Off the Screen at you?
And I'm not taking any of it back either... besides nobody reads any of my reviews because they give a flying Clark about my opinions. You people read me because I'm funny. Intentionally or not.
So, judging from my admittedly gushy perspective, it would seem that the only thing that could be better than Superman Returns would be Superman Returns in 3D on an IMAX Screen. I would have thought so, and to an extent, I was right, however, Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience is not quite the spectacular improvement over Superman Returns that I imagined it would be. Certainly fans of the film (such as myself) will still thrill to the same excitement that we did while watching it on the merely "BIG" screen. Strangely, however, watching this movie on the "GIANT" screen and in Three Dimensions doesn't quite feel as Super as it should.
For one thing, only four scenes (totaling 26 minutes out of the film's 154 minute run time) are actually in 3D. Is that a valid complaint? Isn't ANY 3D scene a good thing for such a spectacular film? Yes, but yes. I was grateful for every three dimensional second of screen time. The problem is that the "Fourth Wall" managed to be broken by this varied viewing. The 3D glasses could not be worn during the majority of the film (being polarized, they make parts of the picture invisible). To prepare the audience for this, three animated 3D glasses flash on the screen before each enhanced scene, warning the audience to put their glasses on. As anyone who goes to Catholic Church knows, a few hundred people performing a single act at the same time leads to a lot of distracting noise. When the enhanced scenes are over, the same animated Glasses flash again, this time with a red circle-and-slash icon over them. During the waiting periods, we had to keep up with our black-on-black glasses in the narrow seats of the darkened theatre.
Further, while nitpicking would be ridiculous in such a great extra as 3D, one could question the choices of WHICH to enhance as possibly dubious. Director Bryan Singer worked very hard to keep his entry into the films as pure and close-to-Donner as he possibly could. This includes the "3D" Credits shooting forward at you as Kal-El journeys toward Earth through some spectacular Space Scenes. However, this obviously perfect sequence was not enhanced by 3D. Other breathtaking examples were similarly not chosen.
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't easy for a lot of reasons, and the use of Polarized 3D in a Giant Screen format is a thankless process. It probably couldn't have been completed for the ENTIRE movie in time for its release. In short, Singer and company had to choose some things as opposed to others to enhance with 3D.
SPOILER WARNING STARTS HERE! What did get chosen? The early sequence on the Kent Farm in Smallville during which Clark (Brandon Routh) recalls discovering his powers as a young man is our first look at Superman in all three dimensions. It's a sight to see, to be sure, and occasionally it looks like the kid might just bound out into the audience. Still, the affect of the polarization does cause some double vision and the poignant moment where Clark Discovers he can Fly is detracted from by this.
One near-perfect choice (one that I can't imagine them passing up) was the great scene of Superman saving the Shuttle and catching the Jet Liner that carried Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and dropping it right into the Baseball Stadium. So much of this is incredible and the audience is almost tempted to duck as realistic animated wreckage flies toward them. Even though the 3D sadly had to end, an appropriate time is chosen so as not to ruin any second of the action, or brief dialogue. I wouldn't change a thing!
We don't see 3D again until after Superman saves Metropolis from the Earthquake (a scene that seemed to be a shoe-in). Superman's rescue of Lois, Richard (James Marsden) and Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu) from their watery tomb (Lex's sinking ship) actually gets the 3D treatment instead. Which is cool, certainly, especially as the half-a-yacht fals to a deadly splash while Clark and his buddies soar to safety. However, it doesn't seem quite spectacular enough a choice.
Lastly, the Reeve-Homage that precedes the end credits is given a rousing 3D enhancement as we see Routh (still perfectly cast) flying through space to the classic John Willams (by way of John Ottman) score. Now that's a sight to see... until those animated "NO 3D" glasses flashed again, and tore down my precious proscenium arch!
Surely, Singer had to choose wisely for time, capabilities and impact, and he did fine with what he chose, keeping his own council. Let's face it, if my opinion was as good as Singer's, I'd have directed The Usual Suspects and he'd have been the AMC Projectionist who merely taped said film together. As it stands, it's the other way around and Benjamin Disraeli's adage that "Critics are those who have failed in literature and art." still rings true. END SPOILER WARNING!
As for the sight of this great film on the IMAX screen, there were very few drawbacks. As Gulliver knows, magnifying something to that degree makes the flaws therein all the more noteworthy. Those in Superman Returns (though few) are no exception to the rule. The occasional blemishes in the beautiful CGI, for example, are all the more noticeable.
However, so is Singer's attention to detail, which simply flies off the screen even when the 3D glasses are off. Easter Eggs and minor winks and nods (not to mention the cohesion of set design) are seen in great minutiae here. When Clark and Martha (Eva Marie Saint) are discussing his journey(s), a picture of Glenn Ford (who played Clark's Dad Johnathan in the 1978 feature) is easily seen prominently featured on Martha's piano. The cameo appearance of Virgin Head Honcho (and funder of the Virgin Galactic space shuttle program) Richard Branson's turn as the Shuttle Engineer is just perfect for the format! Likewise, Peta Wilson's irritably professional turn as the Press maven Bobbie-Faye is all the sweeter here.
Best of these, however, are the Fan-Specific turns of the classic Television and Serial Lois, Noel Neill (playing Lex's benefactor Gertrude Vanderworth) and classic Television Jimmy Olsen Jack Larson (playing "Bo" The Bartender). The site of the celebrating Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) arm in arm with the now-grown kid who practically originated the role (as Clark is saving the Shuttle) is worth the admission price for any Life-Long Superman fan.
Finally, the CGI-Assisted visage of Marlon Brando's Jor-El (taken from the Donner-directed 1978 outtakes) is given a greater awe on the Giant Screen. The zeroing in on the Evil Eyes of Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor combined with the kind and venerable visage of Brando's Jor-El is a hell of an artistic reconciliation of opposites.
Still, one must wonder, in all this, why the name of James Karen (whose scenes were filmed but deleted) wasn't expunged from the Barn-Sized opening credits. Did they think we wouldn't notice on a screen the size of Skylab?
In true fact, watching Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience is much the same as watching Superman Returns. It's perhaps a bit bigger and with some reformatted scenes, but if you loved the Wide Release, you'll probably want to check this one out. If you hated the Wide Release, well, don't think this is going to change your mind. Personally, I loved both, but the distracting nature of the occasional 3D scene (mixed with the various ramifications thereof) and the breaking of the Suspension of Disbelief barrier (a la Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare) as well as the brief thought of this being "Too Much of a Good Thing" causes me to maybe lean a little heavier on the theatrical release versus the 3D IMAX experience. Even that said, I stand by my statement that Superman Returns is not just good, but great in any version. Therefore Superman Returns: An IMAX 3D Experience receives Four Stars out of Five. Any 3D is good, and there's very little to complain about seeing a movie of this scope on the giant screen. But while we're reformatting Kate Bosworth movies for the 3D and IMAX formats, how about revisiting Blue Crush? I could use some Two Story Tall Bikini Clad Kate flying at me in a little Aqua thong! Think about it you guys, think about it... I'll be in the next reel!
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