
Miss Teschmacher informs Lex that the missiles are on their way.

Superman: "There's two of them?"
Lex: "Yes, Superman, double jeopardy. Even you, with your great speed, couldn't stop both of them."

Yeah, yeah, cue the How it Should Have Ended, I know. I think more kids these days are familiar with that than the actual scene.

Lex: "While I, on the other hand, could stop them with my detonator."

Now, a lot of people like to argue that setting off a nuke's self destruct would still end up sending radiation everywhere, but this actually isn't the case. Setting off a nuke is actually a very delicate, precise procedure, which is why they're programmed to detonate just before they hit the ground. So when a nuclear missile's self-destruct goes off, it ends up wrecking the important parts and turning the missile into useless scrap.

Hey, it's been a while since we had one of these.
Superman lifts Lex into the air and watches his eyes. Lex nervously looks at his desk for a moment, which Superman scans fruitlessly. Then he realizes that Lex was sitting on a lead box this whole time.

Superman: "You diseased maniac. Do you think you could hide it from me by encasing it in lead?"

Lex tells Superman to not open the box, but he does anyway, revealing....

And Superman gets a faceful of Kryptonite radiation for his trouble. Interestingly enough, there are several rocks in the box, only one of which is glowing.

"I didn't know which one to steal, so I just grabbed them all. The glowing one seems obvious, in retrospect."
Lex sticks the Kryptonite necklace around Superman's neck as he tells the Man of Steel where the second missile is headed, thanks to Otis's mistake in resetting the coordinates: Hackensack, New Jersey. And with the knowledge of exactly which innocent lives are at stake, Lex pushes Superman into his swimming pool before heading to his monitors to watch his scheme unfold.

Miss Teschmacher: "Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack."

Lex simply looks at his watch and shakes his head. As Superman fails to remove the Kryptonite from around his neck, the missiles speed off. Miss Teschmacher can't help but watch the poor man struggle as she struggles herself with her morals.

Superman: "You can't just stand there and let innocent people... millions of innocent people die."

Superman begs for her help, and she agrees... on one condition. She read in the Daily Planet that Superman never lies, and makes him promise to save Hackensack first. Reluctantly, he agrees, knowing that Lois and Jimmy would be at risk of being caught in the other blast. Miss Teschmacher dives in, pulls him to the edge of the pool, gives him a bit of "mouth-to-mouth," and removes the Kryptonite.

Superman: "Why did you kiss me first?"
Miss Teschmacher: "I didn't think you'd let me later."

He advises her to not stick around before flying through the roof to save Hackensack, New Jersey. Which sounds a little lackluster when I put it like that. He manages to tilt the missile into the air while Lex curses Miss Teschmacher's name. He deposits the missile into the atmosphere, but arrives back on Earth too late.  The fault is hit, and sends a shockwave through California.

And Jimmy Olsen stares directly into a nuclear blast.
Good thing a nuclear explosion can't hurt you unless it physically touches you. Like a tornado.
As Lois Lane narrowly manages to drive away from an exploding gas station (Lois Lane Near-Death Count: 6), Superman manages to dive into the molten magma under the crust and mostly put the pieces back together... but the damage is done. Superman goes to metaphorically, and probably literally put out fires, including saving a bus of kids, replacing a train track with his own body, and even saving Jimmy Olsen and a small town from the Hoover Dam bursting.

Very small. Model-sized, in fact.
But there's one person he's just not quick enough to rescue.
Lois Lane's car ends up stalling while the Earth opens up to swallow her car, punctuated by a rockslide completely covering her. Despite flying as fast as he can, he doesn't make it in time. He merely pulls her dead body out of the wreckage.

This is not a hoax. Not a dream. Not an imaginary story.

Lois Lane is dead.

Lois Lane Actual Death Counter: 1
It's a very powerful moment, and Christopher Reeve's acting makes you feel Superman's anguish. With a primal scream of fury, Superman flies up into the sky, finding visions of both Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. Jor-El reiterates that he should never interfere, and Jonathan Kent reiterates that Clark is on Earth for a reason.

"Oh, man, I think that kryptonite left me tripping balls."
In the end, he decides that Earth dad is best dad, and flies so fast around the world that he reverses time itself by spinning the Earth backwards.

Okay, this warrants some analysis.
The single most criticized thing about this movie is how Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth to make time go backwards. However, the general consensus is that that's not actually what's happening. Many agree that Superman was flying so fast that he went back in time. The Earth spinning backwards was supposed to illustrate that effect, not show that he reversed the Earth's rotation. Despite the fact that Superman also seems to fly the opposite way around the Earth in order to get it back up to regular speed.

But yeah, it's a little bit of a deus ex machina that Superman can suddenly fly fast enough to go back in time, especially when you consider that Lex Luthor pointed out that he can't fly fast enough to stop both missiles. Although, as we all know, you only have to go 88 miles per hour to travel through time....

Once back in the past, Superman arrives as Lois fails to restart her car, and she rants about the earthquakes and gas station explosions she was nearly caught in.

Now, as I mentioned before in a Gravity Falls Recap, there are two main forms of fictional time travel. Personal Timeline Travel, and Duplicate Time Travel.

Let's illustrate this with a hypothetical event to alter through time travel: You slip on a banana peel and break your leg.

Personal Timeline Travel
Having traveled back to before you broke your leg, you bend down and pick it up before you accidentally slip on it. This is the method used by "The Time Traveler's Pig."

Duplicate Time Travel
While your past self is busy, you throw the banana peel away and watch your past self not slip and fall while you hide in the bushes. This is the method used by Back to the Future Part II.

Strictly speaking, the second form is cleaner to deal with, in terms of paradoxes, while the first one is easier to keep track of for most people.

Superman has chosen neither. You see, Superman ended up reversing time to undo the breaking of the Hoover Dam. Then he heads over to Lois. She rants about the earthquake, so the missile must have hit the fault. And yet, there doesn't seem to be a duplicate Superman running around saving the day, even though he's listening to Lois talk instead of saving that town.

So this film is inadvertently showing us Superman deciding to sacrifice an entire town to save the life of a single woman... that is, until Jimmy shows up, confirming that Superman saved his life, and probably that town, too.

Though too much time travel will erase Jimmy Olsen from the McFly family photo....
So instead, I'm throwing up my hands in surrender and assuming that Superman did some stuff offscreen, or we're dealing with a giant paradox.

And maybe a pair of Supermans while we're at it.
With the day saved, Superman flies off as Lois complains that Clark is never around when you need him. But that triggers an idea. The wheels turn in her head, until....

Lois: "Lois Lane, that is the silliest idea."

"I mean, lasses? That's the flimsiest disguise ever. There's no way it could actually work."
As she wistfully thinks about her hero, Superman flies back to Metropolis, picks up Lex Luthor and Otis, and delivers them to prison as they await trial for the failed crime of the century. But it seems as though the warden doesn't recognize Lex Luthor. That is, until he finally takes off his wig.

Wouldn't be the last time Lex Luthor lost his hair at the end of the movie.
He tries to make a badass boast about how the walls won't hold him, but Otis's repetition of everything he says kind of makes it a futile effort as they're dragged off.

Warden: "This country is safe again, Superman. Thanks to you."
Superman: "No, sir. Don't thank me, Warden. We're all part of the same team."

And so, Superman flies up into the atmosphere as the music swells, smiling to the camera as the ending credits begin rolling.

"See you next time. You might not want to see the two after that one, though."
Superman. Classic Masterpiece? Overrated snoozefest? Let's review.

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