Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Director Report Card: Bryan Singer (2000-2006)

4. X-Men
As his past films proved, (especially “The Usual Suspects”) Bryan Singer can do good stuff with ensemble films. And if “X-Men” is nothing else, it is an ensemble film. That the picture’s greatest strength. How the character’s personalities, as well as their superpowers, are understood shortly after meeting them. As soon as we understand those things, the fun stuff, mainly how they interact, can start.The film spends most of it’s time focusing on the cast and even then some characters are left underdeveloped. The story also takes a back seat and is not as strong as it probably should be which means the experience as a whole is not completely satisfying.

Still, on a superhero movie level, “X-Men” is highly successful. The action sequences are well done, the movie is fun, and many of the characters are a case of actor and material being perfectly matched. (Halle Berry aside, everybody gives a great performance.)
[Grade: B+]

5. X2
First off, this sequel improves upon its predecessor by shaping a much stronger story. The tale builds to a nice tension by the end and all the pieces are expertly set up. It maintains the problem of having too many characters and some cast members are underdeveloped or underused. (I’m glad I’m not a Cyclops fan as his part has been reduced significantly.) The movie is smart enough to leave enough room for new characters however, allowing Alan Cummings as Nightcrawler and Brain Cox as General Stryker to shine in their respective parts.

The action scenes are a step-up too. Magnento’s escape, Nightcrawler’s White House assault, the invasion on the school, and Wolverine’s fight with Lady Deathstrike are all memorable set-pieces. While this film is superior to the first, generally speaking, it lacks that sense of comic book fun and excitement that is really necessary for a project such as this. While it’s not a big issue, I think the film takes itself maybe a little too seriously. Still, “X2” is a great sequel.
[Grade: A-]

6. Superman Returns
Visually, this is Bryon Singer's best looking film. His camera dances in and around scenes in a way that I didn't really expect from him. Many of the effects are beautifully done. Not once did I point at an effect and say, "That looks fake." Most notable is the big airplane crash scene, which is just a very well staged, thrilling, and brilliantly paced scene. Kevin Spacey, though a little broad at times, seems to be having a pretty good time playing Lex Luthor. And for a movie that is nearly three hours long, not once did I stop to check the time.My biggest complaint with this film is the acting from the two leads. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane never really convinced me. Brandon Routh lacks a certain charm and all the good stuff he does is basically just ripped from Chris Reeve's performance. Because of this their relationship is never quite as emotionally involving as it should be. What really saves the movie, in the end, is that it's just so heartfelt. Singer's love for the character and the material is palpable. The whole thing is just a big fuzzy love-letter to the Christopher Reeve films, and maybe to a lesser degree, the whole idea of comic book heroes. I'm still not sure if that's a good thing, in the long run, as a fresher approach probably would have been better. Yet this is still a highly enjoyable film and great summer blockbuster fare. Now if only they had found a better actor to play Superman. [Grade: A-]


Kernunrex said...

While Reeve will always be my Superman, I liked Routh. I thought did an impressive job, considering Reeve's enormous shadow was hanging over him the whole time. Personally, though, I'd prefer a George Reeves-type. Superman, in my mind, is more of a father-figure superhero than a baby-face. Essentially, exactly how Alex Ross draws him. Not that we'll ever, ever see that as long as a mega-corp owns the character. Gotta cast young to get that 18-30 demo! Blah.

Returns I liked a lot (except for the suit!), but completely understand why others hate it. Still, at this point, I kinda hope the next one is reboot. There's really no reason to be trapped in the Donnerverse, cool as that may be.

Bonehead XL said...

Agreed. I think of "Returns" as a fond send-off to the Donner films. The next one should be a straight-up reboot.