[Marxism] Cuba's Granma on "Superman's Return"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 17 10:24:22 MDT 2006

(Part of what we try to do on the CubaNews list is to give readers
a broader, nuanced sense of the kinds of discussions which people
here in Cuba like to engage in than might be expected if all that
you had to rely on about this country was the dominant corporate
media. Cubans, for one thing, LOVE movies from the U.S. and show
them on TV here all the time. US TV shows, too. This film hasn't
been shown here, and one wonders just how this critic at Cuba's
Granma got to see it already, but here's his review. The author
is the principal film critic at the daily Granma newspaper. The 
movie sounds definitely sweet from what's written in this review.)

July 15, 2006

Superman's Return
rolando.pb at granma.cip.cu


Almost twenty years after his last movie flight, Superman has again
glided over half the world, first in a millionaire promotion campaign
and then in the film by Brian Synger, who after great success in the
United States demands priority rights in the screens of five

Born in a comic strip in 1938, many people knew of the exploits of
this flying man in a red cape before those of their own founding
fathers (Every now and then one can read complaints from US educators
because Superman is mentioned too much by students when they are
asked to name historical heroes)

Superman marked the beginnings of a long line of superheroes who
imitated him, first in the comics, then in movies. He was always a
financial success and was also the subject of many theoretical
studies correlating the sociology of taste to the ideological values
that clearly emanated from the character.

In 1964, Humberto Eco published his famous essay The Myth of Superman
according to which the character could not fade away because a myth
is never extinguished. Since then, more than 40 years have passed and
the calendar (so far) seems to prove him right.

Like the Achilles sung by Homer, Superman -from his place in fiction
-- has broken the structures of time and overtaken (in less than 70
years!) the millenary exploits of the hero of Troy. His presence
loaded with "moral teachings" in the service of "established order"
represents the best mythological parable of the 21st Century. Of
course, he could not exist without the complicity of a typical
element in the society that created him: a galloping consumer economy
riding on the magical support of TV, the cinema, literature, and
publicity in its most comprehensive dimension, and with them the
patterns imposed by a very well defined ideology, sometimes in

Now, what could be wrong with a man who goes after criminals, saves
planes, and patrols his particular sky to guard the sleep of "good
Americans"? A good boy who, from his adoptive country, also fights
aliens and even took the time to visit the battle front during the
Second World War?

Superman, like other superheroes sponsored by Hollywood's beloved
mythology of action, is at the service of the "Pax Americana"
demanded by the system in terms of classical heroes, unwavering.

Good against evil, but the bad are traditional, made of cardboard. 
They are far from the swamp flowers under whose shade grow the worst 

Something Superman, despite his X-ray vision, cannot see, because,
although he flies, he is locked in an archetype that can only accept
changes of shade that fit the times.

Bryan Singer, author of the memorable The Usual Suspects, is a good
director and his Return of Superman, with a cost over $200 million
dollars, not only remakes with great efficiency of special effects
the exceptional traits of the hero, but also gives him a more humane
and romantic psychology. The movie is made to please old lovers and
conquer new ones, using touching dramatic resources related to the
hero and in contrast with the dangers posed by a rival character that
-even when it is not said - has a lot in common with a terrorist.

But although this Superman has been in the box office for a short
time, there is something important that does not escape the eye of
spectators, because it represents an old and underlying thesis - now
more reinforced than ever before - that has to do with the "religious
and evangelizing task" he fulfills, a messianic mission that, for a
while now, has also been commissioned to a high official in his

A born again Marlon Brando, in the role of Jor-El, Superman's father,
tells him with mystical tones (and reiterates it along the film) that
he has sent his only son to Earth to illuminate the path of
"for this reason you were sent to them, my only son
" And
while Lois Lane, the journalist in love, now with a son, writes
that "the world does not need a savior", Superman makes it clear that
without him and his omnipresence destined to give hope to the
oppressed the world would collapse (any resemblance
 well, you know).

The Return of Superman, in contrast with the other films about the
superhero, is a softer and even tender movie. Also the most efficient
bringing out, by means of the character's attributes, old national
assignments -- alienation included.

It remains to be determined whether it was the intention of the
director or a combination of hazardous element in the film that
awakened the suspiciousness of those in the world that have started
to debate, while Superman tries hard to keep protecting them.


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