Laundry nights at the Sheppard’s1 have become a good place to get caught up on movies, especially in the superhero genre. Being brought up as a nerd, I do have at least a passing familiarity with many a costumed crimefighter, and recently our friends reintroduced us to the cinematic renditions of one of the most famous. I don’t want to actually talk about the Man of Steel himself, though, as he can be a tad ridiculous at times.
I still can’t get over the absurdity of his three Kryptonian mates having vocal conversations on the surface of the moon. Even if they don’t have to breathe, how will their words reach each other’s ears if there is no air to carry the sound waves? Ahh, but I digress.
We only watched the first two Christopher Reeve & Richard Donner films, as the second two are abominations of cinema. I did, however, enjoy seeing the Donner cut of Superman II, especially the scene where Lois Lane gets Clark Kent to reveal his secret identity by pulling a gun on him. It can be easy to forget, especially on the parts of the writers of said funny books & big-budget movies, that when she isn’t getting rescued by Superman or pining after the cut physique poured into those tights, Lois Lane is an intrepid reporter.
You don’t see it as much as you might think, as apparently Superman battling giant robots, space monsters and a bald maniacal businessman is more interesting. But a great example of bringing this aspect of the story and this character to the forefront is Superman Returns.
While the film is a bit more somber and character-driven than its early 80s predecessors2, and most of its plot is lifted directly from the first movie, one thing that stood out at me is how we see Lois Lane. We see her as not just the token damsel in distress. We see Lois do some actual reporting. We watch her fight for what she feels is right, be it with her boss or the man who left her behind without a word. We get to know her as a mother. And while she does get into peril from which Superman must save her, she puts herself in peril to save him.
I know there are going to be people who disagree with me, but I think this Lois Lane, the one brought to us by Kate Bosworth, may be the best one put on screen. I’m not sure exactly how much Lois is supposed to be a sex symbol in comparison to, say, Catwoman, but the decision to keep Kate’s looks and fashion somewhat understated was a good one. Her moments of strength, vulnerability, doubt and resolve come across as more uncontrived and genuine because we’re not distracted by her looks.
This speaks to a strong script as well as good acting and mature costume & makeup decisions. Now, a lot of the good lines from Superman Returns were recycled from the first film along with most of the plot, but the emotional talks between Lois and her preternatural paramour felt new and real. Superman is a good person who’s made bad decisions. When confronted with the fallout from those decisions, he owns up to his mistake and seeks ways to make things right. Lois does not immediately forgive him and fall into his arms. She’s conflicted, a thousand emotions competing for her focus and running all over her face. I know there’s a lot of Superman Returns that rips off Donner’s work, but there’s a scene or two where we catch a glimpse of some really interesting things that could have (and perhaps should have) happened with these characters.
In a world where DC’s rebooted most of its female characters to be vehicles for cleavage and consequence-free sex, I’ll take Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane over a thousand Catwomen3.
1 Not to be confused with the Shepard’s place. How cool would it be to do my laundry on the Normandy?
2 Actually, the original Superman is as old as I am. How about that!
3 Of course I make an exception for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. She’s pretty much perfect.