Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lois Lane. Lost in Translation

Though I enjoyed Superman Returns (and hopefully there'll be a review to come) I think one of its principal deficiencies is in its reimagining of Lois Lane. Otherwise in this film you'll find an unmistakable reverence for previous incarnations of its characters, particularly the Man of Steel himself. Superman has been away five years according to the plot but he's barely changed at all. He's still old-fashioned, heroic, and pure of heart. Bryan Singer and Co. weren't trying to update him for what's fashionable for heroes today: no sudden dark side emerges a la popular comic-to-movie heroes like Batman and Wolverine. So why then the new and quite changed Lois?

In the drawing above from an early Superman comicbook you might notice that Lois resembles a certain queen of screwball. She's like a 2D Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. The great thing about Lois Lane was that she was in a very modern sense, Superman's equal. (Even a previous tv version was wise to this calling the series "Lois & Clark") Or, more specifically, and to great comic effect: she absolutely believed that she was. One of her most endearing traits is that though she is narratively always the classic "damsel in distress", it's the last persona she'd ever picture for herself.

Which is why it's so hilarious and perfect in the first couple of Supermans that Margot Kidder is gritty, odd, gutsy and weirdly sexy/disarming. Take the classic oft-quoted exchange when Superman catches Lois falling from a building:

Superman: "I've got you."
Lois: "You've got me. Who's got you?"

That is Lois Lane. A little funny. A little too abrasive. A little blind to her own vulnerabilities. And this is why Parker Posey, stuck cracking us up in the background as Lex's girl, should have been cast in the role. It's the first thing my friend and I said to each other when we were exiting the theater. 'Why wasn't Parker Lois instead?' In the new film the feisty Lois gets shut up tight inside of Kate Bosworth's soft, lovely, brokenhearted damsel in distress. Lois is still the teensiest bit mouthy but she's far more generically 'the girl who is waiting for her man to save her.' The way I see it, the real Superman would never have been able to pick her out of a crowd.

[For more discussion of this same issue, there's a good conversation going on over @ Cinemarati. -ed]

tags: Kate Bosworth, movies, cinema, comic books, Bryan Singer, Parker Posey, Superman, films, Superman Returns


StinkyLulu said...

You're spot on, Nathaniel. Of all the things a little "off" about SR, I do think the mis/casting of Lois Lane is the only really fatal flaw. I tried to speak to this in my post on the film, though I'm of the mind that Posey's right just where she is. But Posey tips the scales, because Bosworth's such a lightweight. (Just think how many other more interesting actresses in that age/market/bracket: Stiles, McAdams, think how much more interesting Jacinda Barret was in Poseidon for cripes sake.)

Lois Lame.
It's really just unfortunate.
And it didn't have to be that way.

adam k. said...

Yeah, plus WHY does anyone ever cast Kate Bosworth in anything. No, seriously. To me, she's the definition of "we just couldn't land anyone better." Even her name is kind of gross-sounding.

I was just gonna say that they should've gone with the excellent Rachel McAdams. She woulda been aces.

I also really liked Lois and Clark. The best thing I've ever seen Hatcher do. But then, I don't watch much Desperate Housewives (which got way snubbed in emmy noms today, like whoa).

adam k. said...

Oh, and I totally meant to add that for all Singer's talents, he has already shown deficiencies in the casting dept. (see: the Berry)

Lyn said...

Bosworth was the wrong choice for all the reasons Nathaniel raises - not sassy, not interesting, no reason to believe Superman would pick her out of a lineup [my theory: Singer hoped we'd get hypnotised by the mismatched eyes]. She's also not credible as a mother.

BUT: once we move past those (admittedly huge) issues, she really did her best to sell the "conflicted in love" scenes, when opposite Routh she may as well have been acting with a blue screen. She didn't succeed there either (and they were such a boring couple), but at least she attempted all of the heavy lifting. Credit where credit's due, etc.

For me the real star(s) of the film were James Marsden's arms. Dude was ripped.


is it wrong to admit that i kinda always like James Mardsen --even when everyone else hates him (i.e. i thought he was perfect as cyclops, though the films didn't do him any favors)

but yr right about bosworth trying. i just don't think she has it in her.

russtifer said...

Thanks for wording exactly what I felt was off about Lois Lane. Great observations. I hadn't even thought of Posey as Lois--what an awesome idea. Needless to say Posey was genius.

Casting deficiencies aside, you gotta give Singer props for finding Routh--the guy's perfect for the part and adds a whole new layer of emotion to Superman: the movie character.

And my two cents on Cyclops: I can't get over how James Marsden is quickly getting typecast as the cuckolded husband/boyfriend. Heh. One day he'll be the leading man. Right?

Glenn Dunks said...

Marsden was good in Heights.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

Just had to say Rachel McAdams would have been great in SR if they *had* to cast an ingenue-type instead of someone more like the comic Lois (i.e., Posey). She would have given a sense of gravitas to the part Bosworth will just never have (does anyone think Bosworth's a Calista Flockhart in the making, all collar bones and lips?). I think McAdams probably would have blown Brandon Routh right off the screen though.

Billy McLellan said...

i think what i disagree with is that lois lane has to be sexy/pretty enough for superman to fall for. parker is definitely not. the only time theyve gotten lois right is with teri hatcher.

adam k. said...

I agree that Teri Hatcher was a fab Lois Lane.

What I don't get is that after Singer went to all the trouble to find Brandon Routh, how did he then get so lazy at to cast Bosworth? He really must think she's right for it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Nate, you're amazing. The major comic book film adaptations as of late have really given us plenty, but one thing they have been lacking is in female lead department (Kate Bozworth, Katie Holmes, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron and, well, to some extent, though she is kind of okay, [but I'm not personally a pfan] Kirsten Dunst) ... I haven't seen the new Superman, so I shouldn't be so quick to judge, but the trailers I have seen coupled with the reviews and comments of certain somebodys haven't left me with much hope.

Anyway, here's hoping Joss Whedon can make it all better with his Indian princess ... (Did he manage to find a way to work in the invisible jet?)

... oh, and, can I just say that Adam hit the nail on the head with Rachel McAdams? Hello? Hello? Hello? ... wow. Inspiring choice. Too bad Hollywood is so stale so often.

But, yes, Nate, Posey, would have also been inspired. You guys should be casting directors!

Glenn Dunks said...

Basically, Rachel McAdams should take every female comic book role and the movie would be much better.


Rachel McAdams is indeed awesome and so well loved already it's scary (seriously, i think she's the only young actress that everyone i talk to or read likes) but I agree with Susannah that that would've caused problems for Routh charisma-wise.

william --you don't think parker is beautiful?

adam k. said...

I actually of the opinion that Rachel McAdams is so awesome that she would know how to dial down her own charisma in service of the film.

Anonymous said...

Rachel McAdams is the most overrated actress currently working. Her best performance among her fans is generally considered to be either Mean Girls or Red Eye. Some even cried that she had been "snubbed" for an Oscar nomination for that Wes Craven flick.

McAdams is competent, even good at times. But nothing special (she was awful in The Notebook).

Still, for some reason she _is_ the one actress no-one hates (me included, I just don't "get" her). And would most likely have been a better Lois.

Anonymous said...

Marsden didn't have much to do in the X-Men movies, but what he did was choice in my opinion. I actually teared up a little when he cried, "We gotta go back," after they were forced to leave Jean Grey behind at the end of the second (and best) one. I felt a real connection between him and Jean Grey that went way beyond the printed page. Long story short, I echo your sentiments, Nat, that Marsden was perfect as Cyclops. (Bosworth as Lois Lane though...not so much.)


Anonymous said...

I think James Marsden gave the performance of his career in Heights. And he was very good in the X-Men Movies (even tho the third one curtailed his time on screen massively).

I think you guys are being too hard on Kate Bosworth. I think she is a wonderful actress. Beyond the Sea? Wonderland? she was excellent in those movies and as Lois Lane she adds another great performance to her career.