It’s pretty much redundant to say that the classic Clark-to-Superman transformation is archetypal, because Superman is the archetype for so many things superheroic. Accordingly, I will always make room for any version of the transformation, especially one staged like a walk-off grand slam, and accompanied by gratuitous John Williams music.
That’s — SPOILER ALERT! — pretty much how “Smallville” flew off into TV history last night (here’s the YouTube clip). Once it was announced that this season would be the show’s last, and once I realized I actually had some free time on Friday nights, I ended up watching a decent amount of these final episodes. (ComicsAlliance’s “Smallvillains” feature made it easy to keep up with the show otherwise.) Last night I also followed reactions of the faithful on Twitter, first at #Smallville and then #SmallvilleFinale. Now, I know, Twitter; but even discounting the OMG! factor, clearly the show developed an audience devoted enough to keep it on the air for ten years. Heck, it probably could have run until Tom Welling started to look like the Earth-2 Supes and the special DC guest-stars were Aztek, Kid Psycho, and Sugar & Spike.
Whenever the Best Wife Ever watches something adapted from a comic book or reworked for the kids today, inevitably she will ask me “is that how it really happened?”
Accordingly, I was watching the Midwest’s most gifted repeat offender get the snot beaten out of him – yes, another viewing of Star Trek ’09 — and thinking, no, that’s not how it happened. It is now, of course; but it wasn’t then; and that is not an insignificant distinction.
See, then it wasn’t necessary to come at James T. Kirk from Year One, let alone Day One. Back on September 8, 1966, it was enough to see Kirk fully formed as Captain of the Enterprise. For that matter, it was enough to introduce “the Bat-Man” as a mysterious urban vigilante; with the shocking! twist at the end of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” being that he was really bored playboy Bruce Wayne. Batman’s origin was told a few issues later, in a two-page vignette which had nothing to do with the main story’s Dirigible of Doom.
These days I am watching movies in big chunks, usually while a certain young someone is napping. Today I finished yet another viewing of Superman, which is probably well-suited to this kind of schedule because it has pretty much four distinct parts.
The opening on Krypton is weird not just because everything is cold and crystalline, but because it all centers on Marlon Brando in a white spit-curled wig. He makes a good Jor-El, in part because he and Lara are the most friendly characters we meet. Even when he’s “interacting” holographically with Superman later, though, he plays a caring dad, eager to catch up with his long-lost son.
Of course, when I first saw Superman during its original run, I was nine years old and didn’t know Brando from Mr. Greenjeans. I had no Godfather or On The Waterfront or (yikes!) Last Tango In Paris frames of reference; and can only imagine what 1978 audiences must have thought about Don Corleone in that wig and S-shield muumuu ambling around the North Pole. (Remember, Superman‘s original script was by Godfather author Mario Puzo.) I expect Am I tripping? went through more than a few heads.