Hollywood has given us sequels, threequels, remakes, reboots, rip offs, and every other form of intellectual strip mining you can imagine. It is part of the industry’s DNA. Even Cecil B. DeMille made two versions of “The Ten Commandments” and the 1956 remake is one of the greatest films ever made. However, it feels like the new “Halloween” movie might have taken the whole concept of creative recycling as far as it can go. Not only is it a sequel 40 years after the original, it’s a reboot that flushes the nine other entries into the franchise down the memory hole. And that’s not even original, with “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998) having pulled the same retcon rabbit out of its hat before and “Halloween” (2007) rebooting the whole series after that.
This edition of KIMT’s Weekend Throwdown will consider this attempt at cinematic resurrection through bypassing what’s come before by comparing it with probably the most heralded and ambitious such effort ever made. It’s “Superman Returns” (2006) vs. “Halloween” (2018) to see if Thomas Wolfe was right and you really can’t go home again.
This is why European guys don't wear longsleeve shirts with their speedos.
“Superman Returns” is, in some ways, the weirdest big budget mainstream movie made. Yes, even weirder than “Dune” (1984). It’s a Christopher Reeve Superman movie without Christopher Reeve that not only pretends “Superman III” (1983) and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987) never happened, but acts like no other super-hero movie had been made since “Superman II” (1980). It slaps a thick mane of 1970s hair on Brandon Routh and has him essentially imitate Reeve’s performance while having the character of Superman do things no fan ever wanted to see him do. It presents itself as a love letter to your childhood memories while injecting those memories with a poisonous faux maturity.
What's with the rubber cape? Does Superman has a little problem with bladder control while flying across the globe?
The film starts off with an explanation that sometime after the events of “Superman II,” our hero left Earth to seek out the shattered remains of his home world of Krypton and is just returning after five years in outer space. Clark Kent (Brandon Routh) arrives at the Daily Planet to find Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) a single mother with an eternal fiancée (James Marsden). After announcing to the world he’s back by saving a jet from crashing, Superman has to struggle with Lois moving on with her life and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) getting back to his old tricks. Stealing some crystals from the Fortress of Solitude, Lex plans to create a new continent in the Atlantic Ocean, killing billions but finally getting him that beachfront property he’s always wanted.
Look at how much better this is. Bright colors and an emblem and trunks that don't look they shrunk in the wash.
The old studio system had its flaws but modern Hollywood is plagued by the problem that once people get to a certain level of success, no one can tell them “no.” This thing is the brainchild of Bryan Singer, who brought with him the prestige of having not only done “The Usual Suspects” (1995) but of being one of the founders of the new age of super-hero flicks by directing the first two X-Men movies. So when Singer wanted to make a new Superman film, no one could tell him:
- “No, Bryan, you can’t just continue the franchise after 19 years like nothing happened.”
- “No, Bryan, you can’t base the film on the premise that Superman would be so grossly selfish and irresponsible that he would simply leave Earth without telling anyone to fulfill his own desires.”
- “No, Bryan, you can’t have Superman use his powers to creepily stalk Lois Lane and spy on her with her new boyfriend.”
- “No, Bryan, you can’t put Superman in a speedo.”
- “No, Bryan, you can’t make a super-hero movie where all the good guy does is lift heavy things. People have seen Spider-Man fight Doctor Octopus and Wolverine fight Sabretooth. They expect more than that.”
- “No, Bryan, you can’t make Superman a deadbeat dad.”
The true source of their lifelong rivarly: hair envy!
And as much as people criticize the full-on reboot that followed, at least “Man of Steel” (2013) was consistent. Its Superman is a mopey dope all the way through and its story is consumed in its own self-importance and dreary seriousness from the very beginning. “Superman Returns” tantalizes the viewer with glimpses of a fun, hopeful, comic book world when comics were something read by kids and not adults who should be reading actual books, then drowns the audience in adolescent pretension.
It’s also sad to see Routh nearly destroy his career by giving the exact performance his director asked for, but that pales in comparison to Kate Bosworth turning Lois Lane into a piece of patio furniture. She brings none of the manic energy to the role that Margot Kidder did and Bosworth’s Lois has about as much edge as a bowl of pudding and as much personal agency as a call girl at a dentist convention. And while Kevin Spacey gives a decent performance as Lex Luthor, a performance is all it is. There’s never a moment when you believe you’re looking at a real person, like you could with Gene Hackman.
I don't care how much her hair glows, she can't hold a candle to Margot Kidder.
Add in a ponderous runtime of over 2 and ½ hours and Singer’s bizarre visual choices, like presenting us a Kent family farm that still resides in the 1970s while Metropolis is stuck in the early 90s when people still read newspapers and nobody owned a cell phone, and “Superman Returns” is a thoroughgoing disaster, both aesthetically and commercially.
“Halloween” (2018) is a heck of a lot better than that while still being quite weird in its own way. It’s been 40 years since Michael Myers escaped the asylum and murdered five people in Haddonfield, Illinois. Punting the rest of the franchise into dumpster, this film tells us that Dr. Loomis was prevented from killing Michael that night and he was returned to the loony bin while survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) went on to become a paranoid survivalist who lost custody of her daughter. Though Michael is now at least 61 years old, he’s apparently been allowed to lift weights and regularly inject himself with steroids in the nut house because he’s still a hulking mass of muscle who manages to escape and go on a killing spree that ultimately brings him back in conflict with Laurie, her daughter (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak).
This movie is approved and endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
And that’s about it for the plot. Oh, there’s a couple of British podcasters at the start who seem like they might have something to contribute but turn out to be disposable exposition fodder. And there’s some family drama about how Laurie’s trauma led her to traumatize her own daughter and how the granddaughter’s disappearing boyfriend turns out to be a jerk. It’s all merely filler for the decidedly inert stretches of the movie between Michael murdering people. “Halloween” (2018) relies on a string of coincidences and plot devices to get it from Stab A to Stab B. It even explicitly rejects the “Laurie is Michael’s sister” concept from the previous Halloween movies, leaving us no reason whatsoever for anything that goes on.
On the plus side, this is a great looking film. Director/co-writer David Gordon Green demonstrates a striking eye for not only individual images but for visually staging entire scenes. There are some moments, like when the camera is following Michael on his bloody rampage through Haddonfield, that are almost Hitchcockian in their excellence. “Halloween” (2018) is also more than violent enough for today’s discerning horror fan. The 1978 original remains a marvelously made motion picture but is about as frightening in 2018 as a cuddly bunny. This four decades later sequel has more than enough shocks to keep the viewer engaged.
If you look closely, you can see Tom Cruise and John Travolta in there.
But shocking and somewhat gory isn’t the same thing as scary and it’s a little confounding how “Halloween” (2018) never manages to crank the fear level up very high. As much as director Green shows a mastery of imagery, he doesn’t seem to quite get the emotional beats necessary for this kind of film. Laurie and her family are almost always heavily armed when they come in contact with Michael and Green doesn’t appear to understand that “woman with shotgun” beats “man with knife” 99 times out of a hundred. When Laurie is searching her house for Michael at the end, how afraid are we supposed to be for her when she’s got a rifle and can shoot him in the face? When Michael is trying to bust into a room where Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter are hiding, how afraid are we supposed to be for them when that room is full of enough guns to turn Michael into Swiss cheese?
Jamie Lee Curtis is unsurprisingly great and Andi Matichak shows promise in a stereotypical “perfect girl surrounded by flawed guys” horror chick role. Haluk Bilginer as the “new Loomis” makes you wish they’d just CGI-revived Donald Pleasance from the grave. And James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle combine to give Michael the appropriate amount of menace without ever saying a word.
Seriously, this thing is like a campaign commerical for the 2nd Amendment.
“Halloween” (2018) wins this Throwdown despite never really achieving the #metoo relevance for which it strives. This is just another horror flick that, while well made, is notable only because it trades on the cultural significance of the previous films it is mostly ignoring. Being a good “Halloween” movie wouldn’t mean much if there wasn’t already an established audience hungry for such things. As for a good Superman movie, we’ve been waiting for one since “Superman II” and it doesn’t look like we’re getting one any time soon.
Oh well. At least we’ve got “Aquaman” (2018) and whoever thought anyone would ever be looking forward to that?
Superman Returns (2006)
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Kal Penn, Tristan Lake Leabu, Jack Larson, and Noel Neill.
This is what happens when you give out granola bars on Halloween.
Written by David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jeff Fradley.
Directed by David Gordon Green.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Jefferson Hall, Virginia Gardner, and Dylan Arnold.