Movie Review: Superman 2 (1980)

Superman 2 (1980)

Director: Richard Lester

Writer: Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel (Character created by) Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman (screenplay)

Actors: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terrence Stamp

Available on Netflix

Superman 2 is in every way I can think of, the best superhero movie that has ever been made.  I hold this to be true despite the frankly paleolithic special effects, the lack of emotional depth, and the hokeyness of the screenplay, because it is fun.  This movie is so fun that when Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and his dim-witted henchman Otis (Ned Beatty) escape from their cell using impossibly sophisticated holographic technology, they are lifted from the prison yard in a hot air balloon.  This is plainly ridiculous and fitfully hilarious, yet what is most exemplary about this scene and the movie as a whole is the way that despite the sometimes farcical nature of the events depicted, they are never boring.

This favorite childhood comic book of a movie opens on the trial of the three Kryptonians who will become this movie’s central villains: Non (Jack O’Hallaran), Ursua (Sarah Douglas), and one of the most iconic super villains in movie history, General Zod (Terrence Stamp).  They are banished to float through space forever, imprisoned in a constantly spinning pane of glass.  There is never any explanation of what this prison is exactly, nor why the shockwave created by a French terrorist’s bomb that Superman hurled into space (a long stupid story) frees them from it, but it is this freedom of narrative that is Superman 2’s greatest asset.

In an era where superhero movies seem to get darker every year, Superman 2 is a joy to behold, as are all performances of the movie’s somewhat ham-fisted screenplay.  Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor is completely goofy, wearing brightly-colored oversized suits as he talks about his disdain for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Hackman’s Luthor more than twice refers to himself as “the greatest criminal mastermind the world has ever known.”  While I don’t believe that a great criminal mastermind would go around telling everybody about it, the comic relief  Hackman delivers is the perfect counterpoint to the romance of Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).

As the movie begins, Clark pines after Lois from afar, even when the two are sent in disguise as newlyweds to investigate tourism scams at Niagara Falls.  Kidder and Reeve do a splendid job of convincing the audience that their attraction is mutual, and when Clark finally admits that he is Superman, Ms. Lane’s eyes swoon with an unbridled desire.  Seeing Superman and Lois Lane lay next to each other in their marital bed (presumably) having consummated their feelings, the fifteen-year-old boy in everyone jumps for joy.  Joy is the word that first leaps to mind considering Superman 2, as it imbues every frame with childlike laughter.

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Movie Review: Superman 2 (1980)

The Fatalist: Chapter 2

The body that had once belonged to Gregory Vitrola, and now belonged to The Fatalist, slumbered peacefully.  He’d summoned a thick matt of algae onto one of the larger lagoons in Overland Swamp and used it as a mattress.

Floating above the surface of the water, buoyed by his bed of life, The Fatalist slept deeply.  He snored loudly and moved frequently with swift fluidity.  He rolled over, he stirred, he yawned and made smacking sounds with his lips.

He dreamed, but his dreams were unlike any he’d had while he was human.

When he’d been human his dreams were filled with judging eyes and pointed fingers, as he was surrounded and accosted by faceless authority figures.  Gregory Vitrola never felt in place, and always as though he needed to escape.

Now that he was The Fatalist, his dreams were peaceful.  Within his dreams, The Fatalist ceased to have a single identity, but was simultaneously each member of a growing family.  His new family comprised of every living thing in the swamp, and in his dreams he was all of them simultaneously.

Gregory Vitrola’s first day as The Fatalist was spent dreaming.

 

During just his second day as The Fatalist, Gregory Vitrola was able to feel what it was like to have sex.  Laying on a puddle on a lazy early evening, The Fatalist startled to life, suddenly drawn to the southwest.

He loped through the swamp, smoothly hurtling tree roots and dodging piles of muck, becoming more familiar with the lay on the land at each step.  He could see, or rather sense by the heat it generated, a car in the distance.  It wasn’t moving but the engine was running.

Roughly fifty yards down a trail from The Fatalist, an automobile had been idling for close to an hour, and its windows open.  The car’s radio was on, playing an antiperspirant ad very loudly, and apart from the car a blanket was laid out on the ground.

At the center of the blanket lay a couple; they caressed each other smoothly and confidently.  The Fatalist could feel these lovers’ passion in all his cells, and he experienced the intensity of their feeling.

The Fatalist wrapped himself in these lovers’ ecstasy, drawing closer and closer, until he could almost actually see them over a rock.  He couldn’t see much of the actual scene, but seeing just the sharp repetitive motion of it, was enough to put The Fatalist in a joyful slumber.

Such was The Fatalist’s sensitivity to the swamp that he shared in every birth and every death.  As he grooved on the passion of these ecstatic libertines, each thrust was an intensifying pulse of pleasure.  As he lay with his head on a rock looking up at still clouds, he could feel both lovers climax, and then lay on each other, smooching and rubbing.

After they’d finished, each of them lay in a near-comatose state of relaxation.  The Fatalist took this opportunity to creep within a stone’s throw of the couple, inspecting them intently.  They were not attractive, or at least would not have seemed attractive through human eyes, but their aspect displayed serene joy.

They seemed to be well into their fifties, and each had a poorly maintained, lumpy body.  The way they giggled and the love he could feel through the grass underneath them made The Fatalist think they were an old couple, and to fuck among the trees was likely a tradition of theirs.

The Fatalist, when he’d been Gregory Vitrola, had not believed in love.  He remembered figuring that love might be conceptually possible, but that for him it was only a dream.  This was a large part of the reason he’d attempted to kill himself.  He now felt what love was or could be, and he closed his eyes.

What the Fatalist did not know was that these lovers were each cheating on their spouses, and what he’d interpreted as partners beautifully giving of themselves would be considered by many to be illicit and gross.

These judgments of things as “right” or “wrong,” “pleasant” or “unpleasant” didn’t matter to him.  What mattered to The Fatalist was the expression of life at its most unrestrained, and he loved it.

As he lay a stone’s throw away from the couple, watching these adulterers’ rhythmic motion, he could sense through the feel of the road a vehicle speeding towards the couple.  He looked down the road, and he saw in the distance a white midsize sedan accelerating towards them, and within moments it was roughly a block away.

The couple, having noticed the car speeding to them, were panicked and dressing rapidly.  They were not nearly fast enough.  The white car pulled over, and a slender brown-haired woman burst out the driver’s side door in a rage.  “Robert!” the woman screamed, sounding shocked and enflamed.  “Samantha what the fuck!?”

Samantha immediately started wailing and sobbing, but The Fatalist could tell she wasn’t really crying, because underneath her the ground tasted no salty droplets.  Her scream cut through the trees and made The Fatalist shiver, and her horrid mock sobs made him feel rotted on the inside.  “I don’t—I don’t—“ she licked her palm and tried to use the moisture to make it look like she’d been crying.  “I don’t know!”

She sobbed loudly while Robert stood up as he pulled his pants on.  “Baby baby baby it just happened, I swear to god it just happened and I’m sorry.”

“Robert,” the woman said in a steady voice.  She reached into her purse and pulled out a snub-nosed revolver.  She pointed it at Robert.  “I’ve had it with your lies and I’m going to kill you if you don’t tell me the truth.”

Samantha was almost fully dressed when she shot upright and stood holding her hands as far out in front of her as she could.  “Jill, Jill, what are you doing?”

Jill shot into the ground next to Samantha and it hurt me like a red-hot poker into the soft meat of my thigh.  I bellowed so loudly I believed the entire swamp could feel my pain.  As I screamed I picked a handful of dirt off the ground and squeezed until it was a solid ball of soil.  After throwing this ball up into the air and catching it myself a couple times, I hurled it at the gun in Jill’s hand.  The ball of dirt covered in green, foamy sludge stuck the gun Jill had fired against the tree to her left.

The short, immensely dramatic scene The Fatalist had been watching was brought to an immediate halt, as all three humans searched the area for clues about what the hell had just happened.

As all three of their gazes fell onto The Fatalist and their jaws dropped, he erupted with a shout that shook the trees.  “NO GUNS!”

The threesome scurried as fast as they could into the car Jill had driven to them in and their exhaust backfired as they were shot down the path out of the swamp.  The clearing where the gross adulterers had been was now littered with Robert’s shirt, Samantha’s bra, a picnic blanket, a condom wrapper, and an empty bag of potato chips.

Using vines of his own creation, The Fatalist hung all these items from the trees that surrounded the expanse the lovers had just occupied.  He knew all the people would start to talk about him now, and they would come looking.

“Oh shit,” The Fatalist said to himself, softly.

The Fatalist: Chapter 1

The Fatalist: Chapter 2

The Fatalist (Chapter 1: Creation)

“Shut up mom,” Gregory said over his shoulder as he opened the house’s front door.  “I’m goin’ to the swamp.”

“Be careful,” his mother called after him, choosing to ignore the insult he’d paid her.  For her, whatever time Gregory spent out of the house was a gift.

Careful, Gregory chuckled to himself considering the word.  Fat lot of good that’ll do.  Gregory was a fatalist, and because all things died and would die, he enjoyed seeing life spring from death.  Plants and animals died and decayed everywhere in the swamp.

When he was in the swamp, he thought about all that would happen to him after he was dead.  Inside these caverns they would have meetings and parties, eating their way through his skin from the inside.

It occurred to him that these organisms that lived inside of him would die too, and be eaten by larger and smaller organisms than they were.  It was all the cycle and he knew that the life he’d led was but a droplet of a fragment of the whole, and it didn’t matter anyway.

Gregory’s life had been but loneliness and pain.  Rejected by those he’d once called his friends, shunned by his family, and finding all elements of his world completely abhorrent, he intended to drown himself.

He knew just where to do it, and how.  Overland swamp, the lush patch of what was mostly shallow marshland, had one small body of water that was roughly forty feet wide and eighteen feet deep.  He remembered being brought as a child to the swamp by someone he’d once considered a father.

As disgusting as the memory seemed now, Gregory could not deny its usefulness.  He remembered once upon a time when someone he’d called “Dad” had shown him the pond’s best fishing perch.  One of the trees nearest its edge had a great branch that extended over the center of the water, from which he now intended to plunge its depth.

He’d brought a backpack that held his supplies, which included a 25-pound stone boulder, means to fasten the boulder to his ankle, and an ordinary garden trowel.  First he used the trowel to dig a small hole in the ground, into which he buried his clothes and the backpack.  When he died, he wanted to decompose as quickly as possible, and for that it was best to be naked.

Gregory lifted the heavy stone up above his shoulder and crept out onto the great branch, careful not to drop it too soon.  He’d fastened the massive rock snugly to his ankle with a length of biodegradable twine only three feet in length.  He’d considered his suicide for a long time, and this seemed like the way that the swamp would get the most benefit.

First of all, being tethered deep in the center of a forbidding swamp, he figured he wouldn’t be found for a long time, maybe ever.

And second, he tied himself to the boulder with a type of twine that he knew would eventually disintegrate, allowing his body to float to the surface.  Floating lifeless on the surface of the water, his corpse would then could become shelter and sustenance for any other form of life that happened upon it.

Gregory felt that this, more than anything, was his purpose.

As soon as he’d crept out far enough over the swamp, he checked the twine to make sure it and all his ties were strong enough, and dropped the stone into the water.  As the rock fell and sought the bottom of the pond, Gregory remained fastened to it.

After he reflexively struggled against the pull of the twine tether around his ankle for several minutes, Gregory settled and let the swamp take him in, but he did not die.

He struggled and unconsciously gasped for air underneath the surface of the water.  His lungs filled with water and a living green sludge.  “The Spirit of the Swamp,” as Gregory would come to term it, slid its way into the empty recesses of his body.  Gregory stopped living.

Fifteen minutes after he’d committed suicide, Gregory’s eyes flew open and searched the water all around him for answers.  Why was he not dead?  He breathed, he knew it, but without lungs.  Each cell in his body seemed to expand and contract in a way that would be impossible to describe, and it made him completely happy.

The happiness he felt was in the calm knowledge of his connection with the universe.  He opened his eyes, and seeing that he was still tethered to his suicide stone, reached down to untie his ankle.  As he swam over to dry land and trudged out of the water he heard his footsteps land in wet squishing sounds.

He beheld in his reflection on the water, finding that all of his skin now appeared quite green.  Upon closer inspection he found that there was a thick moist carpet of moss covering all of what used to be skin.

Gregory shrugged, and realized that he was not simply in the swamp, but of the swamp.  This is my home, and I must protect it, he said silently to himself.  As he repeated this mantra he could feel that with each step the knowledge of his new body grew.

Following intuition he headed slowly through the swamp, becoming more accustomed to the reach of his senses.  Soon it was as though he could feel every piece of life in the marsh.

Towards the northeast corner of Overland Swamp, adjacent to the high school, he could almost hear the plaintiff cries of a young girl in distress.  When he reached the source of tension, he saw Becky, one of his young classmates in the high school, scrambling through the trees as fast as she could.  The front of her shirt was torn and a streak of blood trailed from the edge of her mouth to the back of her neck.

Behind her, traveling a bit faster than she was, the new young chemistry teacher, Mr. Bringhold was in pursuit.  His pants were undone, his shirt was also ripped, and his mad smirk opened, revealing unbrushed teeth and omitting a lustful growl.

Mr. Bringhold apprehended Becky after not too long and threw her on the ground.  He leapt on to her, yelling a vicious cackle into her ear.  Becky screamed in horror, as the adult male teacher she’d once trusted snarled,  “You wanna play with me, bitch!?”

Gregory set upon the teacher, knocking him to the ground alongside Becky and landing on top of him.  Wordlessly he pressed on Mr. Bringhold’s shoulders, looking down into his eyes as his screams of horror were quickly muffled.

The verdant, strong-smelling moss seeped quickly from Gregory’s nose, eyes, and mouth, falling onto the chemistry teacher’s face and plugging each of its orifices.  The moss at first simply muffled Mr. Bringhold’s screams, but as it spread down the inside of his esophagus, it drew into every pore of his body.  The moss drew tightly together, blocking out all oxygen and suffocating the would-be rapist to death.

Becky, who’d at first been relieved that her attacker was being subdued, was now terrified, and raised her hands up as if to defend herself.

“Please,” she whimpered.

“Don’t worry,” Gregory surprised himself finding that he could still speak with his own voice.  He thought about why he’d done what he had just done, then spoke five words that would become his calling card.  “The swamp will remain safe.”

After authoring his mission statement, this new burgeoning guardian of the marshland turned to leave.  Just then he was caught off-guard by Becky’s voice.  “Gregory?”

Gregory was taken aback that Becky remembered his name, but he was something else now, and would need a new name.  He paused, thinking of what this new name would be.  He thought of what he loved about the swamp, what it taught him, and just how he’d come to his new powers.

“Call me The Fatalist,” he said, before turning back into the forbidding recesses of the swamp.  Becky ran home, never intending to tell anyone of what she had seen.

The Fatalist (Chapter 1: Creation)