Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I haven't seen Superman Returns, but there is already one aspect of it that troubles me. Or more accurately, two aspects: Its leads.

While it may be true, as publicity stresses, that star Brandon Routh is the same age as Christopher Reeve when he first played Superman, he certainly seems younger, more a WB pretty boy than a Man of Steel. And Kate Bosworth is only twenty-three, for God's sake. It's like watching kids play dress-up.

Casting such young leads would seem to contradict the very premise of Superman Returns: Supes has mysteriously vanished, in self-appointed exile from earth for five years. In his absence, Lois Lane has given birth--and the kid is five years old. Hmmm.

But if we're meant to wonder if Superman was shtupping Lois, well, given Bosworth's youthful appearance, you have to figure he disappeared to avoid charges of statutory rape. And how old were Lois and Clark Kent went they started writing for the Daily Planet? Twelve?

I realize movies are aimed at increasingly younger audiences (and I'm getting older), but this is ridiculous. Take the remake of The Omen. (Please!) The original starred Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. Both were clearly middle aged, which lent its absurd premise--Papa accepts a switcheroo when his newborn dies as birth, only the new baby turns out to be the Antichrist--just a patina of poignancy, as this would clearly be Remick's last shot at giving birth. In the new version, Julia Stiles comes off more as Son O' Satan's cool babysitter than his mom. There's a weird disconnect between what the movie is asking us to believe and what we're seeing. It's like watching a high school production of Death Of A Salesman; even if it's good, you can't believe it for a second. (Also while watching The Omen, you might wonder why actors like Stiles, Liev Schreiber, David Thewlis and Mia Farrow are stuck in something like this, but that's another topic.)

Maybe the problem is that, for the last twenty years or so, Hollywood has been feeding us a steady diet of pretty but bland actors and calling them stars. As they age, they don't mature, they just seem like dissolute teenagers. Put it this way: Charlie Sheen is the same age Humphrey Bogart was when he made Casablanca! Despite his famously bad-boy reputation, Sheen is a massive zero onscreen, whereas Bogart looks like he's been around--he's interesting even before he does anything.

For that matter, Margot Kidder was only six years older than Kate Bosworth when she played Lois Lane is Superman. Yet she seemed...I was going to say older, but maybe I meant more interesting. She had a smoker's voice and a sarcastic manner and her movements were skittery, bird-like. She wasn't a conventional action movie babe, yet she had the lead in a multi-million dollar comic book movie. And she was terrific.

Obviously Bosworth is too young for her role, but age is only part of the issue. Even if they were determined to cast young (so the actors will age well for sequels, claim the producers), they didn't go for a distinctive, interesting performer, like, say, Thora Birch. Nah, they went with the star of...of, um...I'm sorry, what's Kate Bosworth been in?

Maybe that's it. The problem with Hollywood these days isn't its youth fixation, but its determination to make everything bland.