Superman 1

I was ambivalent about Superman Returns at first, but I’m sitting watching the original Superman film … and it seems far, far more terrible than I remeber it seeming last time I watched it.

There are a number of things that always bothered me about it. Even aged 7 I noticed the lousy job of the dolly grip, the camera being jerky in many scenes, and late moving in others, and some of the dialog seemed either silly or patronizing.

I can’t tell if it’s trying to seem quaint by using 30s style sci-fi: Krypton is described as being in another Galaxy which happens to be very close our solar system; on the way to Earth, Jorel’s voice talks about Einstein’s theory of relativity, but then later says the 3 years that passed in Superman’s flight would be equivalent to 1000s of years since Krypton exploded.

But its hard to tell if its deliberate, or if the intellectual bar was just incredibly low.


Superman and science don’t really go together.

My observation over time has been that literary authors often have quite substantial credentials in the underlying science and technology of their subjects, while screenwriters and others who craft and tune scripts for stage and TV/movie productions often don’t know much if anything about science and technology…though of course they often are highly skilled in other regards.

Among literary authors, Isaac Asimov published an immense range of respected non-fiction science works, including a graduate-level metabolic biochemistry textbook, and was on the tenured faculty at Boston University College of Medicine. Arthur Clarke invented the application of geosynchronous satellites to radio communications, twenty years before the technology existed to make his concepts possible. Robin Cook and Michael Crichton are both MDs.

Movies and especially TV, OTOH, are about eyeballs on screen and butts in seats. Reviewers and critics are knowledgable about film/TV history, not about the depicted technology. It’s easier to retain the interest of viewers with right-brain involvement (relationships, action, etc.), and generally they’re equally valuable to advertisers (either explicit or “product-placers”), therefore there’s little motivation to spend extra money to get the science right…particularly when the top-level executives almost always come from financial backgrounds, and couldn’t care less about science and technology except for their effect on production costs and any provable impact on viewership.

case in point: Armageddon.

With an 80 million or so budget, you would think they could have hired one science adviser.

If the producers only care about revenue and costs plus schmoozing with the name actors, and the director only cares about some combination of right-brain stuff, the timetable, and keeping the actors and the producers happy, science advisors can’t be anything more than window dressing to make the credits look stronger.

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